Armenian Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian, Chairman of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe and Thorbjørn Jagland, Secretary General of the Council of Europe, opened in Yerevan a High Level Conference on “Combating Racism, Xenophobia and Intolerance in Europe.” The conference takes in the framework of the Armenian Chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe.
The conference has brought together state representatives, governmental, international and independent experts, representatives of international organizations and civil society. Issues on the agenda include racism and xenophobia in political discourse, the role of human rights institutions in combating racial and ethnic discrimination as well as topics related to combating hate speech and racial stereotypes on social networks and media.
Opening speech by H.E. Mr. Edward Nalbandian Chairman of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Armenia
“Dear Secretary General,
Participants of the Conference,
Ladies and gentlemen,
As a Chairman of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe, I am glad to welcome you at the high-level conference on “Combating racism, xenophobia and intolerance in Europe”. I would like to welcome at this conference the Secretary General and the Commissioner for Human Rights of the Council of Europe, as well as high-level representatives of all main structures of the Council of Europe – the Parliamentary Assembly, the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities, the Conference of International non-governmental organizations, as well as the General Secretariat and the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance.
We are pleased to note that international organisations, which are partners of the Council of Europe, have accepted the invitation of the Armenian Chairmanship and have joined us today – the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights, representative of the Secretary General of the League of Arab States.
It is also a pleasure to welcome the representatives of the member and observer states of the Council of Europe, the National Assembly and the Government of Armenia, international and local non-governmental organizations, academia and mass media.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Combating racism, xenophobia and intolerance has been among top priorities of the Armenian Chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe. The level and geography of participation at this conference demonstrate that the above mentioned challenges are relevant not only for the Council of Europe area, but also beyond it.
The fight against the racism, xenophobia, intolerance and discrimination has long been at the center of attention of the Council of Europe. In particular, the 1993 Vienna Summit adopted a special declaration and an action plan, which led to the establishment of the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance, and the mechanisms for the protection of the rights of national minorities. The 1997 Strasburg summit called for strengthening the fight against these challenges and emphasized the importance of cooperation with the European Union. The 2005 Warsaw summit strongly condemned all forms of intolerance and discrimination and expressed its determination to continue preventive actions. It initiated the intercultural and interreligious dialogue, which has been consistently implemented by the Committee of Ministers.
Different aspects of racism, xenophobia, intolerance and discrimination have been addressed many times by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe through its Resolutions and Recommendations, by the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities, the Commissioner for Human Rights of the Council of Europe.
The work of the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance merits a high praise. Its reports on member states and thematic recommendations on common policy reveal both specific and general problems.
It is also important to stress the role of such mechanisms as the European Convention on Human Rights, the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities and the precedents database of the European Court of Human Rights.
Different manifestations of racism, xenophobia, intolerance and extremism are not new challenges. However, nowadays, when the perception of distance and time has changed, when the countries have become increasingly interconnected and information becomes momentarily available to millions of people through the Internet, the fight against these occurrences is becoming ever important and demanding.
The intolerance and xenophobia violate human dignity, create an image of an enemy within the society, fuels mistrust, thus endangering the harmony of our societies. From the bitter experience of our history we know that this can result in hate driven crimes, and even crimes against humanity.
The agenda of this conference in Yerevan includes issues, which are cause of concern for the European societies, such as the use of racism and hate speech in political discourse, the role of political leaders and civil society in combating these challenges, the effective use of preventive tools, overcoming racial stereotypes, eliminating the expressions of xenophobia and intolerance and spread of hate-speech. These are not just topical issues, these are challenges that need to be addressed as a matter of priority. We must act in accordance with famous saying: “tolerance does not mean to tolerate the intolerant”.
I am confident that discussions during this conference will help us to streamline our future activities and make them more effective. I wish you a productive work.