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Human Rights Declarations in Asia-Pacific Category

Declaration of the Asia-Pacific NGO Forum

Tehran, Iran
17-18 February 2001


  1. We, the representatives of Asian and Pacific Non-Governmental Organisations and other national, regional and international civil society organisations, meeting in Tehran, Iran, during February 18-19, 2001 in preparation for the World Conference Against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance, to be held in South Africa in accordance with the UN General Assembly Resolution 52/111,

  2. Reaffirming that all human rights are universal, indivisible, interdependent and inalienable, irrespective of distinction of any kind such as race, colour, sex, gender, language, national or ethnic identity, caste, descent, religion, social origin, disability, sexual orientation, age and other factors;

  3. Recognisingthat all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights, and have the capacity to contribute constructively to the development and well-being of their societies and, that all human societies, including those of the Asia Pacific region, are based on the shared values of tolerance, solidarity and pluralism;;

  4. Noting with concern, the persistence and increasing spread of various forms of racism, racial and ethnic discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance in all continents and regions of the world;

  5. Declare that racism is an ideological construct that assigns a certain social group to a position of power over others on the basis of a notion of superiority, dominance and purity,and that it is 'scientifically false, morally condemnable, socially unjust and dangerous'.

  6. Further declare that racism is the basis of gross violations of human rights and occurs in the form of unjust exploitation, marginalisation, exclusion, pauperisation, ethnic cleansing and genocide, constituting a threat to peace and development of all human societies and, therefore, must be addressed with all appropriate resources and means, including legal mechanisms.

  7. Consider that the roots of many contemporary manifestations of racism and racial discrimination can be located in the legacy of colonialism which created historical injustices based on ideologies of superiority, dominance and purity.

  8. Recall that some of the worst manifestations of racism and racial discrimination have been caused by colonialism and foreign domination and express grave concern regarding the continued occupation of Palestine.

  9. The Asia-Pacific region is rich with a diversity of cultures, languages, religions and peoples. However, the nation-building process in the region has resulted in some groups being rendered stateless, refugees, internally displaced persons and migrants and in discrimination against their cultures, languages, and religions. Today, many states in the Asia Pacific region are facing the threat of disintegration due to racial, caste-based, ethnic and other forms of discrimination and intolerance.

  10. It is important to recognise that many conflicts in the region, and around the world, are caused by racism, racial and ethnic discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance and that therefore elimination of all forms of racism, racial and ethnic discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance is essential for creating peace and establishing respect for human rights.

  11. The processes of globalization that include economic policies which exploit and appropriate local economies and force the implementation of structural adjustment programs actually heightened racism, racial and ethnic discrimination, xenophobia and intolerance.

  12. Governments have a responsibility in the elimination of structural and institutional racism and discrimination on the basis of race, caste, colour, sex, descent, occupation, ethnic origin, national origin and other factors if we are to achieve respect and equality for all human rights for all.

  13. Racism, racial and ethnic discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance have a special and heightened impact on individuals, groups and communities that are already disadvantaged and vulnerable to abuse, oppression and exploitation including women, young people, children, people with disabilities, people living with HIV/AIDS, documented and undocumented migrants, refugees and internally displaced persons, indigenous and tribal peoples and trafficked persons.

  14. It is also important to recognise that patriarchal social structures reinforce all forms of discrimination against women. Racism also creates new forms of patriarchal subordination of women.

  15. We wish to congratulate the people of East Timor for their successful struggle for self-determination and independence; We also extend our solidarity to the peoples' struggles for self-determination in West Papua, Aceh, Bougainville, the north-east of India, in Sri Lanka and elsewhere in the region;,

  16. We also wish to endorse the Declarations coming out of the NGO Forums in Santiago de Chile Dakar, Senegal and Strasbourg, France, in particular the affirmation that 'diversity is a social, political and cultural reality, and that recognition and respect for difference is fundamental to the construction of democratic coexistence' (Santiago) and the denunciation of environmental racism including environmental deterioration represented by dumping of toxic wastes, dangerous work conditions, and dangerous and unregulated methods of extracting natural resources' (Dakar);

Racism in the Global Context

  1. Globalization describes the ever-increasing integration of human society at economic, social, cultural and political levels. It historically derives from the process of colonial integration of the world. Globalization is therefore an iniquitous structure, one that is based on unequal power relations. It has promoted an institutional racism at both the national and international level.

