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Background on the Conference

"All South Africans are urged to give maximum support to the Third World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance to be held in South Africa in 2001, to be involved in all preparatory activities and participate fully in all events to mark this international endeavour"

South African Millennium Statement on Racism and Programme of Action, Sandton, 2 September 2000

1. Background

In 1997, the UN General Assembly against the backdrop of growing concern about the rise world-wide in the incidents of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, and in recognition of the challenges and prospects for combating these phenomena, decided that a World Conference Against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance (WCAR) should be held by no later than 2001.

  1. In view of South Africa’s experience in defeating institutionalised racism and the processes put in place for a peaceful transformation to democracy and reconciliation, South Africa was approached in 1999 by the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mrs Mary Robinson, to host the Third World Conference Against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance (WCAR), and in its reply to the UN, South Africa agreed to host the Conference "on the understanding that the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) will play a key role towards ensuring that adequate funds are secured for this venture".

  2. In December 1999, the General Assembly welcomed the offer by South Africa to host the Conference and appealed to all member states to contribute generously to the voluntary fund for the Conference which is open to all UN member states, observers of regional commissions or organisations, specialised agencies, other intergovernmental organisations, NGO’s, the UN Secretariat and representatives of UN organs and other persons invited by the UN. It is currently estimated that 12 000 delegates will attend the Conference of which 6 000 are expected to be representatives of civil society.

  3. The Third World Conference will therefore be held at the International Convention Centre (ICC) in Durban from 31 August to 7 September 2001. The website of the Conference, at , provides further information on the Conference, and also provides direct access to information from the United Nations as well as the NGO Forum event, which will take place in Durban at the Kingsmead Cricket Stadium from 28 August to 1 September.

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2. Potential Gain for South Africa in hosting the WCAR

  1. South Africa history of Apartheid and its legacy of oppression, segregation and discrimination on the base of race and colour are well documented and form part of the country’s part. However, in 1994 South Africans marched away from this past and collectively laid the foundation for a new democratic nation where equality, human dignity and respect for all would serve as guiding principles. The fledgling democracy faced numerous challenges in dealing with the past and defining the road to the future. The Constitution was moulded by the experiences of the past and the hopes for the future. It enshrines and champions the causes of democracy, equality, liberty, justice, development, freedom and responsibility.

  2. The principles championed by the Constitution would be nothing if they were not used to actively pursue change. So it is that the Constitutional Court now sits as the guarantor of freedom; that the Public Protector allows for the individual to be protected against all manner of abuse; that the Youth Commission promotes the interests of the majority of South Africans, namely the youth; that the Commission on Gender Equality ensures that old discriminatory habits and practices are eradicated through education and other steps and that the South African Human Rights Commission, a body divorced from Government, has as its mandate the promotion and protection of all human rights in South Africa.

  3. South Africans have accepted the challenge to change their society for the better; to protect and promote human rights and the dignity of all. The fruits of this labour can already be seen in the outcome of the first National Conference against Racism, held at the end of 2000. Recalling some of the highlights of this event the National Conference noted "that the task of eliminating racism is a national responsibility which must engage all sectors of society in a common effort and national resolve to combat racism and build a society that affirms and respects the dignity of all South Africans regardless of their colour, culture, religion, language, ethnicity and social origin".

  4. It is therefore natural that South Africans would cooperate with and support Government initiatives on this international event. Racism and intolerance are not South African issues, they are world-wide. However, it is important that the whole of the South African society engage with the themes and topics of the conference in order to enrich the contribution of the Government to the conference. Through provincial events, such as the racism conference held by the Northwest Province, all South Africans can make contributions.

  5. There is an expectation internationally that South Africa, given its experience in the struggle against racism and the process of reconciliation underway in the country, possesses the credentials and moral high ground to play a leading role in constructively shaping and informing the agenda and future programmes of action emanating from the Conference. Following on the past successful hosting by South Africa of major international conferences such as UNCTAD, NAM and the CHOGM, a successful World Conference Against Racism (WCAR) will, undoubtedly, contribute to South Africa’s growing visibility and stature as a leading developing nation and advocate for the interests and agenda of the South.

