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Asian civil society prepares to engage with the 2009 Durban Review Conference

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Civil society representatives from ten countries in Asia met in Bangkok to prepare for further action and engagement with the 2009 Durban Review Conference (DRC). This first regional workshop on DRC was organised by FORUM-ASIA and the International Movement Against all forms of Discrimination and Racism.

About 30 civil society representatives from ten countries in Asia attended the First Regional Workshop on the Durban Review Conference (DRC) 2009, organised by FORUM-ASIA and the International Movement Against all forms of Discrimination and Racism (IMADR).

From presentations at the workshop, which took place in Bangkok from 25 to 26 February, the representatives learned more about the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action (DDPA) and the upcoming DRC next year. The participants are engaged in combating racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, and promoting and protecting human rights.

This workshop is an outcome of the First Regional Workshop on Minority Issues in Southeast Asia, held in January this year. It is also part of the recommendations of the Solidarity for Asian People’s Advocacy (SAPA) Working Group on UN Human Rights, which called for Asian civil society to participate in the DRC process and to keep track of its developments.

Both the DDPA and DRC are linked to the 2001 World Conference Against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance (WCAR) held in Durban, South Africa. The DDPA is its outcome document; and as the review of the World Conference, the DRC, will be convened in the first half of 2009.

During discussions, the participants reflected on the outcomes of the WCAR. Their reports on the human rights situation in Asia revealed issues relating to racism and discrimination: impact of September 11, natural disasters especially the tsunami in 2005, economic globalisation, forced movements of people, emergence of right-wing groups, politicisation of religions and environmental racism.

In the workshop it was emphasised the importance to consider intersectionality of discrimination. Discrimination is generally rooted in different factors such as race, ethnicity, class, gender, sexual orientation, religion, belief, work, descent and others.

They noted that while the DDPA has been ignored by both governments and civil society in Asia, there had also been positive developments in terms of human rights instruments and mechanisms at the international level.

The developments include adoption of the declarations on human rights defenders, indigenous peoples and people with disabilities, and establishment of the Forum on Minority Issues and the expert group on indigenous peoples, among other affirmative actions.

The groups also discussed on possible evaluation tools by civil society organisations related to state compliance with commitments made during the WCAR. The commitment includes developing a national action plan.

Participants showed their commitment to initiate national processes and will encourage related groups to undertake regional reviews as input to the DRC.

The DRC will focus on the implementation of the DDPA, including further actions, initiatives and practical solutions for combating all the contemporary scourges of racism.

There will be immediate follow-up actions as well which includes monitoring the first substantive session of the Preparatory Committee of the DRC in Geneva from 21 April to 2 May this year, followed by its second session in October.

To make the DDPA accessible to a greater number of campaigners, IMADR will issue a simplified translated version in local languages.

This action is in line with requests for broad civil society participation in both the DRC and its preparatory processes by the UN Human Rights Council, which is the Preparatory Committee for the DRC.

For more information, please contact [email protected] .