Towards the World Conference on Racism
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.
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
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:
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: http://homepage.eircom.net/~racismctee
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;
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;
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.
The main objectives of the World Conference against Racism, as stated in UN General Assembly resolution 52/111 (1997) are:
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:
The slogan adopted for the World Conference Against Racism is:
"United to Combat Racism: Equality, Justice, Dignity"
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:
1 - 5 May 2000
5 - 7 July 2000
5 - 7 September 2000
4 - 6 October 2000
11 - 13 October 2000
25 - 27 October 2000
1 - 4 November 2000
3 - 7 December 2000
15 - 19 January 2001
18 - 21 February 2001
28 May - 8 June 2001
31 August - 7 September 2001
31 August - 7 September
Each conference has three stages
1. Preparation which takes place in three different areas:
2. Global Conference which has two parts:
3. Monitoring and Implementation:
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.
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.
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.
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;
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 - www.unhchr.ch/html/racism/note 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 www.unog.ch
NCCRI Web Site: http://homepage.eircom.net/~racismctee/)
Council of Europe - ECRI Web Site: http://www.ecri.coe.int
World Conference on Racism Web Site:
UN Web Site: http://www.unog.ch
Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights
Dr. Laurie Wiseberg
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.