THE REVIEW PROCESS
The anti-racism Review Conference to be held in Geneva, Switzerland 20-24 April 2009 will evaluate progress towards the goals set by the World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance held in Durban, South Africa in 2001.
The 2001 conference produced the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action, which provided an important new framework for combating racism and intolerance with a wide range of action-oriented measures.
Objectives Regional meetings in Latin America, Africa, Asia and Europe in 2008 will provide inputs to the international conference, which aims to :
1. Review progress and assess implementation of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action by all stakeholders at the national, regional and international levels, including assessing contemporary manifestations of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, through an inclusive, transparent and collaborative process and identify concrete measures and initiatives for combating and eliminating all manifestations of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance in order to foster the implementation of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action ;
2. Assess the effectiveness of the existing Durban follow-up mechanisms and other relevant United Nations mechanisms dealing with the issue of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance in order to enhance them ;
3. Promote the universal ratification and implementation of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination and proper consideration of the recommendations of the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination ;
4. Identify and share good practices achieved in the fight against racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance.
Who may participate in the review process Member States of the UN and as observers, Inter-governmental organizations, specialized UN agencies and non-governmental organizations (NGOs).
NGOs in consultative status with the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) and those accredited to participate in the 2001 conference and its follow-up mechanisms may participate in the regional meetings and the 2009 Review Conference. NGOs not in those categories may apply for participation. (http://www2.ohchr.org/english/issue...)
Role of the United Nations The UN General Assembly decided in 2006 (A/RES/61/149) to convene a Review Conference in 2009 to assess the implementation of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action. It requested the Human Rights Council to prepare for the Review Conference. The Human Rights Council decided to constitute itself into the Preparatory Committee for the Conference, and its work is open to the participation of all Member States and observers.
At the request of the Preparatory Committee, the UN Secretary-General designated the High Commissioner for Human Rights as Secretary-General of the Review Conference, whose role is to ensure it is held successfully and in accordance with the wishes of the Member States. The High Commissioner’s Office is facilitating and supporting the entire review process, including the inter-governmental working group which prepares the outcome document of the Review Conference.
RACISM AND INTERNATIONAL HUMAN RIGHTS LAW
The International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, which commits its signatory members to the elimination of racial discrimination and the promotion of understanding among all races, entered into force in 1969.
The Convention defines racial discrimination as “any distinction, exclusion, restriction or preference based on race, colour, descent, or national or ethnic origin, which has the purpose or effect of nullifying or impairing the recognition, enjoyment or exercise, on an equal footing, of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural or any other field of public life”. To date 173 countries have ratified or acceded to the Convention, signifying a commitment to be legally bound by its terms. The implementation of the Convention is monitored by the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD), the first body created to review actions by States to fulfil their obligations under international human rights treaties. The Committee is composed of 18 independent experts representing different geographical regions and legal systems. Government representatives generally present a report to the Committee, discuss its contents with the Committee members, and respond to questions. The Committee may also consider alternative or shadow reports on the country from NGOs. The treaty body addresses its concerns and recommendations to the State party in the form of “concluding observations,” which are made public. Along with the CERD and six other human rights treaty-monitoring committees, there are a number of other United Nations mechanisms which monitor and respond to human rights challenges, including the Human Rights Council and its Special Procedures.
Special Procedures is the general name given to special rapporteurs, independent experts and working groups established by the Commission on Human Rights and assumed by its successor, the Human Rights Council, to address either country-specific situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world.
The 30 thematic mandates include a Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance. The current mandate-holder is law expert Doudou Diène of Senegal. Mr. Diène has undertaken missions to 19 countries to gather first-hand information and meet with the parties concerned, including Government and civil society. The UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) supports the work of these special procedure mandate-holders, who report their findings and recommendations to the Human Rights Council, and the General Assembly, as requested.
The UN system
A rich body of international treaties, declarations, and mechanisms to prevent discrimination and uphold human rights has been developed and continues to grow.
Other UN international instruments to protect against discrimination are :
The Equal Remuneration Convention (1951) and the Discrimination (Employment and Occupation) Convention (1958), adopted by the General Conference of the International Labour Organization (ILO) ; the Convention against Discrimination in Education (1960) and the Declaration on Race and Racial Prejudice (1978) adopted by the General Conference of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) ; and the Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Intolerance and of Discrimination Based on Religion or Belief, proclaimed by the General Assembly in 1981.
Efforts to fight discrimination have been further strengthened over the past two years. In September 2007 the General Assembly adopted the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. May 2008 saw the entry into force of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and its Optional Protocol. A new treaty body will be established soon to monitor compliance with this Convention. Finally, the anti-racism Review Conference of 2009 will give new impetus to the implementation of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action, adopted in 2001 at the World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance.