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Tel: (01) 4785777
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National Consultative Committee on Racism and Interculturalism

Towards the World Conference on Racism


December 2000

Welcome to this special issue of the NCCRI newsletter which outlines the outcomes of the recent National and European preparatory conferences on racism and which looks forward to the preparations for the world conference on racism to be held in South Africa in 2001 and how groups can participate in this process.
Anastasia Crickley, Chairperson


The Third World Conference on Racism that will take place in South Africa from August 31st - September 7th and the associated NGO Forum that will precede it, provide important opportunities to contribute to the struggle against racism at local, national, regional and global levels. Governments, state agencies and NGOs can contribute in a variety of ways in the lead up to South Africa, in the processes that will take place there, and in ensuring implementation of the agreed outcomes. As part of our role in co-ordinating such preparations, NCCRI will between now and then produce newsletters containing information about key issues and dimensions related to the preparations. If you wish to receive other issues and/or if you know other groups who might like to receive them, please complete and return the enclosed form.

In this issue we give brief summaries of what has happened to date at national, regional and global levels, an overview of UN processes and the conference objectives and information on NGO accreditation. It is envisaged that the next issue will comment on the first draft of the documents to be finalised in South Africa when they are made available. Your comments and suggestions are welcome. We actively encourage any NGO interested to apply for NGO accreditation for the world conference as the procedures can take a few months to complete. Mary Robinson, High Commissioner for Human Rights and President of the conference has placed a strong emphasis on participation at all stages. NCCRI is committed to supporting NGO involvement and participation and will be organising meetings and information sessions to facilitate maximum participation by all interested, whether through attendance at South Africa or contributing to the discussions, documents and associated activities.

As the number of groups attending the World Conference will be by necessity limited the NCCRI will also be involved in coordinating/supporting activities in Ireland to coincide with the conference through which a wider range of groups can participate. Information on these initiatives will follow in subsequent newsletters

Preparing in Ireland

National Preparatory Conference - Conclusions and Recommendations

On the 5th of September 2000 the National Consultative Committee on Racism and Interculturalism (NCCRI) with the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform and the Department of Foreign Affairs organised a Preparatory National Conference in Ireland to prepare for the Global Summit on Racism in South Africa (August 2001) and the European Preparatory Conference on Racism in Strasbourg (October 2000). 250 people attended representing a wide variety of organisations, including those working closely with minority ethnic groups in Ireland.

The conclusions and recommendations from the Preparatory Conference were drawn from the feedback from the four thematic workshops inputs to the conference and discussions at the conference plenary sessions, and are as follows:

  1. The work of this conference is neither a beginning nor an end of a process. It reflects work done on the issue of racism by many groups over the past decade. It looks forward to further dialogue together on the outcomes of the Council of Europe meeting, the preparations for the Global Summit, and the implementation of the Global Summit conclusions.
  2. The conference discussions not only reflect a significant consensus on what needs to be done about racism, they provide evidence of a widespread commitment to addressing racism in Irish society. This is a commitment that should find expression at the European and Global meetings.
  3. The conference report should serve not only to take ideas and experiences forward to Strasbourg and South Africa but also as a foundation for a future national action plan in Ireland.
  4. The following points were agreed at the conference:
    • Racism is a violation of human rights.
    • Action against racism could valuably be island-wide and be rooted in north-south cooperation.
    • Our focus on racism needs to be inclusive, embracing groups whatever their legal status and taking account of groups such as Travellers and Roma.
    • The racism experienced by women needs to be specifically named and acknowledged and specific measures taken to address them.
  5. Under the legal heading, the core theme emerging is one of adequate legislation and adequate remedies. The importance of, and need for, building on and enhancing the current legislative base was stressed. Of particular interest are commitments to review the Prohibition of Incitement to Hatred Act, to transpose the EU Directive on racism into Irish Law and to ratify the International Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination.
  6. Under the heading of policy and practices, the need to focus on outcomes is stressed. Positive action emerges as a key theme here with the challenge to address the impact of past discrimination and to the implications of cultural diversity. Institutional change and mainstreaming is another key theme to emerge. Mainstreaming involves:
  • Placing anti-racism and interculturalism as an objective of all policy making.
  • Proofing decision making for impact on Black and minority ethnic groups.
  • Securing and researching the participation of Black and minority ethnic groups in decisions that impact on them.
  • Developing a database, capable of tracking progress and identifying barriers.
  • Trade, aid and debt policies can generate global inequalities that feed racist stereotypes. These are issues of particular importance to a global conference on racism.
  1. Under the heading of education and awareness raising the strong inter-relationship and overlap between the four headings chosen for the Council of Europe Conference was highlighted. Early intervention, an anti-racist dimension to lifelong learning and curriculum development are identified as the key themes in relation to the provision of education. Another theme that emerges under this hearing related to changing the ethos of institutions. This requires adequate programme of anti-racist training with clear links to institutional policy making and practice.
  2. Under the final heading on information, communication and the media, a key issue emerging is the need for media that empowers. This is a media where Black and minority ethnic reporters are employed and where Black and minority ethnic perspectives and issues are heard. A second key issue is the need to address irresponsible media. This is media where there is carelessness in the use of language, that reinforce stereotypes and which engages in hate speech. The third issue is the need to develop effective information and communication strategies as an integral part of an overall national plan to address racism.

The NCCRI has undertaken an evaluation of the conference and the resultsare available on an annex to the main report of the conference on our website. An executive summary is available from our office in 26 Harcourt Street, Dublin 2 and is also on the website.

The executive summary of the conference outcomes was made available to the European governmental conference delegations. Amendments, modifications and new dimensions based on the Dublin castle conclusions were suggested in advance to both the Draft Political Declaration and Draft General Conclusions eventually agreed in Strasbourg. Not all were taken on board, but useful proposals around monitoring, evaluation, and mainstreaming were included and Travellers and Gypsies as well as Roma were for the first time specifically included in the documents. Suggestions based on the Dublin Castle Conference were also made for the first drafts of the documents to be eventually agreed in South Africa.

Copies of full report/executive summary available on our website:

Preparing in Europe

European Preparatory Conference

As part of the European preparations for the 3rd World conference on Racism, the Council of Europe hosted a Governmental conference in Strasbourg from the 11th to the 13th of October 2000. The conference brought together Government delegates from the 41 member states of the Council of Europe to address the persistent rise in anti- racist, xenophobic activity in Europe and the rest of the world.

The Irish delegation to the conference consisted of representatives from the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform, the Department of Foreign Affairs, the National Consultative Committee on Racism and Interculturalism, and the Equality Authority.

An important aspect of the process of drawing the delegations together was the availability of one space on each government delegation for Non-Government Organisations. This allowed for NGO participation in each of the workshops with full speaking rights, and represented a significant departure from normal practice at such conferences. Pavee Point Travellers Centre represented Irish NGOs on the delegation.

The conference structure mirrored that of UN conferences with an NGO Forum taking place prior to the Governmental Conference.

Approximately 250 people (nine from Ireland and a significant representation from Central and Eastern Europe) attended the NGO Forum which focused, through workshops and plenary discussion on the themes of the Governmental conference i.e. Legal Protection, Policies and Practices, Education and Awareness Raising, Information Communication and the Media. With an additional theme of Immigration and Asylum.

The Report from the Forum of NGOs reaffirms the commitment of NGOs to tackling the persistence and growth of racism and racist attacks throughout Europe and calls on Governments to take specific measures to address the resurgence of racism and xenophobia.

As well as making specific recommendations in relation to the themes of the conference, the NGO Forum report, in it's general remarks and conclusions refer to a number of issues also highlighted by the Irish NGOs present. These include the experiences of Roma, Gypsies and Travellers, women, refugees and asylum seekers and the importance of promoting the participation of relevant NGOs in developing appropriate responses to dealing with racism xenophobia and anti-Semitism. The NGO forum report is appended to the final documents of the Governmental conference.

