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

Department of Public Information - News and Media Services Division - New York
Durban, South Africa
31 August 7 September 2001
RD/D/34
4 September 2001

Plenary
AM Meeting

PRESIDENT, SECRETARY-GENERAL URGE DELEGATES TO COMMIT TO ENSURING

SUCCESSFUL CONCLUSION TO CONFERENCE AGAINST RACISM

The President and the Secretary-General of the United Nations World Conference against Racism this morning urged delegates to continue their work in a spirit of give-and-take to ensure a successful conclusion to the Conference.

Their remarks followed an announcement yesterday by Israel and the United States that they were withdrawing their delegates from the Conference.

(Speaking later at a press conference, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and Secretary-General of the World Conference against Racism Mary Robinson announced that she had been informed by the United States that it had not withdrawn from the Conference, that it would continue to participate in the Conference, but that it had withdrawn the delegates who had come from Washington, D.C.)

Conference President Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma stressed that the gathering was important for millions of people across the world who faced racism, xenophobia, and intolerance on a daily basis. Those people are looking to the Conference for the tools and weapons to fight such discrimination. At the end of the Conference, she predicted, there will be a document that is a product of tolerance, a product of negotiations, a product of give-and-take. The results, she said, will even be useful to the United States in Israel in the fight against racism.

"Our work goes on", Mrs. Robinson said. The time was now for delegations to show determination and commitment, she said. If the challenge is not met, the Conference will not just have failed in reaching agreements, it will have failed those who needed the Conference most -- the marginalized, the excluded and the hated.

"We will have let down those who are looking to this Conference to be a breakthrough in how we related to each other as one human family in the twenty-first century", Mrs. Robinson said. But with courage and flexibility, the Conference can send out a strong signal of united determination to do away with the scourge of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance.

Mrs. Robinson condemned some of the words and actions that have been heard in Durban, saying that they "were themselves intolerant, even racist". Still, she said, there had been significant progress in drafting a
Declaration and Programme of Action, which would help the Conference realize its mission of devising ways to ensure improvements in the lives of those discriminated against.

During this morning's plenary, delegates addressed a number of issues before the Conference, including the link between poverty and racism, efforts to mainstream a gender perspective in government policies and programmes, and pledges to effectively follow up decisions of the Conference.

Mohd Khalil Yaakob, Minster of Information of Malaysia, noted that the two previous racism conferences adopted documents that specifically referred to the Palestinian conflict. Not referring to Israel's half century of occupation in the Declaration and Programme of Action, he said, would be doing a grave injustice to not only the Palestinian people, but also to the history of the Conference.

Several speakers referred to the need for effective follow-up mechanisms if the Conference's aims were to be realized. Frene Ginwala, Speaker of the National Assembly of South Africa, speaking on behalf of the Inter-Parliamentary Union, said although members of parliaments will have little to do with the drafting and adoption of the Declaration and a Programme of Action, they will remain but little pieces of paper unless parliamentarians ensure their implementation at the national level.

Jean de Dieu Mucyo, the Minister of Justice and Institutional Relations of Rwanda, pledged that his country would implement the mechanisms adopted at the Conference, with the hope that such programmes would never again allow the discrimination that led to the genocide in Rwanda in 1994. Victims of discrimination, he said, needed effective measures of justice. That not only meant the prosecution of the perpetrators, he said, but also assistance to the victims so that their reintegration into society can be smooth.

Lalla Ben Barka, the Deputy Executive Secretary of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa said the struggle against poverty was the struggle against racism. Its efforts to eradicate all forms of discrimination, she said, were inextricably linked with its programmes to eradicate poverty and marginalization and promote development. The outcomes of programmes spurred by the recently adopted New African Initiative will certainly assist in the dissolution of racial discrimination as economic development on the continent will be dramatically enhanced.

