World Conference Against Racism: New Zealand response

  • Margaret Wilson
Attorney-General

Attorney General Margaret Wilson has welcomed the consensus outcome of the World Conference Against Racism, which ended on Saturday evening in Durban, South Africa.

Margaret Wilson led New Zealand’s delegation to the conference.

“This was a very difficult meeting,” said Margaret Wilson.

“We approached it as an important opportunity for the international community to work together to identify and share experience on practical strategies".

Margaret Wilson said it was unfortunate that the global and forward-looking focus of the conference on the problems of racism and intolerance was diverted into highly-politicised and divisive arguments.

"Eventually there was compromise and consensus on the issues of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and demands for an apology/compensation for the trans-atlantic slave trade - but it was reached only with great difficulty.

"But for all the controversy aroused by the high-profile contentious issues, the Durban conference made useful progress in recording a global consensus in areas such as migrants, minorities and indigenous peoples’ rights.

"The outcome documents also underlined the importance of human rights education in countering racism and in promoting tolerance and openness to diversity, and the positive contribution civil society and national human rights institutions could make in fostering a climate of tolerance. All these were key priorities in New Zealand’s approach to the conference.

“Our delegation worked hard to contribute constructively to efforts to reach a consensus outcomes on the key issues.

Margaret Wilson also paid tribute to the vital role played by South Africa, as host and chair, in steering the conference through to an eventual consensus outcome.

“The next task is for all states to go forward from Durban, drawing on the framework of priorities and strategies developed there to take steps at the national level to address the scourge of racism, reflecting the particular experience and circumstances of their own societies. The changes in our domestic human rights arrangements recently approved by Cabinet and currently before Parliament are intended to assist us in carrying forward this task in New Zealand".