Cairo Declaration Against Racism

In International Advocacy Programby

At the invitation of the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS) and under the slogan of “Together Against the last Apartheid Regimes,” the Arab Regional Preparatory Conference for the World Conference Against Racism was convened in Cairo, July 19 –22, 2001 with the participation of representatives of 65 Arab, Asian, African and international NGOs. The conference was held in preparation for the World Conference Against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Other Related Intolerances to be held in south Africa, Durban, August 28-September 7.

The conference,

Having considered declarations issued by the three international conferences for the human rights movement in the Arab world organized by the CIHRS in Casablanca (1999), Cairo (2000) and Rabat (2001),

Having reviewed regional and international preparatory efforts and documents of previous preparatory meetings, in particular the Amman Declaration by Arab organizations in Asia in February 2001,

Having discussed at length international efforts to combat forms of racism, racial discrimination, Xenophobia and related Intolerances and examined obstacles before the eradication of racism and all forms of discrimination,

Having held intense deliberations on the aforementioned issues in the Arab world,

Decides to adopt, in consistency with the universality of human rights, the following declaration entitled “The Cairo Declaration Against Racism, (CDAR)”

First: Sources, Causes, Forms and Manifestations of Racism

Colonization, poverty and new economic policies under the domination of the one polar system are considered a basic source of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerances. Globalization that embodies the classification of the world states on basis of sanctification of the market system and flow of capitals has led to the rise in unemployment and debt. Globalization has also widened the gap between northern and southern states in particular under the huge development of the role by the technological and communicational revolutions. Consequently, this has resulted in hindering the developmental efforts and in the aggravated deterioration of the situation in southern states, in particular, under the unequal flow of capitals and goods on the one hand and the uneven movement of manpower and the concurrent newer violations of the rights of migrant workers and members of their families on the other hand.

International efforts, crowned by the United Nations’ endeavors, have accomplished much in the field of combating racism. However, the ninetieth has witnessed a noticeable marginilization of the role played by the UN in international affairs in favor of international super powers, jointly or solely through the will of the United States. This has been of great harm to the UN, has parlayed, in many occasions, international legitimacy mechanisms and has resulted in the political employment – in accordance to double and selective standards – of such mechanisms to achieve the interests of dominating and powerful states.

The enjoyment by super powers of the right of veto in the UN Security Council is in itself a blatant manifestation of discrimination. It also questions the credibility of the efforts by the international body to put an end to forms of discrimination in our contemporary world.

Reluctance to introduce substantial reforms for the democratization of the UN and to curb the might of the major powers constitutes a major obstacle not only before international mechanisms against racism, racial discrimination and all forms of intolerance but also before all international mechanisms for the protection of human rights.

From a human rights’ perspective, our peoples feel great injustices that the principles and goals upon which the UN is contingent are not followed, in particular when it comes to Israel and acts of ethnic cleansing perpetrated against the Palestinian people. Such principles include promoting human rights, setting up pillars of equality between nations and individuals and fighting racism and discrimination. Throughout 53 years since the establishment of Israel, the international community has failed to hold it accountable for its war crimes. Throughout 34 years, the international community has failed to force Israel to comply with the UN resolutions obligating the Israeli withdrawal from Arab and Palestinian occupied territories since 1967.

Other internal and external obstacles that hinder the liquidation of racism, as an odious phenomenon, go back to the past. Despite all positive values in contemporary cultures, there exist some inherited values in such cultures that advocate racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerances, in particular, discrimination against women, children, minorities, etc.

Furthermore, the absence of democracy and human rights, the meagerness of the principle of citizenship and legal structures and the despotism of the national state represent a source of hindering the liquidation of racism. This is not restricted to developing countries but it is also found in many developed western communities that witness the prevalence of xenophobia, Islamophobia, and hatred of the Arabs, the Asians, the black, and the Rromas.

