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
1 September 2001
PM and Night Meetings
DISCRIMINATION AGAINST MINORITIES, MIDDLE EAST, REPARATIONS FOR SLAVERY
AMONG ISSUES RAISED AT WORLD CONFERENCE AGAINST RACISM
The World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance, during contiguous meetings, covering the afternoon and evening, heard from 48 speakers, who focused on such issues as reparations for slavery, the slave trade and colonization, education, globalization and economic development, discrimination against ethnic minorities and the situation in the Middle East, as it continued its general debate. Many speakers talked of action under way at the national level to overcome racism.
The Conference takes place in Durban, South Africa from 31 August to 7 September, providing an opportunity for the world to engage, for the first time in the post-apartheid era, in a broad agenda to combat racism and related issues. The Conference's objectives are to produce a declaration that recognizes the damage caused by past expressions of racism and that reflects a new global awareness of modern forms of racism and xenophobia; to agree on a strong practical programme of action and to forge an alliance between governments and civil society that will carry the fight against racism forward.
On the subject of reparations, Abdul Sattar, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Pakistan, said that the past could not be undone, but the scars of slavery and colonial domination would not heal with the passage of time, nor with verbal atonement. A measure of restitution was necessary, through concrete affirmative action, to redress the economic, social and psychological ravages suffered by victim communities. He suggested that this Conference request the United Nations Secretary-General to appoint a group of eminent experts with a mandate to recommend appropriate measures for redress and restitution.
Addressing the problem of the Middle East, Louis Michel, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs of Belgium, speaking on behalf of the European Union and associated States, said that that long-running tragedy was a major source of concern. It was primarily a territorial dispute, a clash between two sets of suffering people. The positions of the parties and the peace endeavours being made were well known, but this Conference was not the place to discuss them. In Durban, the first job was to reaffirm emphatically that incitement to hatred and all acts of racism and racial discrimination committed by individuals or groups of individuals were unjustifiable and reprehensible, wherever they occurred.
Mark Malloch Brown, Administrator, United Nations Development Programme, said that only when political and economic space could be seized and used by those who were discriminated against would racism end. Exposing racism, even affirming that as a global society we must condemn it, was a beginning, not an end, he said. The tangled web of political economy and culture that had for too long, in too many places, allowed discrimination of all kinds to take root, survive and grow must now be confronted. Those knots -- some centuries old, others alarmingly new -- must be cut. Only then could the excluded rise to their full potential.
Kamal Kharazzi, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Iran, however, said that an important task for this Conference was to identify the contemporary forms and manifestations of racism and racial discrimination. Today, the most vivid manifestation of institutionalized racism was Zionism. What other than racism could one call the uprooting of an entire people from their own land, driving them into diaspora, the unabated killings and massacre of innocent Palestinians and the building of Jewish settlements? he asked. Rejection of Zionism should in no way be construed as an attack against Judaism or the Jewish people, he said. Anti-Semitism and oppression of the Jewish people in Europe during the Second World War must be rejected in the same vein as today's Islamophobia, anti-Arabism and anti-Palestinian practices.
The Minister of Industry, Employment and Communications of Sweden, Mona Sahlin, identified another form of discrimination. She said that sexual relations between people of the same gender were criminal offences in more than 70 countries, and in some of those, the death penalty was imposed. Constantly, homosexuals and people with foreign background were target groups for hate crimes by many racists. Protection and the rights of those people must be strengthened.
The Minister of Labour of Finland, Tarja Filatov, said this Conference should focus on contemporary slavery-like practices. Discrimination and other violations of human rights or the economic and social rights of minorities may force women and children, among others, into bonded labour or the transnational sex industry. Governments should use all available measures to prevent and combat such trafficking.
The Second Vice-President of Panama, Dominador Kayser Bazan; the Vice President of Croatia, Jeljka Antunovic; the Deputy Prime Minister of Slovakia, L'ubomir Fogas; the Minister of Planning and Cooperation of Chile, Alejandra Krauss; the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Cooperation of Mauritania, Dah Ould Abdi; the Vice-Chancellor and Federal Minister for Foreign Affairs of Germany, Joschka Fischer; and the Minister for Foreign Affairs of Liechtenstein, Ernst Walch, spoke as well.
Also addressing the Conference were Margaret Wilson, Minister in Charge of Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations, Associate Minister of Justice of New Zealand; John O'Donoghue, Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform of Ireland; Goran Svilanovic, Federal Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia; Charles Josselin, Minister in Charge of Cooperation and Francophonie of France; Dimitrij Rupel, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Slovenia; Renato Ruggiero, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Italy; Anil Gayan, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Regional Cooperation of Mauritius; Karen Jespersen, Minister of the Interior of Denmark; Pall Petursson, Minister of Social Affairs of Iceland; Mohammed bin Nukhaira Al Dahri, Minister of Justice of the United Arab Emirates; Juli Minoves-Triquell, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Andorra; and Joseph Philippe Antonio, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Haiti.
The Minister for Social Affairs of Nicaragua, Jamileth Bonilla; the Minister of Ethnic Affairs of Estonia, Katrin Saks; the Minister of Justice of Brazil, Jose Gregori; the Alternate Minister for Foreign Affairs of Greece, Elissavet Papazoi; Special Envoy of the President of Sri Lanka, Lakshman Jayakody; the Minister of Labour and Social Affairs of Spain, Juan Carlos Aparicio Perez; the Minister of Justice of Ethiopia, Worede Wold Wolde; the Minister of Communication of Burundi, Luc Rukingama; the Minister for Foreign Affairs of Argentina, Jorge De la Rua;, the Secretary of State of Canada, Hedy Fry;the Minister Delegate to the Prime Minister in Charge of Human Rights, Communications and Relations with the Chamber of Deputies of Tunisia, Slaheddine Maaoui; and the Secretary of State, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Romania, Mihnea Motoc spoke as well.
Interventions were also made by the Federal Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs of Austria, Albert Rohan; the Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs of Poland, Grazyna Bernatowicz; the Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs of Lithuania, Oskaras Jusys; the vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs of Lao People's Democratic Republic, Phonsavath Boupha; the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Immigration and Multicultural Affairs of Australia, Kay Paterson; the Under-Secretary for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Oman, Sayyid Badr Hamad Hamood Al Bussaid; the Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Foreign Affairs of Singapore, Zainul Abidin Mohamed Rasheed, and the representative of Jordan.
Leandro Despouy, Chairperson of the fifty-seventh session of the Commission on Human Rights; Ruud Lubbers, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR); and Carol Bellamy, Executive Director of the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) also took the floor.
The representatives of Turkey and Greece exercised their right of reply.
The Conference will meet again tomorrow at 10 a.m. to continue its general debate.
DOMINADOR KAYSER BAZAN, Second Vice-President of Panama: Panama is a country of transit and a meeting point for people of several cultures and nations. For five centuries various human peoples have come together in Panama. We have been turned into a model of a multilingual, multi-ethnic and cosmopolitan society. Such diversity is one of the important factors of our national unity. Our country has also indigenous people in various areas, covering one fifth of our country. Legislation in these areas reflects respect for them.
However, people of Panama have also known the harsh injustice of racist practices, which began during the construction of the Panama Canal. In the Canal Zone racist positions were implemented, and the so-called Silver Role and Gold Role established categories of labourers based on the colour of their skin. That historical experience instilled a profound feeling of human solidarity. The Government has declared 30 May of each year as the day to commemorate black peoples. We are not a perfect society, but our development will continue to go forward.
This Conference offers an opportunity to develop policies, strategies and programmes aimed at ending racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, particularly those against indigenous people, women, children, people from black descent, migrants and the disabled. Those people need access to fair justice and to opportunity. It is imperative to step up preventive measures, such as education and information. We will only be able to take up the challenge before us and overcome the historic damage inflicted by centuries of racism if our efforts are merged and if we work together with civil society.
LOUIS MICHEL, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs of Belgium, speaking on behalf of the European Union (EU), Bulgaria, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia and Turkey: Our message must be clear and strong: racism and racial discrimination are grave violations of human rights and a threat to democratic societies and fundamental values. The International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination is the universal basis for our determination. The references to that past, with the hateful practices of trafficking in human beings and slavery, and with the reminder of immense suffering caused in the colonial era, has been salutary. We recognize that slavery and the slave trade have contributed to existence of contemporary forms of racism and racial discrimination. They have also contributed to the poverty, marginalization, social exclusion, instability and insecurity which affect many people in the world.
The hydra of racism is constantly raising its head, with ever-changing methods and techniques, including the misuse of new technologies. The duty of permanent vigilance, prevention by education and training, protection of the most severely affected and vulnerable groups and integration of the equality of the sexes into policies is more urgently necessary than ever. That must involve reinforcing the legal framework responsible for its effective implementation and by dynamic interaction between governments, non-governmental organizations and other protagonists of civil society. The Union has been visionary in developing the fundamental freedoms and in creating modern constitutional States. Yet it has also been the scene of ideologies in total opposition to the fundamental values of humanity. Today's Europe is a Europe of peace. Other experiments, following a similar approach, have been undertaken in various regions of the world. The Union cannot but welcome this since reconciliation is a fundamental instrument in the fight against racism and xenophobia.
The long-running tragedy in the Middle East is a major source of concern. That is primarily a territorial dispute, a clash between two sets of suffering. The Israeli population has not been spared and the Palestinian population is paying an even heavier price. The positions of the parties and the peace endeavours being made are well known, but this Conference is not the place to discuss them. Here in Durban, our first job is to reaffirm emphatically that incitement to hatred and all acts of racism and racial discrimination committed by individuals or groups of individuals are unjustifiable and reprehensible, wherever they occur. As political leaders, we have to address the basic issues, since history and public opinion in our countries would look on us with incomprehension if we failed to grasp the unique opportunity afforded by this Conference to help shape the new humanity of the twenty-first century.
MONA SAHLIN, Minister of Industry, Employment and Communications of Sweden: Unfortunately, no country in the world is free of the scourges of racism, and racial discrimination. Governments have the primary responsibility for fighting them. But the shared responsibility of the international community must also be emphasized. What we say and decide here in Durban will inspire people all over the world to make greater efforts to achieve more just societies. But what we do not say and decide here is equally important. We must not allow differences of opinion to hinder us in our task of giving concrete direction for continued efforts throughout the world to counteract different forms of intolerance. I regret that this Conference has been overshadowed by current conflict situations.
Regrettably, racism and discrimination in Sweden have found more and more aggressive expression. In recent years we have witnessed an increase in violence and harassment against immigrants, homosexuals, Jews and Roma. We have seen journalists, policemen and politicians attacked. We are extremely concerned about this development. In February, the Swedish Government adopted a national action plan against racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance. Education and a raising of awareness are essential tools in the fight against those phenomena. The "Living History Project" aims at increasing awareness of history and of how the past, the present and the future are intimately related.
Individuals may suffer from discrimination on the grounds of race, colour, descent or national or ethnic origin. Let me draw your attention to individuals who suffer discrimination on other grounds, such as their sexual orientation. For the Swedish Government it is self-evident that all human beings must be treated equally, irrespective of their sexual orientation. Sexual relations between people of the same gender are criminal offences in more than 70 countries, and in some of these, the death penalty is imposed. Violence by the police and other representatives of the State is common. Violations by "ordinary people" at school, in the workplace or on the street are also often reported. Constantly, homosexuals and people with a foreign background are both target groups for hate crime. Protection and the rights of these people must be strengthened. I am convinced that some time in the future, people will be respected for what they are, regardless of their sexual orientation.
JELJKA ANTUNOVIC, Deputy Prime Minister of Croatia: Racism, slavery and slave trafficking have made the most shameful pages of human history. In the contemporary, sophisticated world, the forms and expressions of discrimination have also become sophisticated, but with the same results. A recent occurrence of ethnic cleansing in Europe only shows that that evil is still present and that many efforts are necessary on all possible levels to eradicate it. Racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance have to be discussed in the context of the overall condition of human rights at the national, regional and international levels. States should make comprehensive national programmes for protection and promotion of human rights.
With the view of promoting human rights, and especially the value of diversity based on race, religion, origin, colour, culture, language or national or ethnic belonging, Croatia is organizing the International Conference on Human Rights and Democratization, in cooperation with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and the European Union. That Conference will take place in Dubrovnik from 8 to 10 September as a follow-up to the Vienna Conference on Human Rights in 1993, as well as in the light of this World Conference, and will explore diversity as a basis and linking factor for mutual understanding and cooperation.
The world has reached a level where it is necessary for each individual to change their minds and hearts if we want to continue on the way of sustainable development. Each individual should cherish positive attitudes towards all other individuals as being equal in their dignity, rights, freedoms and responsibilities. Positive attitudes must be transformed into everyday behaviour, into concrete action which will make a positive mindset a living reality.
L'UBOMIR FOGAS, Deputy Prime Minister of Slovakia: The harmful experience of the past and today's reality show how much the international community owes to individuals. The Conference can give an impulse that can lead to the eradication of racism. Slovakia is pledged to play a role in this. The United Nations General Assembly declared this year "The International Year of Mobilization against Racism." People are still discriminated against by the colour of their skin. Respect for human rights needs to remain sacrosanct. In preparation for the regional European conference against racism, Slovakia held a national conference in which it established a broad programme to educate children and young people. It also established guidelines for the mass media, asking them to respect tolerance and respect. The national conference also took a clear-cut stand against anti-Semitism. In fact, 9 September is deemed a national day of remembrance of the Holocaust.
The Government has adopted a long-term solution for the living standards of the Roma community. Nevertheless, the international community needs to cooperate better in this area. The Government will continue to implement policies to eliminate all forms of racial discrimination, xenophobia, anti-Semitism and all other forms of intolerance. Slovakia is convinced that a political consensus can be achieved with regard to the declaration and programme of action. It is hoped that those will be the sound foundation of a building based on tolerance and inclusion.
ALEJANDRA KRAUSS, Minister of Planning and Cooperation of Chile: Along the long road that has led us to this Conference we have reached many important agreements, and though difficulties remain, our present task is to continue our efforts in order to ensure the world's peoples the right to live in a more tolerant and inclusive world -- the right to have rights. We have no option but to soldier on, since no society can yet claim to be entirely free of racism or other forms of intolerance. Our challenge is to work together on a shared vision for the future. To construct that vision, we must look at the past and recognize memory as a collective human right. Only if we are familiar with history will we be able to raise our voices and declare, as emphatically as we can, "never again".
In December 2000, Chile hosted the regional conference of the Americas in preparation for this World Conference. All the participants, including many representatives from civil society, expressed their political will to achieve a higher quality of co-existence more humane and egalitarian than ever before. The various national histories of the region reflect the exclusion, marginalization and discriminatory treatment of indigenous peoples, persons of African descent, migrants and mestizo, among others.
We believe that a modern approach to the problems of discrimination, within the terms of the mandate of this Conference, should also address the situation of other groups, such as women and children, adolescents, elderly and the disabled, who suffer the cumulative effects of various forms of exclusion. Ensuring equality and respect for different cultures is essential if we are to live in a fair and democratic world. In a message from the indigenous people of my country: It is time to overcome the distress of discrimination; it is time to construct a better world, fairer, freer and equal to everyone, without exclusion. This is our challenge and it cannot wait.
DAH OULD ABDI, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Cooperation of Mauritania: We must combat racism relentlessly together and this Conference will help make a substantial contribution to the building of a new world in which we can all live in harmony and with mutual respect. To reflect our commitment to this principle, I would like to point out that in 1998 our Government established a human rights commission to promote tolerance and the indivisibility of human rights.
This Conference is being held when the situation in the Middle East and occupied territories is becoming more and more of a concern. We must ensure the safety of Palestinian peoples and holy places. Palestine must achieve its legitimate right of independence. This is the only way to achieve a just, lasting and comprehensive peace throughout the region. Overall, we must ensure that the Conference identifies appropriate measures that will protect the rights of today's, tomorrow's and future societies. The Conference will be judged on whether or not it can successfully elaborate the machinery for genuine international solidarity that can lead to a new era of development, prosperity and peace for all.
JOSCHKA FISCHER, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Germany: Racism and xenophobia have led humanity into the darkest depths, into mass slavery and colonialism, the eradication of entire populations on several continents, or in more recent times, the mass murders in Rwanda and Burundi. The twentieth century's most terrible crime of all, however, took place in Germany: the genocide of 6 million European Jews, of Roma and Sinti. The memory of this act -- which can in no way be relativized -- and the responsibility deriving from it, will lastingly shape Germany's policy. Germany, therefore, can not accept the trivialization, relativization or even denial of the Holocaust, and it will resolutely counter any such attempts. At this Conference, the starting point must be the past. In many parts of the world, the pain of the persisting consequences of slavery and colonial exploitation still sits deep. Past injustice can not be undone. But to recognize guilt, assume responsibility and face up to historical obligations may at least give back to the victims and their descendants the dignity of which they were robbed.
The prime goal of the European countries must be to help the developing countries overcome poverty and become integrated into the world economy, and to strengthen their capacities for good governance and thus for action on their own responsibility. The Cologne Debt Initiative for the poorest countries, as well as support for the New African Initiative, the United Nations AIDS Fund and the aim of halving extreme poverty by 2015 are a few examples of Germany's solidarity. But efforts have to be stepped up considerably in the future.
The shocking increase in violence and hatred in the Middle East leads to the gravest concern. The many victims and their families on both sides deserve deep sympathy. The vicious circle of violence must finally be broken using all means available. The Israeli and the Palestinian peoples have a right to collective and individual security, to a life without fear, a life in dignity and offering prospects for their children and grandchildren. That includes Israel's right to exist, which is regarded as inviolable, but equally also the continuing and unqualified Palestinian right to self-determination, including the option of a State.
ERNST WALCH, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Liechtenstein: Colonialism, slavery and the slave trade are dark chapters in the book of mankind's history. Those humiliating practices gave rise to a concept of superiority and inferiority among human beings, leading to the violation of human rights. Along with this, the one-sided exploitation of land and resources contributed to poverty, social injustice and underdevelopment of entire regions. We deeply regret those historical wrongs. We support all common efforts undertaken by the international community in that regard and have ratified, without reservations, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination.
The fight against racism lies at the very heart of Council of Europe's activities, particular in the efforts carried out by its Commission against Racism and Intolerance. The Strasbourg conference against racism of October last year resulted in an action-oriented political declaration. Furthermore, the Council of Europe has been very successful in the elaboration of international legal instruments to combat racist phenomena. I draw attention to the convention on cyber-crime, soon to be adopted by the committee of ministers of which I am the current chairman. In July, the committee approved a recommendation calling on member States to adopt effective policies and measures to prevent racism in all sports, in particular in football.
In Liechtenstein, foreigners make up 40 per cent of the total population. Liechtenstein attaches great importance to the integration of foreigners. Fortunately, there are no political parties with xenophobic platforms, nor do any anti-Semitic or other racist movements exist. However, Liechtenstein has also been witnessing a rise in right-wing xenophobic tendencies in recent years. This prompted the Government to draw up a catalogue of measures to prevent and combat such tendencies.
LEANDRO DESPOUY, Chairperson of the fifty-seventh session of the Commission on Human Rights: The respect for human rights is one of the cornerstone achievements of the last century. History shows that discrimination is not just the violation of one human right, but a door that leads to the violation of many human rights. The question of discrimination and racism is not just of the past -- it is perfectly relevant today. And today, there are new forms of discrimination as well. Combating these new forms has to be a priority.
Some of these news forms come from exclusion and marginalization. Today, great contrasts exist. One large segment of the population enjoys the benefits from the new technologies that have led to the new economy. On the other hand, there are larger segments of society that live in extreme poverty. The search for a more inclusive international order is one of the greatest challenges facing the international community today.
Durban needs to have follow-up mechanisms that have to be more effective than previous ones from other conferences. But this can not be achieved without the interaction of civil society, including non-governmental organizations and media, for example. There has to be oversight by many organs of the United Nations, including the General Assembly, the Commission on Human Rights, the Subcommission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights, and the treaty bodies, among many others. Mrs. Robinson has talked of establishing a follow-up unit within the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.
MARK MALLOCH BROWN, Administrator, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP): Equality of rights for all is the indispensable foundation on which human development must be built. Yet, simply granting such rights in law is not enough. In many cases, a complex, often invisible combination of political, economic, social and cultural knots continues to tie down people of colour, Roma, indigenous peoples, refugees, castes such as Dalits, and other groups.
Our work as a development agency has taught us that legal changes are not enough. We must go beyond this to the fuller agenda of human development itself. Only when political and economic space can be seized and used by those who are discriminated against will racism end, because it lies not just in minds, but in systems and structures too.
Exposing racism, even affirming that as a global society we must condemn it, is a beginning, not an end. We must now go the next step and confront that tangled web of political economy and culture that has for too long, in too many places, allowed discrimination of all kinds to take root, survive and grow. Those knots -- some centuries old, others alarmingly new -- must be cut. Only then can the excluded rise to their full potential.
RUUD LUBBERS, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees: Even at the dawn of the twenty-first century, our dreams of a more unified and inclusive world remain unrealized. Globalization has not delivered a more unified world. On the contrary, it has created new rifts and fault lines within the common human family. We see more rather than fewer insidious national, ethnic, religious, social and cultural distinctions being drawn between people, thereby dividing them from each other.
As High Commissioner for Refugees, I have 22 million persons of concern to me. How come? More effective prevention is needed, one might say. Yes, certainly. The warlords and leaders of failed States bear great responsibility for civil wars. But it is also fair to say that many conflicts are nurtured by today's market-oriented economy. Global organized crime, human smuggling in particular, is also on the rise and represents a particular threat. This Conference speaks about intolerance. That is important, but it is not enough. We need respect. Respect for each individual.
This Conference will only make a difference to the world if it becomes a "conference of respect" -- respect for all people in all their diversity. Democracy is the key to ensuring that different peoples can live together in peace. Democracy is not just about elections. Refugees are excluded from real democracy. But as High Commissioner for Refugees I would like to stress that history teaches us that refugees are perfectly capable of becoming good and valuable citizens. So what to do with those 22 million of concern to me? Go for prevention? Go for durable solutions? These suggestions are fine in and of themselves, but what they have in common is that they can only be carried out when there is respect. Respect for refugees going home; respect for the refugee who is not a burden, but instrumental in local development; respect for the refugee from abroad, because he will enrich society.
MARGARET WILSON, Minister of Justice of New Zealand: Acknowledgment and acceptance of diversity requires tolerance from everyone. It also requires countries to confront their own histories from the perspectives of all those affected. That requires considerable courage because there is a tendency to live in the present as though it was unformed by the past. It is not possible to move forward unless the past is confronted.
New Zealand is in the painful process of doing that. New Zealand was founded in 1840 on a treaty between two peoples -- the Treaty of Waitangi between the British Crown and the majority of Maori chiefs. The Treaty was not honored by the Crown in the spirit in which it was signed. In 1986, the Government decided that it could move forward only if the wrongs of the past were acknowledged, and a process put in place to redress those wrongs. Therefore, New Zealand's comments at this Conference are founded upon direct experience. That experience has shown that there is no single way to redress the consequences of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance. Each country has to find its own way of achieving the goals of the Conference. What New Zealand seeks from the Conference is a framework to combat racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance at the national, regional and international levels. Nationally, New Zealand seeks ideas from this Conference to achieve a society that is kinder, fairer, more prosperous, innovative, tolerant, progressive and advanced.
New Zealand believes this Conference should acknowledge and condemn injustices of the past. It is equally important to deal with pernicious contemporary forms of racism, particularly through preventative action such as education. It is only through development and implementation of such forward-looking strategies that the goal of becoming one human family whose richness lies in diversity can be realized. It is a goal that deserves everyone's energies.
JOHN O'DONOGHUE, Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform of Ireland: There is a growing recognition that the promotion and protection of rights is a key element in enhancing collective security. In Ireland, we do not accept that racism is innate. Racism is an ideology which developed in particular historical periods and which served to justify the expropriation of land and the enslavement of peoples on the basis that they were inferior. For historical reasons, we are sensitive to the complex political, economic, social, cultural and psychological legacy of colonialism and that the legacy can remain for years after the ending of colonial status. Historical injustices must be acknowledged honestly and condemned if we are to deal effectively with their legacy and to prevent their recurrence.
In parallel with the international human rights instruments, national legal systems must be continually reviewed. Ireland has addressed and will continue to respond to the challenges presented by the emergence of a multi-ethnic and multicultural Ireland. In the past three years we have enacted legislation outlawing discrimination on nine grounds, including the ground of race or ethnic origin. Legislation on its own, however, is not sufficient to prevent the appearance of racism or xenophobia. In Ireland we attribute much of our recent social and economic advance to the partnership structures enabling the social partners and non-governmental organizations to participate in the formulation, implementation and monitoring of economic and social policy. We place a high priority on maintaining an asylum process which is both fair and transparent.
Sceptics have sometimes questioned the effectiveness of international law, as it cannot be enforced in the way that police forces preserve national laws. We should, however, remember that national legal systems, if they are to work, do not rely on coercion but on a communal sense of social obligation and self-respect. We must invoke those same motives in achieving here a meaningful political declaration and a comprehensive programme of action. Too much is at stake here to allow disagreement -- on issues that can be pursued honourably in other forums -- preventing us from making a collective stand against racism.
GORAN SVILANOVIC, Federal Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia: The new democratic Yugoslav Government is aware that the territories we live in bear the legacy of ethnic strife, massive violations of human rights and of humanitarian law. I would like to reiterate our readiness to discuss openly all the tragic events in those territories. A comprehensive process of reconstruction and reconciliation means that truth should be found out and that all forms of human rights, violations and crimes should be uncovered and punished. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission set up in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and similar commissions being established in other countries may play an important role in that process.
We truly believe that national minorities and other ethnic communities, which account for a third of our population, represent a factor of successful democratization and development, security and social stability. At the same time, they represent not only an important element for the development of our society, but a test for the promotion of tolerance and dialogue in a modern State based on the rule of law. In view of the importance of that issue, we have started the process of ratifying the European Framework Convention for the Protection of Minorities.
I would like to express the hope that there will be no need for the documents emanating from the Conference to make a direct reference to the situation in certain countries or regions, since the Conference is an opportunity for each country to face its own historical legacy. In the context of building a multi-ethnic society, we are investing efforts towards the resolution of the situation in the province of Kosovo. Adopting a one-sided approach to that problem and making a reference to it in the final document from the Conference would greatly harm a sensitive process of the stabilization of the situation in Kosovo and Metohija and undermine efforts to consolidate and establish at least initial elements for building a multi-ethnic society in that province, including the return of the expelled non-Albanian population.
CHARLES JOSSELIN, Minister in Charge of Cooperation and Francophonie of France: The practice of slavery dates from time immemorial. Although officially abolished, in reality, it continues to be practised in various forms in some parts of the world. All civilizations have experienced, practised or approved it -- all of them. With the discovery of the New World, the organization of the slave trade brought an expansion of that odious commerce on an unparalleled scale. The Conference should be an occasion for everyone to acknowledge and express regret, and to hail the memory of all victims of that trade. It should act as a stimulus to the process of remembrance, for at present, those victims occupy too small a place in the official history and the collective memory of most countries. Children have to be educated to keep that history alive.
Colonialism is another dark page in the common history of countries. Initially inspired by the desire to appropriate the wealth of other continents, that system too was a source of suffering and humiliation. It is right and proper that colonialism's invisible and nameless victims be remembered today. That is not to say that colonialism can be defined purely in terms of its excesses or its systematic violations of human dignity. But there must be courage to face up to history, in all its aspects. Colonialism did have sustainable effects on the political and economical structures of those countries. The international community should show further solidarity in addressing the issues faced by those countries, many of which were subject to the slave trade. Misery is often a fertile breeding ground for hatred. Inequality in the world breeds all kinds of violence.
Cooperation between nations -- which is what the Conference seeks to reinforce -- is a powerful means of acting on the many causes of the phenomenon of racism, discrimination and exclusion. France has included that dimension in its policy on development aid, as in the relations of trust that it maintains with the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, on a number of projects.
TARJA FILATOV, Minister of Labour of Finland: Racism is an affront to human rights. No distinction should be made on the basis of ethnic origin, descent, language or religious belief, nor on the basis of gender, sexual orientation, disability, age or other category. There is only one race -- the human race. Racial discrimination today most commonly violates the rights of minorities. The promotion of minority rights is therefore a crucial tool to reduce vulnerability to racism. To further combat racism, specific measures must be undertaken which include the participation of targeted groups and civil society at all levels. Participation of minorities in decision-making processes is crucial. Particular attention must be paid to persons or groups subject to multiple forms of discrimination such as women and girls, who may face discrimination based on colour as well as gender. It must also be recognized that minorities themselves must respect human rights.
