17.03.2009 - UNESCO - Sector for Social and Human Sciences

First Conference of the Coalition of African Cities against Racism and Discrimination in Durban

From 26 to 27 March 2009, the city of Durban (South Africa) held the first sub-regional conference of the Coalition of African Cities against Racism and Discrimination. The Coalition was launched in September 2006, in Nairobi (Kenya), at the 4th Africities Summit.

The first sub-regional conference of the Coalition of African Cities against Racism and Discrimination was held from 26 to 27 March 2009, in Durban, South Africa. Participants used this opportunity to inject new vitality into the Coalition, while providing structure and internal operating rules. Thematic panels were convened to discuss discrimination in general as well as particular concerns, such as HIV/AIDS, with a focus on the involvement of cities and municipalities in managing the pandemic. 

The choice of the southern sub-region as a venue is not fortuitous, since it had already shown an interest in the fight against all forms of discrimination by launching, in September 2006, the Coalition of African Cities against Racism and Discrimination, in Nairobi (Kenya), at the 4th Africities Summit. Being hosted in a country that benefits from an efficient municipal infrastructure, this important meeting was also a means of extending the battle to the African continent as a whole. 

It is precisely in Durban, at a time when South Africa had just come out of the apartheid system, that in 2001 the 3rd World Conference against Racism was held. At this conference, a Joint Declaration and a 219-point plan were adopted, despite a number of challenges. These challenges ranged from the recognition of the contribution of migrants to the economic and cultural development of host countries as well as countries of origin, to equal rights between men and women, through the establishment of public policies supported by reliable statistical data. 

Less than ten years later, a conference scheduled from 20 to 24 April 2009, in Geneva (Switzerland), will provide an opportunity to measure the impact of the plan as well as UNESCO’s contribution to the implementation of this programme. Durban has been an opportunity for the Organization to renew and strengthen its fight against discrimination and exclusion, notably by encouraging Member States to adopt, in September 2003, a new “integrated strategy to combat racism, discrimination, xenophobia and intolerance”. 

In identifying – among other themes – the development of scientific research and consideration (specifically on contemporary forms of racism and discrimination), the development of educational materials, the preservation of diversity in multicultural societies, or the definition of statistical indicators to measure racism and discrimination, this new strategy which now guides all projects developed on this subject, clearly recognized the complexity of the battle that must be carried out on different fronts. 

Since Durban, new approaches designed to integrate the teaching of human rights and intercultural education in all education systems have, for example, been implemented by the Education Sector, while projects such as “The Slave Route”, developed by the Culture Sector since 1994, continue. But it is perhaps in the area of social and human sciences that UNESCO has responded in a particularly innovative matter to the call made at the 3rd World Conference against Racism. 

There, States were encouraged to adopt and implement social development policies based on reliable statistical data (point no. 176). States were also advised of the urgent need to identify and develop action plans against racism at all levels. 

Responsible for UNESCO’s programme in the fight against racism, the Social and Human Sciences Sector – of which one of its priorities is to strengthen the link between social science research and public policy – decided to launch in 2004 an appeal to cities around the world for the establishment of regional coalitions against racism and discrimination. 

Taking into account the expansion of local authorities and their ability to act at a grass-roots level, this initiative was to establish a network of cities interested in sharing experiences to improve their public policies to fight against racism. 

As such, between 2004 and 2008, six regional coalitions were established – each of them possessing their own “Ten-point Action Plan” to respond to region-specific forms of discrimination – and one international coalition was born. 

A series of studies has also been launched to assist particularly with the definition of indicators to more effectively combat racism through local public policies. Research topics such as discrimination related to HIV/AIDS are the subject of special attention, and the participation of young people in both research and action is encouraged. 


For more information, please contact
Marcello Scarone Azzi, tel: +33 (0)1 45 68 41 96, m.scarone(at)unesco.org 




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