The representative of Sierra Leone noted that xenophobia was not only prevalent in industrialized countries, but also in Africa. As the economies of the African countries worsened, he said, the traditional African value of the community gave way to intolerance and violence, leading to the phenomena of Africans accusing Africans from other countries of stealing their jobs. "What is the point of talking about an African Union if we as Africans cannot tolerate each other?" he asked. One of the causes of conflicts in Africa today was due to tribalism and ethnicism, he continued. Some politicians used the tribal card purely for their selfish end.

Ratu Epeli Nailatikaw, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs of Fiji, urged the delegates not to loose sight of the challenges in moving forward global and multicultural collaborations. Sectoral or focused issues which could leave by the wayside the majority of ember States concerns should be avoided, he said. "It is our sincere and humble plea, that our approach and strategy today for addressing the issues of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance should be much broader, more practical, even generous and with a scope of applicability across cultures and religions", he said.

Earlier in the meeting, it was announced that Nobel Prize Laureate Rigoberta Menchu has been invited to address the Conference. No time or date was announced.

The Conference, which opened on 31 August and is scheduled to run through Friday, 7 September, provides the first opportunity in the post-apartheid era for the global community to deliberate a broad agenda to combat racism and related issues.

Also speaking today were Awa Bah, Attorney General and Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs of the Gambia; Ri Yong Ho, Counsellor, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea; Alyaksandr Sychov, Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs of Belarus; Munkh-Orgil Tsend, Deputy Minister for Justice and Home Affairs of Mongolia.

The representatives of Colombia and Cambodia also spoke.

The representative of Armenia spoke in exercise of the right of reply.

Other speakers included the representatives of the Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA), Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) and the United Nations Centre for Human Settlements (Habitat).

A representative of the Inter-Parliamentary Union also spoke.

The Conference's plenary session will continue its general debate at 3 p.m. today.

Statements

NKOSAZANA DLAMINI ZUMA, (South Africa) President of the Conference: We received news that the United States and Israel were withdrawing from the Conference. It is unfortunate that they decided to leave, but this Conference to us, and to millions and millions of people across the globe who deal with these problems, is very important. They are looking up to us. They are looking for the tools and weapons to fight with in the struggle against racism. The millions of combatants in the fight against racism are looking for a decision. It is important for all of us to bear that it mind. They are what drove us to attend this Conference in the first place. All of us should continue in that spirit, because we have a big responsibility. South Africa offered to host this Conference because of its history.

Nothing is beyond discussion. That is the beginning of a tolerant society: one that can sit down and negotiate; one that can listen to another point of view, even if you don't agree with it. We cannot build the kind of society that this Conference seeks to build with ultimatums. We have to build a spirit of talking until we agree to disagree. At the end of the Conference, there will be a document that is a product of tolerance, a product of negotiations, a product of give-and-take. It is unfortunate that the two countries left, and in the long run, I think, they will be the losers. Still, what we produce will be useful to them, and they can use it in their countries to fight racism. No country can stand here and claim that they have been able to conquer racism.

MARY ROBINSON, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and Secretary-General of the Conference: We are at the half-way point of the World Conference. Negotiations have not been easy. That is because, as I said in my opening remarks, the issues we are grappling with are among the most sensitive and difficult which the international community and the United Nations have to face. I think it is worth recalling that the role and dynamics of United Nations conferences is to provide an opportunity for the international community to reach consensus on difficult issues. Though the process may be difficult, with agreement reached only at the very end, to achieve a result, those involved must persevere to the very end.

There has been progress here -- significant progress -- progress in agreeing, cleaning up and condensing texts for the final Declaration and action plan. Texts already adopted here are insightful and constructive. Our work goes on. In the cases of the three groups of difficult issues -- claims relating to past injustices, the situation in the Middle East and recital of grounds of discrimination -- serious informal processes are under way, in some instances, at the highest level. And that is not all. Durban is about more than the painstaking work of seeking political consensus. This Conference is about people -- people who are discriminated against in ways that only human ingenuity at its worst can devise.

