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FOCUS September 2006 Volume 45

Coalition of Asia and the Pacific Cities Against Racism and Discrimination

Nobuki Fujimoto*

* Nobuki Fujimoto is a staff of HURIGHTS OSAKA.

UNESCO and the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA) presided over the formal establishment of the Coalition of Cities against Racism and Discrimination in Asia and the Pacific. The Coalition has six member-cities, namely, Phnom Penh, Suva, Makati, Kurunegala, Matale, and Bangkok. Bangkok is the Coalition's Lead City. The Coalition was inaugurated during the Regional Conference of Cities for an Inclusive Society in Asia and the Pacific, jointly organized by UNESCO and the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA) on 3-4 August 2006 in Bangkok.

The Conference was attended by representatives from the cities, in addition to the six member-cities, of Sakai (Japan), Kathmandu (Nepal), Kanchanaburi, Lamphun, Mae Hong Son, Nong Khai, Prachin Buri, Ratchaburi, Sa Kaeo, Tak, Trat (Thailand) together with researchers, and representatives of Thai provincial governments, the United Cities and Local Governments-Asia Pacific Regional Section (UCLG- ASPAC), Thai government ministries, the Thai National Human Commission, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), the Thailand National Commission for UNESCO and the Permanent Delegation of Thailand to UNESCO.

The Coalition remains open for signature by cities and municipalities in the region wishing to join the network.

Why cities?

UNESCO believes that cities are the places where the everyday meeting of differences sparks competition, clashing of interests and fears that feed the development of the ideologies and practices of discrimination. At the same time, cities are laboratories for learning to live together, a place for an exchange of beliefs, attitudes and styles of life, which can contribute to new forms of democratic citizenship. It also addresses the fact that cities have the ideal space within which to conduct a struggle against racism and discrimination that facilitates effective implementation of the various instruments enacted by States.

Commitment of the cities

The international coalition of cities project (Project) was launched by UNESCO in March 2004 to establish a network of cities interested in sharing experiences on improving policies to fight racism, as a follow-up to the United Nations World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance (Durban, South Africa, 2001).

The Project aims to bring together cities around the world through the Ten-Point Commitment defined to combat racism, discrimination and exclusion at the local level. The Project calls for the establishment of "Regional Coalitions" in Europe, Asia and the Pacific, Africa, North America, Latin America and the Caribbean, and Arab region. Each Regional Coalition is to be coordinated by a "lead city", and will be guided by its own regional Ten-Point Commitment. The member-cities in turn are expected to integrate the Commitment into their municipal policies as much as possible.

The European Coalition of Cities against Racism was launched on 10 December in 2004 with Nuremberg as Lead City. The European Coalition already has 70 member-cities. UNESCO plans to establish the International Coalition in 2007. During the Bangkok conference, the draft regional Ten-Point Commitment, prepared during an expert meeting held also in Bangkok in 2005, was discussed and adopted.

The representatives of the six member-cities signed the Declaration of Intent conveying the strong interest of their cities to become members of the Coalition and its Ten-Point Commitment.

In cooperation with UNESCO and its Bangkok Office, a steering committee will be organized to be composed of representatives of the signatory cities, regional institutions and experts, in order to provide the necessary support to and guidance for the Coalition member-cities. The Coalition of Cities in the Asia and the Pacific has to increase its membership beyond the pioneering six member-cities.

For further information, please visit the website of UNESCO