Ten years after global agreement in Durban on framework to combat racism, no country could claim to be free from scourge, Third Committee told
Sixty-sixth General Assembly
36th Meeting (AM)
Speakers Say Political Will, Funding Still Needed to Implement Action Programme; Many Express Concern at Attempts to Renege on Commitments, Renegotiate Declaration
Ten years after the world collectively agreed on a comprehensive framework to combat racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, resolute and renewed political will and adequate funding were still needed to implement the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action, the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) was told today.
Launching the Committee’s joint consideration of elimination of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, and the right of peoples to self‑determination, State delegations underscored that, ten years on, no country could claim to be free from racism’s destructive influence, and gaps between intentions and actions continued to hamper essential progress in ending that scourge.
“The lack of political will and commitment remains one of the core factors affecting global efforts toward the total eradication of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance,” the representative of South Africa, on behalf of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), said, underscoring the significance of the Durban agenda as a comprehensive framework to combat racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance.
He said the SADC Governments were deeply concerned that, following the historic achievements of Durban, there had been a discernible pattern by some countries to renege on the commitments made there. Attempts had also been made to renegotiate the Declaration and Programme of Action, while there had been little progress in implementing paragraphs 157 to 159, which call for programmes and funding to address the lack of social and economic development in States and societies affected by racial discrimination.
Several speakers during the half‑day debate expressed particular alarm over emerging forms of racism and intolerance. In that context, diverging viewpoints were voiced over the tensions between the need to ensure freedom of expression and to prohibit racism. Speaking on behalf of the African Group, Kenya’s representative shared concerns that insidious forms of racism were purportedly being legitimized or justified under the banner of freedom of expression.
A representative of the European Union said that, while the bloc shared the concerns that the internet was increasingly being used to promote and disseminate racist ideas, it nonetheless called on States to fully implement the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which guaranteed the right to freedom of expression, assembly and association.
Underlining the assertion that slavery and the slave trade were crimes against humanity as one of the most significant achievements of the Durban Declaration, the representative of Antigua and Barbuda, on behalf of the Caribbean Community, highlighted the decision to erect a permanent memorial at the United Nations to honour the victims of slavery and the transatlantic slave trade. “This year, as we celebrate the International Year for Persons of African Descent, the Memorial takes on added significance, showcasing our determination to ensure that this historical wrong and its associated after‑effects of racism and racial discrimination will never be repeated,” he said.
Zeroing in on the right to self‑determination, a number of speakers called for the United Nations to consolidate decades of achievement in this area by ensuring its full enjoyment by the Palestinian and Kashmiri peoples. In that regard, Syria’s representative particularly stressed that the right of the Palestinian people to self‑determination was a debt that fell to all Member States.
Also participating in today’s discussion were the representatives of Argentina (on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China), China, United States, Brazil, Russian Federation, Kyrgyzstan, Cuba, Pakistan, Egypt, Algeria and Indonesia.
Richard Bennett, the Special Advisor to the Assistant Secretary‑General for Human Rights, introduced the reports of the Secretary‑General.
The Committee will reconvene at 3 p.m., Monday, 31 October, to continue its discussion on the right to self-determination and the elimination of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance.