Twentieth Anniversary of the Adoption of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action
Speech22 September 2021
Today we mark the twentieth anniversary of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action.
Reinforcing the International Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination, the Durban Declaration sought to provide a comprehensive framework for combating racism, racial intolerance, xenophobia and related intolerance.
But today we must recognise that discrimination on the grounds of race, colour, descent, nationality or ethnic origin unfortunately still persists in every society.
In fact, the trend in online hate speech, as well as the inequalities laid bare and compounded by the COVID pandemic, have provided a worrying new dimension to the challenges we face.
I would like to make clear that Ireland’s participation today is an expression of our unequivocal condemnation of racism in all its forms.
We continue to strive to promote a tolerant and inclusive society free from racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance. We categorically reject the anti-semitic statements and other hateful speech that have at times occurred in this forum and agree with Secretary General Guterres, who in his statement this morning made clear that such diatribes only serve to denigrate our shared efforts in the fight against racism.
We believe that all States have the responsibility to condemn racism and to ensure that their legislative systems provide adequate and effective guarantees of freedom of thought, conscience, religion or belief to all people without distinction.
Ireland is deeply concerned about the alarming proliferation of religious intolerance, and its contribution to the denial of human rights, and indeed to fuelling conflict.
Therefore, we welcome in particular the Political Declaration’s condemnation of prejudices based on religion or belief, including hatred or discrimination of an anti-Christian; anti-Muslim; or anti-Semitic nature, amongst others.
We also stress the importance of recognising and addressing the impact of multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination, and the layered experiences of racism experienced by women, migrants, persons with disabilities and persons belonging to the LBGTI+ community.
Today’s round table provides an important opportunity to share information and good practice.
In Ireland, the Government last year established an independent National Anti-Racism Committee to strengthen the Government’s approach in keeping with fundamental principles of human rights and informed by UN guidance on tackling racism. The Committee’s report and public consultations will inform our new National Action Plan against Racism.
In April of this year, the Government of Ireland published the general Scheme of the Criminal Justice (Hate Crime) Bill 2021 which will carry tougher sentences for crimes motivated by prejudice on the basis of race; colour; nationality; religion; ethnic or national origin; sexual orientation; gender or disability and which makes it an offence to condone, deny or grossly trivialise any historical act of genocide, including the Holocaust.
Ireland also recognises the importance of education and awareness campaigns in building mutually respectful multicultural societies. We continue to review our approach to teacher training and to curriculum development.
To conclude, Ireland's commitment to combating racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance is built on an increasingly solid foundation of partnership, cooperation, consultation and inclusivity. This will be fully reflected in our new National Action Plan against Racism.
I thank you.