  2. At one level, globalization has seen the continuation of the domination of one-time colonial powers together with newly established economic 'big powers' over the world system. At another level, the global order of nation states has seen the emergence of a multitude of nationalisms from which have developed a number of instances of ethnic hegemonisms. This has resulted in the creation of ethnic exclusivist states.

  3. At the global level, we see the iniquity of this system within the international community, for example in the United Nations and in the international financial institutions in which the globally dominant powers retain control. The political structures that are required to facilitate the free flow of capital and unregulated financial speculation are themselves authoritarian and have led to repression, exclusion, intolerance and violence.

  4. This global hegemony by the metropolitan powers has resulted in the continuing domination of European-originated cultures and the marginalization of other world civilizations. The current strategies of the global big powers contribute to create a pervasive culture of racism, one example being Islamophobia. Xenophobia and intolerance is sharply reflected in the global mass media, for example, in its racist bias in the reporting of the Palestinian problem and its coverage of the aggression against Iraq.

  5. This iniquitous global system has its ramifications in its impact on the entirety of human society but more especially on the numerous sectors of people most adversely affected. Racism, discrimination and intolerance are but one aspect of this impact and affect various social sectors.

  6. The Asia Pacific NGO Forum focussed on sub-themes important and relevant to the Asia Pacific region and also on the impact of racism, racial and ethnic discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance on specific groups, such as women, Dalits, Burakumin, indigenous peoples, documented and undocumented migrants, migrant workers, trafficked persons, refugees, displaced persons, and people living under foreign occupation.

Gender and Racism:

  1. Issues of racism, racial and ethnic discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance must be approached within the context of an understanding of the inter-sectionality of all forms of discrimination, including gender.

  2. We recognise the specific impact of racism, racial and ethnic discrimination, and all other forms of discrimination on the human rights of women, specifically women belonging to marginalised and minority communities, and that all forms of violence against women are heightened by racism, caste-based, racial and ethnic discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance.

  3. An urgent problem created by the growth of conflict is the increase of all forms of violence, including sexual violence against women. Intolerance in the context of conflict places many restrictions on women's freedom and mobility.

  4. One major manifestation of racism, racial and ethnic discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance is a denial of women's right to make decisions regarding their reproductive capacities.

Caste and Racism

  1. Caste is descent-based and hereditary in nature, determined by one's birth into a particular caste. Caste and descent-based discrimination affects nearly 240 million people in the Asia Pacific region, for example Dalits in India and Nepal and Burakamin in Japan, irrespective of the faith that they practice.

  2. "Untouchability" is the most insidious manifestation of caste-based discrimination in the Asia Pacific region, specifically in India and Nepal. Caste-based discrimination de facto denies access to public services including housing, education, health, land, employment, social services and other resources normally available to citizens of a country as a right.

  3. The grave lack of legal protection for persons who suffer caste-based discrimination places restrictions on their enjoyment of rights as well as on their social and economic mobility and makes them more vulnerable to all forms of violence.

  4. Even though states enact laws to protect the rights of marginalized communities, it is the states themselves who often violate these laws;

Indigenous Peoples and Racism

  1. All forms of colonisation, state legislation, and foreign domination are manifestations of institutionalised racism. Such racism denies indigenous peoples the inherent right to self-determination.

  2. Such denial constitutes the non-recognition of the rights of indigenous peoples to have control over their territories, resulting in the dispossession, confiscation and appropriation of their resources;

  3. Race-based discrimination leaves indigenous peoples suffering the loss of identity, culture, dignity and life resulting from the destruction of their social structures and communities.

  4. Members of indigenous peoples face extreme forms of oppression and violence from military forces due to the militarisation of their territories. Racism and discrimination against indigenous peoples also manifests itself in the policies of government institutions and authorities and the practice of police brutality, and a lack of effective protection and remedies from judicial institutions and authorities of governments.