At the Governmental conference, four working groups composed of representatives from Government delegations, considered and made recommendations to combat racism at sub-national, national, regional and international levels in relation to the four themes mentioned above. Discussions took place in thematic working groups/workshops at which Irish NGOs were given an opportunity to observe the proceedings and to contribute through official delegates with whom a number of meetings were held.

The results of working group discussions were fed into the two final documents produced from the conference, the Political Declaration and the General Conclusions.

The Political Declaration is a general statement from the Governmental Conference which reaffirms the values of Europe in relation to equality, cultural diversity and respect, expresses the concerns of member states in relation to the 'continued and violent occurrence of racism,.....' and makes a commitment to;

  • Take further steps to eliminate racism, racial discrimination and other forms of intolerance.
  • Monitor and evaluate such action on a regular basis.
  • Support and strengthening dialogue with NGOs.

The specific mention of the experiences of Roma, Gypsies and Travellers is also welcomed.

The Declaration commits governments, including Ireland to take further steps, including establishing national policies and action plans to combat racism and the creation of independent specialised national institutions

The General Conclusions of the Governmental Conference recommends particular actions and strategies to be undertaken by participating states and emphasises the '...priority of action at national and local level, and by Government in conjunction with civil society' .

The document highlights the need for;

  • Full implementation of international legal instruments.
  • Anti-discrimination legislation at national level and effective remedies to reinforce protection against racism.
  • The collection and publication of accurate data.
  • The development of anti-discrimination monitoring services and the monitoring of outcomes.
  • The integration of a gender perspective in policies and practices developed.
  • Recognition of the key role of politicians, political parties and the judicial system in promoting anti-racism and respect for cultural diversity.
  • Equal access to intercultural education.
  • Training, public awareness campaigns and the strengthening of co-operation with NGOs.
  • The development of action plans and strategies ' to include mainstreaming the fight against racism'..

Preparing for the World Conference against Racism

The upcoming World Conference Against Racism is the culmination of actions and decisions taken by the government members of the United Nations over the past three decades. The UN General Assembly designated the year 1971 as the International Year for Action to Combat Racism and Racial Discrimination. It has since designated three Decades of Action to Combat Racism and Racial Discrimination (1973-1983, 1983-1993, 1993-2003). The UN General Assembly has also decided to observe the year 2001 as the International Year of Mobilisation Against Racism.

The World Conference Against Racism in 2001 will be the third UN world conference on this issue. The previous conferences were held in Geneva in 1978 and in 1983. They focused mainly on ending apartheid in South Africa, but also highlighted other critical issues, including the rights of minorities, indigenous peoples and migrant workers, and the importance of education in preventing racism and discrimination. The World Conference Against Racism in 2001 will focus on developing practical, action-oriented measures and strategies to combat contemporary forms of racism and intolerance.

Objectives of the World Conference

The main objectives of the World Conference against Racism, as stated in UN General Assembly resolution 52/111 (1997) are:

  • To review progress made in the fight against racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, particularly since the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and to reappraise the obstacles to further progress in the field and ways to overcome them.
  • To consider ways and means to better ensure the application of existing standards and the implementation of the existing instruments to combat racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance.
  • To increase the level of awareness about the scourges of racism and racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance.
  • To formulate concrete recommendations on ways to increase the effectiveness of activities and mechanisms of the United Nations through programmes aimed at combating racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance.
  • To review the political, historical, economic, social, cultural and other factors leading to racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance.
  • To formulate concrete recommendations to further action-oriented national, regional and international measures to combat all forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance.
  • To draw up concrete recommendations for ensuring that the United Nations has the financial and other necessary resources for its actions to combat racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance.

