The International Progress Organization has joined a group of over 120 non-governmental organizations accredited to the United Nations in an initiative aimed at the promotion of the dialogue of civilizations and a culture of peace. The NGO initiative is meant as follow-up to the declaration adopted by the World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance on 8 September 2001 (Durban Declaration). The statement entitled "Human Right to peace versus racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and other forms of discrimination" will be submitted at the forthcoming 10th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva.
Following is the text of the statement:
"In recent years the internationally reported acts of incitement to racial, ethnic and religious hatred have dramatically increased. In all Continents vulnerable communities, especially members of minorities, are victims of public utterances calling for intolerance and discrimination and, in some cases, physical and psychological violence. Minority groups constantly find themselves in a situation of extreme vulnerability. They are often associated with certain types of crimes, such as drug trafficking, illegal immigration, pick-pocketing or shoplifting. Furthermore, as a result of the overriding focus on prioritizing security over the international human rights law in the prevailing political context, treatment of immigrants, refugees and asylum-seekers is characterized by suspicion that they may be dangerous.
As recognized by the former Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, discrimination, racism and xenophobia constitute by definition a rejection of or a failure to, recognize differences. Combating racism requires not only identifying its manifestations and expressions but also analyzing and better understanding its underlying causes. The resurgence of the racist and xenophobic culture and mentality can feed and foster a dynamic of conflicts between cultures and civilizations, which constitutes the most serious threat to world peace and therefore to the human right to peace.
The lack of recognition of multiculturalism is an underlying factor of racism and the central issue in present-day crisis in most of the regions of the world. Although societies are the outcome of lengthy historical processes involving contact between peoples, cultures and religions, the central problem of most modern societies lies in the fundamental contradiction between the framework of the nation state, the expression of an exclusive national identity and the dynamic of multiculturalization.
The identity crisis is developed around the dilemma of whether to preserve an ethnic-centered identity or to recognize the reality of cultural and inter-religious pluralism. As human rights commentators stress, identity should be not an obstacle to, but a factor that enables dialogue, mutual understanding, rediscovery of the proximity of the other and pluralism. The concept of diversity should not be interpreted as radical difference, inequality and discrimination against the other, but as a vital element enabling to build a new social vision based on the dialectic of unity, diversity and promotion of the value of cross fertilization between cultures, peoples, ethnic identities and religions. This new social vision should lead to peace.
The concept of clash of civilizations, cultures, ethnic identities or religions has been the new front of the cold war theorists. This ideology has not only shaped the world view of a growing number of influential politicians and media leaders, but it also became a new paradigm for some intellectuals and academics. The ideological paradigm was based both on the use of the defence of national identity and security, and the creation of an enemy in the process of the construction of a national identity.
In their contributions to the Durban Review Conference the African Group stated that, against the culture of fear, is necessary to promote dialogue, peace, cultural diversity and mutual understanding; and the Latin American and Caribbean Group concluded that the promotion of tolerance and cross-cultural values is closely linked to the spirit of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action.
In accordance with the Durban Declaration, “quality education, the elimination of illiteracy and access to free primary education for all can contribute to more inclusive societies, equity, stable and harmonious relations and friendship among nations, peoples, groups and individuals, and a culture of peace, fostering mutual understanding, solidarity, social justice and respect for all human rights for all”.
Therefore, educational policies and programmes should be orientated to promote peace, respect for cultural diversity and universal human rights, non‑exclusion and non-discrimination. Furthermore, as indicated by the Intergovernmental Working Group on the Effective Implementation of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action, human rights education should play a prominent role in combating racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance and promoting a culture of peace and dialogue.
Nevertheless, racial discrimination and xenophobia will rise dramatically up in our societies unless States would adopt effective measures designed to correct persistent forms of structural racism and to eradicate social inequalities which represent the legacy of slavery and colonialism, and feed poverty.
Since peoples of the world are entitled to equality of opportunity and the enjoyment of their human rights, including the right to development and the right to live in peace, actions undertaken by Governments aimed at eliminating racism should include economic and social measures in support of peoples marginalized by racial discrimination. As emphasized by the Asian Group “poverty, underdevelopment, marginalization, social exclusion and economic disparities are closely associated with racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, and contribute to the persistence of racist attitudes and practices which in turn generate more poverty”.
Racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance manifest themselves in an aggravated and differentiated manner for women and girls “causing their living standards to deteriorate, generating multiple forms of violence and limiting or denying them the benefit and the exercise of their human rights …”. As we are approaching the 15th Anniversary of the Beijing Declaration and Programme of Action, it should be reaffirmed that gender-based violence, such as battering and other domestic violence, sexual abuse, sexual slavery and exploitation, and international trafficking in women and children, forced prostitution and sexual harassment, as well as violence against women, are the result of racism, racial discrimination and xenophobia. The Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, as well as its Committee’s General Recommendations, in particular GR 19 (1992) on violence against women, including older women, should also be stressed.
A transformed partnership based on equality between women and men is needed as a condition for people-centered sustainable development and world peace. In addition, the role played by men and boys in advancing gender equality is vital, as recognized both by the Beijing Declaration and the Commission on the Status of Women. Therefore leaders at all levels, as well as parents and educators, should promote positive male role models that facilitate boys to become gender-sensitive adults and enable men to support, promote and respect women’s rights.
Discrimination and racism is an extended phenomenon affecting peoples of African descent and indigenous peoples. Although some legal and administrative measures have been adopted to promote, enhance and strengthen the ethnic, cultural, religious and linguistic identities, participation of minority groups at the political, economic, social and cultural spheres, continues to be irrelevant in many countries were racial policies based on superiority, xenophobia or discrimination are prevailing. This is in flagrant violation of the Charter of the United Nations and relevant international human rights treaties. To efficiently implement main human rights standards, States should promote dialogue among cultures and religions, enhance respect for the dignity of peoples of diverse racial origin and belief, including indigenous peoples and people of African descent; and finally, promote the human right to peace.
As requested in Article 4 of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, States Parties should adopt immediate and positive measures designed to eradicate all incitement to, or acts of, racial discrimination. In addition, the Human Rights Committee stated in its General Comment 18 that the principle of non-discrimination, together with equality before the law and equal protection of the law without any discrimination, constitute a basic and general principle relating to the protection of human rights.
In addition, the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination requested States to take all necessary measures in order to avoid any form of discrimination against immigrants, in particular asylum-seekers of Roma origin and undocumented non-citizens. As stated in paragraph 17 of the Preamble of the Luarca Declaration on the Human Right to Peace, adopted on 30 October 2006,
“Affirming that the effectiveness of the right to peace will not be achieved without the realization of equal rights for men and women and the respect for their difference, without respect for the various cultural values and religious beliefs compatible with human rights, and without the eradication of racism, xenophobia and the contemporary forms of racial discrimination.”
We therefore urge the Human Rights Council to further promote the rights of minority groups, African descent people and indigenous peoples suffering from racism, racial discrimination and xenophobia, to social justice and equity, non-discrimination and gender equality, respect of all human rights, cultural diversity, linguistic rights, solidarity, peace and friendly relations among all nations, races, ethnicities or religions.
We recommend that the Human Rights Committee update its General Comment 11 (1983) on Article 20 of ICCPR (war propaganda should be prohibited by law) in order to address current challenges.
We also request the Human Rights Council to remind Member States to be aware of the existing links between efforts to combat racism, racial discrimination and xenophobia, and the construction of democratic, interactive and egalitarian multiculturalism, as well as the promotion of dialogue among cultures, civilizations and religions, as a means to achieve the human right to peace and to combat racial and religious intolerance.
We further request Member States to take necessary measures aiming at the realization of fundamental rights of minority groups, as contained in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, the Convention on the Political Rights of Women, the Durban Declaration and Plan of Action, the UNESCO Universal Declaration on Cultural Diversity, the UNESCO Convention against Discrimination in Education, and the ILO Convention No. 111 on non-discrimination in access to employment and occupation.
The Human Rights Council should request the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination to analyze the issue of multiple discrimination and aggravated forms of discrimination with a racial component, and to adopt general recommendations on the methodology for countering this phenomenon.
We also urge Member States to recognize the need to eliminate discrimination against women as requested by the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women and the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action of the Fourth World Conference on Women of 1995; to promote women participation at all levels of decision-making on peace and security issues, as provided for in Security Council Resolution 1325; and to foster the role of men and boys in advancing gender equality.
We further recommend that a Declaration on human rights education and training be adopted by the Council’s Advisory Body to define positive obligations of States regarding the incorporation of human rights education in their educational systems, including private, religious, and military schools; to ensure access to a continuous life-long education at all ages in a society marked by professional mobility and migration; and to include the right to education on peace and human rights.
Finally, we invite all international actors to fully participate at the Workshop on the right of peoples to peace, to be organized by the High Commissioner in April 2009 pursuant to Council resolution 8/9, adopted on 18 June 2008."
International Progress Organization