On 24th of September 2013 the Human Council held a general debate on racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related forms of intolerance, during which speakers welcomed the adoption of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action but expressed concerns about remaining challenges to its implementation. Geneva International Centre for Justice took part in the discussion and underlined the importance of combating racial discrimination and inequality.

Item 9

Racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related forms of intolerance, follow-up and implementation of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action

GICJ participated in the Human Rights Council's debate on Racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related forms of intolerance. In this regard Angela Bushati gave an oral statement and underlined the importance of Durban Declaration principles of equality as well as the importance of education to combat discrimination and intolerance.

Full text of the statement

Thank you Mr. President. This is a joint statement with EAFORD and Geneva International Centre for Justice.

Distinguished members of the Human Rights Council, the Durban Declaration and Program of Action assets the principles of equality and non-discrimination as core human rights transforming victims of discrimination into right holders and states into duty barriers. In order for people to express their own identity and exercise their rights, they should be free from all forms of discrimination, which entails respect for their human rights.

We strongly underline the importance of the full and effective implementation of the paragraphs of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action concerning the role of education in preventing and eliminating racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance. Education plays an essential role in the full development of human personality and the strengthening of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. It promotes understanding, tolerance and friendship among all nations, racial and religious groups.

The prime responsibility to combat discrimination and racism belongs to states, and it calls for the active involvement of international and non-governmental organisations, media and civil society. Education is a key to changing behaviour and to promoting tolerance for diversity in societies. Such education is a determining factor in the promotion and protection of values of justice and equity, which are essential to prevent and combat the spread of intolerance.

The Human Rights Council and the Special Rapporteur must continue to address in their reports the role of education to prevent all forms of intolerance. We also encourage the further cooperation between the United Nations, UNESCO and other relevant international organizations, to initiate and develop cultural and educational programmes aimed at countering all forms of discrimination in order to ensure respect for the dignity of all human beings and to enhance mutual understanding among all cultures and civilizations.

Thank you for your attention.

Human Rights Council debate on Racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related forms of intolerance

The Council heard statements from Member States, observer States and NGOs. Most speakers referred to situations of concern and called on States, the international community and other stakeholders to take action in order to address the scourge of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related forms of intolerance. Some of the speakers in the general debate are included below.

Pakistan, speaking on behalf of the Organization for Islamic Cooperation (OIC), said that xenophobia, intolerance, racism and discrimination on the basis of religious belief needed to be combated by strong international instruments and effective domestic legislation. Regrettably, commitments made by States had not translated into concrete action on the ground, and Muslims in many parts of the world were victims of acts of racism and discrimination carried out by persons who did not believe in peaceful cooperation.

Palestine, speaking on behalf of the Arab Group, said that it was concerned about increasing worldwide attempts to burn the Koran, with the persons behind such acts of religious discrimination enjoying impunity. Islamophobia was a worrying global phenomenon, and States needed to adopt local deterrent laws to tackle it. Islam was a religion of love and tolerance and should not be judged on the basis of the actions of certain extremist groups. The international community needed to cultivate a culture of openness and acceptance of “the other”.

Lithuania, speaking on behalf of the European Union, welcomed the opportunity to draw attention to the problem of racism, xenophobia and related intolerance. Efforts needed to be stepped up to ensure the elimination of such practices, which remained a global challenge requiring a multilateral and multi-stakeholder approach. The European Union, which was constructively engaged in efforts to fight such phenomena at the regional and international level, remained concerned about the scope and nature of the Decade on People of African Descent as set out in its programme of action.

Kyrgyzstan, speaking on behalf of a Group of States, said genocide throughout history had been caused by racism and xenophobia. After the overthrow of Nazism it was hoped those sentiments would be a thing of the past but that was not so. Xenophobia, racism and even Nazism itself were again being used by political elites. That was ignored by many, but neo-Nazi movements must be addressed if the mistakes of the past, including genocide, were to be avoided in the future.

South Africa, speaking on behalf of the African Group, said that the greatest achievement of the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action was the Durban conference but that more needed to be done by the international community in terms of its instruments to address racism. The African Group would like to reaffirm its commitment to the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action and other instruments, and called for full financial backing for it from the international community.

The United States said that ever since Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech of 50 years ago, it had done much to outlaw and combat racism within its own borders. While its reservations about the Durban process were well-known, especially in relation to Israel, the United States was fully committed to ending racial discrimination everywhere and engaged with international partners to share expertise.

The Council of Europe said the Internet was overflowing with xenophobia and racism and its effects were felt both online and offline. The phenomenon of young people using the Internet to spread hate speech encompassed many dangerous forms of prejudice and discrimination. Education and tolerance programmes aimed at young people using the Internet were needed to encourage a full understanding of how racism and xenophobia posed a threat to democracy.

The International Youth and Student Movement for the United Nations said it was difficult to understand why the implementation of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action had received little attention from the High Commissioner and was absent or reduced in the future plans of the Human Rights Council. The International Decade of People of African Descent could be a way to address that in the future.

The Organization for Defending Victims of Violence said that the roots of Islamophobia - a view based on groundless hatred of Islam and Muslims – existed prior to 9/11. Concern was expressed about the rise of sectarian tensions in several locations, including against Christian and Shia minorities. The historical marginalisation of the Shia had become an official policy in a number of places in the Middle East and required the attention of the Council.

The Organisation pour la Communication en Afrique et de Promotion de la Coopération Economique Internationale (OCAPROCE) said that racism and Islamophobia continued even today and the fight against racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and all of their abhorrent and involving forms and manifestations was a matter of priority for the international community. The Durban Declaration and Programme of Action offered a unique and historical opportunity for its elimination.

The Agence International pour le Développement said if unaddressed Xenophobia posed a serious challenge to democracy. Religious minorities continued to confront the rhetoric of terror and violations around the world. Europe had also experienced the targeting of minorities and misuse of freedom of expression by right-wing and extremist political parties. Many spoke of a fear of Islam, but it was important to realize that their representation of Islam was imagined.

Participation of GICJ at Human Rights Council Sessions

Human Rights Council - 35th regular session (6 June - 24 June 2017)

Human Rights Council - 34th regular session (27 February - 24 March 2017)

Human Rights Council - 33rd regular session (10 September - 30 September 2016)

Human Rights Council - 32nd regular session (13 June - 1 and 8 July 2016)

Human Rights Council - 31st regular session (29 February - 24 March 2016)

Human Rights Council - 30th regular session (14 September - 2 October 2015)

Human Rights Council - 29th regular session (15 June - 3 July 2015)

Human Rights Council - 22nd special session on the human rights situation in Iraq in light of abuses committed by the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant and associated groups - 1 September 2014:

Human Rights Council - 21st special session on the human rights situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem - 23 July 2014:

Human Rights Council - 26th regular session (10 - 27 June 2014):

Human Rights Council - 25th regular session (3 - 28 March 2014):

Human Rights Council - 24th regular session (9 - 27 September 2013):

Human Rights Council - 23rd regular session (27 May - 14 June 2013):

Human Rights Council - 22nd regular session (25 February - 22 March 2013):

Human Rights Council - 21st regular session (10 - 28 September, 5 November 2012):

Human Rights Council - 19th regular session (27 February - 23 March 2012):

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