The Conference Themes

The following are the themes on the agenda of the World Conference Against Racism, as adopted by consensus - of the Preparatory Committee (PrepCom) at its first meeting in May 2000:

  • Sources, causes, forms and contemporary manifestations of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance.
  • Victims of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance.
  • Measures of prevention, education and protection aimed at the eradication of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, at the national, regional and international levels.
  • Provision of effective remedies, recourses, redress, [compensatory]* and other measures, at the national, regional and international levels.
  • Strategies to achieve full and effective equality, including international co-operation and enhancement of the UN and other international mechanisms in combating racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, and follow up.

The slogan adopted for the World Conference Against Racism is:

"United to Combat Racism: Equality, Justice, Dignity"

What is the Role of the Conference Secretariat?

The UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights has established a Conference Secretariat to service and administer the World Conference against Racism.

The responsibilities of the Conference Secretariat include:

  • preparing background papers and other substantive documents
  • compiling a draft programme of action
  • collecting national and regional information and data
  • convening expert group seminars
  • facilitating negotiations between governments
  • accrediting NG0s to attend the conference and preparatory meetings
  • disseminating official conference documents and conference information
  • maintaining and updating the World Conference Against Racism web page:

Timeline for the World Conference - as of August 2000

1 - 5 May 2000
World Conference Preparatory Committee Meeting (First Session), Geneva, Switzerland

5 - 7 July 2000
Regional Expert Seminar for Europe, Warsaw, Poland

5 - 7 September 2000
Regional Expert Seminar for Asia and the Pacific, Bangkok, Thailand

4 - 6 October 2000
Regional Expert Seminar for Africa, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

11 - 13 October 2000
European Conference Against Racism, Strasbourg, France

25 - 27 October 2000
Regional Expert Seminar for Latin America and the Caribbean, Santiago, Chile

1 - 4 November 2000
Regional Preparatory Conference for Africa, Dakar, Senegal

3 - 7 December 2000
Regional Preparatory Conference for the Americas, Santiago, Chile

15 - 19 January 2001
Inter-sessional Open-Ended Working Group Meeting, Geneva, Switzerland

18 - 21 February 2001
Regional Preparatory Conference for Asia, Teheran, Iran

28 May - 8 June 2001
World Conference Geneva, Preparatory Committee Meeting (Second Session), Switzerland

31 August - 7 September 2001
World Conference Against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance - South Africa

31 August - 7 September
Events in Ireland to coincide with the World 2000 Conference - Ireland

What happens at UN Global Conferences?

Each conference has three stages

1. Preparation which takes place in three different areas:

  1. At UN Member State Level - each country prepares a report on the issues of concern to them. In the process there is consultation with NGOs involved.
  2. At Global Regional Level - e.g. Europe, Asia etc. governmental preparatory meetings are held with delegates from each government to look at the issues and challenges for the region. NGOs usually hold a regional NGO forum just before the governmental meeting and also attend as observers to lobby.
  3. Global Preparatory Meetings of the UN Committee involved and later Global Preparatory Committee Conferences, (Prep.Coms.) At these meetings the draft texts/conventions/agreements to be finalised at the main conference are hammered out between Government delegates. Some NGOs also attend and lobby at Prep.Coms.

2. Global Conference which has two parts:

  1. Governmental Conference - Attended usually by the Minister and civil servants from the governmental department directly concerned with the issue as well as Foreign Affairs officials and diplomats. NGOs attend as observers to lobby their government and are also included in some Governmental delegations including Ireland. Ministers make speeches and the final text of the agreement/convention to be announced at the end is hammered out and adopted by all. Approximately 5,000 + attend.
  2. Global NGO Forum - This consists of a parallel conference with multiple workshops, displays, discussions and creative presentations by NGOs from all over the world concerned with the main issues being discussed. A very useful opportunity to network, build alliances and get new ideas. Approximately 5,000+ attend and there are also mechanisms for lobbying the Governmental conference.

3. Monitoring and Implementation:
The final agreement of all member states is monitored in a number of ways, few of which have the force of law, but UN agreements have considerable moral authority. In general, the UN committee involved annually reports on progress to the General Assembly. In particular there is usually a review 5 years later consisting of the same things as are involved in stages 1+32 above and setting goals for the next 5 years, after which there is a 10 year review or a new conference (in the case of women).

