I have the honour to speak on behalf of the European Union.
The European Union has repeatedly demonstrated its commitment to fight against racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, which remains a priority in our human rights agenda.
Acts of racism have a deep impact upon those who are targeted by them. Victims who have been subjected to racism from an early stage in their lives may develop a sense of inferiority as well as hatred and resentment towards the perpetrators. As for the perpetrators, they often learn their prejudices during childhood, carry them over to adulthood and may transfer them to the next generation. These two elements create a self-perpetuating vicious cycle, which we need to break through education, tolerance and a united fight against racism. The importance of education cannot be overemphasized. Schools should never be allowed to become venues for teaching racism, xenophobia and intolerance.
The world is plagued by many different forms of racism, all equally dangerous to society and a threat to human rights. These extreme manifestations have evolved over time, but all can result in discrimination, hate speech, violence and other deplorable acts, whether they be a result of fear, suspicion or racist sentiments between people of different ethnic or cultural background; Anti-Semitism, Christianophobia or Islamophobia; Neo-Nazism; discrimination against migrants, minorities or indigenous peoples; extremism, or other forms of discrimination based on multiple grounds. These manifestations of racism and intolerance may be exacerbated by globalization, which has accelerated social and cultural change in an unprecedented manner in every part of the world, and can lead to increased scapegoating and xenophobic and isolationist tendencies. All these forms of racism must be combated with equal force, and more effective tools must be generated to enhance worldwide cooperation on this matter.
In this context, the European Union reiterates the fundamental importance of fully implementing the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination and of States complying with their reporting obligations in a timely manner. This constitutes a powerful instrument with which to fight the many different forms of racism and intolerance which we face today. The answer when facing racism is to ensure that member states fulfil already existing obligations. In this context, the EU does not support the elaboration of new international standards or legislation. The principle of non-discrimination remains unfulfilled in many parts of the world. This is especially the case when it comes to minorities. Steps should therefore be taken to ensure that all States review legislation and policies that may directly or indirectly discriminate against particular groups, including especially minorities.
The EU also emphasizes the important role which regional mechanisms play in this issue. In the European Union, discrimination is prohibited by the European Charter of Fundamental Rights, as well as by several Regulations and Directives. The EU has also adopted legislation which bans incitement to violence or hatred on grounds of race, colour, religion, or ethnic or national origin. Additionally, the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights plays an important role collecting information about the situation in the Member States and providing advice to them. The EU also supports a wide range of civil society organisations in their work against racism, xenophobia and non-discrimination through its European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights, and has furthermore implemented a wide number of public awareness measures, increasing the exchange and the analysis of information on racism and xenophobia, and improving judicial cooperation and cross-border training in this area. Finally, the EU is committed to implementing the objectives of the Durban World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance of 2001.
The EU also wishes to stress the important role played by NGOs in combating prejudice within societies, through processes of education and dialogue. NGOs have the trust of the population, especially the minorities, and their participation in the fight against racism is indispensable in order to get the population mobilized. It is therefore of paramount importance that NGOs who are fighting against racism receive the political and financial support, including protection from retaliation by racist and xenophobic groups, which they need in order to carry out their activities in the best possible manner.
The issues that we are discussing here today take on a special importance in light of the recent inauguration of the football World Cup. Racism and xenophobia in sport, especially present in football stadiums, is something that should be eradicated. The fact that South Africa is hosting the World Cup this year is very significant. We cannot help but remember the turbulent past of the country and the devastating effects racism had upon its people. At the same time, we must not forget the powerful positive effect that sport has in bringing people of all nationalities and ethnic and cultural backgrounds together. The EU hopes that this event, being televised throughout the entire world, will serve as an inspiration to all. South Africa was the very example of the effect sport can have when all its citizens united as one to give South Africa the 1995 Rugby World Cup victory through their unconditional support. This example shows that racism and xenophobia can be overcome if we all make a conscious effort to do so, all the while respecting fundamental human rights, including the freedom of expression, which, if limited, closes the door on meaningful discussion within and between societies by disseminating correct information and removing prejudices. As history teaches us including European history to do so only serves to foster increased intolerance, lack of understanding and violence within and between societies.
To conclude, the EU notes that the fight against racism is a global one, and cooperation between all States is crucial to combat this scourge, which affects every country in every corner of the world.