The WCC and the World Conference Against Racism (WCAR)

press releases



  • Statement by the World Council of Churches delegation at the UN World Conference Against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance, Durban, South Africa (07.09.01)
  • Ecumenical Caucus statement at World Conference Against Racism
  • Oral statement of the Ecumenical Caucus at the WCAR, made to the plenary session of governments (05.09.01)
  • Submission to the UNHCHR on the Draft Declaration of Programme of Action for the WCAR
  • Statement on the occasion of the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, 21 March 2001


  • Ecumenical team at UN PrepCom 2 for WCAR May 21-June 1 2001
  • Churches in Europe: Initiatives to overcome racism, xenophobia and racial violence. Dossier 1: Germany and Austria

    other sites

  • UN World Conference (WCAR)
  • Human Rights Internet, Canada (with pages for NGOs preparing for the WCAR)
  • United Methodist Church (USA) preparations for the wcar
  • The United Nations World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance (wcar), a meeting of all UN member states, takes place from 31 August to 7 September 2001, in South Africa. An NGO forum precedes it, 29 August - 2 September.


    Previous world conferences on racism were held in 1978 and 1983 and the UN has adopted programmes of action for three International Decades to Combat Racism and Racial Discrimination.

    The First Decade to Combat Racism and Racial Discrimination (1973-1982) provided a structure to focus on measures which should be taken to implement international instruments to eliminate racial discrimination and to launch a worldwide education campaign.

    The Programme of Action for the Second Decade for Action to Combat Racial Discrimination (l983-l992) was proclaimed at the 1983 World Conference. It emphasised recourse procedures for victims of racial discrimination, a sweeping world public information campaign and the drafting of "model national legislation" to guide governments.

    Candlelight march and church service to highlight racism
    Durban - 5 pm - 01.09.01

    The Third Decade to Combat Racism and Racial Discrimination (1994-2003) has been marked by a broadened view of the problem and the realisation that each society is affected by discrimination. The UN General Assembly urged governments to combat new forms of racism; discrimination based on culture, nationality, religion or language; and racism resulting from official doctrines of racial superiority or exclusivity.

    The wcar slogan is "United to Combat Racism: Equality, Justice, Dignity". The conference aim is to ensure that international standards and instruments are applied in efforts to combat it. It could also formulate recommendations for further action to combat bias and intolerance.

    The Conference’s First Preparatory Committee (PrepCom), held from 1 to 5 May 2000, in Geneva, defined the following themes as a provisional agenda of the wcar.

    1. Sources, causes, forms and contemporary manifestations of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance.
    2. Victims of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance.
    3. Measures of prevention, education and protection aimed at the eradication of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, at the national, regional and international levels.
    4. Provision of effective remedies, recourses, redress, compensatory and other measures, at the national, regional and international levels. (The word ‘compensatory’ is in square brackets in the text, a UN way of signaling that there is no agreement on the use of this word).
    5. Strategies to achieve full and effective equality, including international cooperation and enhancement of the UN and other international mechanisms in combating racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, and follow-up.

    There have been two subsequent PrepComs, both to resolve difficulties over the wording of texts of the Draft Declaration and a Programme of Action to be a dopted at the Durban Conference. The WCC has been represented at each PrepCom.

    WCC contribution towards the WCAR

    The context
    Racism has been a concern of the ecumenical movement for at least 70 years. However there has been a special focus on the issue since 1968 when the WCC Central Committee set up the Programme to Combat Racism (PCR). In 1998, during the VIIIth Assembly in Harare, The WCC celebrated the 30th anniversary of the Programme to Combat Racism.

    In 1995, the Central Committee of the WCC noted that: "Institutional racism and the ideology of racism, in their most pernicious forms, continue unabated in contemporary societies and still affect churches dramatically while ongoing social, political and economic trends are producing new forms of racism."

    In response to that challenge, the WCC’s work on racism aims to engage and accompany the churches to recognise, to understand and attempt to overcome racism wherever it exists in their midst. WCC continues the effort to combat racism as a central part of the churches’ life rather than something marginal. In this work, WCC tries to promote partnerships between Regional Ecumenical Organisations (such as the Christian Conference of Asia or the All Africa Conference of Churches) and national councils of churches which have programmes against racism, or which focus on racially/ethnically oppressed peoples, on Indigenous Peoples, Dalits, or women as victims of racism.

    The Ecumenical Study Process on Racism
    To understand and combat the old and new manifestations of racism in society and in the church, new analysis is needed. There is a need - and this is a difficult and challenging discussion - to identify oppressive, racist theologies. There is also an urgent need to understand the links, and distinctions, between racism, sexism, ethnocentrism, casteism and other "isms".

    The Ecumenical Study Process on Racism, mandated by the WCC Central Committee, is a response to these needs. The Study has been carried out by the Justice, Peace and Creation (JPC) team. It will present its findings to the Central Committee, in September 2002, in a document which has been so far entitled "Understanding Racism Today". Beyond that the main objective of the study is to analyse its global and regional trends, and redefine the focus for work on racism and its specific strategies.

    Back to JPC Racism page
    Back to "Current and ongoing UN involvements"

    © 2001 world council of churches | remarks to webeditor