Final conference documents

There are different kinds of documents, agreements, commitments, resolutions and decisions that can result from a UN World Conference. The final conference documents are generally composed of.

  • A declaration, or statement of principles, which serves to set the moral tone and political imperative of the issue.
  • A programme of action, or platform for action, which serves as a blueprint of steps that governments agree should be taken at the national, regional and international levels.
  • The m.eans of implementation, which include identifying funding needs and establishing institutional mechanisms to carry out the recommendations in the programme of action. This section is an important part of the document that NGOs can use to monitor the follow-up activities of their government and hold it accountable.

It is important for NGOs to understand the importance of the final conference documents and how to use them after the conference for international and national advocacy. NGOs also can seek to influence the content of the final conference documents by lobbying and educating government delegations.

Recent Conferences and Reviews

1992 - Conference on Environmental Development - Rio de Janeiro: Special review this year. NGOs alliances formed demonstrated at Seattle at the WTO talks and again in Prague.

1994 - Population and Development - Cairo: Ireland opted out of some family planning clauses. Focussed on education and the improvement of women's situation.

1995 - Social Development - Copenhagen: Led to the Copenhagen declaration of 10 commitments to eradicate poverty and to the National Anti - Poverty Strategy in Ireland. Good work done to get support for Gypsies and Travellers. The European review process took place in Dublin and the Irish report (mostly on NAPS) is available.

1995 - Fourth World Conference on Women - Beijing: Human rights as women's rights as the main message. Also focused on the girl child and mainstreaming women and gender issues. 5 year report earlier this year and governmental commitments to action plan.

1996 - Conference on Human Settlements/Habitat 11 Istanbul: Made adequate housing a human right. 5 year report next year needs to be used to focus on Irish housing/accommodation issues.

NGO Accreditation for the World Conference on Racism

In it's resolution 54/154, the General Assembly decided that the World Conference and the sessions of the Preparatory Committee should be open to the participation of, among others;
" interested non-governmental organisations, which will be represented by observers in accordance with Economic and Social Council resolution 1996/31 of July 25th 1996".

Part V11 of Council resolution 1996/31 governs participation of NGOs in international conferences convened by the United Nations and their preparatory processes. NGOs not in consultative status may apply to the secretariat of the conference for accreditation, through filling out a questionnaire available on the following web site - or from the NCCRI office. There is no charge for application for accreditation.

An alternative method of participation is for non-accredited NGOs to affiliate to an NGO in consultative status. A list of these NGOs can be found on the UN Web site

Some Useful information

NCCRI Web Site:

Council of Europe - ECRI Web Site:
(For European Conference Documents)

World Conference on Racism Web Site:
(Including accreditation forms for the world conference)

UN Web Site:

Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights
World Conference Secretariat:
UN 1211 Geneva 10
Tel. - (41-22)917-9290
Fax. - (41-22)917-9022
Email -

Dr. Laurie Wiseberg
NGO Liaison Officer
World conference Secretariat
Palais Wilson, Room 4-025, 52 Rue de Paguis,
CH-1201 Geneva, Switzerland
Tel (41-22)91-79393
Fax (41-22)91 - 79050

The Impact of the work of the Irish Delegation and Outcomes of the European Conference.

Ambassador Justin Harman, Irish Permanent Representative to the Council of Europe

UN High Commissioner Mary Robinson, who is Secretary General for the World Conference, praised both the substantive outcome of the Strasbourg Conference and its meticulous organisation. At the outset, she had called for an avoidance of a talking shop with fine words and no substance. She insisted on there being an action-oriented approach in the lead-up to South Africa with specific follow-up and review provisions. And she urged against turning this and other future conferences into opportunities where one section of the international community abuses another - they should not be hi-jacked by narrow sectional interests. In my view, widely shared within the Council of Europe and by the UN Secretariat, these three objectives were met in Strasbourg.