National Minorities and Racism

  1. Race-based and other forms of discrimination against groups that are defined as minorities are historical and complex and deny their right to self determination.

  2. This denial has political, social, cultural and economic dimensions such as denial of political power, poverty, uneven regional development, unequal access to education, employment, land and other resources and unequal treatment in terms of use of language;

  3. Racial discrimination is not about numbers or size but essentially about vulnerability. Majority groups also face discrimination when they are similarly vulnerable.

  4. Affirmative action is a method of redressing historical injustices and has often been used to advance the cause of minority communities. Regrettably, it is sometimes used by states to promote majoritarian ethno-nationalism, as in Malaysia and Sri Lanka.

  5. In the Asia Pacific region numerous minorities and marginalised communities have been subject to various forms of racism and institutionalised discrimination including denial of citizenship, state colonisation, forced population transfer, ethnic cleansing and political repression. The nation-state structures that are majoritarian deny the right of minority communities to full enjoyment of their democratic rights, including the right to self-determination and to an equal share of power.

  6. This has given rise to intra- and inter-state conflicts, including armed conflicts, in the Asia Pacific region causing militarisation of state and civil society, political repression, and social destruction, including internal displacement and the creation of new refugee populations. In these conflicts both, state and non-state actors, perpetrate acts of discrimination and other human rights violations.

People under foreign occupation, refugees, and internally displaced people

  1. Foreign occupation creates an environment in which the occupied people are exposed to a wide range of violence. While the case of Palestine is the most serious problem of foreign occupation in our region, the situation of the Tibetan people is also of great concern.

  2. The issue of the continuing subjugation of the Palestinian people is a threat to the security and stability of our entire region. The social, cultural, economic and political pressures which the Palestinian people suffer under the racist policies of the Israeli government are an extreme form of racism and discrimination.

  3. Throughout the Asia-Pacific region, political tensions, internal conflicts and economic deprivation are resulting in an increase in the numbers of refugees and internally displaced persons.

  4. State policies that implement population transfers aimed at altering demographic patterns in a particular region further intensify the discrimination suffered by these populations.

  5. Refugees and asylum seekers in countries outside their country of origin face problems of discrimination based on their ethnic and racial identity and their status of displaced people.

  6. Internally displaced people are also often victims of racial and ethnic discrimination, and are deprived of their basic rights as citizens. The condition of these displaced populations is a constant reminder of the urgent need to resolve these conflicts so that these communities may return.

Migrants and Trafficked Persons and Racism

  1. The restructuring of the global economy facilitates the movement of capital across national borders but restricts and controls that of labour. This feature exacerbates regional economic inequalities and the demand for the cheapest, most flexible and deregulated labour, has become a major contributing factor to international migration. This process has resulted in the outflow of millions of workers, including large numbers of women, from the less developed to the more developed countries within and outside the region.

  2. The discrimination experienced by most migrant workers, is manifested in restrictive immigration and labor laws and policies; the denial of trade union rights; exploitative working conditions, low wages and non-payment of wages; lack of access to public services such as health, housing and social security. In this context women migrant workers experience multiple forms of discrimination.

  3. The large-scale movement of persons using legal and non-legal methods is another phenomenon that gives rise to various manifestations of racism, racial discrimination and xenophobia. Trafficking in persons for the exploitation of their labour and sexuality has been described as a contemporary form of slavery. Another major phenomenon in migration is the organised movement of displaced persons and asylum seekers which is often described as human smuggling or migrant smuggling.

  4. Race-based discrimination against documented and undocumented migrants, migrant workers and trafficked persons is structural in nature and contravene international standards. These persons suffer gross violations of their human rights due to the lack of legal protection and redress mechanisms, and are vulnerable to a range of abuse and violence. Legal and policy frameworks that enable states to make a distinction between citizens and non-citizens in terms of enjoyment of rights lay the foundation for these forms of discrimination.

  5. The commodification of women within the international labour market which confines women to certain specific sectors of employment such as the entertainment industry and domestic work, is a reflection of patriarchal, sexist and discriminatory ideologies.


