The United Nations' top human rights official on Wednesday stressed the importance of combating racism and again urged countries to overcome their differences over an anti-racism conference to be held here next week.
"Lives are at stake. The future and hope of countless victims of racism lie in your hands," Navi Pillay, the UN high commissioner for human rights, told delegates at a preparatory meeting for the Durban Review Conference.
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 April 20-24 conference.
The Durban Review Conference is intended to take stock of progress and implementation of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action (DDPA), a landmark anti-racism document that was agreed by consensus at the end of the 2001 World Summit against Racism in Durban, South Africa.
But Israel and several Western countries have threatened to boycott the meeting for fear that it could end as a repetition of the 2001 conference, which they say was an anti-Semitism forum.
"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," Pillay told delegates at Wednesday's preparatory meeting.
"The goals set out in the DDPA have not been achieved. This reality should prompt us to seek common grounds where to move the struggle against racism forward," she said.
"The tools and capacity for achieving the goals outlined in the DDPA are within reach if we remain committed to those objectives," she added.
At Wednesday's meeting, a revised version of the draft declaration for the upcoming anti-racism conference was also issued.
Russian diplomat Yuri Boychenko, chair of the working group charged with developing the draft outcome document, expressed hope that the newly-revised 17-page text, based on extensive consultations with states, would meet the concerns of all delegations and could be adopted by consensus.