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Race, Racism and the Law 
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Declaration - Guiding Principles

NGO Forum, World Conference Against Racism, Racial Discrimination
Xenophobia and Related Intolerance, Durban, South Africa, August 27-Sept 1, 2001

This page is part of much larger document. Please be sure to read the Overview, the Declaration-Guiding Principles, Programme of Action-Guiding Principles, and Programme of Action - Legal Measures which provide the context for understanding this page. Click here to Download Word Document.




1. We, the representatives of local, national and international non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and other civil society groups from around the world gathered in Durban/South Africa during the week of 28 August - 3 September 2001 for the World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance (WCAR), guided by our commitment in the struggle against racism and racial discrimination and inspired by the recommendations of the NGO Forums held in Strasbourg/France, Santiago de Chile/Chile, Dakar/Senegal and Tehran/Iran and the related sub-regional NGO meetings held in Warsaw/Poland, Kathmandu/Nepal, Cairo/Egypt and Quito/Ecuador, in preparation for the World Conference, hereby make the following Declaration:

2. Solemnly acknowledging all those who suffered for justice and freedom in South Africa and honouring the memory of those who sacrificed their lives for the struggle against Apartheid and celebrating the spirit of the South African people in building a new society free of racism and racial discrimination and recognising that as a beacon of hope for the world community.

3. Saluting all those who struggled against racism, racial discrimination, genocide, slavery, xenophobia and related intolerance, genocidal practices and all other forms of discrimination and exclusion, honouring the memory of those who have given their lives for this struggle, and other struggles against oppression and encouraging and supporting those that continue to fight against the scourge of racism.

4. Taking note of the fact that the declaration of Apartheid as a crime against humanity was a progressive step taken by the international community in its quest to eradicate this inhumane racist state system, and recalling the positive role of the world community in supporting the struggle of the South African people against Apartheid.

5. Recognizing that all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights, and have the capacity to contribute constructively to the development and well-being of their societies and, that all human societies ascribed towards shared values of dignity, equality, justice, tolerance, solidarity, pluralism and multiculturalism.

6. Reaffirming that all human rights are universal, indivisible, interdependent and inalienable, and that all human beings are entitled to all these rights irrespective of distinction of any kind such as race, class, colour, sex, citizenship, gender, age, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity, language, nationality, ethnicity, culture, religion, , caste, descent, occupation, social/economic status or origin, health, including HIV/AIDS status, or any other status;

7. Recognizing the richness of the diversity of cultures, languages, religions and peoples in the world and the potential within this diversity to create a world free of racism, racial discrimination, genocide, slavery, xenophobia and related intolerance,.

8. Recognizing that racism, racial discrimination, genocide, slavery, xenophobia and related intolerances are based on an ideological construct that assigns a certain group of persons a position of political, economic and social power over others through notions of racial superiority, colour, identity, dominance purity and majority status.

9. Reaffirming the International Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD) definition that racist ideologies are 'scientifically false, morally condemnable, socially unjust and dangerous' and economically devastating and that there is no justification for racial discrimination in theory and in practice, anywhere.

10. Recognising the particular importance and role of the International Criminal Court in the eradication of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance and emphasising the need for universal ratification

11. Considering that the roots of many contemporary manifestations of racism and racial discrimination can be located in the legacy of the slave trade, slavery, colonialism and foreign occupation which led to forced transplantation of peoples, massive dispossession of territories and resources and the destruction of political, religious and social systems for which acknowledgement and reparations were never made, and which created historical injustices based on ideologies of superiority, dominance and purity, the consequences of which continue to this day.

12. Acknowledging that in particular in countries in transition, the growth of aggressive nationalism and ethnocentrism are expressions of racism and xenophobia not rooted in the slave -trade but deeply embedded in historical prejudices and hatred towards ethnic and religious minorities that often lead to large-scale human rights violations, discrimination and persecution targeting specific groups such as Jews, Roma, Kurds, people from the Caucasus and Central Asia, Meskhetian Turks and even frequently resulting in 'ethnic cleansing' and crimes against humanity with elements of genocide, particularly in the former Yugoslavia and Chechnya.

