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  5. Integrated Strategy to Combat Racism, Discrimination, Xenophobia and Intolerance*

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FOCUS September 2003 Volume 33

Integrated Strategy to Combat Racism, Discrimination, Xenophobia and Intolerance*

UNESCO has been undertaking significant steps to address the issue of racism and discrimination since the 1950s. First, it undertook a major project of producing scientific texts refuting racist theories. This resulted in a number of statements and the Declaration on Race and Racial Prejudice by the UNESCO General Conference at its 20th session in 1978.
Second, it undertook anti-racism and anti-discrimination standard-setting by adopting a number of instruments through the years. Third, it implemented a special program and a project as practical forms of combating racism and discrimination, namely,

  1. The special programme against apartheid, which UNESCO had categorized in 1966 as "a crime against humanity";
  2. The Slave Route Project, which contributed to a better understanding of the tragedy of the slave trade and the ideological bases of racism.

UNESCO continues this work on racism and discrimination issue by drafting a strategy document. This is a response to the United Nation's General Assembly resolution of March 20021 calling on UN specialized agencies to do follow-up activities on the World Conference Against Racism, Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance (WCAR, September 2001). It undertook a series of regional consultations in Africa, Europe, America and Asia to discuss the draft strategy document. The consultations culminated in an international meeting of experts held in Osaka City on 4-5 June 2003.2

Draft Strategy of UNESCO

The draft UNESCO Strategy (draft Strategy) responds to the specific recommendations addressed to UNESCO by WCAR's Durban Declaration. It provides key orientations for the action of UNESCO for the coming years, starting with biennium 2004-2005.
The participants in the Osaka Meeting welcomed the draft Strategy, underlining its focused nature and targeted actions, particularly aimed at establishing key priorities and concrete programming for various geographic regions. After having discussed the thematic and regional priorities identified by the draft Strategy, the participants made the following recommendations to UNESCO in adjusting the draft text.

General recommendations

The participants recommended that

  • The advocacy of cultural diversity should be complemented by the need to ensure that the universality of human rights - cultural diversity/"pluralism" should enrich and not undermine human rights;
  • There is a need to refer more concretely to the Dialogue among Civilizations, a current UNESCO-supported project;
  • Gender-sensitivity should be highlighted more prominently and integrated into all activities - racism and discrimination have different impact on men and women, and there is often multiple victimization in the process;
  • Indigenous peoples, Afro-descendants, Asian-descendants, migrant workers should be borne in mind more concretely by the draft Strategy and mainstreamed into all programming;
  • Programming against racism and discrimination needs to be interdisciplinary and integrated, sensitive to the psychology of all concerned, with impact on not only the knowledge base but also attitudes and behavior;
  • There is a need to revisit the concept of "identity" - the way people perceive their identity, and to reflect on its relationship with xenophobia, racism and discrimination;
  • In addition to highlighting the plight of those of African descent, the issue of those of Asian descent should also be covered;
  • UNESCO should maximize cooperative activities with existing partners, including UNESCO National Commissions and associated schools, while broadening the partnerships to cover also, inter alia, spiritual and community leaders;
  • The quality of education should be underlined and this depends upon the capacity of teachers, especially at the primary and secondary school levels, which needs more support through a variety of incentives and training;
  • More inter-regional programs should be initiated/fostered, e.g., programs to interlink youths in different regions to prevent and overcome racism and discrimination;
  • While welcoming the variety of international instruments against racism and discrimination, there is a need to promote more effective implementation of the standards espoused by these instruments particularly at the national and local levels, as well as to withdraw the reservations entered by countries in regard to these instruments;
  • Data and indicators on the issue, coupled with more information on ethnicity, need to be compiled/evolved through greater systematization, bearing in mind the need for objectivity in the process;
  • The victims and survivors of racism and discrimination should be consulted and involved in programs of concern to them, including in the media, especially as this participation contributes to their empowerment;
  • Adequate resources need to be committed to programming against racism and discrimination with a view to sustainability of operations and accessibility to the victims.

Specific recommendations for key sections of the draft Strategy

The participants made the following specific recommendations:

  1. In regard to activities projected for the Asia-Pacific region under the draft Strategy, there is a need for more programs interlinking African and Asian youths;
  2. In regard to activities projected for the African region under the draft Strategy, the issue of racism and discrimination should be examined not only from the angle of the external relations between the region and other regions, but also from the stance of internal relations in the African context;
  3. In regard to activities projected for the European region under the draft Strategy, the dialogue between European and Arab countries should be supported by UNESCO in cooperation with the European Union;
  4. In regard to priorities for the Latin-American and Caribbean region, the priorities should be revised as follows:
    • Help the countries in the region to formulate and implement appropriate affirmative action policies, taking into account research findings, and specific socio-demographic data on Afro descendants and indigenous peoples;
    • Strengthen the capacities of Latin American and the Caribbean universities and research bodies and NGOs with a view to developing research into responses that might serve as basis for the formulation of policies to combat racism and racial discrimination;
    • Strengthen African descent communities and indigenous peoples defense, advocacy and communication capacities to promote multicultural diversity of the societies in the region through education, culture and information.
  5. UNESCO should undertake more staff training including the Field Offices in regard to the issue of racism and discrimination;
  6. As part of the action to make UNESCO more visible, the various mechanisms of UNESCO for receiving complaints in regard to discrimination should be used more extensively;
  7. UNESCO should ensure complementarity between its actions and the work of other agencies and various United Nations メdecadesモ targeting action for human rights in specific fields.

The draft Strategy, having considered the recommendations in the Osaka Meeting, will be submitted to the UNESCO's 32nd General Conference in October 2003 for adoption.

*This article is based on the UNESCO documents on the strategy for follow-up to the WCAR.


1. A/RES/56/266, adopted on 27 March 2002

2. UNESCO organized this international experts meeting in cooperation with HURIGHTS OSAKA, the International Movement Against All Forms of Discrimination and Racism (IMADR), with partial support from the Osaka Expo Foundation.