The image becomes grimmer as we take into consideration foreign occupation behind the perpetration of acts of genocide against indigenous peoples. Colonization has endowed racism with an institutionalized nature as was the case with colonization in South Africa that lasted for two centuries and as is the case with the Israeli colonization that aims at displacement and settlement. This is also reflected in the aggravation of the problem of refugees, displaced persons and migrant workers, in particular women, who became victims of expelling economic and social patterns. Such social and cultural patterns are antagonistic to migrant workers on basis of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and other related intolerances.

Despite increasing recognition of women’s rights at the national and international levels, poverty, political, social and economic marginalization of women and related phenomena like domestic violence, sexual exploitation have been threatening the human rights system in general.

In this context, the conference asserts the following:

1- Calling upon all human rights advocates and international human rights NGOs to face the hazards of selective and profiteer employment of human rights principles in favor of the interests of the major states.

2- Promoting the struggle for substantial reforms in the international system whereby the UN system becomes more representative of the world states and more effective in expressing their interests and joint human responsibilities.

3- Working in solidarity with peoples of the world to promote development, eradicate poverty, respect cultural diversity, safeguard the right of deprived peoples to their self-determination and to face calls for hatred, racism, fanaticism, violence and gender discrimination.

4- The necessity of raising awareness of the importance of linking the fate of peoples and humanity’s common interest to development, respect for human rights and promotion of international cooperation in this respect.


5- Denouncing all forms of racist propaganda and practices that constitute increasing waves of hatred of Arabs, colored peoples, the black, migrant workers and indigenous peoples, in addition to all forms of inhumane practices to which some social categories are exposed to throughout the world.

The conference expresses its concern regarding systematic practices of racial discrimination to which the Rromas and gypsies are subjected to in many parts of the world. Rromas and gypsies’ civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights are being gravely violated. We call upon the World Conference Against Racism (WCAR) to recognize their rights. We also call upon international institutions and governments and civil society organizations to work on respecting such categories and putting an end to the violations, which they are subjected to.

The conference also voices its support of groups and organizations advocating the rights of Dalits and Casts in India. Cast discrimination is considered a new form of apartheid. The conference denounces practices of untouchability and discrimination to which they are subjected in all fields, including education, health, employment and ownership. We call upon the WCAR to adopt the claims of advocates of Dalits’ fundamental civil, political, economic and social rights and to take necessary measure to enforce such rights, especially in regards to women and children.


6- Calling upon the UN Security Council to review the international penal system and method of implementation of penalties. The eleven-year-experience of besieging the Iraqi people, that should be unconditionally and immediately put to an end, proves the size of the disaster, or rather genocide, to which Iraq has been subjected. No consideration shall overweigh the humanitarian principles.

7- The necessity of immediate Israeli withdrawal from the occupied Syrian territories in the Golan Heights and Mazara’ Shabaa (farms of Shabaa) in Southern Lebanon as per Security Council resolutions.

8- The necessity that aid-receiving states, in their relation with the international community and international funding institutions, do not agree to the conditions of the donors if such conditions contradict with, or have a negative impact on, the citizens’ fundamental rights. Donor institutions or states should not impose any conditions or policies that would contradict with human rights standards or make of states receiving funds or loans a favorable environment for violations of human rights.


9- Calling upon major industrial states to stop dealing with southern states as a dump for their nuclear and pollutant wastes.

10- The responsibility of former colonist states to support developing countries and compensate them for their colonial exploitation. Colonist states are called upon to apologize to, and compensate, the African peoples for practices of slavery that spread during the colonist era.

11- Respect of cultural and religious plurality bearing in mind that the cultural specificity to be celebrated is that which consecrates the citizens’ dignity and equality. This will result in promoting, rather that belittling, universal human rights standards.

12- Paying special attention to education on values of equality, tolerance and human rights, and developing educational curricula, enriching them with human rights principles and ridding them of any concepts that would consecrate discrimination and fanaticism.

13- Eliminating all forms of discrimination against women and recognizing their rights as part and parcel of the universal human rights.

14- The necessity that the world governments adopt effective social and cultural policies to integrate categories of persons of special needs in the social and cultural rights considering their current marginalization at all levels.