13. Acknowledging the role played by United Nations in creating international legal rights and obligations against racism, racial discrimination, genocide, slavery, xenophobia and related intolerance, we nevertheless deplore the fact that efforts undertaken by governments and by the United Nations to implement these instruments and mechanisms are grossly inadequate, exclude civil society actors and have allowed perpetrators and accomplices to go unpunished.

14. Appalled by the persistent failure of governments and the United Nations to address injustices and violations committed by non-state actors including injustices and violations committed by no-state actors, including international finance and trade institutions, transnational corporations, and fundamentalist groups exacerbates and perpetuates racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance.

15. Appalled by the success and apparent increasing popularity of certain political parties and other groups that use racist and xenophobic ideologies in gaining and maintaining political power

16. Recognizing that state racism is often manifested by political and intellectual elites who exploit the nationalistic and xenophobic sentiments of the general public for political mobilization and legitimization of their authority and political power, not only in the traditional blatant ways but also in new, more covert, institutionalized forms, aggravated by the problem of denial of the very existence of racism by government officials.

17. Recognizing that while all religions are founded on principles that advocate peace, tolerance, non-discrimination, respect and acceptance of the other, and that freedom of religion, belief and conscience contribute to the attainment of the goals of world peace, social justice and mutual understanding among peoples, yet there are situations in which religion is misused to further political goals that promote racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance.

18. Considering that racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance are the basis of gross violations of human rights and hate crimes, create and maintain conflict, and thus hinder development and constitute a threat to peace and democracy and must be addressed by all appropriate means, including effective legal mechanisms at all levels.

19. Affirming that Indigenous Peoples are bearers of both collective and individual rights which include their right to self-determination and to the legitimate exercise of control over their resources and dominion of their territories on the basis of their historical and cultural identity and have the right and responsibility to transmit to future generations their ancestral territories and identity.

20. Affirming the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination, statehood, independence and freedom and the right of the return as stipulated in UN Resolution 194.

21. Also affirming the right to self-determination of all peoples, including the Hawaiian, Kurdish, Kashmiri, West Sumatran, West Papuan, Achenese, Sri Lankan Tamils, Tibetans, Roma and Travellers, the non-independent territories of the Americas, such as Puerto Rico, Martinique and Guadalupe, calling on the United Nations to devise mechanisms and procedures that enable the affirmation of that right, and in particular to respect UN Security Council Resolution 1359/2001 of June 29, 2001 on Western Sahara.

22. Acknowledging 50 years of ethnic conflict in Sir Lanka which has resulted in death, disappearances, rape, torture and destruction and affirming the right to self determination of the Tamil minority.

23. Recognizing that certain cultural groups with a distinct identity such as Sikhs, Mohajirs, Sindhis, Balochs face barriers on a complex interplay of racial, ethnic, religious and cultural factors

24. Recognizing that globalization is a historically uneven process based on colonial and imperialist integration of the world economy and on maintaining and deepening unequal power relations between countries and regions of the world that exacerbates, global inequalities and conditions of poverty and social exclusion

25. Deeply concerned that current forms of globalization and policies of international financial and trade institutions as well as the activities of transnational corporations prevent the full realization of economic, social and cultural rights of all peoples, maintain and deepen the social exclusion of groups that are most marginalized and heighten tension and manifestations of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance.

26. Recognizing that in the context of globalization, discriminatory labour practices experienced by men and women, youth and children and people with disablilities and documented and undocumented migrants groups who are already marginalized by racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance which makes them vulnerable to increased exploitation, poverty, and social exclusion

27. Recognizing the rights of all victims of slavery racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance to reparations of all forms

28. Recognizing environmental racism as a form of racial discrimination which refers to exploitation and depletion of natural resources and any environmental policy, practice, action or inaction that intentionally or unintentionally, disproportionately harms the health, eco systems, and livelihood of nations, communities, groups, or individuals, and in particular the poor.

29. Acknowledging that situations of armed conflict are often generated by racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerances and that such conflicts in turn perpetuate racism and related forms of discrimination, emphasise that war crimes must urgently be prosecuted at the national level notwithstanding the establishment of the International Criminal Court.

30. Noting also with concern that armed conflicts create an environment conducive to heightened militarization, violence against women, young people and children in particular the girl child, and persons with disabilities, which result in situations of sexual slavery, rape and forced pregnancies. The proliferation and prevalence of armed conflict throughout the world, particularly in Africa where three quarters of the continent is currently experiencing a state of war or some form of armed conflict, is leading to the large-scale displacement of persons, massive outflows of refugees and internally displaced persons and increasing militarization of millions of children and young people and demand the granting of effective protection to these groups and respect for international humanitarian law.