We need systematic awareness-raising efforts that emphasize historical imperatives and the contributions that different minorities, indigenous peoples and other ethnic groups have made to the development of our contemporary societies. Human rights education in schools and in workplaces can ensure mutual understanding and respect between ethnic groups. I would like to mention that in Finland the office of ombudsman for minorities will be established as of today. The ombudsman will act as an independent body and will be responsible for the prevention of ethnic discrimination as well as for the promotion of good ethnic relations and the monitoring of the implementation of non-discriminatory principles.
An example of racial discrimination which targets a specific group is the situation of the Roma minority. Throughout the ages, those peoples have been subject to exclusion and, in many cases, persecution and violence. Since the Roma are a multi-national minority, governments should join their efforts and promote increased regional cooperation on their behalf. This Conference should focus on contemporary slavery-like practices. Discrimination and other violations of human rights or the economic and social rights of minorities may force women and children, among others, into bonded labour or the transnational sex industry. Governments should use all available measures to prevent and combat such trafficking. To build something new, we must reconcile with the past. We must never forget past injustices. While this Conference should affirm that we acknowledge such injustices, the past should not prevent us from combating contemporary forms of racial discrimination and intolerance.
DIMITRIJ RUPEL, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Slovenia: True understanding and cooperation among nations can be developed only on the basis of full recognition of the ethnic, religious and cultural diversity of mankind. Various crises across the globe have clearly shown us how quickly the rejection of diversity can escalate into the most dreadful manifestations of violence. Gross human rights violations can no longer be hidden behind the competence of States. Global responsibility for the protection of human rights must be strongly reaffirmed, and Slovenia applauds the latest developments in international law. Criminal tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and for Rwanda have paved the way by holding individuals responsible for war crimes and crimes against humanity, especially in cases involving the practice of genocide. We hope that the Rome Statue of the International Criminal Court will soon enter into force. Ratification of that instrument is one of the most important Slovenian foreign policy priorities.
Under Slovenia's Constitution, everyone is guaranteed the right to preserve and develop his or her ethnic identity, to foster his culture and to use his own language. It also stipulates special individual and collective rights for Italian and Hungarian national minorities and for the Roma community. Special Government programmes are focused not only on assisting the Roma, but also on suppressing the prejudices towards them. We are also looking at ways to better address other situations in present-day Slovene society, such as those concerning the so-called new minorities that resulted from economic migrations, as well as those of refugees and asylum seekers.
I would like to particularly emphasize the need to fight racism and intolerance through educational activities. Young generations must be taught not just to tolerate, but also to understand and accept diversity as a normal characteristic of every modern society. Human rights education is an important part of awareness-raising activities and is being integrated into the curricula of our elementary and primary schools. As a party to all core human rights instruments, Slovenia decided to recognize the competence of the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. Our Government has therefore decided to receive individual communications alleging violations of the Convention. That will not only provide an international forum for such complaints, it is also likely to further improve human rights protection systems at the national level.
RENATO RUGGIERO, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Italy: When the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted in 1948, it was thought that the atrocities and aberrations that had characterized the period of the Second World War would never be able to occur again, and that the world had learned lessons from, ad been warned against any repetition of the racial crimes which constituted the Shoa of the Jewish people. The Holocaust, a horrendous sacrifice of human lives, is an enormous burden on the conscious of Europe and the world. It should never be forgotten because it is a continuous reminder of the racist folly, as are all other human tragedies created by racism, xenophobia and intolerance. And yet, more than 50 years later, with technological progress and amazing scientific achievements and the conquest of space, there is still the need to address the persistence and the resurgence, both domestically and internationally, of all kinds of violations of the dignity of men and women.
This Conference offers a historic opportunity to take stock of the past and make practical proposals for the future. Only by a fair balancing of those needs can the cathartic process be completed and the political will be demonstrated to lay down the new rules of mutual respect and solidarity with all human beings. Those are indispensable if the want is to root out of societies and the international community the viciousness and injustice of racism. This Conference has not been convened to address any specific situations or geopolitical conflicts or to produce solutions to problems generated by political tension. It can not, however, ignore the fact that as long as ethnic conflict continues to cause bloodshed throughout the planet, the peace and security of the whole world will remain in jeopardy. Negotiation must prevail over violence and chaos.
This Conference is not here to point a finger at any one country or another, but to heighten awareness of the grave and inexcusable nature of such conduct that, today, would count as crimes against humanity. One thing that can certainly be done is to lay the foundations for a new partnership based on solidarity and the assumption of responsibility by the international community.
A.K. GAYAN, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Regional Cooperation of Mauritius: We should never forget that slavery and the trading of human beings as commodities were and are the prime manifestations of racism. This Conference must recognize that those practices, by their very magnitude and trans-oceanic nature, have had crippling effects on the socio-economic development of many parts of the world. That is particularly true of Africa, which at the most critical moment in its history, was deprived of able-bodied men and women by the millions. It should also be recognized that slavery and the slave trade constituted crimes against humanity and those States, corporations or individuals which were involved directly or otherwise should be held accountable. Like slavery, colonization also destroyed the dignity and self-respect of the colonized. For all that, remedial action has to be initiated and the victims or their descendents must be at the receiving end of such action.
It is possible for us in Durban to, among other things, condemn racism in all its manifestations, call on the international community and world governments to ensure that the fundamental provisions of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights are adhered to and establish norms and principles that will effectively and permanently do away with racism, racial discrimination and related intolerance. The Conference must also ensure that meaningful follow-up initiatives are pursued. While the injustices of the past are too numerous to be catalogued, they should not be removed from human consciousness.
There are many ongoing conflicts in the world and all of them stem from some form of racism, discrimination or related intolerance. Whether it is the Middle East, Rwanda or Kosovo, the need for tolerance is unquestionable. Racism cannot yet be considered ancient history, but it can become so when this Conference identifies creative measures to combat all its manifestations. This Conference must succeed and we have to do the utmost to achieve positive results. Failure will be impossible to explain to the peoples of the world that are counting on us. We cannot afford to fail.
KAREN JESPERSEN, Minister of the Interior of Denmark: Manifestations of racism and racial discrimination exist in all parts of the world including, unfortunately, Denmark. Any such manifestations should never be taken lightly. In its extreme form, it may lead to ethnic cleansing and genocide, as has been seen in the past. It is necessary to constantly watch out for the dangerous signs of racism and to combat that phenomenon by all legal means. In that context, cooperation among the social partners is significant in creating concrete action in the workplace.
In Denmark, protection is offered to refugees who have a well-founded fear of persecution based on racial or ethnic origin. It cannot accept, however, that people are forced to leave their country of origin in that way. Therefore, it has to be emphasized that it is of crucial importance that work be done to ensure that the country of origin respects fundamental human rights, including freedom of religion. In that case, the right of return will be available to those refugees who so wish. Denmark also seeks to ensure that refugees in Denmark can live a dignified life and be empowered to realize their full potential. In order to strengthen the fight against discrimination and racism in Denmark, a new body for the promotion of equal treatment of all persons, irrespective of racial or ethnic origin, will be established. That is in line with the recommendations of this Conference that underline the importance of establishing independent national human rights institutions.
The Conference addresses multiple forms of discrimination, including discrimination based on religion and descent. Women and girls in particular are affected by multiple discrimination. There is a need to integrate a gender perspective into programmes of action against racism. That is all the more relevant since today there are serious set-backs to the status of women in some parts of the world, where even education is denied to them. Education, it has to be stressed, is one of the most effective ways of countering racism and intolerance.
PALL PETURSSON, Minister of Social Affairs of Iceland: Governments have a duty to fight against racism and xenophobia. They must take carefully planned measures, particularly in the fields of education, health services and social services. Those measures should promote better understanding, tolerance and respect on both sides between the newcomers and those among whom they live. It is essential to find ways to make it possible for immigrants to have a say in their own affairs. Political parties must make special efforts to involve people of foreign origin in the politics of their adopted countries. Too often, lack of proficiency in the local language is a barrier to such involvement in the workings of a democratic society.
That applies in the domestic context, but the significance of international organizations should also be remembered in that connection. Often, strife between nations can be traced back to arrogance and a lack of tolerance towards other cultures. For peace and progress in the world as a whole, it is vital that racism and xenophobia should be fought on all fronts. It should not be forgotten that no one is born a racist. Racism is a state of mind that is brought about in impressionable young people by the hints and attributes to which adults expose them, both consciously and unconsciously. That is why it is extremely important to try to foster an attitude of tolerance in children straight away, when they are of kindergarten age.
Until recently, Iceland was an unusually uniform homogenous society, but the situation is now changing and the number of people of foreign origin in Iceland is rising rapidly. For a number of years, in collaboration with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and the Red Cross, Iceland has invited a group of refugees to Iceland every year. Those groups have been located in small communities in the rural areas. In all cases, they have been made welcome and the process of adaptation to Icelandic society has gone smoothly. Various services have been established to meet the increase in the number of people of foreign origin in Iceland. It is worth mentioning that the State police have appointed a special representative where immigrants can voice their concerns. The country has a small population of slightly under 280,000, and the national language, Icelandic, is virtually unknown anywhere outside the country. That means that teaching new immigrants Icelandic is one of the most important tasks that country faces, since a grasp of the language is a key factor in enabling immigrants to take part in Icelandic society.