Ireland made a significant input into the process which, I think it fair to say, was out of proportion to our size and population. This was the result of careful advance planning and the crucial partnership established at an early stage between the relevant Government Departments and Agencies and with the NGO community. The Irish Delegation was led by the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, Mr O'Donoghue, who provided the Conference with a comprehensive overview of the legal and other measures taken to tackling racism and racist views or attitudes in Irish society. He reiterated the determination of the Government to promote a more inclusive society, referring to the programme to combat racism and racist attacks by raising public awareness (which was agreed by government in October).

Due to the groundwork laid at the preparatory conference in Dublin in early September, the participation of various Government Departments and Agencies, the contribution in Strasbourg of a significant number of Irish NGOs (whose participation was assisted through financial assistance from the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform) and an effective coordination framework provided by the NCCRI, Ireland was in a position to make a targeted impact on the exchanges in each workshop dealing with the four principal themes (legal measures, policies and practice, education and awareness and information and the media). Coordination within the Irish delegation, governmental and non-governmental, was effective throughout - at the last coordination meeting, Minister O'Donoghue committed his Department to maintaining the effective partnership established over the period ahead, including in preparing for South Africa. The Irish contribution was reflected both in the exchanges in the workshops, where reference was made both to the longstanding experience of Travellers and the more recent changes as Ireland evolves into an increasingly multicultural society. Irish input was reflected in amendments to both the general conclusions and the political declaration, drawing in particular from the outcome of the preparatory meeting in Dublin Castle in early September. In the political declaration, an Irish initiative to include a commitment for concrete monitoring and evaluation of follow-up action by States was widely supported.

Ireland was one of the only delegations to include representatives of its national police force - a point commented on favourably by a number of other delegations and by the UN High Commissioner. Indeed, there is a growing level of cooperation between the Garda Siochana and the Council of Europe - within this framework, a Conference on 'Police and Human Rights' will be organised by the Garda Human Rights Office take place in Dublin Castle in November. What did the European Conference achieve in practice? Firstly, the political declaration signed by Ministers representing the 41 states present confirmed that acts of racism and racial discrimination are human rights violations. Secondly, all states accepted the persistence of violent occurrences of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and intolerance throughout Europe. Thirdly, the Conference pointed to those areas particularly conducive to manifestations of racism and racial discrimination, notably the discrepancy between law and practice; the lack of access to the law; and the latent, creeping racism in many public institutions. The Conference adopted general conclusions which can, and hopefully will, serve as a future action plan, or as a series of 'bench-marks', for Europe in follow-up to the World Conference next year.

The format for the involvement of NGOs was novel. Rather than, as at previous such conferences, creating separate (and frequently opposing) governmental and non-governmental camps, preparations for Strasbourg were from the outset developed as a joint enterprise. This was achieved through the establishment of an NGO resource group and the selection by it of 80 representative NGOs, particularly those working at national level, from across Europe to attend the Conference as equal participants with governmental delegates. There was also the decision to hold a Forum for all NGOs wishing to participate immediately prior to the Conference - its conclusions were attached to the documents of the Conference. While this approach was not entirely without hitches, the overall appreciation was that these were outweighed by the positive conclusions and the sense of joint effort and partnership developed during the process. The general conclusions were adopted by all participants, not merely by representatives of Governments. At the same time, certain aspects of the organization of NGOs will need examination in the future, notably how to enhance transparency in the selection of the resource group (effectively the 'engine' for NGO input) and ensuring improved consultation within the NGO network as the preparation of Conference documents develops in the preparatory phases.


Rachel Doyle, Co-ordinator, National Traveller Womens Forum; Ambassador Justin Harman,

Irish Permanent Representative to the Council of Europe; Niall Crowley, CEO, Equality Authority; Bernadette Crawford, Le Chéile-Together, Irish Artists against Racism Project; Anastasia Crickley, Chairperson, NCCRI; Philip Watt, Director, NCCRI; Bronwen Maher, Administrator, NCCRI.

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