Over the past four days, I have seen how Durban has brought together people from all walks of life to address issues of central importance to all our lives. I have been moved by what I have seen here. Young people from all corners of the globe have reminded us that it is their future we are discussing here. They have committed themselves to carrying that message forward in their own networks when they leave Durban. Civil society, in all its richness, has brought its combined energies here to the cause of making the world a place where dignity and equality are not mere hopes, but realities for all people. The United Nations family and agencies have made it clear that the struggle against hatred and prejudice is at the very heart of our work in the United Nations. Durban has enabled the voices of the victims -- those who have been silenced for too long at home -- to be heard around the world.

It is inevitable at conferences such as this that controversy will make the headlines. I am aware of and condemn those whose words and actions in Durban were themselves intolerant, even racist. But I strongly wish that more of the media focus could be on the constructive seminars, workshops and gatherings such as I have seen over the past days -- of indigenous peoples, Roma and Traveller children, those of Africans in the Americas, and other victims of discrimination, including a Jewish man who was listened to and applauded when he spoke of his experience with anti-Semitism. Meeting with those people and hearing their stories has brought home to me forcefully what the true focus of this Conference is. Durban has a historic mission: to bring the plight of vulnerable groups to the fore and devise ways of ensuring that lives which at present are lived in fear and pain will be better.

Racism and discrimination exist in every country and every community. That is why I deeply regret that the United States and Israel have chosen to withdraw. All States should be present and active here. Now is the time for delegations to show determination and commitment. If we do not rise to the challenge, we will not just have failed in reaching agreement at one conference. We will have failed those who need this Conference most -- the marginalized, the excluded, the hated. We will have let down those who are looking to this Conference to be a breakthrough in how we relate to each other as one human family in the twenty-first century. If, on the other hand, all sides display courage and flexibility, we will send out a strong signal of our united determination to take on the scourge of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance.

AWA BAH, Attorney General and Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs of the Gambia: The watchwords, racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance are so familiar to Africans that they are like the white blood cells in our blood streams, ever ready to defend our systems against intruders. Blacks have suffered throughout the centuries from racism and racial discrimination from whites, Arabs, Indians and Latin Americans, among others. The brutalization and enslavement of the black race was one of the most demeaning indictments of the human race, indeed the high point of centuries of racial discrimination, which exacerbated the universal perception that men and women were worthless other than as servile domestics or labourers.

That situation lasted as long as it did because of the social, economic and religious structures put in place to preserve, perpetuate and justify the crimes. There were attempts to justify the egregious practice of discrimination against the black race intellectually, scientifically, economically, politically, religiously and culturally. We are dealing here with the greatest genocide the world has ever known. Something terribly wrong has been done, the repercussions of which will be felt by blacks throughout time -- particularly in the forms of poverty, underdevelopment and retrogression -- unless something is done. Not until we put that into the proper perspective can the world do justice by the Africans, black people and people of African descent.

Let us not be too worried about who will be compensated and how. That can certainly be worked out in due course. Let us resolve that, as a result of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, millions of Africans and blacks in the diaspora were maimed, brutalized or killed. Let us recognize that it is immaterial that some of our own people were involved in the slave trade: two wrongs do not make a right. Let us also agree that no African plan or initiative can be successful until compensation is in place. Let us resolve that reparations should be commensurate with the magnitude of the crimes that were committed. Let us ensure that the world's financial and donor institutions, such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank, are not hijacked by those whose views foster or encourage more subtle forms of racism or intolerance.

JEAN DE DIEU MUCYO, Minister of Justice and Institutional Relations of Rwanda: Rwanda was the victim of the worst forms of discrimination, culminating in the 1994 genocide which resulted in more than 1 million victims. People of Rwanda, abandoned during the genocide by the international community, are familiar with the dramatic consequences of discrimination. They are aware of the importance of the hopes that will come out of this Conference.

Effective justice for the victims is needed. That means not only prosecution of the perpetrators, but assistance to the victims to help them reintegrate into society. Switzerland and Belgium should be congratulated for not allowing the perpetrators of the genocide in their territory to escape with impunity. Rwanda urged countries to cooperate with the United Nations Tribunal. This Conference has to make efforts on behalf of all members of society who suffer through discrimination.