MOHAMMED BIN NUKHAIRA AL DAHRI, Minister of Justice of the United Arab Emirates: Fifteen centuries ago, Islam declared that all people constituted a single family. Since its creation, the United Arab Emirates has established legal structures to combat racial discrimination. Its Constitution contains several chapters dealing with economic, social and cultural rights. In the light of that humanistic approach, we have acceded to a large number of human rights conventions. The United Arab Emirates attaches special importance to matters related to workers. The Constitution mentions the rights of children, the right to health protection and the right to education for boys and girls. The labour market is open to men and women without distinction.
Despite efforts made by the international community to eradicate racism, racist practices exist around the world in various manifestations. This Conference has a duty to fight all forms of racial discrimination. Foreign occupation is one of the most dangerous ways in which human rights can be violated. We see this happening in Jerusalem today. Jerusalem is of extreme importance to the Christian, Judaic and Muslim religions. The Israeli policy of murdering children and assassinating leaders of the Palestinian people, the destruction of houses and the continuing settlement policy are all flagrant violations of human rights.
The United Arab Emirates urges the international community to mention in its declaration the violations of which the Palestinian people are victim and to reaffirm the right of the Palestinian people to liberty, dignity and self-determination. The final document of Durban cannot be discriminatory
KAMAL KHARRAZI, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Iran: Iran's commitment to be a part of the struggle against racism stems first and foremost from Islam's lofty aspiration of equality and brotherhood, as well as the ideals enshrined in Iran's Constitution. In the long history of Iranian civilization, before and after the emergence of Islam, respect for the dignity, equality and rights of the human person has been accorded a prominent status, and indeed, has been enriched by the inspiring teachings of Islam. Belief in and respect for unity in diversity of mankind is a deep-rooted concept in Iranian culture, allowing for preservation of distinct identities, while allowing common denominators of shared cherished values to bring all close to each other.
The catastrophic atrocities committed during the two world wars are still fresh in the mind of the international community. Although the Second World War ended the direct bloody conflicts between the global Powers of the time, it did not put an end to their racism and racial discrimination policies. It took many years before one of the last fortresses of racism crumbled. Who can ignore the valiant struggles of great men such as Nelson Mandela to eliminate the most dreadful form of racism? The bitter experiences of the past millennium have taught the human society valuable lessons. Those experiences have further solidified the firm determination of mankind to do its utmost to make the present millennium different from the past, and free from the previous injustices and inequalities.
An important task for this Conference is to identify the contemporary forms and manifestations of racism and racial discrimination. Today, the most vivid manifestation of institutionalized racism is Zionism. What other than racism can one call the uprooting of an entire people from their own land, driving them into diaspora, the attempted destruction of the national identity of a whole nation, the unabated killings and massacre of innocent Palestinians, the destruction of entire Palestinian villages and the building of Jewish settlements? Such policies and practices against the Palestinian people by Israel provide convincing evidence that Zionism is indeed racism. Rejection of Zionism should in no way be construed as an attack against Judaism or the Jewish people. Anti-Semitism and oppression of the Jewish people in Europe during the Second World War must be rejected in the same vein as today's Islamophobia, anti-Arabism and anti-Palestinian practices. But what happened in Europe then can in no way be used to cover 50 years of Zionist atrocities against the Palestinian people.
JULI MINOVES-TRIQUELL, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Andorra: The Principality of Andorra adopted its Constitution in 1993, where it is clearly written that "all persons are equal before the law. No one may be discriminated against on the grounds of birth, race, sex, origin, religion, opinions or any other personal or social condition". To ensure those rights, the institution of ombudsman was established in 1998. It has proven efficient in providing an alternative recourse for justice, especially on issues related to human rights. Andorra has also signed and ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women and has recently signed its Optional Protocol and accepted the amendment to article 8.
When we look across history, we see that there has always been racism and that the logic of violence has always turned to the simple fact of racial or ethnic difference. Much as we would like this Conference to be about the present, we cannot separate racism from its past. We need to come to terms with and accept its painful legacy. Only by understanding history, the terrible history of intolerance, can we be fully freed from its grasp. People will say, "these events happened long ago, in the time of my great-grandparents, what have their crimes to do with me?" A great deal, the historian would say.
JOSEPH PHILIPPE ANTONIO, Minister Foreign Affairs for Haiti: The Conference should be an opportunity to remind the world of the ideal of justice, which today is well established in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. But the objective that all are born free and equal cannot be realized until historical truths are acknowledged. Once they are, they can be learned, and that will ensure that they will not happen again. The slave trade was a crime against humanity. It should never be forgotten, and it should never happen again.
Haiti has a history of revolution. The Republic was born in 1804, and had to pay 100 million gold francs to the colonial Power at the time. That hurt the country's finances. To have justice and reconciliation, there needs to be an acknowledgement of the harmed caused. Human dignity is beyond price. However, that does not cancel the need to talk about reparations. Reparations will allow a new environment to blossom in areas that were devastated by colonization. That could be done through the creation of an education fund, overseas development aid and the cancellation of foreign debt.
Migrant workers often do not have access to justice in the countries where they went seeking work. They are often discriminated against because of the belief that they are stealing jobs from people who live there, and they are often underpaid. More efforts have to be made to address the plight of the migrant workers.
JAMILETH BONILLA, Minister for Social Affairs of Nicaragua: It is essential at this Conference to discuss ways and means to strengthen awareness of all the various manifestations of racial discrimination so that at the end of our work, States have a blueprint to take comprehensive action. States must change their government structures to ensure that they are free to promote policies to eliminate ethnic hatred and violent conflict from their societies. Our work must also ensure that governments protect the rights of all ethnic minorities, refugees and asylum seekers. Our Constitution spells out the guarantee of protection and human development for all Nicaraguans, as well as the dignity of all human persons. It also guarantees the personal and cultural rights of indigenous persons. Further, the State does not exclude any culture's right to education or religious freedom. We have passed laws prohibiting discrimination based on language and have instituted programmes to assist vulnerable groups and indigenous communities.
Indeed, our approach to the problem of racism and racial discrimination is characterized by many comprehensive and holistic programmes which address everything from child protection to discrimination against the elderly. One of our laws specifies protection from torture and cruel or inhuman punishment. Another addresses the issue of servitude.
We believe that the issues discussed at the Conference will guide our future efforts. We will continue to work actively to ensure the promotion of respect for human rights within our multi-ethnic nation, and we will continue to uphold legal frameworks pertaining to the rights of indigenous people and strengthening the rights of women.
KATRIN SAKS, Minister for Ethnic Affairs of Estonia: In many countries of the world, in particular in Eastern and Central Europe, we are witnessing the development of two parallel trends: the concern of States to unify societies around common values; and an ever-increasing wish of various ethnic communities and other socio-cultural entities to maintain their identities. In certain cases, those trends may come into conflict with each other.
As a result of the extensive migration that took place during the Soviet period, a community using Russian as its first language has developed in Estonia. Many of its members do not have sufficient outlet to the rest of society because of their poor knowledge of Estonian. The self-isolation of that segment from the rest of society could threaten both social stability and national security. That was the reason for the Estonian State Integration Policy at the end of the 1990s. It is based on the principles of social harmonization of society by gathering those groups around the common elements in society such as democratic values and statehood identity, and maintenance of ethnic differences by recognizing cultural and other rights of ethnic minorities.
Thus, one objective of the Estonian State Integration Policy is the cultural acclimatization of different ethnic groups in Estonia, not their assimilation, indicating the State's clear intention to respect the interests of minorities. In Estonia there is enough tolerance to avoid inter-ethnic conflicts, yet there could be more tolerance to shape a society functioning on the basis of effective cooperation. Ethnic stereotypes and barriers are present. The processes of developing inter-ethnic relations will take generations in all countries of the world. To have better results in the field, one must also take into consideration the experience of other countries. Therefore, we welcome the organization of this Conference in order to find new friends and partners in that difficult and challenging work.
JOSE GREGORI, Minister of Justice of Brazil: Even though my country is very diverse and the Brazilian people find their origins in every continent, we still suffer the effects of inequality and the residual effects of our colonial history. Further, the same diversity that characterizes and enriches us encourages the perception that in Brazil differences exist not only in terms of colour and beliefs, but also in terms of equality of rights and opportunities. In fact, our democracy is still growing and we are aware that its benefits do not reach the whole of the population. Fortunately, the consolidation of our democracy has fostered discussion of the various questions that hinder our development. We are moving towards building a society which is just, inclusive and which benefits everyone. We believe that by acknowledging racial discrimination, Brazil has taken the first step to overcome such problems.
We want a fair world. That is why we have come to Durban. We believe that it is important to initiate joint efforts in order to eliminate any manifestation of injustice, inequality or discrimination against migrants, gypsies or refugees. On our way to the Conference, we established a Committee which held our first-ever national conference aimed at identifying problems and proposed solutions to racial discrimination and intolerance. Bearing diversity in mind, we are here to fight for a world that practises tolerance and does not harass, cause suffering or discriminate against others on the grounds of personal differences.
This Conference is not a tribunal and we do not believe that the nominal condemnation of a particular people or country is constructive for overcoming the shortsightedness that characterizes the topics we are set to address. We are all accomplices and victims. What connects us is the acknowledgement of a common problem and the desire to seek a solution. The failure of our discussions here would mean a defeat greater than we can conceive. It is not possible to fight intolerance with further intolerance. We must set the example. That is the beauty of our task.
ELISSAVET PAPAZOI, Alternate Minister for Foreign Affairs of Greece: The fight against racism can not be complete if it relies only on governments' initiatives. It needs to include the widest possible number of social actors and their collective commitment, since it affects the lives of the whole society. However, no fight against racism can be effective unless we eradicate not only ideological but also tangible causes, such as poverty and exploitation. No fight against discrimination will be successful unless there are improvements in the conditions of health, education, housing and social care in critical regions in Africa, Asia and Latin America. In that context, it is of primary importance for the international community to offer generous support to the New African Initiative and other regional projects, which seek to improve the quality of life for millions of people by developing the resources and their rich human potential.
