World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance

Department of Public Information - News and Media Services Division - New York
Durban, South Africa
31 August 7 September 2001

RD/D/14
31 August 2001

 

SECRETARY-GENERAL URGES LEADERS TO GUIDE NATIONAL DIALOGUE ON RACISM

Following is the text of remarks made today by Secretary-General Kofi Annan at the round table of heads of State and government for the World Conference against Racism in Durban, South Africa:

It is good to see you all here. We have heard many speeches today, and no doubt will hear many more as this Conference continues. So I do not intend to make another one now. All I want to stress, briefly, is the tremendous responsibility that resides with you once we all begin the all-important effort to fulfil the promises made here in Durban.

With your power as leaders, you can move the machinery of government to put in place the constitutional, legislative and administrative guarantees that protect against discrimination. From your position, you can tackle the problems that fuel intolerance, such as unemployment.

And as your leaders of your countries, you can guide the national dialogue on racism. Even simple acts, such as attendance at festivals or events held by the minority communities, can send a clear message from the top that diversity is something for a society to cherish -- and that you will tolerate nothing less.

The path ahead must be one of dialogue: inclusive and constructive, with give and take, respect and mutual understanding. But more than any agreement on a document reached here in Durban, it is real progress in peoples' day-to-day lives that will be the ultimate test of whether this Conference succeeds.

I hope that each of you will place the full weight of your office, as well as your personal commitment, behind this struggle. Thank you again for taking the time out of your busy schedules to support this World Conference and your United Nations. I now look forward to hearing your comments.

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