  1. The major and critical problems referred to above challenge us to initiate a global effort to combat racism at the cultural, structural and institutional levels. We call for a comprehensive and intensive set of programs at the level of the United Nations and other international, regional, and national levels. All members of the United Nations should jointly develop a common plan of action to eliminate all forms of discrimination with their own discriminatory practices being the first priority. Combating racism and discrimination calls for the creation and strengthening of alliances among various sectors and groups of people who are the victims of globalization and racism. It also calls for better links between these groups and other civil society actors. More equitable structures should replace the neo-liberal hegemonic global political-economic structures. A dialogue of civilisations should replace the clash of civilisations.

Recommendations of the Asia Pacific NGO Forum

Teheran, Iran - February 17-18, 2001

The Asia Pacific NGO Forum recognises the urgent need to translate the objective of the Declaration by the NGO Forum into a practical and workable Plan of Action. We therefore recommend to the governments of the Asian Pacific region:

  1. Ratification, without reservations, and implementation of :

    • the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD),

    • the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) and the Optional Protocol to the Convention;

    • the Convention on the Protection of the Rights of Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families (MWC),

    • the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC);

  2. Lifting of reservations to ICERD, and making a Declaration under Article 14 of the Convention which will enable the filing of individual complaints to the Committee monitoring the implementation of the Convention.

  3. Creation of temporary special measures as outlined in Art. 1 (4) of ICERD and Art. 6 of CEDAW to create conditions of equality for historically disadvantaged communities, including women, using a perspective that looks at the intersectionality of various forms of discrimination;

  4. Implement Art. 6 of ICERD which assures effective protection and remedies to victims of racism and racial discrimination and accept the right to just and fair compensatory measures for victims of racism and racial discrimination.

  5. Recognise the key role of mass media and the internet in shaping opinions and in inculcating attitudes of tolerance and pluralism and support community-based media which could give a voice to members of disadvantaged communities, including women;

  6. Review of all national laws and policies to bring them in line with the principles and values set out in ICERD and other human rights treaties

  7. Ensure that caste-based and similar discrimination be explicitly addressed within the agenda of the World Conference against Racism, in order to explicitly acknowledge groups of people who have been subject to perennial and persistent forms of discrimination and abuse on the basis of their descent.

  8. Recognise the critical role played by non-governmental organisations and members of civil society, including members of targeted groups, in preventing and combating racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and other forms of intolerance and support them in their activities in this area with the necessary resources.

Gender and Racism

  1. Invite the CEDAW Committee to elaborate a General Recommendation on the intersectionality between racism and gender;

  2. Incorporate a gender perspective into all aspects of the WCAR;

  3. Review and reform national laws related to violence against women to guarantee that they also address violence against women based on racism and racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, and special programs created to address the needs of women victims of such forms of violence;

  4. Include a perspective on the intersectionality of various forms of discrimination in all educational programs, with a special focus on the eradication of stereotypes based on race, caste, sex, descent, national or ethnic origin and other factors.

  5. Create special training programs for public officials, members of the judiciary and the legal profession, and members of law enforcement agencies to make them more sensitive to the intersectionality of different forms of discrimination, with a special emphasis on gender-sensitivity;

Caste and Racism

  1. Enact legislation to combat caste-based discrimination in those countries where such legislation does not exist.

  2. In countries where legislation banning discrimination on the basis of caste already exists, take immediate steps to create transparent and effective monitoring mechanisms including the establishment of time-bound programs to ensure implementation of such legislation.

  3. Enforce laws related to violence and atrocities committed against members of communities that experience marginalization due to caste, descent and occupation, especially the women of these communities;

  4. Ensure that members of these communities are protected by law from exploitation of their labour, including the implementation of laws that prohibit child labour, bonded labour and manual scavenging;

  5. Implement laws relating to land reform that would guarantee access to and control of land for these marginalized communities;

  6. Extend the system of reservations to enhance access to higher government posts, including in scientific institutions, in the judiciary, and in the private sector including multinational corporations operating in these countries, and to enhance participation of members of these communities in agencies such as law enforcement agencies;

  7. Allocate adequate funds for programs for the socio-economic upliftment of these communities including educational programs;

  8. Implement the resolution on discrimination based on work and descent adopted by the U.N. Sub-Commission on Human Rights in August 2000.

