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28 June 2001

Leading international political and intellectual figures are coming together under the patronage of Nelson Mandela to sketch a vision of a twenty-first century free of racism, High Commissioner for Human Rights announced today.

From Mikhail Gorbachev to Jimmy Carter and Nobel prize laureates Elie Wiesel and Oscar Arias, over 20 individuals who have made their mark on contemporary history have answered the High Commissioner's call to "forge a real sense of vision and common purpose in the struggle for racial harmony and tolerance".

"The members of this remarkable group have spoken out consistently, loudly and clearly for tolerance, for valuing diversity and for the virtue of learning from the past to build a better future", Mrs. Robinson said today in London announcing the establishment of the Eminent Persons Group.

Mrs. Robinson said the Group will be looked upon to provide leadership and inspiration in the runup to the World Conference against Racism at the end of August, and beyond. The High Commissioner, who is also the Secretary-General of the Conference, to be held in Durban, South Africa, said the Group will "lift the debate to a higher level of moral awareness focusing on the values of how we relate to each other as human beings".

"The Group is an expression of the worldwide civil society alliance that is emerging against racism. Before, during and after Durban, I believe they can help build the critical mass of support needed to finally eradicate the plagues of racism and intolerance. They have very willingly and quickly come together because they believe in the inventive, creative and moral capacities ready to be released when we all finally realize that we are part of one human family".

Members of the Group will meet in Geneva on 2 and 3 August on the occasion of the the final preparatory meeting for the World Conference.



- Nelson Mandela, Former President of South Africa


- Martti Ahtisaari, Former President of Finland

- Oscar Arias, Former President of Costa Rica

- Patricio Aylwin Az�car, Former President of Chile

- Soheib Bencheikh El Hocine, Grand Mufti a Marseille

- Jimmy Carter, Former President of the United States of America

- Prince El Hassan, Jordan

- Cardinal Roger Etchegaray

- Gareth Evans, Former Foreign Minister of Australia

- Vigdis Finnbogadottir, Former President of Iceland

- Mikhael Gorbachev, Former President of Russia

- I.K. Gujral, Former Prime Minister of India

- Dr. Najima Heptulla, President of the Inter-Parliamentary Union

- Coretta King, (Widow of Martin Luther King)

- David Lange, Former Prime Minister of New Zealand

- Kuett Ketumile Masire, Former President of Botswana

- Federico Mayor, Former Director-General of UNESCO

- Rigoberta Menchu, Nobel Peace Prize

- Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth

- Dr. Nafis Sadik, Former Executive Director United Nations Population Fund and Special Representative of the Secretary-General for the World Conference against Racism

- Mario Soares, Former President of Portugal

- Elie Wiesel, Holocaust survivor Nobel prize winner

For further information, contact Katy Cronin or Sascha Pichler at ICG Brussels, tel: +32 2 536 00 64 or 70, email: [email protected]

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