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Human Rights Day, Mary Robinson
HUMAN RIGHTS DAY, MESSAGE FROM MARY ROBINSON, UNITED NATIONS HIGH COMMISSIONER FOR HUMAN RIGHTS - 10 December 1999
This last Human Rights Day of the century has a special resonance. We can draw encouragement from the great strides made over the past fifty years in setting comprehensive human rights norms and standards. But we must be honest and recognize how far performance lags behind the goal of all human rights for all. Who could be optimistic in the wake of one of humanity's bloodiest centuries? Or in the knowledge that, despite the vow that genocide would never be repeated, it has disfigured the world more than once in the past decade?
Yet, I believe that we should face the new century in a spirit of hope and determination. Hope based on the fact that important battles have been won - for example, the defeat of apartheid. Determination in that human rights are now centre stage and there may never be as good an opportunity to really implement all human rights in practice - economic, social and cultural as well as civil and political. A major challenge in the face of different perceptions of globalization will be to find common ground in promoting the right to development.
Racism, racial discrimination, intolerance and xenophobia are at the forefront of my thoughts this year as the preparations get underway for the world Conference against Racism which will take place in South Africa in 2001. Next May the first Preparatory Conference will be held in Geneva. Regional conferences will take place throughout the world over the coming year.
Racism and xenophobia are powerful causes of conflict; in fact, if you look closely at the roots of history's most violent confrontations, you will see their malign influence at work. And they are found everywhere. No society is free from at least some people who are intolerant of difference, whether ethnic or religious, and whose intolerance finds violent expression. The vital importance of the World Conference against Racism lies in its potential to shape a new vision of the fight against racism for the twenty first century. It will be my aim, as Secretary General of the Conference, to ensure that new, practical strategies are identified to combat racism and xenophobia more effectively.
I shall look in particular to women leaders and to young people to take initiatives in their national and local communities which help us to shape a global community committed to the cause of human rights for all, irrespective of race, gender or creed. It is fitting that the World Conference will take place in South Africa where Nelson Mandela has set such an example of forgiveness over hatred, reconciliation over revenge.
Each of us can play a role in fighting racism and xenophobia, in places of learning, in the workplace, in our village, in our town. In so doing, we will pay the greatest honour we can to the drafters of the Universal Declaration when they proclaimed that all human beings are born equal in dignity and rights.
(More information on the Human Rights Day Commemoration in Geneva: http://www.unhchr.ch/html/hrday_prog.htm)
Link to main page on human rights.