Fight against Racism, Xenophobia and Discrimination
One of the most fundamental human rights principles is the equal dignity and rights of all people. This equality is established in Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and in Article 7 of the Austrian Federal Constitution. Article 14 of the European Convention on Human Rights also prohibits discrimination, saying that persons should not be treated unequally or worse on account of personal characteristics such as sex, race, colour, national or social origin, religion, language or opinion.
Based on this principle of the equality of all people, the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination of 1965, to which Austria is a state party, calls on all states to take concrete measures to combat discrimination against persons on account of their colour or ethnic origin. A Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination was established to monitor state activities to combat racial discrimination. The 14th Austrian state report was examined in 2002; the 15th Austrian state report was communicated in May 2007 to the CERD Committee.
The United Nations declared 21 March as the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination and has organised three world conferences against racism (1978, 1983, 2001). The most recent UN World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Intolerance took place in Durban, South Africa, in 2001. The outcome was a Declaration and a Programme of Action to combat racism, discrimination and intolerance worldwide.
Austria actively combats racism within the framework of the United Nations and in other organisations. To implement the Durban Programme of Action the Austrian Federal Government is working under the guidance of the Foreign Ministry on the drafting of an Austrian action plan against racism and xenophobia as a platform for coordination of the various measures already existing to combat racism at the national, regional and local levels.
In 2002 the Council of Europe established the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) with the task of monitoring legislation and other measures by Member States regarding racism and intolerance and of making proposals for improvement. For this purpose, independent experts also conduct country visits. Austria was last visited by ECRI in 2004 and the report on the visit was published in February 2005.
The OSCE Human Dimension also combats all forms of racism, xenophobia, anti-Semitism and discrimination under the auspices of the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) in Warsaw and its director Christian Strohal from Austria. Data and information on racism and discrimination are collected by means of a tolerance and non-discrimination information system. Three special representatives (Anastasia Crickley, Personal Representative on Combating Racism, Xenophobia and Discrimination; Gert Weisskirchen, Personal Representative on Combating Anti-Semitism; and Ömür Orhun, Personal Representative on Combating Intolerance and Discrimination against Muslims), the OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities, Knut Vollebaek, and the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, Miklos Haraszti, all work within the organisation to combat racism and intolerance.
Within the EU, Austria has offered continuous support to the European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia (EUMC), which was established in Vienna in 1998. The EUMC has collected, compared and analysed data on racist, xenophobic or anti-religious discrimination and attitudes in all Member States. On the basis of this data thematic reports and analyses are drafted for use by EU institutions and the Member States as a source of information and stimulus for action. On 1 March 2007 the EUMC was transformed into the European Fundamental Rights Agency with headquarters in Vienna. The Agency is responsible for the entire spectrum of fundamental rights protection in Europe, but racism and xenophobia will remain a special focus of the Agency’s work.