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I CARE - Reports on the OSCE Conference on Tolerance and the Fight against Racism, Xenophobia and Discrimination, Brussels, 13 - 14 September 2004

OSCE Conference on Tolerance and the Fight against Racism, Xenophobia and Discrimination

On September 13 and 14 the Organsation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) holds a conference on Tolerance and the Fight against Racism, Xenophobia and Discrimination. The conference will discuss ways of promoting tolerance in the fight against racism, xenophobia and discrimination in the OSCE area and is a follow-up of an earlier OSCE conference held in Vienna on 4 and 5 September 2003. This Conference aims to build upon the general and specific discussions within the OSCE on racism, xenophobia, discrimination and anti-Semitism that have taken place since the Porto Ministerial Council Meeting in 2002. The semi-live reports the OSCE itself publishes on their website are excellent, and parctipating NGO representatives who either are official speakers or who read interventions also benefit from this. However, since there are always good and interesting side events organized by NGOs which do not get coverage, ICARE decided to facilitate exposure for those through her own reporting. Of course we'll amplify on the whole conference through video-interviews, photos and written contributions, as per usual.


OSCE Conference home page...


Day one: Monday, 13th September

quote of the day

'It's damage control. Some good things where already said, but now we have to look out for the things which are not being said'.


Morning.

'Coming to an OSCE conference as an NGO is an experience totally different from any other international 'do'. Amazingly, you're valued and accepted, have almost the same states as governmental delegations. THe OSCE relies mainly on NGOs for input on issues in the partipipating states, that's why. A far cry form the UN.
What's more, as an NGO within the OSCE arena you can get your issue under the attention of the participating states or even put your issue firmly on the agenda. What's needed is lobbying, for which there is ample room. Most delegates are very approachable and accessable. No, this is not the OSCE Public Relations unit speaking :-).

As promised, we will report only on side-events, since the OSCE itself already does excellent reporting on the conference proceedings and workshops
So what are the issues on the table? Of course the whole range of Racism, Xenophobia and Discrimination, but of course Durban, 9/11, Iraq and other issues play a large role in all this.

As we're gearing up for reporting on the first side even ('Diversity education in action:adapting models in the OSCE region') at 11:15, the first oddity reaches our newsdesk. The Turkish delagation just distributed a written response to questions ODIHR (the OSCE Human Rights unit) posed. It is four pages, listing the Turkish legislation on disrimination. Four pages long, only...they claim to have zero statistics on hate crime. Lots of good practices too, but no data. Funny.

Ronald Eissens

Side-Events of the day

Diversity education in action:adapting models in the OSCE region

Organised by CEJI and the Anti-Defamation League. This side event started with a short explanation Stacy Burdett of how ADL originally came into being; as an institution to protect Jews from exclusion. This is now extended to all minorities, working from the philosophy that it is more easy to prevent hate crime than to penalize it after the fact. SHe added that governments should use the wealth of expertise and ideas that are around with NGOs. Pascal Charhon of CEJI reported on the ADL World of Difference program. CEJI works closely together with ADL on this program in Europe in a transatlantic partnership which has paved the way for youth education. We are living in a Global village, in increasingly multicultural societies, and there is some trouble troule managing those. For example, 35 % of all Europeans are openly stating that they are racist. 27 % think that there are too many foreigners in their country and a recent poll by the EUMC shows that 25 % of the Europeans say they are ambivalent and 'not sure what ethnic minorities contribute to society'. Charhon said that there are really two sorts of anti-prejudice education: 1. Intercultural education, which includes a special school curriculum and focuses on social justice and transmitting relevant knowledge on pluralism. Marian Douglas, ICARE antiracism list aficionado2. Diversity education, which is more broad and also addresses matters like age, disablity and gender. It focuses on inclusive classrooms, the promotion of critical thinking and opinion seeking. The World of Difference Institute grew out of the necessity. Incidents at schools in New York City between African-Americans and Jewish students lay at the root of its foundation in 1992. In Europe the World of Difference Institute started operations in 1994, followinbg the anti-asylum-seekers riots in the re-united Germany. In 1997 'A classroom of difference' started functioning in Europe as an WDI " CEJI project. Since prejudices are learned unconsciously, empowerment and personal responsability are the the key to changing attitudes. 'A World of Difference' addresses the community, youth and the workplace. It's peer training - you got youth training other youth.
Barbara Sahab, ADL coordinator of Education Programs in Austria, reported on the World of Difference Program in Austria, which has been adapted to Austrian needs, paid for by the Austrian ministery of the interior. Austria has now 65 trainers, plus 2300 police officers who went through the program (9% of the police force), which means that hopefully they will spread it to their friends and family. [RE].