Following 1994, many leaders who planned the genocide escaped without punishment, and moved elsewhere in the continent where they still pose a threat. That is the case in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where those people are still trying to continue their dirty work. Rwanda signed the Lusaka Peace Accord to end the war in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and it is hoped that all other parties will agree to it as well, without reservations. The resolutions that come from this Conference must be followed up at the national level, and Rwanda hopes that all countries pledge to implement effective mechanisms.

RI YONG HO, Counsellor, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Democratic People's Republic of Korea: We strongly condemn all forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance as crimes against humanity. We expect this Conference to give a clear concrete definition of all forms of racism and racial discrimination. The key to removing the root cases of racism is to properly solve the issue of past discriminatory practices. The remnants of colonialism indeed underpin the contemporary forms of bigotry witnessed in several countries today, where some believe that their races are superior to others. We can pave the way for appropriate future actions only after we have examined what happened in the past. We urge States that systematically committed acts of racism and racial discrimination to acknowledge their responsibility and make commitments to repair and compensate the wronged States, communities and individuals.

While most African, Latin American and Asian countries generally faced discrimination based on colour, Korean people suffered extreme national discrimination under Japanese military occupation. The policy of "Japanization" of Korean names and "oneness of Japan and Korea" -- under which all Koreans were forced to change their names and to speak and write only in Japanese -- were evil and aimed at eradicating an entire nation. Six million, out of a Korean population of 20 million, were forcibly taken to Japanese workplaces. Millions more were killed and hundreds of thousands of women were sexually enslaved. Even though decades have passed since those evil acts were committed, Japan still refuses to settle those past crimes.

Today in Japan, Korean schoolgirls continue to be attacked by ultra-conservative gangsters simply because they wear the national costume "chimachogori". The United Nations Human Rights Commission and the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination have urged Japan to correct its policies against Koreans living there when those bodies consider reports on the implementation of international human rights instruments. We also urge the Government of Japan to end its racist practices and promote stability in the region. In order to eliminate racism, we must recognize the equality of all races. Each race and nation has its own unique cultures and traditions. It is essential to create an atmosphere in which all races and diversity are respected.

ALYAKSANDR SYCHOV, Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs of Belarus: Racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance all exist throughout the world. They are a way of seizing power and hanging on to it. They are also part and parcel of globalization, which contains in it the threat of inequality. Countries of the United Nations should establish measures that ensure equal opportunities for those who find themselves marginalized.

Xenophobia against immigrants is becoming an integral part of many societies. Racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance require radical measures. We all need to take effective measures to protect every individual from racial discrimination and to make incitement to racial hatred a crime under the law -- showing that same attitude towards migrants and foreigners. It is important that United Nations principles should be enshrined in all national legislation to create the kind of climate where equality is enjoyed by all.

Belarus under its Constitution, bans all kinds of discrimination on the basis of race, gender, language or religion. Belarus is a multi-ethnic State with more than 100 ethnic groups who live together in harmony. The reason for that harmony is the mindset of the people and their culture and history. Belarus is alarmed to see an upsurge of neo-nazism. This Conference will have an ongoing effect on the international regional and local level and have an impact on those most affected by discrimination. The outcome documents should include practical measures to combat racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance.

MUNKH-ORGIL TSEND, Deputy Minister for Justice and Home Affairs of Mongolia: With our ancient culture of nomadic traversing and curiosity, we firmly believe in the creative dynamism of diversity and the curing effects of tolerance. We have a proud history -- to have at one time united under the roof of one empire the cultures, nations and civilizations of Asia and Europe. In today's Mongolia, we strive to maintain and enrich the traditions of the past and fulfil our obligations under more than 30 international human rights conventions to which we are party. The 1992 Constitution contains a separate sub-chapter on human rights.

