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Race and Ethnicity: A Global Inquiry 2000 - 2001
April 19-22

March 21st is the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination


The World Conference will be action-oriented, and will focus on practical measures to assist victims of racial discrimination. The reason is clear. As long as people are denied opportunities for employment, education and health because of their race or ethnic background, we have work to do. As long as people of particular races or ethnic backgrounds find themselves disproportionately represented in the prison population, in the ranks of the socially and culturally excluded, and in the slums and favelas of the world's great conurbations, we have work to do. As long as they are disproportionately victims of health problems such as AIDS, and do not have equal access to medical care and treatment, we have work to do. And as long as ethnic conflict and genocide continues, we cannot rest.

Our age, like previous ages, has brought with it new forms of racial discrimination, no less odious than the old ones. Many of today's conflicts have an ethnic dimension. Increasingly, civilian populations are targeted, purely because of their ethnic identity. And with the increase in global migration comes a corresponding increase in discrimination against immigrants, migrant workers, refugees, asylum-seekers and displaced persons.

As we recognize the enormous challenges before us, let us also note the advantages we have. The international community is committed as never before to ending racism. International and regional texts ban racial discrimination. Many States have anti discrimination laws, with national human rights institutions to implement those laws and provide assistance to victims. Tolerance and multiculturalism are flourishing in many societies. New technologies offer opportunities and services at a lower cost than before, and can, if applied fairly, be tools of ending and not aggravating inequality.

Eliminating racism and overcoming obstacles to equality will not be easy, but with perseverance, faith and commitment, it can be done. [This] year's World Conference should mark a big step forward. Let us seize this opportunity and make the most of it.

United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan


TO: The Delegates

FR: UNITE (Unified Nations' Inquiry inTo Equity)

DT: March 21, 2001 (International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination

RE: The 2001 Global Race and Class Policy Initiative

Welcome to UNITE's 2001 Global Race and Class Policy Initiative. We will convene April 19-22, 2001 at Tufts University, a locus for intellectual thought and civic activity, to develop global and national policy recommendations on race and class. These recommendations will be forwarded to the upcoming World Conference Against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia, and Related Intolerance, to be held in South Africa in late summer.

In preparing for the World Conference, the Foreign Minister of Iran Kamal Kharazi recently urged participants to consider normative linkages between the dialogue of civilizations and the elimination of racial discrimination in order to promote what he referred to as "creative diversity".

In her opening statement at one of the preparatory meetings, Mary Robinson, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and Secretary-General of the World Conference, emphasized that no country or region can claim to be free from racism. She said that racism, xenophobia and intolerance are pervasive problems that must be recognized and addressed. She also added, "Morally, it cannot be right that millions go hungry, live without clean water or even basic medicines, and die of AIDS, at a time when people in the developed countries enjoy unparalleled prosperity and access to the most sophisticated technology."

Now is a crucial time to address issues of difference and equity. Given increasing globalization and the growing disparity in wealth distribution, it is critical that these realities be brought to the forefront in our global inquiry. Each of the seven committees you will attend this weekend represent the most universally salient policy areas related to race and class--points at which real change can be effected domestically and internationally. And, consider in all of these issues, the role of youth; examples from your own countries of good practices toward addressing these concerns; and the strategic prioritizing and resourcing of institutions for combating racism and inequity.

We know that these problems cannot be solved in one weekend, but UNITE hopes to take initial steps towards creating a more equitable and just global community and is looking forward to presenting your recommendations at the World Conference.

Though these are difficult issues to discuss, we encourage the delegates to keep an open mind and strive for innovation and boldness. Dare to step beyond the box and create new frameworks. We look forward to hearing your productive and respectful deliberations and recommendations.

Committee on Immigration and Citizenship
Committee on Education
Committee on the Media
Committee on Economic Development
Committee on Politics, Protest, and Resistance
Committee on Reconciliation and Reparations
Committee on Law


Committee on Immigration and Citizenship

  • Most countries conduct a census to understand the growth and changes within their populations. Please recommend an effective way of accounting for racial and class differences in states. How should categories be determined and organized for the most accurate representation of a population? Is it important to examine racial and class breakdowns of a society, why or why not? The committee is asked to prepare a draft of a global census form.

  • Should there be a worldwide, universal immigration policy or regime? What would be the criteria for entry into countries and for deciding quotas? Does an immigrant's class matter? Should it? Please consider the pros and cons of such a system and present your findings. Also, more and more, large scale migrations (from natural disasters or civil conflicts) are leading to increased racism and xenophobia within receiving countries. What international policies might help to alleviate this continuing dilemma?