31. Denouncing the direct role played by certain transnational corporations and governments which lead to an increasing militarization and nuclearization on a global scale and in particular concerned about trafficking and trading in arms, the proliferation of the arms and armaments industries, the production of destructive weapons including landmines and small arms at the cost of spending on social infrastructure, all of which violated the humanitarian laws of war and contribute to the perpetuation of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, and consequences thereof.

32. Recognizing the suffering experienced by many people as a result of the use of weapons of war including weapons of mass destruction, small arms, land mines against civilians

33. Acknowledging the violations of the human rights of the people of Vieques, Puerto Rico because of the actions of the US Navy, we demand an end to these military practices and return of occupied land to the people of Puerto Rico and payment of reparation to the victims

34. Condemning the US blockade of Cuba as a violation of the sovereignty of the Cuban people which results in gross violations of their human rights.

35. Denouncing strategies of some international agreements and international cooperation, such as the Andean Initiative and the Free Trade Area of the Americas project, as well as the Plan Colombia, which, under the guise of carrying out a war against drugs promotes large-scale internal displacement, accelerates dispossession and aggression against the Indigenous, Afro-descendants and peasant communities, leading to the denial of human rights including the right to self-determination, causing environmental degradation and the growth of militarization in the region

36. Recognizing that the persistence of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance affirms the need for an inter-sectional analysis of discrimination which would address forms of multiple discrimination.

37. Noting that racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance create serious obstacles to the full enjoyment of human rights and result in aggravated discrimination against communities who already face discrimination on the basis of class, colour, sex, gender, age, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity, language, nationality, ethnicity, culture, religion or caste, descent, work, socio-economic status or origin, health, including HIV/AIDS status, or any other status.

38. Recognizing homophobia as a particular form of discrimination and a form of multiple discrimination that makes gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered persons even more vulnerable to all forms of violence including hate crimes and racialised violence.

39. Affirming that multiple forms of discrimination against women limit or negate women's potential for the full enjoyment and exercise of their human rights and fundamental freedoms in all spheres of life, that patriarchal social structures reinforce all forms of discrimination against women particularly those with disabilities, and that racism also creates other forms of patriarchal subordination of women.

40. Gravely concerned, that racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance adversely affect the full realisation of rights of the rights of everyone to enjoy the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health,

41. Recognising that people infected with or presumed to be infected with HIV/AIDS suffer serious forms of discrimination and exploitation., exacerbated by the WTO regulations which deny access to affordable treatments.

42. Recognising the important role played by young people in the preparation and the follow up of the WCAR and in adopting the Plan of Action submitted at the Youth Summit of the WCAR , acknowledge that young people are affected by multiple forms of discrimination which limit the full realisation of human rights, resulting in denial of their right to self-determination thus limiting their full and active political, economic, and social participation.

43. Recognizing that the slave trade, slavery and colonialism as crimes against humanity reinforced by apartheid and other policies of racial segregation and that the failure and refusal to acknowledge and make reparations for these crimes against humanity have played a critical role in entrenching racism, racial discrimination, anti-black hostilities, xenophobia and related intolerance. Consequently, African and African descendants are prime victims of deep seated racist and prejudicial practices which are manifest in current day exclusion and marginalization which they face in the African Diaspora and in Africa, which has paid and continues to pay a heavy price for this.

44. Recognizing that Asians and Asian Descendants including ethnic and religious minorities in Asian countries have experienced and continue to experience specific forms of racism and xenophobia from the legacy of slavery, colonialism, Apartheid, indentured servitude, internment, and exclusionary migration laws.

45. Concerned about increasing antisemitism which leads to violence and hate crimes against Jewish people in particular and passivity of governments in many countries with regard to prosecuting perpetrators of criminal hate acts.

46. Concerned that Anti-Arab racism is another form of anti-semitism and Islamaphobia that have led to violence and hate crimes.

