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
8 September 2001









Following is the text of the closing statement by the President of the World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance, Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, in Durban, South Africa:



At the end of this landmark and historic Conference, I think we will all agree that it was right that this Conference was held and consensus reached on practical steps to be taken to push back the frontiers of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance which are frighteningly on the rise in many parts of the world.  I would imagine that we would also agree that it was proper that this Conference should be held in South Africa, a country that has witnessed the most egregious form of institutionalized racism, yet rose to become a living testimony that racism can be defeated with the collective efforts of the international community.


Gathered at this Conference, as Member States, we have at some time or another stood at the precipice.  At each moment we stepped back and courageously dug deep into our strength and made a supreme effort to make the Conference a success, that really it is.  It was through the daring act of faith that sustained us through to the finish, because, we must have said to ourselves that for the sake of posterity we must lay a firm foundation for the future of tolerance and harmonious co-existence that will be free from the cancer of racism.


Indeed, we have found our way through the turbulent sea of events, at each point along the way, we had to respond creatively to both anticipated and unanticipated events.  Like the blooming and blossoming flower in the spring, we have agreed on a fresh start and the new road-map.  We have agreed that the depredation of the systems of slavery and colonialism had the degrading and debilitating impact on those who are black, broadly defined.


We also agreed that slavery is a crime against humanity and that an apology is necessary, not for monetary gain, but to restore the dignity and humanity of those who suffered.  We also looked at the Middle East.  I think everybody in this Conference could not help but be moved by the suffering they saw every day on their television screens.  It was those images of suffering Palestinian men, women and children that made us here feel that this matter needed to be discussed.


Consequently, we agreed that a clear and unequivocal apology constitutes a starting point in a long and arduous journey of finding one another.  An apology restores the dignity, self-worth and humanity of the black body, broadly defined.  We also agreed that other remedial actions would have to be adopted to correct the legacy of slavery and colonialism and all other forms of racism.  We agreed to work consciously to up-lift women who have been victims of these ills, because, of their race and gender.


We agreed that the discrimination against, and the lack of opportunities by the minorities and the indigenous people everywhere as a result of their origin, culture, tradition, language, standing in society and their refugee status could only be ignored to our perpetual peril.  Accordingly, we have reached consensus that access to education and changing curricula to reflect the interests of every group in every society must be encouraged.  We requested the media and other forms of communication medium to help promote positive values of tolerance, understanding, ubuntu-humaness and the richness of our world diversity.


We have agreed at the Conference, that entering our jargon and global discourse is the notion and the process of globalization.  We have equally agreed that globalization has impacted on countries differently.  It has rendered precarious the economies of countries with the terrible legacy of slavery and colonialism while benefiting mostly the developed countries.


Wherever it went, especially in the developing South, it has left in its wake the dehumanizing absolute poverty, economic marginalization, social exclusion and underdevelopment.  Globalization has created the economic refugees who have taken to fleeing the misery of poverty in their countries in search of succour and better living conditions in the rich and prosperous developed countries.  Unfortunately, these refugees have been at the receiving end of the worst form of racism and xenophobia.


The Conference, therefore, agreed that this process should be harnessed and directed at the most pressing challenge of our time --“poverty eradication”.  Globalization has generated enough wealth and resources to do that.  We also agreed to deal with the structural conditions that sustain inequality and inequity of the global economy, that in turn encourages underdevelopment and marginalization, which is at the root of racism today.


Through the Programme of Action and the Declaration we unanimously agreed to launch the Global Army against Racism in all countries to work assiduously to roll back and uproot the scourge of racism.  From the intergovernmental, to non-governmental and civil society we agreed in our various fora to work jointly in partnerships to take our work forward.  The political Declaration we have just adopted is indeed action orientated and practical.  It is now up to governments and civil society to ensure its implementation.


We have agreed that coming from the centuries that entrenched chauvinism and the pernicious system of segregation, this current century must at its end serve as a fulcrum against racism and free us, once and for all, from all those outdated anti-human and anti-social ideologies whose burden we all carry up to today.


At this juncture, it is in order to express our heartfelt and sincere thanks to the Secretary-General of the World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance for the excellent

service she and her hard-working team provided towards the success of the Conference.


We also wish to thank Madam Diallo and the Preparatory Committee for the ground-work, which became the basis of our deliberations.  Our gratitude also go to the Group of 21 that produced proposals that helped us move forward.  It is in order to thank countries that hosted regional conferences and allowed Member States to formulate their regional positions that fed into this process, from Chile, Iran, to France and Senegal.


Ours has been truly an inclusive and broadly consultative process.  Our big thank you also goes to the members of the Bureau whose perseverance has seen us conclude our work.  The interpreters who made our work easy and more manageable deserve the special mention for their unstinting work.  Last but not least, I wish to thank all regional coordinators, especially, Brazil, Kenya and Mexico, who led the parallel processes with utmost distinction.  I also extend my sincere thanks to the United Nations family for working so tirelessly to make ours a truly successful Conference.


We thank you Member States most dearly for honouring us with your presence in the country you helped liberate through your unfeigned commitment to liquidate the most stubborn system of the apartheid crime against humanity.  We apologize for any inconvenience suffered by any delegation during the Conference.  I wish to also thank President Mbeki and Deputy President Zuma, as well as my compatriots for their hard work and support.


Shakespeare’s Tempest eloquently and elegantly reminds us of our beautiful world when Miranda the daughter of the deposed Prospero proclaimed on top of her voice “Oh brave, new world, to have such people”.  Indeed you are the brave and wondrous people, and have so remarkably risen to the challenge of our time.


In closing, I want to refer to one of our finest poet Wally Mongale Serote, who had these beautiful words to say in his work Ofay-Watcher Looks Back.


“I want to look at what happened;

That done,

As silent as the roots of plants pierce the soil

I look at what happened

Whether above the houses there is always either smoke or dust……

I want to look at what happened

That done

As silent plants show the colour; green

I want to look at what happened,

When houses make me ask: do people live there?

As there is something wrong when I ask-is that man alive?

I want to look at what happened,

That done

As silent as the life of a plant that makes you see it…… as silent as plants bloom and the eyes tells you: something has happened.


Something historic has indeed happened here today.




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