  • Are there limits to citizenship? Should citizenship be universally based on either jus solis or jus sanguinis? How else should it be determined? Will/Should passports become passe in the near future or will/should the order of sovereign borders continue? On what criteria should suffrage, or the right to vote, be granted? On a local level? national level? International level? Is citizenship necessary for eligibility in none, some, or all elections?

  • As policies currently stand, non-citizens have little recourse when faced with issues of racism, racial discrimination, lack of access to basic needs services, detention, and imprisonment (both of which are increasing in industrialized countries). Please recommend a set of recourse procedures for non-nationals, migrants, asylum seekers, refugees, minorities, and indigenous groups. Does the International Court of Justice have a role to play?

    Start of Memo

    Committee on Education

  • What emphasis does the committee place on education as a means of redress for issues of institutional racism, discrimination, and economic inequality? Access and quality of education have often been defined by race and class. What should be done to break down educational barriers and improve quality? The committee is asked to construct a Covenant on the Rights to Education.

  • Distance learning and advancements in educational technology have the possibility of dramatically affecting the balance of education globally. Civil engineering or urban planning courses offered on line from a university in the US and taken by a student in Bolivia, in Thailand or anywhere where access to education is limited, have the power to effect direct change in those societies. Without students leaving their countries and potentially reversing the "brain drain" that concerns many developing countries. Where does the responsibility lie in making education accessible? The committee is asked to make recommendations on distance learning.

  • Youth can be the most vulnerable to both messages promoting racial and economic equity and to messages of hate, separation, and racism (especially those who feel disenfranchised from society). How can the youth of the participating countries be mobilized to think about these issues and to be involved? To consider changing attitudes and changing the structures of society, where should new education and training efforts be focused?

  • Considering that almost every country is multiracial and multiethnic to some degree, should the curriculum taught in each country account for various cultures and histories? If not, what should be done to make education more inclusive? Also considering immigration patterns, should bilingual education be offered in public schools?

    Start of Memo

    Committee on the Media

  • What responsibility does the international media have in covering issues of race and class? Given the pace of globalization, the international media's role has significantly changed and acquired much more importance globally. What are the dominant forms of media that reach the most people? Who controls them? How do most people get their information? Is there an effort, on behalf of the media, to reach and cover countries that were once overlooked? The committee is asked to make recommendations to both international and national media about the coverage of racial and social inequalities.

  • The Internet has become an increasingly popular form of communication and outreach, yet it may also be the least regulated. There are increasing concerns about the role that it plays in allowing the interaction of hate groups and the promulgation of hate speech. Different countries have varying laws on hate speech. Should countries have the right to control what information is available within its borders? Should there be international regulation of racism or hate speech on the Internet? Please consult with the Committee on Law.

  • Another important issue concerning the Internet is what is being called the Digital Divide. While many believed that the Internet would help to shrink the gap between the haves and the have-nots, it is instead believed to be increasing it. What recommendations would the committee make for contending with this issue on an international level?

  • Advertising and marketing are influential parts of media outreach, reaching a wide range of people globally. Often advertisements can serve as an entryway into a society's norms and ideals. How are race and class depicted in media advertisements? Are certain stereotypes reinforced? Do many people have access to the industry or is concentrated? Does this affect the general public in your country, as well as in other countries receiving this information? What recommendations would the committee make to the advertising industry?

    Start of Memo

    Committee on Economic Development

  • As nations develop and major industries grow, certain groups are more likely to bear the costs of development whether this means being removed from land or having to face various types of environmental hazards, including those resulting from energy production. What roles do race and class play in determining who bears these costs? Who has the power to make decisions about these development projects and strategies? How should the policies of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund take these issues into consideration? How is environmental racism linked to institutional racism? What measures should be taken to prevent environmental racism, both internationally and domestically? Does this require a focus on institutional racism?

  • Many believe that globalization has exacerbated existing inequalities, especially with regard to the distribution of wealth, both internationally and domestically within countries. Often, oppressed racial groups hold the least amount of wealth. Should measures be taken to achieve a redistribution of wealth that alleviates this unequal distribution, especially among racial groups? Does technology have a role to play? What are the benefits and limitations of such strategies?

  • In many developing countries, international investment may be an important factor leading to the success of an economy. However, international investment can also lead to perceived problems such as child labor and extremely low wages for domestic laborers. How can international investment help developing countries in the long term? What measures should be taken to maximize the benefits and minimize the costs of international investment for members of the developing economies?

  • Labor competition is an area historically plagued with racism and race and class competition. The impact of globalization has heightened these tensions in many countries and across borders as industries seek their best advantage in pay rates. This has often pitted a country's traditional labor force against minority workers and migrants workers, and is increasingly creating negative reactions as jobs are moved to other countries. There is often a backlash against those of the same nationality living within the countries and an increase in xenophobia. To address these practices, what would the committee recommend?

