War Against Racism to Be Declared at World Conference

The first gunshot in the new century at the worldwide rampant racism will be soon fired at the third World Conference Against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance (WCAR), which is scheduled to open Friday in Durban.

The upcoming conference is to be held against the backdrop of growing concern of the international community about the resurrection of racism and race-related intolerance over the past three decades. Racism is not a newly emerged plague, but has been existing in the human history for more than 500 years.

In retrospect to the past few centuries, people can easily relive numerous traumas caused by racism and racial discrimination. Africa lost over 60 million of population over the past 400 years due to the bloody slave trade. About 6 million Jewish people were slaughtered by the Nazi Germany during the Holocaust.

And all the black people in South Africa were totally deprived of human rights when the apartheid regime ruled the country.

Despite the fact that Africans had suffered terribly in the past few centuries from slavery and colonialism, things have improved not so much as expected. African descendants are continuing to be discriminated in many societies, and the continent is still living with the most devastating consequences of racism and intolerance, such as the genocide in Rwanda and the conflict in Burundi. It seems that people have not drawn enough lessons from the horrible history.

With the rich-poor gap deepening and the number of unemployed increasing due to acceleration of the economic globalization, the evils such as racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and other extremist activities have appeared to be on the rise not only in South Africa, but in Europe, the United States and other parts of the world, posing serious threats to the progress of the modern society.

In Germany, the violent attacks on foreigners and ethnic minorities spurred by racism and xenophobia in 2000 increased by almost 60 percent compared to the previous year.

A latest report by the Council of Europe's racism commission said that racist and anti-Semitic violence has once again become " one of the most pressing and dangerous expressions of racism and intolerance in Germany".

The report also accused the United Kingdom of being racist and intolerant in its treatment of asylum seekers and refugees, adding that an "xenophobic" attitude is evident in the British media, political debate and government policy.

In addition, black and Asian people in the country, whose jobless rates now stand at 12 percent in comparison with only 5 percent among whites, usually face discrimination when they try to get a managerial post.

It is also well known that racial discrimination is prevalent in the United States and stands as one of the biggest headaches for the White House. The minorities in the U.S. have been called the "Third World of the First World".

The Washington Post admitted on February 3, 2000 that even in large U.S. cities, few residential areas are racially integrated. United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan once voiced that at the root of almost all the ongoing conflicts globally are often prejudices and hatreds tied to ethnic and racial differences.

Still, some extremists are even using the Internet to spread racist remarks and plant hatred seeds among youths.

In this regard, analysts pointed out that hostile rhetoric is a precursor to hostile acts that would have a way of escalating into violence and conflict.

They warned unless countries throughout the world enforce civil education to raise people's anti-racism awareness and carry out international cooperation to effectively check the spread of racism on the Internet, future generations will surely become victims of racism.

The resurrection of racism and racial discrimination has raised great concern of the international community.

Over the past few years, a series of regional expert seminars have been held in Africa, Asia, Europe and South America.

Experts agreed that racism, which has infiltrated into every aspect of the modern society, is a rather complicated problem influenced by political, economic and cultural factors; that no country can be immune from the costs inflicted by prejudice and intolerance; and that the battle against the plague is not a job for one single country or regional organization, but calls for a combination of actions by a coalition of actors.

In order to expel the racism ghost from the globe village in the new century, the U.N. in December 1999 granted South Africa the privilege to host the third WCAR.

Over 1,400 delegates across the world will convene here, including U.N. Chief Annan, 35 heads of state and 160 foreign minister.

During the eight-day conference, participants will discuss the issues such as sources of racism, racism and conflicts, slavery and colonialism, new racism in the process of economic globalization, discrimination against indigenous people, refugees and migrant workers, gender discrimination and remedies to cure racism.

The conference is the largest of its kind ever since the first and second WCAR were held in Geneva, Switzerland in 1978 and 1983 respectively, and will be of great significance to the world's human rights development and improvement in the new millennium.

As what Annan expected on July 30 this year when he was addressing the U.S. National Urban League 2001 Conference, the forthcoming WCAR "must find a way to acknowledge the past and learn its lessons..., it must help heal old wounds..., but most importantly it must help set a new course against racism in the future".

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