Statement by Nils Arne Kastberg, Regional Director for Latin America and the Caribbean UNICEF, on the Occasion of the Durban Review Conference
Geneva 20-24 April 2009
The three musqueteers of hatred: racism, discrimination and xenophobia know exactly where to hit to achieve long term results: they target children from birth. Then they make sure to be persistent and deliver youth who because of their colour, ethnicity or because they are a girl, - since birth has been twice as poor as all others; five times more likely to suffer from chronic undernutrition; will go five to nine years less to school; is many times more exposed to violence and sexual abuse; will live in horrid housing conditions. This way, the three musqueteers: the hateful racism, the spiteful discrimination and the paranoid xenophobia make sure their achievement is a life sentence and that it be transmitted to the next generation.
Article 2 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child on non-discrimination, together with the Durban Declaration and Plan of Action, and the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples provide all of us with the mandate to take practical actions in support of the 150 million Afro-descendents and 50 million indigenous peoples in Latin America and the Caribbean.
Furthermore, as we have heard from the delegations of Brazil and Ecuador, the Durban process has facilitated positive dialogue between governments and civil society in the region on the history of racism and racial discrimination. With strong and collaborative support from the UN agencies, 18 countries in the region have taken bold actions to bring positive change to these communities.
These are challenging times. As governments grapple with the economic crisis, and make choices on the allocation of financial and technical resources, it is critical that rights of indigenous, Afro-descendents and migrant children to health care, education and other social services are not sacrificed.
It is important that all children have the possibility of taking pride in the contributions of their cultures to societies in which they live.
UNICEF is pleased to support the publication of the Manual of Afrodescendents of the Americas and the Caribbean so that all children can become knowledgeable of the contributions of Afrodescendents, and take pride in the history and heritage of resistance of their ancestors.
We are also sponsoring the Indigenous and Afrodescendent Leaders Consultative Groups through which the voices of and views of these communities can have a significant impact on improving the lives of children.
The Convention on the Rights of the Child is 20 years old this year and next year, 2010, most of the republics in the region will commemorate their bicentenary. Independence did not break racism and discrimination. Let us make sure that these milestones represent our commitment to take action and improve the situation of the millions of peoples still living in poverty and exclusion. Celebrate it by eradicating it.
We must unite for children and adolescents to have the right to equal opportunity; be hopeful about their future and proud to live in a region that cherishes the heritage of its cultural diversity.
Durban brings light to the dark exclusion. Durban tells us to count the excluded. Durban tells us to reach them, to invest in them. Durban tells us to change the mindsets. If Durban is to succeed, let us reach each and every child in time, before the three musqueteers get to them.