    Start of Memo

    Committee on Politics, Protest, and Resistance

  • Some protest/resistance movements are violently against the government, while others seek to work with the government to effect change. Under what conditions is it beneficial to work with the government? In which cases is it useless? What are the possible costs and benefits to working within the political system rather than outside of it?

  • Within protest/resistance organizations, there are often issues of exclusion and inclusion. For example, if a protest movement is formed to combat racial discrimination (like the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa), coalitions are often formed along racial lines. Sometimes such divisions can be a source of strength (like the Black Power movement in the U.S.), but yet they can sometimes be exclusive along racial or class lines. How exclusive or inclusive should resistance groups be? What are the costs and benefits to both approaches? What should be the role of international actors -- either states, groups within other states, non-governmental organizations

  • The committee is asked to address one specific issue that in many countries is a continuing legacy of colonialism: land distribution, where a minority of the population has control over vast amounts of land, especially arable land. Over the last year in Zimbabwe, with the support of the President, members of the black population began to use force to take land away from white landowners, some of who were killed in the process. The current land owners do not want to relinquish the land. South Africa has just begun to implement its land redistribution policy, one that is being put into effect by the government. There has been some violence an resistance from the current land owners. Many other countries face similar issues. The committee is asked to make recommendations about the best way to achieve equitable land distribution and equitable resource distribution.

  • What should be the role of political leaders and citizens when faced with acts of racism and racial and economic discrimination within societies? While political leaders often bear the responsibility to effect change in the face of increasing acts of racism, there are many who do and would enflame the situation rather than addressing it. What is the role of the international community in holding leaders accountable for their actions within states, as well as the populations of those states who might have elected them (e.g. Austria and Joerg Haider)?

    Start of Memo

    Committee on Reconciliation and Reparations

  • Are justice and reconciliation compatible? Many countries must contend with historical or recent past injustices directed at a particular population within its borders. There are often calls for both justice and reconciliation, although individuals often have differing opinions on what these terms mean. Is acknowledgment of past injustices or crimes enough? Do the perpetrators need to be punished? All of the perpetrators? Or just the leaders, if the injustices are society-wide? Should the consequences of pursuing one strategy or the other be taken into consideration, such as the stability of the government, the long-term impact on the whole society?

  • Given the precedence of different attempts at reconciliation and reparations in varying countries, does the committee feel that these attempts have been effective models for future reconciliations? If not, what modifications should be made? Another consideration is the issue of reparations. Can there be reconciliation without reparations? What forms can reparations take? Should there be a statute of limitations for reparations? The committee is asked to recommend approaches to reconciliation and reparations, keeping in mind the difficulties of have a state or society completely back any one form.

  • Should claims for reparations be resolved within states or should groups be allowed to take their claims to the International Court of Justice? Should individuals be allowed to take their claims to the court? Should the states recognize the findings of the international court on these issues? should the international community recognize the findings and support their implementation? Should there be limits set on the international court in terms of the scope of its findings? The committee is asked to make recommendations on the role of the International Court.

  • Some argue that indigenous peoples have special claims to reparations given their circumstances. How should countries contend with the rights and claims of indigenous peoples? Should indigenous peoples receive specific reparations?

    Start of Memo

    Committee on Law

  • With the new International Court of Justice, what should its role be with regards to issues of global inequalities, specifically considering issues of race and class? Should it be a recourse for non nationals -- immigrants, asylum-seekers, migrant workers, indigenous groups, etc. -- who suffer racism and racial discrimination in their new countries? Should it be a forum to consider reparation claims on behalf of a group or people? Should it address issues of discrimination among citizens of a country? Should it address the practices of corporations internationally? Should individuals be allowed to bring claims or only groups? Can states bring claims on behalf of their nationals suffering in another country?

  • National inequities are also of great concern to this gathering. Policies and laws that discriminate in the social realm -- in the areas of housing, health care, employment, law and education -- continue to affect the lives and opportunities of generations. Victims of racial discrimination are frequently the most underprivileged; they lack education, are ignorant of the law and they mistrust the courts. Is affirmative action an effective means of contending with these problems? The committee is asked to make recommendations for the global community to address these issues.

  • In dramatic numbers, race and class often play a role in imprisonment, detention, and incarceration in many countries. Given this dilemma, what are the reasons for this seeming imbalance? How is information about individuals' rights disseminated to the citizens? What access do people have to the protection of their rights and fair representation? Is everything usually written and conducted in the dominant language of the country? What recommendations would the committee make to address this issue on both a global and a national scale?

  • Consulting with the Committee on Media, would the Committee on Law recommend that countries curtail access to the Internet for those engaged in racist activities or discrimination or for those promoting hate speech? How would the committee define "hate speech"? If the committee does recommend curtailing access, what would be the framework?

    Start of Memo

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