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Race, Racism and the Law 
Speaking Truth to Power!

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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.




147. Racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance as experienced by most migrant, immigrant, indigenous as well as second generation descendent workers is manifested through multiple forms of discrimination practiced in the workplace and in the communities in which they live. These include restrictive and exclusionary immigration and labour laws and policies, the denial of trade union rights, exploitative working conditions, low wages and non payment of wages, denial or restriction of labour law protections based on types of job, lack of access to public services such as health, housing and social security. It also includes subtle and overt acts of hostility and violence based on colour, race, nationality, gender, age, caste, class and ethnicity. Full labour law protections must be afforded all workers with no discrimination based on occupation.This discrimination is structural in nature and contravenes international standards. Undocumented migrant workers are doubly at risk of racism and xenophobia. Their lack of legal status is too often used as an excuse to deny human rights, including access to the law and social services.

148. The negative effects of globalisation has a specific impact on workers. In particular globalisation has a negative effect on women who are trafficked as as sex trade workers or employed as low wage and sweat shop workers.

149. Colonialism, slavery and other forms of servitude are primary sources of racism, race discrimination and xenophobia and despite international agreements to outlaw slavery, the trafficking of African children for slavery and forced labour is still ongoing whilst the enslavement and other forms of servitude of Africans and African descendants, Asian and Asian descendants and other marginalized groups have resulted in substantial and lasting economic, political and cultural damage to these peoples. This form of exploitation is particularly damaging to African and African descendant women, who are still victims of sexual trafficking and sexual exploitation, poverty and social exclusion

150. The policies and programmes of the WTO and International Financial Institutions, in particular the IMF and World Bank, often aggravate racism and other discriminatory practices.

151. Recognising the valuable role of trade unions, as democratic and representative organizations of working people and their unique functions of trade unions in fighting racism and discrimination in the labour market and in society generally, we recognize the central role of those affected by racism in developing, implementing and monitoring policies and programmes to eliminate racism.

Programme of Action

386. Racism requires systematic responses at all levels. These responses must be developed recognizing the central role of those effected by racism and the need to be measurable and monitored for impact. These responses must include the ratification and implementation of existing international norms, in particular the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination and the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women and the Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families; ILO Convention 111 and other core labour standards, C169 (Indigenous and Tribal People Convention), C143 (Migrant Workers Convention) and the Declaration of Fundamental Principles and Rights.

387. Legal Measures to combat racism and gender discrimination must also include specific attention to employment rights including pay equity and assurances that all workers have recourse to labour law protections. The burden of proof in race discrimination litigation should also lay with those accused of racism.

388. Effect improved gathering of data for the more effective policy formulation and strategic planning particularly in the field of employment, access to social provision and services including housing, education, health etc. This information and consequent policy development should be systematically shared at regional and international levels.

389. Education, both formal and informal, is one of the cornerstones of the strategies required to eliminate racism in the workplace and in society as a whole. Education strategies must include detailed and measurable plans by both governments and NGOs.

390. Governments must prioritise financial resources to ensure that anti racism education is an integrated and core part of the curriculum within schools. This should be alongside measures which should be taken to ensure that teachers are more reflective of the communities which they represent. Governments should require schools to develop comprehensive and measurable anti racist plans of action which include monitoring arrangements to identify progress.

391. Governments must prioritise financial resources, for NGOs, to support anti racism education programmes and initiatives. These programmes should include education programmes in the workplace.

392. A central part of the process of the Durban plan of action, and follow up, must be a comprehensive process of monitoring the change process. Trade unions and other NGOs must be a comprehensive process of monitoring the change process. Trade unions and other NOGOs must be an integral part of this process. Therefore mechanisms for ensuring the involvement of NGOs and, in particular, those effected by racism, must be established by governments and subject to regular reports.

393. NGOs must establish mechanisms for ensuring that the follow up to the Conference can be co-ordinated and fed through the structures established through discussion with governments.

394. Governments must prioritise resources to support NGOs in the follow up process to the Conference. The allocation of resources should prioritise the need to involve those who are directly effected by racism.


152. We affirm the fundamental right to freedom of expression and freedom of the press as a key tenet of human rights and a free democracy. We recognize, however, that media plays an important role in shaping people's attitudes and beliefs about race and this impact is increasing with globalization and increasing concentration of media ownership.

153. We believe that information and communication technology can be used as a positive tool to combat racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia, caste-based discrimination and related intolerance and can promote tolerance, respect for diversity in ways that help ensure opportunity, empowerment and access to information .

154. Information and communication technology is a factor in global inequities as developed countries not only have greater access to these technologies but are also producers of these technologies thereby rendering developing countries consumers. We urge equal development that results in greater equity and balance in both access to resources and training opportunities to develop key skills.

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Race, Racism and American Law