No country or region of the world is immune to old or new forms of discrimination. Greece, looking at the wider Balkan region, can trace examples of ultra-nationalistic attitudes, and ethnic and religious discriminations, that have undermined peace in Bosnia, Kosovo and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. Ethnic or race-based violence against women and organized crime, including the trafficking of human beings, drugs and weapons, are the inevitable phenomena that follow those violent conflicts due to deep-seeded ethnic hatred. The Balkans have no other choice but to follow the example of the European Union. In the last 50 years, following many centuries of religious and ethnic wars and conflicts, Europe has succeeded in creating a community of peace and regional cooperation, on the basis of established values of democracy, rule of law and respect for human and minority rights.
Greece systematically fulfils its international obligations and implements measures and policies reinforcing respect for human rights, human dignity and cultural diversity of all individuals living in Greece. Attention should be drawn to the case of Cyprus, where a neighbouring country using as pretext the so-called protection of the Turkish-Cypriot minority "against ethnic and religious discrimination", has occupied militarily the northern part of the island since 1974. Cyprus, an independent State since 1960 and a founding member of the Non-Aligned Movement, has been suffering for 27 years now from military occupation, which involves massive violations of human rights and forced displacement from their home towns. The upcoming accession of Cyprus in the European Union will take away the deplorable excuses used by the occupying forces, and will pave the way for both communities to live in peace and prosperity on an equal footing with the other peoples of Europe.
LAKSHMAN JAYAKODY, Special Envoy of the President of the Republic of Sri Lanka: Sri Lanka is a small, multi-ethnic nation. In its over 2000 years, it has absorbed many strands, strains and trends that arrived on its shores from all over the world. Embracing such diversity over two millennia has enabled its society to better understand the importance and the contribution others can make for the betterment of society. The basic social ethos of Sri Lanka is based on the predominant ethic of tolerance, enriched by all major world religious traditions present in the country. The core values of society, therefore, teaches everyone that all human beings are born equal.
Sri Lanka is mindful of the growth of ethnic consciousness, in a social and political sense, as a worldwide phenomenon; perhaps, as a counter to globalizing trends in other spheres. With that in mind, in 1994, the Government established a ministry for ethnic affairs and declared a national integration policy, as well as a mechanism within which different ethnic groups work together while maintaining group-specific collective identities. That effort covers a vast spectrum of activities and encompasses all areas of public policy.
Like other parts of the world, Sri Lanka too has been touched by terror, horror and violence. In Sri Lanka, extremist groups often use tribalistic rhetoric ostensibly to achieve communal aspirations, and some engage in violence and terror. Nevertheless, the Government, having recognized that such conflicts require political solutions, is determined to arrive at political arrangements that empower and secure all communities. People in Sri Lanka, as those in similar predicaments elsewhere, will need all the support and understanding of the international community to overcome and reject ethno-centric ideologies and selfishness.
CAROL BELLAMY, Executive Director, United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF): No one is more vulnerable than a child when it comes to the monstrous effects of racism, discrimination and intolerance. Those pervasive evils compromise the right of children to survive, to develop and to reach their fullest potential. Former President Nelson Mandela and Graca Machel, the former Education Minister of Mozambique, have assumed a direct and personal role in organizing a global partnership of leaders from every walk of life to act on a basic recognition -- that if we want a more just, equitable and thriving world, we must invest in our children.
And so UNICEF is promoting two steps: the strengthening of systems to collect and analyse data on children, including detailed information that exposes the everyday reality of the racism and discrimination they experience. And we are urging governments to monitor the potential impact of their policies and programmes on children as we work together to ensure the realization of child rights.
Education is vital to children, including those belonging to minorities, indigenous communities or other vulnerable groups. It gives them the chance to develop into responsible members of society -- to take part in decisions, assume responsibilities and to resolve their conflicts in a peaceful way. A good quality education also helps child victims of violence, abuse or exploitation recover -- and helps them develop the skills to protect themselves against future violations of their rights.
JUAN CARLOS APARICIO PEREZ, Minister of Labour and Social Affairs of Spain: Spain is hoping that the Conference will mark significant progress in the struggle to eradicate poverty and to gain universal acceptance of human rights. Spain has a tradition of plurality and diversity. Human beings need each other. Intolerance is a true threat to international peace. Spain has promoted broad participation among civil society in this Conference. The Government believes that education is an important instrument, and Spain will be hosting an international educational conference in Madrid in November. It is hoped that the same spirit of cooperation that is prevalent here will be prevalent there.
The rule of law has to be defended, as does the commitment to human rights. This is not the moment to spend time in recounting national actions. Rather, it is the time to share universal concerns and aspirations. Spain is undertaking a permanent campaign to battle racism and xenophobia, and has various programmes to combat racism. Spain hopes that this Conference inspires governments to implement similar programmes at the national and local level. States have to continue to strengthen cooperation and dialogue with civil society.
Spain is aware that a crucial role is played by recognizing the injustices of the past. All countries recognize the atrocities that have taken place in past years. We must reconcile together and look towards the future, taking effective measures to prevent discrimination. No one can change the past, but together we can build the future. This Conference represents hope. It is hoped that every man, woman and child will be given the opportunity to exercise their individual gifts to benefit all of mankind.
ABDUL SATTAR, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Pakistan: The Constitution of Pakistan forbids discrimination on grounds of race, religion, caste or sect and every citizen has the right to profess, practise and propagate his religion. It imposes an obligation on the State to safeguard the legitimate rights and interests of minorities. Affirmative action to implement that provision includes reserved seats and weighted representation of minorities in federal and provincial assemblies and elected urban and rural councils.
Racism and racial discrimination were inventions of the powerful. Their egocentric claims to superiority were self-serving illusions, rooted in avarice and exploitation. Colonial Powers took shelter behind presumptuous slogans -- "White man's burden", "Civilizing Mission" and "Manifest Destiny" -- to justify slavery, colonial domination and exploitation. The past cannot be undone, but clearly the scars will not heal with the passage of time, nor with verbal atonement. A measure of restitution is necessary, through concrete affirmative action, to redress the economic, social and psychological ravages suffered by victim communities.
Vilification of Islam, verging on racism, is an extremely disturbing trend. A billion Muslims are outraged that their religion of peace, with its liberal, humanist ideals, is misunderstood and defamed by xenophobic lobbies. It is said that the Jewish people who were the victims of racism -- the Holocaust -- are themselves succumbing to false rationales to justify discrimination of Palestinian people. Projecting the Palestinian people's struggle for self-determination as terrorism is a deliberate and discriminatory justification for the policies of blockade, assassination and settler colonization which are being imposed against the Palestinian people. This Conference cannot but speak out on that issue. It is sad that this theme of denigrating the struggle for self-determination as terrorism, and associating terrorism with Islam, is actively promoted to justify the ongoing brutal repression of the Kashmiri people.
Past crimes must be acknowledged and affirmative action set in motion to repair the ravages inflicted on human communities. To that end, Pakistan suggests that this Conference request the United Nations Secretary-General to appoint a group of eminent experts with a mandate to recommend appropriate measures for redress and restitution.
WOREDE WOLD WOLDE, Minister of Justice of Ethiopia: Slavery, the slave trade, colonialism and apartheid are major sources and manifestations of racism. They have robbed Africa of its human and material wealth and have left legacies of conflicts, instability and underdevelopment in that continent. It is imperative that the Conference adopt measures that would help us place these historical situations in their proper perspective. Those should include specific measures of redress and acknowledgement of past injustices with concrete follow-up mechanisms to ensure their implementation. The adoption of such measures by the Conference would finally bring a measure of justice to the victims and their societies. It would also help us link the past and the future by healing old wounds.
Racially motivated acts of violence and discriminatory practices are rampant in our world today. They particularly affect peoples of Africa and African descent, migrants, refugees, asylum seekers, minorities and indigenous peoples. The Conference needs to vehemently condemn all those manifestations and adopt a comprehensive set of recommendations aimed at combating those forms of racism with a concrete follow-up mechanism.
Ethiopia is a mosaic of nations and nationalities. We have more than 70 ethno-linguistic groups. For too long, the vast majority of those groups were denied their basic human rights. The successive oppressive systems came to an end in 1991 with the fall of the military dictatorship. Since then, our country has been consolidating a new system of pluralistic, democratic governance founded on protection of and respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. That system has allowed different ethnic groups to use their own languages in schools, courts and administrative structures and to decide on affairs directly affecting them through their freely chosen representatives.
LUC RUKINGAMA, Minister of Communications and Spokesman for the Government of Burundi: We in the Great Lakes region face a series of conflicts that are deeply and closely linked to ethnicity. In order to deal with such phenomena, it is necessary to reach into the hearts of men and women and to implant in them the seeds of peace, which is the ultimate objective of the various peace processes in the region, from Lusaka to Arusha.
Despite ceasefire violations and violence by armed groups against the civilian population, Burundi recently signed a ceasefire agreement with the armed opposition. We take this opportunity to thank Nelson Mandela, facilitator for the Burundi peace process, and to Jacob Zuma, Deputy President of South Africa, for his pivotal role in that peace initiative.
With respect to the subjects we are dealing with here, we believe it is necessary to make reference to the past, which should help establish a world free of discrimination and at ease with itself. References to the past are also necessary in the restoration of the truth about African history.
