NGO meeting produces strong advocacy document

05 December 2000

Non-governmental organisations meeting in Warsaw, Poland, in mid-November adopted a statement including strong Roma rights provisions and aimed at next year's World Conference Against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance (WCAR). The WCAR will take place in Durban, South Africa, from August 31 to September 7, 2001. The main purpose of the WCAR is to adopt recommendations for practical measures to combat and eradicate racism. As part of the preparation of WCAR, the UN Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights sponsored a meeting of non-governmental organisations from Eastern and Central Europe, which took place in Warsaw, November 15-18, 2000. The Warsaw-based Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights served as organiser, helped by a steering committee which included a member of the ERRC. The conference was attended by representatives of 115 non-governmental organisations from the countries of Central and Eastern Europe, including the countries of the former Soviet Union. About fifteen representatives of Romani organisations participated in the conference and ensured that their concerns and recommendations were featured prominently. This strong presence is reflected in the meeting's official documents addressed to the WCAR, which were adopted by vote. The Statement of the meeting lists a number of concrete recommendations aimed at ensuring the efficacy of the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination and strengthening the interpretation of "racial discrimination" with a view to making it a more efficient legal tool for combating racism. A great success of the Roma rights movement was the adoption of Point 5 of the Statement, recommending that Roma be recognised as a non-territorial nation by the UN and that Romani representatives obtain a seat there. The ERRC expects to continue to play a role in elaborating this claim, and in achieving its realisation. The text of the document produced during the Warsaw meeting can be found in full on page 67 of this issue of Roma Rights.



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