Media and fighting discrimination against Roma and Sinti

Organised by ODIHR.

pre-meeting in the corridorIntroductory remarks to this side-event were made by mr. Christain Strohal, director of ODHIR. He stressed the importance of cooperation with civil society, which has huge benefits. Valeriu Nicolae from the European Roma Information Office Said that Roma and Sinti advocacy these days is based on Article 14, which in June 1990 only had a few words on Roma, but now has a few thousand. More and more the problems that Roma and Sinti have are being recognized. Wolf Bruggen from OpreRoma, the Flemish minority centre in Belgium Talked about the media and the combating of anti-gypsy bias. The Belgian Roma and Sinti community is small compared to eastern-European countries, but the media are filled with stereotypes and bias. Roma and Sinti are portrayed negatively in the media. And this is not being countered. The majority of Roma and Sinti in Belgium Consists of 'undocumented migrants', but a significant minority of the community does have valid papers. Roma in Belgium do not get much attention from the media, only when something happens. If a Roma is called stealing and an arrest is being made, there will be a report in the media. Or when a Romanian gypsy girl of 13 years ald is forced to marry, the media will go full out. All this negative media attention Changed somewhat when a number of Roma illegals were deported. There are 2 kinds of press now - press with, and press without bias. Surprisingly, the Roma community gets little support in the fight against anti-Roma discrimination, while anti-Semitic acts are always condemned. This also goes for other countries. Ciprian Necula from the Media monitoring agency in Romania, active in raising awareness through national campaigns showed a number of great TV spots meant to Reduce bias, 'when I grow old I will hate the gypsys', 'gypsy children want to learn' And the amazingly beautiful 'I have a gypsy heart', about a man who undergoes a heart transplant and becomes curious who's heart he has. Who's heart do I have? They showed me a picture. I can say I have a gypsys heart


Videobyte!

Interview with Mr. Pierre Sob, the new head of the UNHCHR anti-discrimination unit, about Durban, antisemitism, divisions and the way forward:
"...it is of importance to bring back to the table of discussion on antidiscrimination issues the United States and also the Jewish community and the state of Israel, because we believe it is important to leave the durban conference somewhere behind us even if we keep it in the back of our minds"
Click here for broadband (Realvideo file).
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If you don't have Realplayer download a free version here.




Day two: Tuesday, September 14

quote of the day

'if you want friends, you gotta be a friend to others'.

Power in numbers: Building Partnerships against Discrimination side event organised by the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights

LCCR consists of more than 185 national organisations in the US, representing persons of color, women, children, labor unions, individuals with disabilities, older Americans, major religious groups, gays and lesbians and civil liberties & human rights groups. Wade Henderson, president of the LCCR, chaired the meeting during which representatives of 6 organisations told about their work and the advantages of collaborating on certain issues and sharing experiences with other members of the leadership conference.

Michael Lieberman from ADL told about working with 17000 FBI agencies, in particular using their data on hatecrimes. Some of the FBI internal manuals on multi cultural policing wouldn't look bad as a NGO document. On www.partnersagainstcrime.org more information can be found on this topic. The Leadership conference has been very much involved in getting hate crime legislation that is much needed in the US. As a large network of organisations, LCCR has been 'lobbied' by successive governments to 'get the law through this afternoon' if they would just remove sexual orientation because gay bashing is not really a hate crime or lose any reference to domestic violence because battering your spouse is not a hate crime... The coalition has never given in to these requests, since they take a strong stand against all hate crimes.

Karen Narasaki of the National Asian Pacific American Legal Consortium explained some of the difficulties migrants experience asserting their rights.

  1. Who can come to the US
  2. What are recognized reasons to come.
  3. The right to work, access to benefits, due process and non-discrimination.

Karen gave the example of immigrants that serve the country by joining the army, however when it comes to screening the contents of bags at, for instance, airports they are not allowed to do that. Immigrants are allowed to serve in the army and get killed, but they can't be trusted to screen bags for illegal and/or potential dangerous content. For the 8 to 10 million undocumented migrants the situation is extra hard, even although many of them are legitimate refugees. The 11th of september attacks have complicated advocacy on migration issues even further.
www.rightsworkinggroup.org

Next up was Mary-Rose Oaker of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee . Her organization compiles hate crime reports twice a year. Incidents go from a drunk driver that ran his car into a mosque to a Pakistani shopkeeper who got murdered because his killers thought he was an Arab. The 11th of september plays a major part also for the Arab and/or Muslim community. Since then incident reports have at least doubled. The FBI has been given a free hand to question people with Arab names or of Arab decent. They are made to answer questions like: Why do you go to this particular Mosque? or What is your view on the intervention in Irak? Often the FBI goes to the place of employment to ask these questions, so it becomes increasingly difficult to hang on to your job. National security has become a tool for racism.

