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Fight against racism goes on

UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Doudou Diène praised Swiss achievements

(Keystone)

Dignitaries from Swiss politics and international organisations have attended an event in Bern to mark the end of a four-year project combating racism.

The initiative funded 500 projects between 2001 and 2005 to the tune of SFr14.2 million ($10.8 million). From 2006 the government will spend SFr1.1 million annually on the fight against racism.

Interior Minister Pascal Couchepin opened the conference in the presence of Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights Alvaro Gil-Robles and United Nations Special Rapporteur on Racism Doudou Diène.

"We all know that the fight against racism is never over," Couchepin said during his speech.

He added that every citizen had a role to play, whether at work or play, and that the state had the task of observer and of ensuring equality.

"We must be on our guard," Couchepin said.

International praise

Gil-Robles – who had criticised Switzerland's treatment of asylum seekers in a report published in June – was full of praise for the work carried out under the project's aegis.

He stressed that the good work had to continue and called on the media to play its part in ensuring the population remained informed.

A flow of information would prevent irrational fears and ignorance, which formed the breeding ground of xenophobic and racist developments, he said.

As for the future, delegates agreed that combating racial discrimination was a long-term activity and that young people had to be educated about the importance of a society free from discrimination.

To this end, the bulk of the budget earmarked for next year will go towards teaching young people about such values.

swissinfo with agencies

In brief

The Swiss government sponsored the project against racism and for human rights to the tune of SFr14.2 million over a period of four years.

The project ran from 2001 to 2004.

From 2006 anti-racism projects will have an annual budget of SFr1.1 million.

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