Speaking to the UN’s Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural), an independent expert said in no uncertain terms, emerging worldwide trends justify “the sounding of an alarm.” Special Rapporteur Doudou Diène said that contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance “represented the most serious threat to democratic progress” in the world today.
The lengthy press release relates sentiments which are actually “old hat” to those of us who have been following the news:
Worrisome patterns included the rise in racist and xenophobic violence, the growing number of political leaders openly espousing racist or xenophobic political platforms and the defamation of religions. He also drew attention to the criminalization of immigration and asylum. Those targeted by such policies were the main victims of racism, xenophobia and intolerance, he said, namely the immigrant, the asylum seeker and the foreigner.
The representative of South Africa, speaking on behalf of the Group of 77 developing countries and China, said the lack of political will to combat racism and xenophobia had helped to fuel the problem. It was time for decisive action, he said. During the current General Assembly session, the Group of 77 and China would be calling for the adoption of a Durban review process, bringing the World Conference against Racism in line with other major United Nations conferences.
He added that the upsurge of intolerance, following the events of 11 September 2001, was a worrisome phenomenon, as terrorism had been equated with Islam, giving rise to racial and religious intolerance. While freedom of expression was a valuable component of democratic society, it should not infringe on the rights of others, he said.
The Committee also heard from Amada Benavides, chair of the working group on the use of mercenaries as a means of violating human rights. Ms. Benavides echoed the sentiments made famous by contemporary documentaries: the marriage of corporation and military is a match made in hell.
She highlighted the growing tendency of States to cede core military functions to private military and security companies, which operated in a legal vacuum. The complexity of the problem could be seen in situations ranging from the involvement of mercenaries in an attempted coup d’état in Equatorial Guinea to the involvement of employees of private security companies in human rights violations at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, she said. There was a need for greater regulation and monitoring of the actions of private military and security companies at the national and international level.
Not al-Qaeda, but Halliburton, not al-Zarqawi but Chavez. The greatest threat to world democratic progress is, ironically, the people who are decrying the greatest threat to world democracy.