JORGE DE LA RUA, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Argentina: There are no doubts as to the essential purpose of this Conference. There will be obstacles in the design of a new world in which we hope human rights will prevail because racism and discrimination are based on many different frustrations, and on the adoption of false doctrines used by opportunistic and messianic leaders.
We are considering human rights violations that take place everywhere in the world. Governments have the primary responsibility for implementing within their borders the principles in which they believe, particularly equality in cases of discrimination. Present cases of discrimination go beyond borders and it is therefore necessary to commit ourselves to creating a global society in which all human citizens are equal. The building of such a universal society must be an essential goal of this Conference.
In addition to the Latin American regional agreement adopted at Santiago, Chile, we should not refuse to address the history of discrimination arising from slavery, servitude and colonialism, for such recognition must be the beginning of any search for a remedy. Argentina and other States in Latin America see a change that incorporates the ideals of the Enlightenment and which opens their territory to individuals coming from everywhere in the world and from every culture.
HEDY FRY, Secretary of State of Canada: Canadians are proud that we are today a bilingual, multicultural nation, whose diverse people enjoy a remarkable level of prosperity, tolerance and social cohesion. Nevertheless, Canadians would acknowledge that our history has not always been one of inclusion and respect. For a long time, the aboriginal people of Canada faced displacement and assimilation. Many immigrants came to Canada to escape discrimination, marginalization and exclusion. Others faced those challenges on arrival. Perhaps it is because of their experiences, the mistakes we made and the lessons we learned, that Canadians developed a strong vision of a just, tolerant and accommodating society. That vision has led us to create a mosaic that honours and respects the diversity of our citizens.
While the quality of life in aboriginal communities is improving, we remain concerned that living conditions are still well below those of other Canadians. The Government is committed to working with aboriginal peoples as they strive to build a better future for themselves and their communities. Canada's relationship with aboriginal people will continue to evolve, guided by a mutual desire to see aboriginal peoples share fully in the social and economic opportunities of Canadian society. Visible minorities, in particular African Canadians, still face barriers to full participation in the economic life of Canada.
Canadians want the outcomes of this Conference to be forward looking, action orientated and dedicated to developing practical effective strategies to combat racism. Let us resolve to move beyond exclusion to inclusion, beyond blame to reconciliation. To allow any one issue to dominate at the expense of all others is to silence the voice of the many who are here to testify to their suffering. And let me emphasize that this Conference will not meet its crucial goals if we allow the current situation in the Middle East to monopolize our discussions. It is clear that the parties themselves must take the necessary steps to regain the impetus towards a negotiated peace. This Conference must avoid, and Canada will not endorse, any language that that does not serve that basic objective.
SLAHEDDINE MAAOUI, Minister Delegate to the Prime Minister in Charge of Human Rights, Communications and Relations with the Chamber of Deputies of Tunisia: The adverse effects of the various forms of racism and hatred previously endured by mankind, and their trail of practices against a number of peoples have contributed to igniting armed conflicts and led to widespread racial hatred and to the emergence of regimes based on racial discrimination. When racism and hatred are allowed to develop, that necessarily leads to a denial of the most basic foundations of human rights and constitutes inherently a threat to peace and security worldwide.
Globalization has resulted in mutual interests and closely interrelated societies. It has also provided an appropriate climate in which to firmly root solidarity in international relations, and which is likely to contribute greatly to the eradication of various international problems, chiefly the various issues of racism and hatred and the development of intolerance. Whereas, globalization has reinforced relations between nations and promoted a world economy, it has also resulted in a clear discrepancy in taking advantage of its benefits. It is necessary, therefore, to find appropriate solutions to address the problems of marginalization and exclusion that might result from it.
This is an opportunity to reiterate Tunisia's proposal to set up a world solidarity fund, ratified by the United Nations General Assembly and adopted by a number of other international organizations. The speedy establishment of that fund is an assertion of the international community's commitment to the values of solidarity to eradicate poverty and marginalization in the world which, for the most part, represent a breeding ground for hatred and racist practices.
In that context, despite the perfectly good intentions expressed by the international community to fight such negative aspects, the Middle East is still a hotbed of tension due to Israel's continued aggressive policies and practices, its repeated violation of the legitimate rights of Palestinian people, despite the resolutions of the international legality and related international decisions asserting the right of the Palestinian people for self-determination and for building its independence state with Al-Quds Al-Sharif as its capital.
MIHNEA MOTOC, State Secretary in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Romania: If we really wish this Conference to be a breakthrough in combating racism and fostering tolerance and acceptance of diversity in the twenty-first century, we should focus on reaching consensus on a declaration and programme of action which should be forward looking and action oriented. Romania is committed to fighting against racial discrimination. Racism has a changing nature, and is an enemy that never dies or rests. It will always find new and complex ways to show itself, even in the most democratic societies, and all of us need continuously to look for new solutions. In Romania, we are focusing on promoting a multicultural society built on tolerance, respect for diversity and shared values in which conditions are created for the development of ethnic, cultural, linguistic and religious identity of persons belonging to national minorities in Romania. Recently our country was facing new challenges associated with the increasing number of refugees, asylum seekers, immigrants and victims of trafficking.
Initiatives and programme to combat anti-Semitism include: fostering awareness of the Holocaust by including appropriate teaching material in the school curricula and exchange programmes for high school students. Romania's aspiration to join the European Union roughly half a decade from now depends very much on the extent to which we are able to build societal compatibility. From that perspective, we look forward to joining a Union that is confident with its enriching diversity and promotes tolerance in forging new communities of shared values for the third millennium.
Combating racism and intolerance is a key element in efforts to prevent conflicts, scale down racial and ethnic tensions and promote respect for diversity. The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) has an important place in addressing racial and ethnic tensions and promoting respect for diversity. It also has a unique role in monitoring and promoting respect for human rights. Romania was involved extensively in making the OSCE's unique features and assets work for the benefit of a meaningful Conference preparatory and follow-up process.
ALBERT ROHAN, Federal Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs of Austria: Manifestations of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance can still be observed in all regions of the world. No State can fully escape the occurrence of those phenomena. Many dramatic developments in the history of mankind had their origin in the most appalling manifestations of hatred and discrimination with regard to colour, descent, ethnic or national origin. All countries must recognize the shadows of the past and the wrong committed in order to master the future. A constructive dialogue on sensitive issues of the past will contribute to healing wounds and will provide an ever-stronger foundation for mutual respect and true reconciliation. It will facilitate the development of effective measures for the future, which is indeed the main challenge for this Conference.
Austria is committed to a self-critical scrutiny of its recent past. The Government has clearly expressed and indeed already implemented its determination to assume moral responsibility for and recognize the suffering of all victims of the National Socialist regime. Austria rejects any attempts at trivializing the Holocaust and the unique tragedy of its victims. Austria has taken a broad range of measures aimed at the resolution of all outstanding claims of victims of that dark era of its history. Austria is aiming at ensuring unreserved clarification, exposure of the structures of injustice and the transmission of that knowledge to coming generations as a warning for the future. That has been enshrined in the programmatic declaration of the current Government.
Mindful of the lessons learned from it's past, Austria is deeply convinced that comprehensive education in human rights is the best investment for a peaceful future. Children and young people throughout the world must be prepared for life in a pluralist society founded on human rights and tolerance. As human rights education is a life-long process, it has necessarily to be conceived as a long-term strategy and must also include adults. Racism manifests itself in a great variety of forms. We must therefore involve all generations and all parts of society. Austria encourages an intensified direct dialogue with civil society, which we need to fully activate as well as to learn from, in order to multiply the spread of the human rights' message.
GRAZYNA BERNATOWICZ, Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs of Poland: Racial discrimination contradicts basic human rights. It turns human beings into objects and demeans and destroys all sense of dignity. Racism manifests itself not only in widely publicized crimes against humanity but also in more subtle or common ways, such as insults or the condemnation of interracial relationships. The restoration of basic human dignity must therefore be the basic goal of all campaigns against racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance. Hence, we should focus our attention primarily on the individual rather than on groups or processes. Racial discrimination often accompanies other forms of intolerance, such as discrimination against women and girls, children, HIV-infected persons, the homeless, migrants and people of different sexual orientations. The long list of possible sources of discrimination clearly reaffirms the notion that all human rights are indivisible and interdependent.
For our delegation, three elements of that difficult issue are of particular importance: education, good governance and the role of civil society. Firstly, racism is not based on any scientific premise, so education that eradicates harmful prejudice should be given the same priority as combating illiteracy. Proper education should nurture young people in a spirit of friendship and respect, with an understanding of the value of diversity. No one is born a racist, but as a result of negative influences or lack of education, anyone can become one. Secondly, a State can only implement policies effectively when its organs are impervious to the symptoms they are supposed to counteract. Only a transparent, responsible and accountable government can effectively introduce programmes to combat racism. Democracy and the rule of law foster the creation of civil society, whose institutions and organizations can effectively influence changes in public opinion.
Before we adopt a programme of action, I wish to call attention to the fact that the international community's extensive achievements in identifying concrete means of fighting racism constitute a good basis for comparison. I am referring chiefly to the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination. The Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination is also an invaluable tool whose usefulness has yet to be fully tapped. I wish to appeal to all States that have not done so to ratify the Convention and begin full cooperation with the Committee. I also see the necessity of upgrading the Committee's performance as well as that of the other mechanisms protecting human rights. Only by having those important instruments at our disposal can the rights they protect be ensured and promoted. I would also like to inform you that the process of Poland's ratification of the International Criminal Court has already begun and the instrument of that ratification will shortly be delivered to the Secretary-General of the United Nations.
OSKARAS JUSYS, Vice-Minister of Foreign Affairs of Lithuania: Although the normative influence of the international community and of the international legal order is not all-determining, Lithuania is proud to state that numerous legal acts contain prohibitions against racial, national or ethnic discrimination, including relevant provisions in the Constitution and the newly adopted criminal code. Those principles are also reflected in the mass media and education spheres.