15- Developing press laws and legislation to safeguard the freedom of opinion and expression and promote the contribution of the media in disseminating human rights principles and fighting racism and racial discrimination.

16- Promoting the role of NGOs in disseminating the human rights culture, lifting all restrictions on their activities and encouraging the formation of more specialized international and regional networks to combat racism and racial discrimination.


Second: The Arab World and Issues of Racism and Racial Discrimination

Status of minorities

Arab governments failed to solve problems of discrimination against sectional, religious, cultural, linguistic, ethnic, national and racial minorities. Discrimination against minorities has resulted in social, cultural, developmental and economic imbalances between the population inside the same country. Failure to put an end to this problem opened the door for vast violations of human rights, the eruption of acts of internal violence, civil struggles and wars, caused grave damages to the right of development and peace and strengthened tendencies of animosity and hostility.

In this context, the conference asserts the following:

1- Respect for human rights, on top of which is full equality and enjoyment of full citizenship rights. Recognition of religious, racial, cultural and political plurality can be an appropriate approach to deal with such issues.

2- Denunciation of all acts of oppression and absolutism and launching wars against some minorities in the Arab world in particular acts of genocide, forced displacement and slavery since they constitute crimes against humanity. Condemnation of practices and policies that hinge upon exclusion from political participation on grounds of confession, religion or race, and of all forms of propaganda and incitement that are based on fanaticism, religious or national superiority or the like.

3- Supporting the struggle of minorities to achieves their rights as stipulated in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Minorities.

4- The necessity of promoting the Kurdish-Arab relationships on basis of mutual respect and the respect for collective rights of the Kurdish people, on top of which is the right to self-determination and to choice of its political future. Putting an end to manifestations of discrimination and oppression to which the Kurdish people is subjected to in its various places of residence. This is in addition to calling to convening a regional-international conference to arrive at just solutions to the Kurdish issue and empower the Kurdish people to achieve its national rights in the light of rules of the international law and on grounds of equality, the right to citizenship and the respect for human rights.

5- Seeking to put an end to tragedies of ethnic strives and civil war in Sudan and all forms of slavery, abduction and human rights violations. This is in addition to attempting to restore peace and democracy and to empowering citizens in South Sudan to their right to self-determination and safeguarding their equal rights of participation in managing the state’s affairs.

6- The necessity of acknowledging the problem of stateless persons or the so-called “Beduins,” in particular, in the Gulf countries. This problem includes the Kurds’ denial of an inalienable right of human rights and the right to citizenship. This is in addition to calling upon governments of the concerned states to grant Kurds their nationalities and tackle the problem of displaced Iraqis by restoring them back to their country and granting them their full rights.

7- The necessity of recognizing linguistic and cultural rights of the Amazeeg in countries of the Arab Maghreb (northwest Africa) as constituents of the national culture on basis of equality, the right of citizenship, respect for human rights and common homeland.

8- The necessity of adopting positive policies towards some marginalized racial categories, like Akhdam in Yemeni, to eliminate causes of social and economic exclusion based on the cultural heritage, to improve their conditions and integrate them in society as citizens having equal rights and obligations.

9- Calling upon Arab governments to observe that their sources are directed to all provinces and population in a balanced way, regardless of the size of their available resources, as a prerequisite for enjoyment of social and economic rights and the right of development. The absence of such prerequisite would assist in creating a favorable condition for fanaticism, extremism and violence.

10-The necessity of promoting efforts of disseminating the human rights culture and the respect for, and coexistence with, the Other, to encourage the culture of dialogue and cultural exchange and interaction between different races and ethnicities, on the ground of respect for cultural specificity of nations and peoples. In addition, a special attention should be made to the situation of women who face double discrimination because of their affiliation to minorities on the one hand, and for being women on the other hand.

