NGOs stumble over inflammatory wording in declaration

Durban- South Africa (PANA) -- A declaration drawn up by non-governmental organisations at the ongoing World Conference Against Racism has been rejected by Western and southeast Asian NGOs, including five prominent human rights groups.
All together 77 NGOs from 37 countries have dismissed the document.
The NGOs, including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch said they could not endorse sections dealing with Middle East issues which included "deliberate distortions".
UN Human Rights Commissioner Mary Robinson said that while there were a number of positive aspects to the document, she was also concerned about inflammatory language which included the description of Israel as an apartheid state.
The document states that scourges such as racism, racial discrimination and xenophobia are based on ideological constructions that assign certain groups a position of power over others.
It says the growth of aggressive nationalism and ethnocentrism as expressions of racism and xenophobia can lead to large-scale human rights violations, discrimination and persecution of targeted groups.
Meanwhile, the International Youth Committee also detailed its Declaration, pointing out that it addresses issues of education and employment, health, environment, justice, poverty and economy, media and information technology, minority rights, multiple forms of discrimination, colonialism, foreign occupation and new forms of apartheid, slavery, the slave trade and reparations.
These issues, the committee's representative said, should be addressed in the WCAR's final documents.
A representative of the Sexual Orientation Caucus asked the Conference to include in its own Declaration and Programme of Action explicit language condemning discrimination based on real or perceived sexual orientation.
People facing such discrimination, she said, face intimidation, torture, abduction and death.
Many of them had contributed to every aspect of society, and the loss of their contributions through violence affects the entire global community.
The Religious and Spiritual Caucus has expressed deep regret for the part religion had played in the perpetration or acceptance of racism, and pledged to rectify the mistakes of the past.
It was aware of the reconciling power of forgiveness - both in the asking and the granting.
It said religious and spiritual communities can play a leading role in conciliation by providing support and guidance, and restoring dignity to those who suffered from discrimination.
The Indigenous Peoples Caucus implored the Conference to strike sections from the proposed Declaration that directs such populations to negotiate their territorial integrity with the States in which they lay.
The territorial integrity of all States is already firmly protected in international law.
Only the human rights of indigenous peoples are now being subjected to that restriction.
The NGO Declaration and Plan of Action will be included in the final conference declaration together with the Youth Summit Declaration.

06 september 2001 08:33:00




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