The prejudices of racism and discrimination originate in poverty, ignorance and the subconscious culture of domination. Eradication of poverty and giving power back to the people are the twin pillars of the human rights policy of successive Mongolian Governments. In a follow-up to this Conference, we plan to stage a wide range of national educational and awareness programmes aimed at preventing and eradicating racism and discrimination. In that, we count on the cooperation of non-governmental organizations, educational institutions and media.

For us, this Conference symbolizes our condemnation of the crimes of the past, our acknowledgement of the problems of the present and our resolve for a better future. We have gathered here to take stock of the complex and intertwined nature and causes of racism and discrimination, ranging from poverty, social inequality and ignorance to deep-rooted psychological and cultural prejudices. We see the Conference as a milestone event in nurturing a common intellectual and practical strategy to combat racism and discrimination.

MOHD KHALIL YAAKOB, Minister of Information of Malaysia: Racism is abhorrent, not only on its own, but as a root of many other more egregious forms of human rights violations, such as genocide and ethnic cleansing. Indeed, the history of the promotion and protection of human rights is, to a large extent, a history of the struggle to eliminate racism. The first human rights convention was against genocide, the most extreme manifestation of racism. It is important to note that this Conference is not being held in a historical vacuum. This Conference constitutes the third attempt by the international community to banish the scourge of racism. We should seize this opportunity to adopt a Declaration and Programme of Action that will provide us all with a clear road map and practical measures to eliminate racism and related forms of intolerance.

Malaysia believes that at the national level, governments could and should exert greater efforts to combat racism within their midst. We share the sentiment of the Secretary-General of the United Nations that every country draw up and implement its own national plan to combat racism. Malaysia has always been committed to eradicating racism. In our multi-ethnic, multicultural and multi-religious society, the development of a united Malaysia is, above all, characterized by peace, harmony and mutual respect. We are able to enjoy the fruits of development and progress, thanks, in no small part, to the appropriate and effective strategies developed and implemented by the Government, with the participation of all segments of the population, regardless of race or colour, and achieved through consensus-building. We believe that anywhere in the world, inclusiveness lies at the heart of any government's efforts to eradicate racism.

The Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories for over half a century is clearly more than a political conflict. During the course of negotiations on that issue, arguments were put forward to the effect that the inclusion of the plight of the Palestinian people in the documents of this Conference is unnecessarily provocative and will not facilitate the process of finding a durable peace there. Malaysia cannot subscribe to that. The Conference would be doing a grave injustice, not only to the Palestinian people, but also to its own history, since there were explicit references in the two previous conferences against racism. Malaysia urges the international community to assume its responsibilities to end the conflict and ensure the restoration of the right to life, liberty and self-determination of the Palestinian people.

ALHAJ FODE M. DABOR (Sierra Leone): Xenophobia is not only prevalent in industrialized countries, but also here in Africa. As the economies of the African countries worsen, we see the traditional African value of the community giving way to intolerance and violence. We see Africans accusing Africans from other countries of stealing their jobs, a misconception that has resulted at times in deaths and/or serious injuries. What is the point of talking about an African union if we as Africans cannot tolerate each other?

The root cause of racial discrimination today, especially against blacks, can be traced to the Atlantic slave trade and colonialism. The perpetrators must show remorse by apologizing. My delegation supports the call for reparation. Racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance are diseases which must be fought with all the vigour at our disposal in the same way as we are now fighting the AIDS pandemic. We must be prepared to have open, multicultural societies where every human being lives with respect and dignity, and accept that it is evil to discriminate against a fellow human being. Our societies need to be more tolerant towards each other. All States must introduce legislation making racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance criminal offences.

One of the causes of conflicts in Africa today is due to tribalism and ethnicism. Some politicians use the tribal card purely for their selfish end, which at times has resulted in serious consequences, such as the genocide in Rwanda. We must stop the exploitation of tribalism and ethnicism for political gains. The media has a great role to play in preventing or discouraging racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance. The Western media should stop painting a bad picture of Africa and be encouraged to be more positive. The international community must also intensify its effort to fight poverty, because poverty is one of the causes of contemporary racist attitudes.

