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

31 August 2001




Following is the text of an address today, as received, by Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of South Africa and President of the World Conference against Racism, at the opening ceremony of the Conference in Durban, South Africa:

In accepting the Presidency of this Conference, it is appropriate to pay a special tribute to the gallant fighter against racism and son of Africa, Govan Mbeki, who sadly passed away on the eve of this Conference.

Inspired by the collective efforts of humanity, slavery, slave trade, colonialism and apartheid they have all ceased to be. They've all been defeated, because humanity could not countenance oppression of one by another, because humanity has dared to affirm an injunction that we are all born equal with inherent rights and dignity. These noble words are enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of the United Nations and serves as a guiding light and offers hope for all of humanity.

Representing African women, I know the pain of slavery, colonialism whose legacy is staring me in the face every day. My continent bears the scars of conflicts, abject poverty, racism, marginalization, social exclusion, underdevelopment, economic disparities, humiliation and indignity; all have their roots in the practices of these abominable systems.

We can take pride in the role of this region in the long struggle against racism. It was in this province that Mahatma Ghandi launched his non-violent resistance struggle and later inspired the freedom struggle in India and worldwide. South Africa has a long history of resistance symbolized by the award of the Nobel Peace Prize to Chief Albert Lutuli, who was the first African leader to receive it, and comes from this region.Despite the triumph against racism, all countries of the world continue to battle against the contemporary forms of racism. It is my hope that at the end of this Conference, we will learn from and share with the international community on the ways and means of dealing with racism.

Our Conference must issue a clarion call to the rest of the world to end the unspeakable evils of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance. Concomitantly, with this call, we must launch a sustained Programme of Action capable of being implemented by every country at every level.

In recognizing the work that has been produced thus far, I wish to thank all Member States for their contributions in their respective regions. This was followed by intensive preparatory meetings held in Geneva. Indeed, at times it seemed gloomy and hopeless, but we persevered and recorded substantial progress. We must build on that, aware of the sensitivity and pain involved in confronting these issues. It is my hope that we shall together respond to this challenge before us. We must succeed, we cannot afford anything less than success. At the end of this century we must look back at this Conference as the beginning of an offensive against racism.

The Youth Summit and the Non-Governmental Organization Forum have also discussed these issues and challenged the Conference to bequeath them with a non-racial, non-sexist, tolerant and peaceful world. We dare not fail them. This will be a fitting tribute to all those who over generations have sacrificed their lives in the battle against racism.

It will be remiss of me to conclude without acknowledging the dexterous work of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and her secretariat. She and her team have performed brilliantly under trying conditions.

I, therefore, accept with humility, the task assigned to me as President of this Conference by this distinguished Assembly. My success is dependent on the cooperation of all of you. I know, without doubt, that all of you will contribute in any way you can to make this Conference a success. It will be through our perseverance and cooperation in the spirit of brotherhood and sisterhood that we will all succeed.

In his book, Long Walk to Freedom, the icon of our struggle, Nelson Mandela, made this seminal comment: "I have taken a moment here to rest, to steal a view of the glorious vistas that surround me, to look back on the distance I have come. But I can rest only for a moment, for with freedom comes responsibilities and I dare not linger for my long walk is not yet ended.

It is my fervent hope, that at the end of this Conference we will look back proudly at the road traversed thus far and go on to give concrete expression to the Programme of Action and the Declaration that we would adopt with consensus.

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