Angela Arboleda of the National Council of La Razza spoke about Racial Profiling, the practise of stopping and searching people in the street by law enforcement on the basis of race. Also known as 'driving while being black' and more recently 'flying while being Arab' As the Asian-American community was interned and stripped of their rights during the second world war on the grounds of 'well, since they are of Asian decent, so their loyalty probably is with "the enemy" and beter safe than sorry' This same reasoning is now applied to the Arab-American community.
Racial profiling stops people from testifying, because of fear to be perceived as siding with terrorists. The often fragile relationship with law enforcement has gone back to a deep rooted distrust; law enforcement is no longer there to protect communities, but to harass and attack them.
Racial profiling alienates victims of racism. African Americans were amongst the first victims of racial profiling, Latino's also know all about it and now the Arab community, being part of the coalition has enabled them to compare and exchange experiences and by doing this advance issues quicker.

A very lively presentation came from Barbara Arnwine of the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. The latest campaign of the Layers Committee is the Election Protection Program. It is the civil rights community’s coordinated effort to address Election Day irregularities and voting rights violations that lead to disenfranchisement in minority communities. In anticipation of the 2004 Election cycle, the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law and the People for the American Way Foundation are leading the most ambitious contemporary voter protection program in the nation. In order for this effort to be successful, these organizations are working with a large group of coalition partners. The coalition has come together with one goal: to ensure that every eligible voter is able to cast a ballot that is accurately counted. In the last presidential elections 4 to 6 million votes didn't get counted at all, around 1 million votes were of African Americans. Barbara proceeded to give some examples of intimidation tactics towards minority groups to stop them from voting like having police cars parked with their lights flashing on every street corner in a predominately Latino area and a roadblock of about 20 police cars with armed police officers just standing around on a main road leading to the voting office.
The efforts of the Election Protection Coalition include a hotline that is operational for early voting through Election Day. The hotline serves as an immediate legal resource for voters who are having problems casting a ballot. Lawyers and law students staff the hotline in Washington, D.C. Each volunteer is trained in identification of common problems experienced by voters, the election law of our targeted communities, and the resources available to attorneys on Election Day. This year, it will take over 200 volunteers in the Washington, D.C. area to make the hotline a success. And a success it is, the hotline even gets consulted by staff of voting offices that aren't always to sure about the regulations themselves!

The final speaker was Shanna Smith of the National Fair Housing Alliance . Housing discrimination doesn't always mean having a door slammed in your face or a bigoted remark directed your way. Unsuspecting renters or home buyers may be politely turned away from the housing of their choice, even though they are qualified.
Some examples:

In Maryland, three African men were evicted when their landlord terminated the leases of black tenants and replaced them with white tenants. In California, a disabled white woman who uses a guide animal was refused a rental unit in an apartment with a "no-pets" policy.
In Ohio, a Hispanic woman was denied housing because of an unlawful "no kids" policy. The National Fair Housing Alliance is running the Fair Housing National Multimedia Campaign, designed to increase public awareness of the Fair Housing Act and its protections, encourage the reporting of fair housing discrimination to the appropriate agencies, and provide information and resources to help communities and institutions support individuals and families who exercise their fair housing rights.
Shanna Smith encouraged everyone in the room to go to the campaign website and download the materials (e.g tv commercials) and use them.

After these outstanding presentations there were many questions and remarks, of which one insight from Mr. Doudou Diene, special UN Rapporteur on racism: "there is no longer an intellectual and ideological front to combat racism. At the contrary, we see more and more books and publications openly promoting discrimination. For example Hungtington writes about the 'danger of the Latino presence in the USA. Ideas like this should be confronted. At the very core of racism and discriminations there are the words and ideas. Violence starts in the intellectual mind, as a concept".

Wade Henderson closed of the meeting by stressing that the succes of the LCCR really lies in building partnerships. This is the important spirit in which the LCCR works, or 'if you want friends, you gotta be a friend to others'.

Videobyte!

Interview with Ms. Barbara Arnwineof the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, about the conference, African-American issues and the OSCE leadership.
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best regards,
ICARE Newsteam, Brussels.

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