Indigenous Peoples and Racism

  1. Adopt and ratify the United Nations Draft Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples by governments before the end of the decade of indigenous peoples.

  2. Recognise the right to self-determination as a right of indigenous peoples and affirm their right to control and manage the use of their territories, lands, waterways, fisheries and other natural resources, including genetic material and traditional knowledge

  3. Ensure that any development programs that affecting indigenous peoples livelihood and resources should be implemented only with their full and informed consent;

  4. Support the right of indigenous peoples to assert their identities, and to maintain, develop and promote their cultures, values, languages, education, religious beliefs and alternative dispute resolution systems through national legislation and appropriate policies;

  5. Ensure effective access to indigenous peoples to educational institutions and to all mediums of broadcasting, media, television, and related technologies and institutions.

  6. Condemn the coercive use of state force and police brutality against indigenous communities and take strong action to prevent such acts of violence,

  7. Declare the militarisation of indigenous peoples communities as unacceptable acts of aggression.

  8. Acknowledge that compensation and reparations made by governments for immoral, illegal and unjust acts shall not be unilaterally determined and imposed.

  9. Call for the adequate resources to support the newly approved Permanent Forum within the United Nations system on indigenous peoples issues

National Minorities and Racism

  1. Ensure the right of self determination of ethnic and national minorities, along with guarantees of their cultural and linguistic rights;

  2. Create laws that will protect members of minority communities, especially women, and put in place mechanisms that can monitor the implementation of such laws;

  3. Repeal legislation that renders members of minority communities stateless and deprives them of their rights as citizens;

  4. Promote multicultural policies, including in the education system, in order to combat racist and discriminatory ideologies and values;

  5. Ensure the application of humanitarian law in situations of non international and internal armed conflicts to protect civilians and combatants, including child soldiers;

  6. Ensure full participation of members of minority communities, including women, in peace processes and in the conclusion of peace agreements;

People under foreign occupation, refugees, and internally displaced people

  1. Implement the resolutions passed by the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) and the United Nations Security Council, that affirm the right to self-determination of the Palestinians and the right of return of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and to receive compensation.

  2. Ensure that all states enact policies that protect the human rights of refugees and internally displaced persons, in accordance with the principles of international human rights standards and international humanitarian law;

  3. Ensure that resettlement is offered to refugees and internally displaced persons on merit, regardless of their ethnic or religious background and their family situation, and with full respect for the wishes of the persons or persons concerned.

  4. Ensure access to funding and other services for refugees, asylum-seekers and internally displaced populations in an equitable manner, based on needs and unrelated to cultural, political and economic imperatives.

  5. Recognise gender-based violence as a form of persecution and a ground to seek asylum according to the Refugee Convention;

Migrants and Trafficked Persons and Racism

  1. Investigate and address the root causes of migration and trafficking including poverty, political and social oppression, ethnic, religious, gender and caste-based discrimination and situations of violence and armed conflict.

  2. Recognise the positive political, economic and social roles and contributions of migrant workers, and ensure their full political and economic social and cultural participation as an essential element in eliminating all forms of discrimination;

  3. Create and enforce institutions and mechanisms, that involve governments, non government organisations and grassroots groups, in actions and activism to protect and prevent racial and gender based violence against migrants and trafficked persons in host and transit countries, in situations of custody and incarceration, and in the context of repatriation.

  4. Establish policies that would strengthen the accountability of sending countries while also enabling states to monitor the activities of non-state agencies such as private recruitment agencies and trafficking syndicates;

  5. Guarantee the human rights of migrant workers, including the right to vote of all migrant workers who are located outside the country at the time of an election and the right of migrant workers to have equal access to healthcare and other social services;

  6. Establish laws related to trafficking that respect the human rights of trafficked persons and of their right to choose their own future. In addition, special attention must be paid to the legal and other needs of trafficked persons.

  7. Particular attention should be paid to the situation of migrants' human rights in West Asia, especially the denial of fair trial and the imposition of punishments that are not in accordance with punishments for similar crimes in their home country;

Teheran, February 18, 2001