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On the International Day for the Elimination of Racism, Australian human rights and community groups have highlighted the importance of the forthcoming World Conference on Racism, announcing their intention to prepare for the UN Conference by consulting widely in the community over the next five months.

On 21 March 1960 police opened fire and killed 69 people at a peaceful demonstration against apartheid in Sharpeville, South Africa.  The anniversary of the Sharpeville massacre is commemorated by the international community as the International Day for the Elimination of Racism.  March 21 has been nominated as Australia’s Living in Harmony Day celebrating Australia’s diverse population.

Human rights and community groups in Australia are committed to working towards a multicultural, tolerant and peaceful Australia.  While we believe that much has been achieved, problems of racism in Australia still need to be seriously addressed.  Many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians, members of migrant communities, and asylum seekers continue to experience racism.  As non-government organizations from the welfare, Indigenous, migrant, women’s, human rights and youth sectors as well as community services, refugee services, unions and religious groups, we believe that action is needed, and that both community groups and governments have a role to play.

The Third World Conference Against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance will be held from 31 August – 7 September 2001 in Durban, South Africa.

As part of our action against racism, a number of Australian human rights and community groups will be attending the World Conference Against Racism.  Others will be providing input via international networks of which they are a part.  Preparation for the Conference will include consulting widely in community over the next five months.

The aims of the World Conference Against Racism are:

  • To review progress made in the fight against racism and racial discrimination, in particular since the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and to reappraise the obstacles to progress in the field and to identify ways to overcome them;
  • To consider ways and means to better ensure the application of existing standards and their implementation to combat racism and racial discrimination;
  • To increase the level of awareness about the scourge of racism and racial discrimination;
  • To formulate concrete recommendations on ways to increase the effectiveness of the activities and mechanisms of the United Nations through programs aimed at combating racism and racial discrimination;
  • To review the political, historical, economic, social, cultural and other factors leading to racism and racial discrimination;
  • To formulate concrete recommendations to further action-oriented national, regional and international measures aimed at combating all forms of racism and racial discrimination; and
  • To draw up concrete recommendations to ensure that the United Nations has the necessary resources for its activities to combat racism and racial discrimination.

We encourage everyone to get involved in the preparation for the World Conference Against Racism and to support this important international initiative.

Groups Supporting this Statement Include:

  • Advisory Committee, Indigenous Law Centre, UNSW
  • Australian Bahai Community
  • Australian Catholic Social Justice Council
  • Australian Council of Trade Unions (contact Alan Matheson Tel 03 9664 7335)
  • Australian Education Union
  • Coalition Against Racism (WA)
  • Executive Council of Australian Jewry
  • International Commission of Jurists (Australian Section) (contact Justice John Dowd AO Tel 02 9230 8793)
  • NSW Young Lawyers (Human Rights Committee)
  • Social Justice Commission of the Uniting Church (WA Synod)
  • Social Responsibility and Justice, Uniting Church in Australia
  • Western Australians for Racial Equality
  • Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (Australian Section)
  • Women’s Rights Action Network Australia
  • YWCA of Australia

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