47. Denouncing the pervasive nature of hate crimes, ethnic cleansing and genocide and other crimes against humanity including wars committed against members of communities that face colonialism, racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance and those who advocate for social change and self-determination

48. Affirming that members of far too many minority communities, including national, ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities are collectively and individually subject to all forms of racism and institutionalized discrimination including denial of citizenship, exclusion from political participation, denial of access to resources and a dignified standard of living, political repression and genocidal practices because some nation-state structures that are majoritarian deny the rights of minority communities including the right of self-determination.

49. Recognizing that the Chechen people still suffer large-scale violations of human rights and international humanitarian standards we stress that military operations in Chechnya are accompanied by a wide-scale hate campaign towards the Chechens, which in particular results in mass persecution and discrimination against people originating from the region of the Caucasus when they travel or reside outside their region.

50. Acknowledging that the Roma, who are a non-territorial nation, dispersed in a worldwide diaspora are denied their right to a cultural identity, are disadvantaged and experience discrimination, persecution, stigmatization, and violence on the basis of their social origin and identity.

51. Recognizing that Travelers experience comparable levels of racism and oppression to Roma throughout the world and in particular to the denial of their social, cultural, political and economic rights.

52. Recognizing that the caste system discriminates against and enables segregation of communities on the basis of work and descent, such as Dalits in South Asia, the Buraku people of Japan, the Osu and Oru people of Nigeria and the Griots of Senegal and other communities resulting in flagrant violations of human rights and dignity, with women and children of these communities being particularly vulnerable to barbaric forms of violence.

53. Deploring the lack of policies and programs that effectively address the inter-sectionality of the multiple forms of discrimination particularly faced by people with disabilities.

54. Noting with deep concern that racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance against documented and undocumented migrants, migrant workers and members of their families, refugees, asylum seekers, stateless and displaced persons is structural and systematic in character, is reflected in discriminatory legislation, policies and social and corporate practices, and manifest in both subtle and overt acts of hostility and violence against specific groups on the basis of differences in language, customs, religions, culture language, origin, customs and position in international power relations

55. Recognizing that xenophobia is a particular form of discrimination and intolerance which describes prejudices, practices, attitudes and behaviour that oppresses and rejects, excludes and vilifies persons who are already discriminated against because they are, or are presumed to be, foreigners or people of different ethnic, religious, linguistic or cultural background.

56. Gravely concerned about the failure of states to protect the rights of all those living within their borders especially in the face of increasing xenophobic acts against migrants, migrant workers and members of their family, refugees, asylum seekers, trafficked, stateless and internally displaced persons and in particular concerned about oppressive and restrictive immigration policies, the criminalization, stigmatisation, targeting and victimisation of these groups.

57. Noting with concern the increasing numbers of refugees, asylum seekers, stateless and internally displaced persons, including those displaced by economic processes and developmental projects most of whom are women and children, whose rights are not fully and appropriately protected by the relevant international, regional and sub-regional legal instruments or national legislation, and who consequently are more vulnerable to racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance in the receiving regions and countries

58. Recognizing that trafficking in persons as a contemporary form of slavery based on patriarchal notions of sexuality and exacerbated by economic inequalities which primarily affects women and children of poor and marginalized communities and which takes place within and across many countries across the world including in Mauritania, Sudan, Cameroon and Niger.

59. Recognizing the need to give special consideration to the concerns and needs of victims of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance including women, children, young people, persons with disabilities, people of African descent, Indigenous Peoples, gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered persons, disabled persons, the impoverished, and persons living in situations or countries in conflict, who are discriminated against by the criminal justice system, as well as to the incarceration and withholding of legal rights and services to asylum seekers and refugees.

60. Recognizing that victims of slavery, genocide, racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance have the right to effective civil remedies and criminal sanctions against government agencies , corporate institutions and their employees We also recognize that these victims, for victims have been disparately and , disproportionately targeted, prosecuted and sentenced due to their race, caste, nationality, ethnic background, religious beliefs or other differences.

61. Drawing inspiration from the slogan of the WCAR, 'UNITED TO COMBAT RACISM: EQUALITY, JUSTICE AND DIGNITY' and hopeful that the World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance will affirm the commitment of the United Nations to developing practical, action oriented measures and strategies to combat racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance.

62. Convinced that the World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance will be an important occasion for healing, reconciliation and emancipation of the victims of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, and encouraged by the growing universal movement driven by civil society committed for the creation of a world free from racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerances.

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