JAMIE GIRON DUARTE, (Colombia): We are a proud country of mestizos, indigenous blacks, whites and Latins. We are a rich, diverse union with a mix of reciprocal influences that have formed a multicultural society. We now have some 34 indigenous organizations, as well as 141 traditional authorities. As regards the Afro-Colombian population, statistics show that they represent some 25 per cent of the population. Considerable progress has been made to ensure their rights and freedoms. There is now legal recognition by the State, despite the lack of structures which hamper equal opportunities. Affirmative action and anti-discrimination measures have been enacted on their behalf. The gypsy population in our country has constitutional rights which preserve the ethnic and cultural diversity of that unique community, as well as the whole of Colombia. Women, gays, diverse religious communities and victims of HIV/AIDS all share equal rights and protection.

In pursuing our objective for peace, we realize that there is a lot left to be done. Indeed, we note with particular concern the rapid progress of internal displacement of persons within our borders. Programmes must be put in place that guarantee their rights and freedoms equal to the level of other people in our country. We must have studies on the links between poverty and discrimination. Education is also a key factor for promoting diversity in our society. We would like for this Conference to support the introduction of diversity programmes in schools.

We would hope that such an initiative could be followed by a suggestion for creating a mechanism to punish mass media organs that subtly promote racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance. The Conference should also seek to right the wrongs of the past. The Declaration and action plan under consideration should constitute a solid foundation on which we can build a global society free of racism and racial discrimination. We agree on the proposal for an effective follow-up mechanism to ensure the implementation of the agreements we reach here.

HOR LAT (Cambodia): Cambodia deeply appreciates the brave struggle of the South African people against apartheid. We applaud the strides they have made towards equality, justice, democracy, the rule of law and the respect for and promotion of human rights. We would like to affirm our commitment to cooperate fully with the global community in the creation and implementation of any new international policies that aim to eliminate racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance. Indeed, we stand ready to adopt the Declaration and Programme of Action that are currently under negotiation here in Durban.

Based on the Conference's goal of identifying concrete recommendations to combat racism and discrimination, we support the call for improving the effectiveness of relevant United Nations organs and international instruments in that regard. It is our hope that following the adoption of the action plan, all of us will undertake to put its provisions into practice.

FRENE GINWALA, Speaker of the National Assembly of South Africa, on behalf of the Inter-Parliamentary Union: Parliaments and their members have a crucial role to play in this Conference and in ensuring that its intentions and programmes are realized. Last year, 150 presiding officers committed their parliaments to contribute more substantively to international cooperation and the work of the United Nations. Accordingly, the Union has encouraged parliaments to take an active interest in this Conference and its preparations. Our appeal has been heard -- around 300 members of parliaments from more than 50 countries came to Durban to participate here. It should be noted that members from the United States Congress and the Israeli Knesset participated here. On Sunday, at an Inter-Parliamentary Union-organized meeting, there was a debate on the tension between freedom of speech and incitement of hatred. While freedom of speech is indispensable to enable us to fulfil our parliamentary mandate, we also have a responsibility to promote a society based on tolerance, in which incitement and hate-speech has no place.

As elected representatives, individually and collectively, parliamentarians are both the product and custodians of the democratic values, processes, and systems in our countries. Institutionalization of racism begins when rights and resources are unfairly allocated to particular groups, while other groups are excluded. It is in parliaments that this happens through legislation and changes in constitutions, and it is in parliaments that executive action can be monitored. This Conference will adopt a Declaration and a Programme of Action, which parliaments may have had little opportunity to influence. However, these will remain but little pieces of paper unless we intervene to ensure their implementation.

It is parliaments that have to ratify international conventions, treaties and other human rights instruments, and it is in parliaments that reservations are expressed. It is in parliaments that legislative provisions must be made for the implementation of such international agreements, and to regularly monitor compliance and progress in implementation and outcome. Parliaments also have a key role to play in developing national strategies and plans of action. Parliaments should lead in setting the national tone for tolerance, non-discrimination, inclusivity and equality, and thereby building political support for an expansion of human rights and an extension of international agreements.