11- Calling upon intellectuals, writers and (legal) scholars in the Arab world to work on examining, entrenching and drawing out roots of human rights in the Arab-Islamic culture and to highlight the contribution of the Islamic civilization to setting up the basis of human rights values. This would help in promotion of civilizational and cultural interaction between different cultures on basis of their common humanity, coexistence and dialogue rather than clashing and fighting. This cultural dialogue and interaction comes in contrast to some predicaments on the inevitability of struggle between civilizations and clashing between Islam and the west.

12-Providing the requirements of the civil society authorities and institutions to allow them to contribute in the development of societal structures and the state institutions. This shall be done to eliminate all forms of confessional discrimination and confessional tribalisms while asserting the protection of the right of confessional, sectarian and religious affiliation, respect of beliefs and the freedom of performance of religious rites.

Discrimination against Women

All Arab constitutions tend to stipulate equality between all citizens and non-discrimination on basis of gender. However, there is a hug gap between what women face in their daily lives and recognition of women’s rights as an integral part of the universal human rights system. Almost half of the Arab states did not ratify the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against women (CEDAW). Even ratifying states made some reservations that contradict with the essence of the convention.

Even worse, conservative currents adopt the narrowest interpretation of jurisprudence (Feqh), employ it against women and consecrate a culture that excludes women and confine them to traditional roles. This is in addition to official policies that are subject to extortion in the name of religion and that reproduce the anti-women culture whether through laws, in particular the personal status law, or through educational institutions or media platforms.

In this respect, the conference asserts the following:

1- Calling upon Arab governments which did not ratify the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against women (CEDAW) to ratify the convention with no reservations and calling upon ratifying states to lift their reservations. All Arab states should amend their institutional, legislative and constitutional systems to be consistent with the CEDAW and should establish mechanisms of implementation and supervise the modified systems.

2- Combating sexual, physical and psychological violence against women (domestic violence, sexual exploitation, prostitution, etc..). Governments should bear their responsibility towards finding radical solutions to such problems and providing victims of violence with protection and treatment.

3- Providing women with equal opportunities in political participation through education and political and economic support. Women should be allocated posts in decision-making institutions or others to guarantee their full and effective participation.

Discrimination Against Migrant Workers Inside or Outside the Arab world

Migrant workers lack full legal protection in Arab countries where they work. Different forms of discrimination prevail not only against migrant workers in favor of the citizens of the hosting states, but between migrant workers themselves according to their countries of origin.

Arab and foreign migrant workers suffer in the Gulf countries from the sponsorship system and are deprived of their fundamental rights. As to situation of migrant workers in the European countries, it is affected by policies that aim at reducing their numbers on the one hand, and the appearance of new waves of racism and xenophobia, that amounted to violence especially against workers of African or Arab descent, on the other hand.

Discrimination against migrant workers is manifested in unequal job opportunities and the deprival of workers of non-European states of some rights enjoyed by migrants from European countries.

In this respect, the conference asserts the following:

1- The necessity of respecting basic human rights of all categories of migrants in receiving states, including those compulsory residing therein in an illegal way. All states are called upon to review their domestic laws and making them consistent with international standards. States are called upon in particular to ratify the International Convention on the Protection of Migrant workers and Members of their Families of 1990.

2- Calling upon the League of Arab States to draft an Arab agreement on the protection of the rights of migrant workers and members of their families and calling upon Arab governments to conduct bilateral and multilateral agreements between exporting and receiving states of workers to safeguard the protection of migrant workers and criminalize the phenomenon of mass lay-off.

3- Annulling the sponsorship system enforced in the Gulf States.

4- Protecting foreign female migrant workers against sexual exploitation and slavery and safeguarding their social and economic rights.

5- Calling upon all world states to:
• Ensure migrants’ freedom of movement and take appropriate measures to safeguard equality of economic, social and political rights for migrant workers-regardless of their decent or nationality- in accordance with unified policies that pivot on the principle of equality;
• Take required legislative procedures to prohibit, ban and criminalize racist propaganda that incites xenophobia and other related intolerances.

Third: Israeli Racism and Rights of the Palestinian People

Many thought that the racist ideology has been totally terminated with the fall of its strongest symbol in South Africa. Nevertheless, the racist legal and institutionalized make-up upon which Israel was established is still existing and striving upon the international community’s double standards.