  6. A successful World Conference would, furthermore, re-affirm that South Africa possesses the knowledge, experience, resources and infrastructure to host any international conference of importance. As host of several of the most recent and influential global conferences and summits, South Africa is considered to be a leading advocate of the interests of the developing world. South Africa is increasingly becoming the voice of the continent on numerous political and economic agendas and champion of the causes of the South in the promotion of North-South dialogue.

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3. Objectives of the Third World Conference

  1. Incidents of racism and xenophobia in particular, appear to be on the rise not only in South Africa, but also in Europe, the United States and other parts of both the developed and developing regions of the world. In spite of the positive strides that have generally been made in terms of the development of human rights globally, the rise in incidents of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance on the global stage, and the encitement of racial and religious prejudice and the concomitant violence which often accompanies these manifestations, clearly calls for the urgent attention of the international community. The continued growth in the various manifestations of racism has strongly underscored the need for the greater and more concentrated international efforts at eradicating this terrible scourge which still afflicts the majority of the worlds nations and peoples as we enter the 21st century.

  2. At the First Preparatory Meeting on the WCAR which was held in Geneva in May 2000, the Meeting agreed to the objectives and main themes for the Third World Conference.

  3. The objectives of the Third World Conference to be held in Durban from 31 August to 7 September 2001 are:

  • To review progress made in the fight against racism and racial discrimination, in particular since the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and to reappraise the obstacles to progress in the field and to identify ways to overcome them;

  • To consider ways and means to better ensure the application of existing standards and their implementation to combat racism and racial discrimination;

  • To increase the levels of awareness about the scourge of racism and racial discrimination;

  • To formulate concrete recommendations on ways to increase the effectiveness of the activities and mechanisms of the United Nations through programmes aimed at combating racism and racial discrimination;

  • To review the political, historical, economic, social, cultural and other factors leading to racism and racial discrimination;

  • To formulate concrete recommendations to further action-oriented national, regional and international measures aimed at combating all forms of racism and racial discrimination; and

  • To draw up concrete recommendations to ensure that the United Nations has the necessary resources for its activities to combat racism and racial discrimination.

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4. Themes of the WCAR

It was also agreed at the First Preparatory Committee Meeting in Geneva, that the Draft Declaration for the Conference would be prepared around five main themes, namely:

  • Sources, causes, forms and contemporary manifestations of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance;

  • Victims of racism;

  • Measures of prevention, education and protection aimed at the eradication of racism;

  • Provision of effective remedies, resources, redress (compensatory) and other measures at the national, regional and international levels; and

  • Strategies to achieve full and effective equality including international cooperation and enhancement of the United Nations and other mechanisms in combating Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance and follow-up actions.

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5. Key Focal Issues for the WCAR

  • Colonialism and Slavery;
  • Discrimination in the global economy;
  • Racial discrimination and conflict;
  • Racism and xenophobia;
  • Gender discrimination; and
  • Discrimination against indigenous people.


6. Declaration and Programme of Action

The Declaration being developed for the Conference is expected to project issues including:

  • A grave concern that after three decades of effort people still struggle under the scourges of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and intolerance;

  • Highlighting the efforts of the international community to focus attention on these issues as well as on plans to protect children from violence;

  • Renewing commitment to the fundamental principles of human rights as enshrined in the Charter of the UN and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights;

  • Recognising the dangers posed by these four scourges to the international community;

  • Rejecting any form of discrimination and intolerance for any reason whatsoever;

  • Recognising the struggles and achievements of people across the globe on this matter

  • Accepting that states have the responsibility to protect people and promote racial tolerance and non-discrimination

It is envisaged that the Programme of Action will include the following concerns:

  • Establishing effective national mechanisms to deal with these issues;

  • Establishing effective national mechanisms to educate people on and promote the correct actions to take;

  • Developing a framework of suitable mechanisms to address the consequences of poverty and under-development as a result of discrimination

  • Promoting dialogue to improve the structural imbalances in trade and finance flows

  • The need to broaden participative democracy in order to develop and strengthen national unity through the emphasis of common national values. The negative stereotypes depicted of other nationalities / communities should be done way.

  • Developing the Human Resource bases through the eradication of illiteracy and ignorance.

  • The modification of the education curriculum of both developing and developed countries – to address racial / gender discrimination issues.

  • Governments should incorporate in their legislation the rights and responsibilities of indigenous people into national legislation. Countries should also adopt laws and policies to preserve customary practices and protect indigenous property including ideas and knowledge.