MARIAM AL-AWADHI, Deputy Executive Secretary of the Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA): ESCWA's aim to improve the quality of life in the region is accomplished by assisting the member States to overcome the root causes of discrimination, redress disproportionate and uneven income distribution and integrate marginalized and vulnerable groups into society.

The ESCWA has embarked on a comprehensive programme to address the advancement and empowerment of women and gender issues in the region. That programme is also designed to assist member States in mainstreaming a gender perspective into their policies and projects for gender equality. In addition, a media campaign continues to raise gender awareness and to identify the means to overcome the main obstacles hampering the advancement of women.

The ESCWA is also engaged in teaching blind girls to use information and communication technologies and ensuring accessible and barrier-free environments for the disabled. However, despite efforts to address gender discrimination and social exclusion, especially of refugees and the displaced, much more must be done to combat all forms of racism and discrimination. The occupied Palestinian territories are witnessing extreme deprivation in the living conditions of the Palestinian people. Human rights are being violated daily and discriminatory measures affect the lives of all concerned.

MARTIN HOPENHAYNM, Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC): Today, between 33 and 40 indigenous peoples live in Latin America and the Caribbean, divided into some 400 ethnical groupings, each with its own language, social organization and economic system, adapted to the ecosystem. There are about 150 million people of African-Latin and African-Caribbean descent, around 30 per cent of the total population in the region.

After three centuries of exclusion and domination, the indigenous people and people of African descent today show the poorest economic and social indicators, and have little access to the decision-making process. Moreover, ethnic and racial discrimination form the basis for xenophobic feelings in countries of the region, which is transferred to other foreigners coming from poorer countries.

Facing those problems, we have to make progress in ratifying and implementing international instruments in that regard. We have to promote the public and political debate about the demands for rights from those groups. That has to go hand-in-hand with the promotion of equal opportunities for social development, through multicultural and bilingual education in regions where indigenous people live, and affirmative action to remedy historical discrimination, among other things. The reversal of a history of discrimination requires effective collective rights for minorities. The historical effects of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance are deep, and deeper still, therefore, are the means required to reverse and repair them.

LALLA BEN BARKA, Deputy Executive Secretary of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa: We at the ECA, the regional economic arm of the United Nations in Africa, are conscious of the fact that the struggle against poverty is indeed the struggle against racism. Our efforts, together with the international community, to eradicate poverty and extricate the African continent for marginalization in a globalizing world are, in fact, efforts against racism and racial discrimination. Combating racism by promoting development in Africa could prove to be one of the greatest achievements of the third millennium. We urge States and international organizations to recognize the links between the two.

As Africa enters the third millennium, it is facing daunting new development challenges, namely the effects of globalization. While the developed world enjoys unprecedented prosperity, African countries face special difficulties responding to that overwhelming challenge. We cannot embark on a serious struggle against racism, racial discrimination and existing economic apartheid unless Africa and other developing nations are no longer marginalized. We at the ECA are determined to combat racism by creating opportunities for trade, economic growth and sustainable development, particularly through the use of new information technologies. We also believe that there is a need for increased inter-cultural exchange through the preservation and promotion of all civilizations and cultural diversity throughout the world.

The new efforts aimed at reducing poverty on our continent recently put forward by African member States represents a formidable endeavour that will move Africa forward. The Commission is joining with member States to assist in the implementation of those efforts. Rather than constituting a wish list of projects which require funding, the New African Initiative squarely focuses on policies and programme for sustainable development. Most importantly, the Initiative recognizes that success is only viable if its principles and suggestions are owned by the African peoples. The Initiative recognizes that the onus for long-lasting change remains on African governments, which need to put their houses in order. Africans must take responsibility for their own destinies. The outcomes of the Initiative will certainly assist in the dissolution of racial discrimination as economic development on the continent will be dramatically enhanced.

