European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI)

Press Release – 13.10.2000

Determination and action, watchwords of the European Conference against Racism and Intolerance

STRASBOURG, 13.10.2000 − The 570 participants of the European Conference against Racism and Intolerance, “All different, all equal: from principle to practice”1, today concluded their deliberations at the Council of Europe, before turning their attention towards South Africa where, in August 2001, the World Conference against racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance will take place, organised by the United Nations.

During the three days of the conference, preceded by a one-day forum for non-governmental organisations, participants from more than 50 countries exchanged information and shared personal experience and institutional knowledge in four working groups devoted to different themes: legal protection against racism; policies and practices to combat racism; education and awareness-raising to combat racism, related discrimination and extremism; and information, communication and the media.

The work of these four groups contributed to the General Conclusions of the conference, which were adopted by the participants at the end of the meeting. Going beyond statements of intent, they stressed the urgent need to tackle the roots of racism and xenophobia, in particular through education, beginning with the very young. Also discussed was the speed of technological advance, outstripping existing legal instruments and systems of human rights protection. The conclusions called for the elaboration of new rights as society evolves, and their effective protection by governments, including the rights of immigrants, asylum seekers and Roma/Gypsies, as well as a new generation of rights for women and children, and social rights.

“With racism and intolerance gaining ground, this is no time for resignation, but a time for determination and action,” said Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights Alvaro Gil-Robles, the author of the Conference’s final report.

Earlier in the day, more than 30 ministers and secretaries of state from the member States of the Council of Europe, as well as from Armenia, Azerbaijan and Canada, took the floor to express the views of their governments and to stress their commitment to the fight against racism and intolerance. A political declaration by ministers of Council of Europe member States was also adopted during the Conference’s closing session.

Among the main measures outlined in the declaration were commitments to adopt and implement national legislation prohibiting racial discrimination in all spheres of public life; to combat all forms of expression which incite racial hatred, especially in the media and on the internet; and to create independent specialised national institutions to combat racism and intolerance. As well as the adoption of legal and political measures, and action through training and education, governments pledged themselves to regularly monitor and evaluate the action taken.

These two texts − the general conclusions of the conference and the political declaration of the ministers of Council of Europe member States − will form the European contribution to the World Conference in Johannesburg. Full texts can be seen on the website of the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI), which was responsible for organising the European Conference.

1 Strasbourg is the first of four regional preparatory conferences leading up to the World Conference; three others will take place in Santiago de Chile in December 2000, Dakar in January 2001, and Tehran in February 2001.