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7. Substance Matters

7.1 National Preparatory Committee (NPC)

As the principal organising committee for the WCAR in South Africa, meetings of the National Preparatory Committee (NPC) for the World Conference Against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance (WCAR), chaired by the Director-General of Foreign Affairs, Mr Sipho Pityana, and comprising representatives of various government departments, civil society, academia and other relevant stakeholders have been convened on a monthly basis.

The membership of the NPC comprises:

  • Directors General & senior members of staff of all National Government Departments;
  • Heads or senior representatives of:
  • South African Human Rights Commission;
  • National Editors Forum
  • National Religious Leaders Forum
  • Youth Commission
  • Commission on Gender Equality
  • WCAR Preparatory Secretariat
  • NGO Forum Preparatory Secretariat

7.2 Inter-Ministerial Committee (IMC)

The NPC reports and makes recommendations directly to the IMC on progress relating to matters of substance and policy in respect to the South African position paper, political declaration and programmes of action to be adopted for the WCAR. The first IMC Meeting chaired by the Minister of Foreign Affairs, was convened on 10 August 2000. Subsequently the IMC has met on a regular basis.

The composition of the IMC for the World Conference is as follows:

  • Minister of Foreign Affairs
  • Minister of Education
  • Minister of Public Service and Administration
  • Minister of Intelligence
  • Minister in the Office of the Presidency
  • Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development
  • Minister of Correctional Services
  • Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs
  • Deputy Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development
  • Deputy Minister of Agriculture
  • Deputy Minister of Home Affairs
  • Deputy Minister of Safety and Security
  • Deputy Minister of Arts, Culture, Science and Technology
  • Deputy Minister of Education

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8. Preparatory Process for the Third World Conference

International preparations for the WCAR during 2000/2001 revolved around the following meetings and South Africa has undertaken its preparations for the WCAR through these key events:

  1. African Regional Experts Seminar – Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, 4 to 6 October 2000.
  2. European Regional Preparatory Meeting – Strasbourg, 11 to 13 October 2000.
  3. South American Regional Experts Meeting – Santiago, Chile, 25 to 27 October 2000.
  4. South American Regional Preparatory meeting – Santiago, Chile, 5 to 7 December 2000.
  5. African Regional Preparatory Meeting – 22 to 24 January 2001, Dakar, Senegal
  6. Asian Regional Preparatory Meeting, Teheran, Iran 19 to 21 February 2001
  7. Intersession Open-Ended Working Group Meeting of the Preparatory Committee, Geneva – 5 to 9 March 2001
  8. Commission on Human Rights, Geneva – 19 March to 27 April 2001
  9. Intersessional Open-Ended Working Group Meeting of the Preparatory Committee, Geneva – 7 to 11 May 2001
  10. Second Meeting of the Preparatory Committee – Geneva, 21 May to 1 June 2001
  11. Third Meeting of the Preparatory Committee – Geneva, 30 July to 10 August 2001

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9. Logistical Arrangements for the WCAR

  1. Arrangements for the Conference are progressing well and we have the full support of the ICC Management and the City of Durban in hosting a successful Conference.

  2. The country (South Africa) which hosts a UN Conference (the Third World Conference) is responsible for numerous aspects of the organisation of the conference which would enable the UN to present a conference as if it was held at its home base (the UN High Commission for Human Rights is based in Geneva).

  3. South Africa is therefore responsible for obtaining, arranging, facilitating, coordinating and planning the following aspects:
  • Accommodation for all staff, delegates, observers and guests to the conference;
  • Security for the conference, visiting delegates, dignitaries and any Heads of State or Government who may attend (in cooperation with the UN);
  • Protocol for the visiting delegates and dignitaries from the time they arrive in South Africa;
  • Obtaining the venue for the conference;
  • Setting up the necessary telecommunications, information technology, media, administrative and logistical backbones, supply chains and service infrastructure;
  • Providing medical and emergency services for all staff and delegates involved with the conference;
  • Providing language services support -the United Nations operates in six international languages (in cooperation with the UN);
  • Providing adequate and appropriate transport arrangements for staff and delegates;
  • Creating a parallel cultural programme for delegates during the time of the conference;
  • Providing accreditation services for all staff, service providers, delegates and observers to the conference (in cooperation with the UN)


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Updated on 20 July 2001 13:25:48 +0200