U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay says discrimination against women, indigenous people, minorities and other vulnerable people is on the rise. In her annual address to the U.N. Human Rights Council, Pillay urges nations to make it a priority to combat racism and all forms of discrimination.  

High Commissioner, Navi Pillay says discrimination all too often is at the root of other human rights abuses.  She says combating discrimination in all its aspects is a priority for her Office and she urges all nations to make it their priority as well.

In the run-up to International Women's Day on March 8, she tells governments much remains to be done to overcome discrimination against women and girls.  She says discrimination triggers violence against women.  

She says this form of discrimination also creates the conditions in which impunity can fester.

"Although at its most brutal in times of war, violence against women often stems from stereotypes, prejudices, and the lack of equality that had condoned such violence all along," Pillay said. "Rendering justice to the victims is, therefore, not only a moral imperative, but also a legal obligation without which communal welfare is compromised."  

Pillay notes discrimination also disproportionately affects migrants.  She warns the global financial crisis is likely to give rise to anti-foreigner and anti-migration sentiment and discriminatory practices.

The U.N.'s human rights chief says over the past year there have been encouraging as well as worrying developments.

On the plus side, Pillay says she welcomes the decision by the new U.S. administration to close the Guantanamo Bay detention center and to ban harsh methods of interrogation.

But she says, the bad news outweighs the good.  Pillay highlights the serious violations of human rights and international humanitarian law in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Somalia and Zimbabwe.

She calls the situation in Sudan a pressing concern following the warrant for the arrest of the country's President, Omar Hassan Al-Bashir by the International Criminal Court for crimes allegedly committed in Darfur.

"I join the secretary-general in urging the government of Sudan to continue to cooperate fully with all U.N. entities and their implementing partners, while fulfilling its obligation to ensure the safety and security of the civilian population, U.N. personnel and property, and that of its implementing partners," said Pillay.

Pillay appeals for the safe passage of civilians who are trapped in the conflict zone in northern Sri Lanka.  She says those responsible for political killings, disappearances and other violations committed during this lengthy war must be brought to justice.

She expresses dismay at the harrowing experiences of the Rohingya minority of Burma who fled their country by sea.  She says she is concerned about serious allegations of human rights violations perpetrated during and following last August's conflict in Georgia, over the breakaway region of South Ossetia.