Follow-up of anti-racism conference ends in London

London- UK (PANA) -- A follow-up panel discussion to the recent UN World Conference Against Racism in Durban, South Africa, ended at the Africa Centre in London Wednesday, with most of the participants happy with its outcome despite the marching out, yet again, of Isreali and US delegations before the end of the conference.
The discussion, which was chaired by the Director of the Africa Centre, Adotey Bing, explored whether or not the Durban conference has "delivered for Africa and people of African descent".
Bing said the discussion aimed, among other things, at reviewing Africa's expectations with respect to how the rest of the world, in particular Europe, viewed the outcome of the conference; the decisions taken at the conference; the implications of the decisions for Africa, and finally to identify the work that meant to be done, and strategies that might be adopted to help achieve the goals.
Cheryl Carolus, South African High Commissioner in the UK, recalled that they had hoped that the "conference would acknowledge that racism is alive and well, and has profound damaging impact to black people around the world".
The High Commissioner lamented how racism was before 1994 when institutionalised and legalised discrimination ended in her country.
But she was quick to add that racism is just one, among a plethora of elements of discrimination in most societies.
On reparations, Linda Bellos of the Africa Reparations Movement lampooned the idea of responding to arguments for reparations only in terms of money.
"We know that the so-called debt is at the behest of imperial forces that spend their money more on arms.
" But Bellos said one thing she has been very passionate about is the need for all African artefacts to be returned.
Reparations as a word has several meanings but the most important is repairing - hence the "need to repair the past human damages", she said.
Speaking from what she called a "Pan-European perspective", Sukhvinder Stubbs departed a little from her own prescription of redress.
Stubbs, Chair of the European Network Against Racism, likened the Marshall Plan fund, which America provided Western Europe following World War II to what she called the new European Union initiative to pump huge sums of money into Africa.
"This is a whole programme to invest money into projects in Africa.
But I think the issue of reparations and this new EU initiative are kept separate.
Yes, European governments would invest in Africa and other parts of the world but they would not technically link it to the issue of reparations," said Stubbs.
By far the panellist that turned out to be the most optimistic for the Durban conference was Ahmad Fawzi, Director, UN Information Centre.
He said: "Despite the turbulence in Durban, and despite the problems that beset the functions.
the feeling is that it was brought to a successful conclusion.
"The recognition of historical injustices - slavery and other injustices - which had undeniably contributed to poverty, to underdevelopment, to marginalisation, to social exclusion, to economic disparities, to instability, and the acknowledgement of the plight of the Palestinians - the recognition of all this is a step forward.
" Fawzi added that despite the withdrawal of the United States and Israel, the conference was still steered towards a successful conclusion.
"One important outcome of the conference is the mandate that was given to the UN Secretary General (Kofi Annan) to appoint a committee of five eminent persons to monitor and follow up the declaration's programme of action," he said.
But the UN official was quick to warn that "it is important to see how delegations at the General Assembly treat the text adopted in Durban; whether they are ready to follow through the agreements reached or whether the political forces that were at work in Durban would be felt in the General Assembly and next year's commission of human rights conference.

27 september 2001 11:01:00

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