JOSEPH IGBINEDION of the United Nations Centre for Human Settlements (Habitat): An unprecedented 50 per cent of the world's total population currently lives in cities. Nobody can fail to notice that urban density -- and the physical proximities implied -- have reinforced a human need to seek comfort and protection from in-group cultures. Increasingly, that is leading not only to urban spatial segregation, but also to conflict on the basis of variations among such groups. Rather than utilizing variations to create multicultural communities building on each community's aggregate knowledge and wisdom, the world is sliding deeper into patterns of polarization. The spatial concentration of population groups is not a new phenomenon. Societies have segregated their inhabitants for thousands of years, most commonly along socio-economic lines. Sheer lifestyle differences between social groupings make it inevitable that central cities will be demographically different from suburbs. However, spatial segregation between social groupings may facilitate the building of urban communities, by strengthening group identity without necessarily raising questions of equity.

Segregation can be a major factor in reinforcing disadvantage and exclusion. It may lead to the formation of underclass ghetto or slum communities with restricted geographic and social mobility. Thus, urban spatial segregation is the first step on the way to societal breakdown, socio-cultural fragmentation and divided cities. We have much more to understand regarding the social problems in and among segregated areas. There is an urgent need for multidimensional urban policy responses that promote economic adaptation to globalizing economies, while cushioning social dislocations caused by economic decline. Even in some countries where multiculturalism is declared a national policy, indifference, xenophobia and outright segregation can still be a problem.

It is critical that we place housing and discrimination within the context of the indivisibility and universality of human rights. With a majority of the global population living in cities, our urban environments are central to the realization of human rights. A future of cities without slums, but of livable neighbourhoods and healthy communities, is not possible if our cities do not function. Cities will not work if they are not inclusive or if they are politically, economically and socially divided. We cannot continue living in segregated cities.

RATU EPELI NAILATIKAW, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs of Fiji: We acknowledge South Africa's immense power of redemption and magnanimity, despite the injustices it has endured. Fiji has seized on that as a healing tool for the misgivings and suffering that our people have sustained in the last attempted coup of May 2000. Hence, the formation of the Ministry of Reconciliation and Unity. At the same time, those responsible for the attempted coup are now facing charges of treason and their trial is currently in progress.

As we celebrate changes, diversity and differences, we should not lose sight of the, seemingly endless, discriminatory attitudes. Nor should we lose sight of the challenges they bring us to move forward through global and multicultural collaborations. In doing so, we must avoid sectoral or focused
issues which could leave by the wayside the majority of Member States concerns. It is our sincere and humble plea that our approach and strategy today for addressing the issues of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance should be much broader, more practical, even generous and with a scope of applicability across cultures and religions, which can sustain human development into the next decade.

It is not our intention to come to Durban for reparations, compensation or finger pointing. But at the same time we understand fully why reparations and compensation are being demanded. Although the problems we have today are products of the making of generations that were less privy to the enlightenment and the greater insights we now possess, we believe they should be addressed.

Right of Reply

Exercising his right of reply, the representative of Armenia said his comments would address the statement made by the representative of Azerbaijan yesterday. It was disturbing to hear the same old falsifications, which always seemed to create new history for Azerbaijan, time and time again. Azerbaijan evidently does not want to be a young State and had succeeded in creating a false history in which it now appeared to believe. So much so, that they have started to present that history to others. Still, to present such a history to others was one thing, to convince them of its reality was another.

Azerbaijan seemed to forget that whatever it said about its past was not documented in history books or represented on maps and could only be found in its own literature or Web sites. To be clear, it was Azerbaijan that responded to the legitimate demands of Armenians, living in the occupied territories, with violence, aggression and sophisticated military force. It even used arms against the civilian population. When Armenia had no other choice but to respond, Azerbaijan decided to call itself the victim. He called on all sides to stop blaming each other and look to the future in order to find a solution. There was a need to ensure that truth and justice could be won. The world could not be lied to for all time.


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