By forgetting their past, people are condemned to live it all over again. Hence, in the context of reforming the Lithuanian education system, the issue of the Holocaust in Lithuania was introduced in the textbooks. To get rid of the burden of old stereotypes, a comprehensive Lithuanian national Holocaust education programme was developed in 2000. That programme is intended to strengthen intolerance to discrimination, xenophobia and anti-Semitism in the younger generation and society at large.
Currently, the Roma community is the ethnic group least integrated into Lithuanian society. That might be explained by the specific lifestyle of Roma, but one cannot deny the influence of stereotypes that still persist. The Government is now in the process of implementing the multi-dimensional project on Roma integration into Lithuania's society.
PHONSAVATH BOUPHA, Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Lao People's Democratic Republic: In past centuries, the world has witnessed countless acts of racism, ethnic degradation and discrimination, as well as wars of aggression and foreign intervention that further exacerbated human suffering. The establishment of the United Nations and the creation of relevant international covenants and conventions aimed at addressing those issues affirmed the global community's commitment to tackling that problem which affects us all. Despite all that, as well as the achievements of many peoples in their struggles for international independence and the recognition of national identity, many societies were still affected by wars, colonialism and servitude. Indeed, contemporary racism and discriminatory practices have become more complex, and thus are not easily addressed.
Success in the international battle to combat racism and other forms of intolerance truly depends on the cooperation of all the States gathered here in Durban. We are all members of the same human family. I believe that righting the wrongs of the past can provide us with a guide to how best to approach the problem today. We should also recognize and appreciate human variety and diversity. We must all work to secure for our younger generations a future characterized by justice, freedom, brotherhood and prosperity. The 5 million people of the the Lao People's Democratic Republic are made up of nearly 50 ethnic minorities. All those ethnic groups are equal before the law, and legislative initiatives are committed to ensuring the protection and promotion of equal rights. Finally, I believe and hope that this Conference will be constructive, and the deliberations will be positive and filled with hope.
KAY PATERSON, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Immigration and Multicultural Affairs of Australia: We hoped that there will be broad consensus on a number of issues at the Conference. There are many forms of racism and xenophobia in the world today. Australia is concerned about the deterioration of the situation in Israel and the occupied territories, but the Conference is not the appropriate forum to condemn Israel. There should be efforts to have the final documents adopted by consensus.
Australia is a diverse country that aims to ensure that diversity is a positive force. While it does not claim to have solved all of its problems, it is active in trying to eliminate discrimination of any kind. The Government understands that the challenges of a multicultural society do not solve themselves. The Government has institutional arrangements that support diversity. There are several programmes directed at women, children and immigrants. That is helping Australia build a stronger and more harmonious society. The indigenous peoples of Australia are a unique culture, and there are efforts to help them enjoy the riches of the society. Indigenous Australians have been marginalized in all aspects of society, and the Government sees that as unacceptable, and is working on improving that. Programmes relating to health, housing, employment and education are starting to show progress.
Ignorance and lack of information are the root causes of discrimination. Diversity should be celebrated. Educating young people is key, and the Government wants to see the Conference recognize the need and importance of human rights education that will raise awareness. Further, good governance practices should be recognized, and shared with countries around the world.
SAYYID BADR BIN HAMAD AL BU SAIDI, Under-Secretary for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Oman: Racial discrimination is one of a complex set of economic and historical factors which contributed to the gulf between nations. The issue of race has to be seen in the context of economic and social justice. And until real and tangible progress is made towards redressing the unacceptable economic divide between the developed and the developing nations, we will continue to suffer, as a global society, from divisions and conflicts in which racism will invariably occur. We have a historic opportunity at this Conference, to set out a vision for the future development of relations between nations and peoples on the basis of mutual interaction founded in equality and free from prejudice. In order to seize that opportunity, we need to think creatively and act decisively to ensure that globalization does not become a new mechanism for the exploitation and unfair domination of the weak by the strong.
The processes of globalization must be allowed to benefit Africa. It is not enough to rely upon the easy and simplistic idea that globalization will automatically allow economic benefits to trickle down from the summits of the global economy to the developing countries of Africa and elsewhere. Globalization has to mean more than the opportunity to buy consumer goods. Africa deserves and demands better than that. Until African people enjoy the economic growth that comes from being an active participant in the global networks of trade and economic development, they will not benefit from those processes. That means a special effort has to be made to make sure that Africa, and the developing world more generally, has the tools it needs to play its part. That means technology transfer. That means an end to the inequities of the debt burden. That means trade agreements that give small producers in remote regions the chance to win a place in the global marketplace.
In Islam, equality is a basic principle. That commitment to equality and tolerance shapes our response to current events. It has been a deeply held principle in Oman's foreign policy that we respond to what people do, and not who they are. It should be made clear that we absolutely reject and fiercely condemn the illegal actions of the Israeli Government against the Palestinian people. Currently, Israeli policy is in violation of international law, it flies in the face of our commitment to the rights of people to self-determination and equal treatment, and is clearly driven by intolerance that in many cases constitutes racism.
ZAINUL ABIDIN RASHEED, Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Foreign Affairs of Singapore: History has shown that repeated breaches and non-observance of recognized international human rights norms established by instruments such as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights continue to occur. That suggests that the problem of racism lies not in the absence of norms but in the inability of States to adhere to their prescriptions. States may not be entirely to blame, however. Perhaps there is something deeply embedded in human nature which prevents racism from disappearing entirely. Take Kosovo, for example. While the conflict was sparked by separatist tendencies, it originated from deep-seated religious and ethnic animosities stretching back many years.
Flaws of human nature aside, there are still ways -- both at the national and international levels -- to deal with the problem of racism and racial discrimination. The international community must continue to work in concert to eradicate that scourge. It must also exert pressure on States that consistently flout international norms with impunity. At the national level, governments must be committed to observing international instruments against racism. They should also put in place legal frameworks together with educational programmes as part of wider efforts to combat racism. In Singapore, our past experiences have influenced treatment of various races within our multiracial and multi-religious society. We have based our initiatives and programmes on three broad principles: equal treatment for all, tolerance and mutual respect for other races, and the creation of a common national identity.
We must be careful not to revive certain issues at this Conference which have already been decided by the international community. Resurrecting them would only result in more harm than good and will represent a step backward in our work. One such example is the 1975 Assembly resolution equating Zionism with racism, which was later repealled in 1991. Apart from being detrimental to the Middle East cause, the 1975 resolution undermined the United Nations own credibility. While we are dismayed by the escalating violence in that region, we also believe that the issue would be best dealt with in a more appropriate forum. We have urged the Security Council to help the concerned parties implement the Mitchell report -- which both sides have accepted -- and support ongoing diplomatic efforts.
SHIHAN MADI, Permanent Representative of Jordan to the United Nations Office in Geneva: Despite the efforts of the international community over the past decade to strengthen collective action on the issue of racial discrimination and other forms of intolerance, a dialogue which promoted cooperation and respect has not materialized. Stereotypical characterizations, particularly of Islam, are still common. Indeed, I would like to see a proper picture of Islam reflected, as well as the removal of the veil of terrorism, which distorts the true picture of Islam. The true picture of Islam was peaceful.
Foreign occupation and the forced imposition of racist policies is incompatible with international law and international principles of human rights. Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention must step forward and provide the requisite support and protection to the Palestinian people. Palestine still looked to the international community for help and will certainly hope that the Conference reaffirms their legitimate right to independence. The international community must strive to bring an end to the last such occupation in the world. It is also necessary to establish a rate of return for Palestinian refugees, based on international principles and United Nations mandated prescriptions.
Despite the various complex sources and symptoms of racism, whether they be slavery or the imposition of selective economic blockades against civilians, international efforts need to be combined to put an end to double-standards when applying international instruments. We must seek to ensure an end to the boycott of Iraq, so that its people may live in dignity and be spared famine and disease. The establishment of a single human community based on equality, justice and humanity requires effective programmes to fight all forms of racism. The international community must promote a culture free of discrimination and intolerance at all levels, whether through legislation, education programmes or the establishment of a pattern of international cooperation.
Right of Reply
The representative of Turkey, exercising a right of reply, said the speaker from Greece made reference to the so-called Turkish occupation in Cyprus. It is not an occupation -- it is a legal presence. The legality of the Turkish intervention was also confirmed by the Council of Europe in 1974. The discussions at the Conference should be to strive towards consensus on a final declaration and programme of action.
Exercising his right of reply, the representative of Greece said he regretted that the representative of Turkey had exercized his own right of reply. He particularly regretted that the representative had emphasized political elements of the statement concerning the illegal occupation of Cyprus by Turkish military forces, totally ignoring the dramatic human dimensions closely related to the subject of the Conference. In fact, the illegal occupation had been condemned by the international community and relevant United Nations Security Council resolutions. Despite all that, Turkey had refused to withdraw from the northern occupied territory. That refusal had been widely condemned in international forums and had caused harm to Turkish people as well as Greek-Cypriots.
Life in the occupied territory was characterized by flagrant violations of human rights; restrictions on freedom of movement and from practising certain religions, being but a few. Missing persons, including children, and displaced persons were other grave situations that had been created by the occupation. The head of the Greek delegation had emphasized that Greece supports all efforts to enter Cyprus in the European Union, which would be beneficial to all sides. Democracy and the rule of law represented key components of the Union's foreign policy. Withdrawal of Turkish military forces was an international obligation and indeed the only way to end the violations of human rights in the northern part of Cyprus, which were a hindrance to peace and security in that region.
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