New York- US (PANA) -- The United Nations' human rights chief, Navi Pillay, has s tressed the importance of combating racism.
Pillay also urged countries to overcome their differences over an anti-racism co nference to be held in Geneva, Switzerland, next week.
The Pan African News Agency (PANA) quoted Pillay in a statement as saying that, ``lives are at stake.
The future and hope of countless victims of racism lie in y our hands.
" The UN official spoke on Wednesday at a preparatory meeting for the Durban Revie w Conference and a copy of her speech was circulated at the UN headquarters in N e w York on Thursday.
She also urged the delegates to "transcend their differences and find consensus' ' over the wording of a draft declaration to be issued at the end of the 20-24 A p ril conference.
PANA reports that the Durban Review Conference is intended to take stock of prog ress and implementation of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action (DDPA) .
The declaration, which is a landmark anti-racism document, was agreed by consens us at the end of the 2001 World Summit against Racism in Durban, South Africa.
However, Israel and several Western countries have threatened to boycott the mee ting for fear that it could end as a repetition of the 2001 conference, which th e y say was an anti-Semitism forum.
According to Pillay, "eight years on, anti-racism pledges and measures have not yet succeeded in relegating discriminatory practices and intolerance to the heap of history's repugnant debris.
" She also said "the goals set out in the DDPA have not been achieved.
This realit y should prompt us to seek common grounds where to move the struggle against rac i sm forward.
"The tools and capacity for achieving the goals outlined in DDPA are within reac h if we remain committed to those objectives,'' she added.