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At a meeting for nongovernmental organizations at the Organization of American States (OAS) General Assembly in Cochabamba, Bolivia, B’nai B’rith International called for the swift approval of the Inter-American Convention against Racism and All Forms of Discrimination and Intolerance, which has been under discussion since 2004.

B’nai B’rith Director of Latin American Affairs Eduardo Kohn noted that the convention is an indispensable tool in the fight against discrimination and racism, both of which are on the rise in the region.

OAS Secretary-General Jose Miguel Insulza directly responded to B’nai B’rith International’s request, saying that not only does he agree that discussions on this matter have taken too much time, he also backs the convention and committed his office to call for a special meeting to push this convention forward.

B’nai B’rith has been collaborating with OAS member states in the drafting of this convention for the last eight years and—thanks to B’nai B’rith’s involvement—the draft includes a specific reference to anti-Semitism.

“We are encouraged to receive such a strong response from the secretary-general with the support of the other NGOs to move forward with this crucial piece of legislation,” said B’nai B’rith International President Allan J. Jacobs. “We remain committed to promoting anti-discrimination legislation wherever we can. Here in the United States B’nai B’rith supported the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act that was passed in 2009 and will continue to speak out against discrimination and hate crimes worldwide.”

Kohn also participated in a human rights working group with other NGOs, where he once again posed the need for the passage of the anti-discrimination convention. This language was later shared with the foreign ministers. Additionally, he and other NGO representatives spoke out against the tolerance of hate speech in certain countries, which prompted a harsh response from the representative of Venezuela, a country with a problematic record when it comes to hate speech, particularly toward the Jewish community.

“B’nai B’rith International is active in almost 20 countries in Latin America, and we communicate regularly with government officials, religious leaders and community members,” said B’nai B’rith International Executive Vice President Daniel S. Mariaschin. “Though this legislation was first discussed eight years ago, we are hopeful that the OAS will finally vote in favor of this legislation which will help protect the region from hatred, discrimination and intolerance of all forms.”