Deliberations of the conference revealed the depth of the ongoing tragedy of the Palestinian people, whether inside Israel, or in the occupied territories since 1967, or in the Diaspora. Israel defines itself as a Jewish state. Out of this definition, many racist laws were enacted to change the demography of the state. On top of these laws is the “Law of Return” and the ‘citizenship law’ that allowed for gathering Jews from all over the world and granting them automatically the Israeli citizenship.

Meanwhile, Israel absolutely rejects the enforcement of the right of Palestine refugees to return to their homes in blatant contravention of rules of the international law, international legitimacy and UN resolutions, in particular resolution no. 194.

As a result, Arab Palestinians who remained in their homeland were treated as “religious minorities” and were denied their national capacity and consequent collective rights. The Absentees’ Property Law of 1950, Jewish National Fund (KKL) Law of 1953 and the Planning and Building Law of 1965 have paved the way for confiscation of the properties of absent Palestinians. This resulted in the problem of displaced persons. Pillaged lands were considered not only as properties of the state but jointly owned by the “Jewish People” and non-Jewish are not allowed utilizing them. This was accompanied by forcing vast numbers of Arab population to leave their homes and villages. Law has intentionally ignored dozens of villages and Arab concentrations in the structural planning, thus obligating their evacuation and demolition.

Via these racist laws, 93% of Arab-owned lands inside Israel were confiscated. Inhabitants of unrecognized villages, who amount to more than 100, 000 were denied their right to habitat and basic services. This policy is known as “Concentrating Palestinians and restricting them to certain areas.”

As to the Palestinian occupied territories since 1967, Israeli racism was manifested in the occupying forces’ endeavor to impose a gamut of laws, practices and logistics to codify forced capture of Palestinian territories and forced modification of the geographical and demographical nature. This was accomplished through forcing the inhabitants to leave their lands to promote an apartheid regime. An embodiment of such regime can be found in:
• Confiscation of lands and establishment of settlement
• Evacuation of the indigenous people and their replacement with Israeli settlers other than inhabitants of the Palestinian occupied territories.
• Establishment of roads cutting across the occupied territories whose use is restricted to Israeli settlers and to the protection of the Israeli occupying forces.
• Occupation and annexation of Jerusalem in contravention of rules of the international law, principles of international legitimacy and security council resolutions.
• Demolition of houses and destruction of property in the Palestinian occupied territories.
• Imposition of compulsory sieges and policies of long-term closures that lead to the complete isolation of the occupied territories and internal segmentation. This is done through separating the West Bank from the Gaza Strip, and cities and villages from each other and their transfer into Bantustans sieged by settlements and troops of the Israeli occupying forces similar to the prevailing situation in South Africa before the fall of the former Apartheid regime.
• Control of water resources in the occupied territories –including groundwater- and deprival of Palestinian civilian population of minimum uses thereof in contravention of the 1949 Geneva conventions, in particular the Fourth Geneva Convention.
• Direct oppression of civilian population. Such oppression has been aggravated since the eruption of the Palestinian Intifada (uprising) in September 28, 2000. The latter erupted as a rejection of the continued racial occupation and the denial of the legitimate rights of the Arab Palestinian people.

Despite many resolutions by the UN General Assembly and Security council that deemed all legislative and administrative procedures to annex Jerusalem by by Israel null and void, Israel’s expansion of settlement was based on the same racist legal system. Israel considered the Palestinians of Jerusalem as foreigners whose right to return lapses once they leave it for whatever reason.

Continued confiscation and pillage of the Arab territories in Jerusalem allowed for spreading a wide belt of settlements at the cost of the indigenous people. This has been facilitated by Israel’s granted benefits and support of the settlement program. Such facilitation includes free acquisition of land, provision of loans free of interest for construction and exemption of settlers from paying taxes.

