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Report from the Forum of NGO – Download the document

We, some 250 representatives of non-governmental organisations, met on 10 and 11 October 2000 in Strasbourg to discuss the issue of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and intolerance, including anti-Semitism and islamophobia and all forms of religious intolerance in Europe.

In the course of these two days, we reaffirmed our determination and commitment to combat all forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and intolerance, including anti-Semitism and islamophobia and all forms of religious intolerance, whether in their institutionalised form, resulting from doctrines and practices of so-called ‘racial superiority’ or exclusivity or any other of the varied manifestations of such phenomena.

We deplore the resurgence of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and intolerance, including anti-Semitism and islamophobia and all forms of religious intolerance, and a persistent climate of intolerance and acts of violence. Efforts undertaken by the international community to combat these phenomena are inadequate and must be reinforced.

In particular, we are appalled by the recent electoral success in Europe of political parties disseminating and promoting racist and xenophobic ideology.

When considering the various forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and intolerance, including anti-Semitism and islamophobia and all forms of religious intolerance, and ways to remedy them, the history of Europe, in particular slave trade, colonialism, and the Holocaust, has to be borne in mind.

We strongly deplore the degrading treatment and the discriminatory practices accompanying acts of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and intolerance, including anti-Semitism and islamophobia and all forms of religious intolerance, throughout Europe and other regions of the world.

We are equally alarmed by the development and persistence of aggressive nationalism and ethnocentrism which constitute re-emerging expressions of xenophobia, thriving in particular in many Eastern and Central European countries and countries of the former Soviet Union. These phenomena have lead over recent years to serious and large-scale violations of human rights, hatred, discrimination and persecution targeting specific groups such as peoples from the Caucasus region in Russia, and in some cases to “ethnic cleansing” such as that perpetrated in the former Yugoslavia. We warn governments that ignoring these phenomena may lead to further tragic developments.

We are deeply concerned by institutionalised discrimination suffered by “third country nationals” in Europe. We particularly condemn laws and policies that create and perpetuate discrimination on the basis of nationality, and strongly urge governments to undertake a serious review of such laws and policies.

We are gravely concerned that the growth of often violent racism and xenophobia against migrants and refugees is fed by restrictive immigration policies; increasingly narrow interpretations of government obligations to protect refugees; the resulting reliance by all categories of migrants on clandestine means of entry; the consequent criminalisation of so-called illegal migrants; the stigmatisation of refugees as “bogus asylum seekers” and the scapegoating of migrants and refugees as criminals and a cause of unemployment.

We have recognised the significance of the current debate in Europe regarding migration and its negative effect on migrants’ rights and refugee protection with the establishment of a Working Group on Immigration and Asylum. We note with disappointment, however, that the official European Conference has no such working group to discuss these critical issues and their relationship to xenophobia.

We urge the European Conference to address the issues of migrants rights and refugee protection as a cross-cutting theme in each of the established working groups and that the General Conclusions of the Conference strongly recommend that a Working Group on Migration and Refugee Protection be placed on the agenda of the World Conference.

In respect to the agenda of the World Conference, we also wish to draw attention to the discrimination based on occupation and descent, such as that practised against the Dalits of south Asia, against the Burakumin of Japan and in some parts of west Africa, which consists of a complex series of violations of human rights against a significant proportion of humanity. We call for explicit and systematic attention by the World Conference to this "hidden apartheid."

We are also concerned by the current forms of globalisation and the policies of international financial and trade institutions which lead to a deterioration of the economic and social situation in many countries, pressure governments to adopt measures in violation of their obligations under international human rights instruments, deepen the social exclusion of the groups that are most at risk and marginalised1, and are likely to foster tensions and manifestations of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and intolerance, including anti-Semitism and islamophobia and all forms of religious intolerance.

All multilateral and governmental donors must actively address institutional discrimination in the administration of their aid programmes and take necessary measures to ensure the provision of appropriate and non-discriminatory forms of aid, including through emergency relief.

We condemn the role of European states in perpetuating or creating the abhorrent conditions in states from which migrants and refugees originate, and demand that they, by act or omission, put an end to this complicity.

We are convinced that racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and intolerance, including anti-Semitism and islamophobia and all forms of religious intolerance, threaten democratic societies and their fundamental values. We believe that bringing about democracy and pluralism throughout Europe and all other regions of the world demands from all States renewed efforts to eradicate racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and intolerance, including anti-Semitism and islamophobia and all forms of religious intolerance.

Conversely, we remind governments that any combat against racism and its diverse manifestations is only effective if it is done in the larger framework of respect, protection and realisation of all human rights, which are universal, indivisible, interrelated and interdependent, whether they be civil and political, or economic, social and cultural; economic, social and cultural rights are those that are the most often breached when persons and groups are discriminated against on the basis of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and intolerance, including anti-Semitism and islamophobia and all forms of religious intolerance.

We believe that intergovernmental organisations such as the United Nations, the OSCE, the Council of Europe and the European Union have a key role to play in combating racism and discrimination. The adoption of new instruments such as the 12th Additional Protocol to the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms on equality and non-discrimination and Directive 2000/43 “implementing the principle of equal treatment between persons irrespective of racial or ethnic origin,” adopted by the Council of the European Union last June are steps in the right direction. No instrument, however, has any value if it is not duly implemented at all levels and in particular at the domestic level. The relevant UN and European bodies, in particular the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance, the European Union Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia, and the OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities contribute usefully to combating racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and intolerance, including anti-Semitism and islamophobia and all forms of religious intolerance throughout Europe, but should be provided with more adequate resources if States are truly committed to enhance their effectiveness.

The recommendations below were discussed and elaborated in five separate working groups and, following a set of general remarks and recommendations, are presented under the following headings:

When acting upon the recommendations presented below, all parties concerned must bear in mind the following general points and recommendations:

At the international level, we urge all European states to:

At the national level, NGOs call on all European states to:

We urge all European states to:

We call on political parties to:

We urge all European states to:

We urge all European States to:

We call on the Media to:

The rise of xenophobia and racist violence against asylum seekers, refugees and migrants in Europe over the last few years - and emergence of political movements founded on the manipulation of racist fears and the promotion of racist, exclusionary policies – make discrimination against refugees and migrants a serious area of concern. Therefore, we urge all European states to:

European and International Instruments Relevant to Combating Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Intolerance

(a) At European level:

(b) At international level:

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