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Press Release
UNITED NATIONS

RD/952
4 September 2001

PRESIDENT, SECRETARY-GENERAL URGE DELEGATES TO COMMIT TO
ENSURING SUCCESSFUL CONCLUSION TO CONFERENCE AGAINST RACISM


The President and the Secretary-General of the United Nations World Conference against Racism this morning urged delegates to continue their work in a spirit of give-and-take to ensure a successful conclusion to the Conference.
Their remarks followed an announcement yesterday by Israel and the United States that they were withdrawing their delegates from the Conference.

(Speaking later at a press conference, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and Secretary-General of the World Conference against Racism Mary Robinson announced that she had been informed by the United States that it had not withdrawn from the Conference, that it would continue to participate in the Conference, but that it had withdrawn the delegates who had come from Washington, D.C.)

Conference President Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma stressed that the gathering was important for millions of people across the world who faced racism, xenophobia, and intolerance on a daily basis. Those people are looking to the Conference for the tools and weapons to fight such discrimination. At the end of the Conference, she predicted, there will be a document that is a product of tolerance, a product of negotiations, a product of give-and-take. The results, she said, will even be useful to the United States in Israel in the fight against racism.

'Our work goes on', Mrs. Robinson said. The time was now for delegations to show determination and commitment, she said. If the challenge is not met, the Conference will not just have failed in reaching agreements, it will have failed those who needed the Conference most -- the marginalized, the excluded and the hated.

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Mohd Khalil Yaakob, Minster of Information of Malaysia, noted that the two previous racism conferences adopted documents that specifically referred to the Palestinian conflict. Not referring to Israel's half century of occupation in the Declaration and Programme of Action, he said, would be doing a grave injustice to not only the Palestinian people, but also to the history of the Conference.

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Statements

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MARY ROBINSON, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and Secretary-General of the Conference: We are at the half-way point of the World Conference. Negotiations have not been easy. That is because, as I said in my opening remarks, the issues we are grappling with are among the most sensitive and difficult which the international community and the United Nations have to face. I think it is worth recalling that the role and dynamics of United Nations conferences is to provide an opportunity for the international community to reach consensus on difficult issues. Though the process may be difficult, with agreement reached only at the very end, to achieve a result, those involved must persevere to the very end.

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Racism and discrimination exist in every country and every community. That is why I deeply regret that the United States and Israel have chosen to withdraw. All States should be present and active here. Now is the time for delegations to show determination and commitment. If we do not rise to the challenge, we will not just have failed in reaching agreement at one conference. We will have failed those who need this Conference most -– the marginalized, the excluded, the hated. We will have let down those who are looking to this Conference to be a breakthrough in how we relate to each other as one human family in the twenty-first century. If, on the other hand, all sides display courage and flexibility, we will send out a strong signal of our united determination to take on the scourge of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance.

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MOHD KHALIL YAAKOB, Minister of Information of Malaysia: ...

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The Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories for over half a century is clearly more than a political conflict. During the course of negotiations on that issue, arguments were put forward to the effect that the inclusion of the plight of the Palestinian people in the documents of this Conference is unnecessarily provocative and will not facilitate the process of finding a durable peace there. Malaysia cannot subscribe to that. The Conference would be doing a grave injustice, not only to the Palestinian people, but also to its own history, since there were explicit references in the two previous conferences against racism. Malaysia urges the international community to assume its responsibilities to end the conflict and ensure the restoration of the right to life, liberty and self-determination of the Palestinian people.

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For information media - not an official record