The Palestinian people have been suffering in exiles throughout 53 years. Israel has been disengaging itself from the UN and international legitimacy resolutions, in particular resolution no. 194 of 1948 that stipulates the return of refugees to their homelands and which is reaffirmed by the General Assembly in no less that one hundred subsequent resolutions. The aforementioned positively proves that the worn-out ideas that Israel created and sought to impose in the “final settlement” process- i.e. allowing symbolic numbers of refugees to return and settling the rest of refugees in exiles or inside a Palestinian state- are essentially inconsistent with rules of the contemporary international law and the inalienable legitimate rights of the Arab Palestinian people.

In this respect, the conference asserts the following:

1- The international community is called upon to bear its responsibility to liquidate the last stronghold of racism and apartheid consecrated by Israel as was the case with removing the before-the-last stain of dishonor in South Africa. This requires taking serious measures to oblige the apartheid system in Israel to concede to resolutions of the international legitimacy and give the Arab Palestinian people its rights.
In this context, the EU states are to take effective measure in accordance with article 2 of the Israeli-European Partnership agreement that considers as a condition Israel’s respect for human rights.

2- Total solidarity with the courageous Intifada of the Palestinian people in confrontation of racist practices of oppression and human rights violations perpetrated by the racist state of occupation and settlement. Assertion of the right of the Palestinian people to resort to all forms of struggle to put an end to the occupation and liquidate colonies and settlements in the Palestinian territories.

Establishing just peace in the region can not be based on acquiescence and submissive acceptance of fait accompli but rather on the respect for the inalienable rights of the Arab Palestinian people. From this perspective, the UN must scrutinize any peace agreement and verify that it is consistent with standards of human rights and the International Humanitarian Law and resolutions of the international legitimacy. In particular, Any peace agreement shall include the following:
• Safeguarding the Palestinian people’s right to self -determination and to establishment of its independent state on its national soil.
• Full and unconditional Israeli withdrawal from all occupied Palestinian territories in 1967 including Jerusalem and removing colonist settlements inside these territories.
• The right of the Palestinian refugees to return to their homeland and original houses as per resolution no. 194 and rules of the international legitimacy.

3- Israel bears the full responsibility for creating the problem of the Palestinian refugees through measures of exclusion, ethnic cleansing, racist massacres and racist laws.

4- Calling upon temporarily hosting Arab states to safeguard the civil, social, economic and cultural rights of the Palestinian refugees while asserting that this does not mean acceptance of the principle of settlement in hosting states- that Arabs and Palestinians refuse it- or relinquishment of the right of return. It should be considered that refugees’ enjoyment of their full citizenship rights promotes their resistance of plans aiming at undermining their right to final return to their homelands.

5- Calling upon regional and international developmental agencies and donor states to provide Arab hosting states of the Palestinian refugees with required financial support to meet their social and economic rights, to provide civil society institutions in concentrations of Palestinian expatriates because of the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories in 1967 and to the UNRWA to promote its role in upgrading the situation on refugees.

6- Calling upon the UN Security Council to recognize the legitimate claim of the Palestinian people represented in providing it with international protection against was of genocide, starvation and grave violations by the IDF and the Jewish settlers against Palestinian civilians since the eruption of the Intifada. Providing international protection for Arab minority in Israel and calling for establishing an international criminal court for trying war criminals, solders and leaders of the Israeli occupying forces and masses of settlers. Henceforth, States Parties to the Fourth Geneva Conventions are, as per provisions of article 146, called upon to prosecute persons accused of perpetrating, or ordering the perpetration of, grave violations of the convention and bringing them before the court.

The position of the Belgium judiciary regarding bringing Sharon before court for his responsibility for the Sabra and Shatilla massacre is considered a big progress as regrards prosecuting perpetrators of crimes against humanity. This position revives hopes that Europe –even once- would break the silence regarding racist massacres and crimes on the part of Israel.

7- Calling High contracting parties to the Fourth Geneva convention of 1949 to convene hastily to take practical procedures to guarantee that Israel concedes to its obligations by virtue of the Fourth Geneva Convention.

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