ADDRESS OF THE PRESIDENT OF SOUTH AFRICA, THABO MBEKI, AT THE OPENING OF THE WORLD CONFERENCE AGAINST RACISM, RACIAL DISCRIMINATION, XENOPHOBIA AND RELATED INTOLERANCE: DURBAN, AUGUST 31, 2001.
Your Excellency, Secretary General of the United Nations, Mr Kofi Annan, Your Excellencies Heads of State and Government, Ministers and Heads of Delegation,
Esteemed leaders of the non-governmental organisations,
President of the World Conference, the Hon Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, Secretary General of the World Conference, the Hon Mary Robinson, Distinguished delegates and guests,
Members of the mass media, Friends, ladies and gentlemen:
of the people of South Africa and our government, I am privileged to join
in welcoming you all to South Africa and to this historic world conference
that has the potential and a responsibility to convey a message of hope to
billions of people across the globe.
gathered as we have, because we are united in our resolve to ensure that every
human being leads a life of dignity. We meet here because we are determined
to ensure that nobody anywhere should be subjected to the insult and offence
of being despised by another or others because of his or her race, colour,
nationality or origin.
we are committed to the reolisation of the objective that every human being
should enjoy human rights as equals with other human beings, with every right
and possibility to determine both their future and the destiny of their countries.
means that nobody should be denied their statehood on any basis whatsoever,
or turned into permanent refugees with neither the right nor the possibility
to build a national home they can truly call home.
I am certain
we are determined to speak with one voice to assert that no culture, language
or tradition of any people is inferior, deserving of being despised, mocked
and destroyed. By this means we want to make the point firmly that all peoples
and all nations are mutually ;and each equally entitled to their identity
and their national pride.
gathered in Durban because we have understood that poverty is not a natural
human condition. Accordingly, it constitutes a direct attack on the human
dignity of all those condemned to deprivation and are therefore forced to beg, to steal, to prostitute themselves because they are poor or those who resort to substance abuse to take away the pain of hunger and despair.
all this, we are meeting here because we have said to ourselves that since
poverty is not an act of nature but the product of human society, we must
as this human society, together fight and vanquish poverty and underdevelopment.
come together, in what some believe is a new age of reason, because we know
that the knowledge and the means exist in human society today in fact to overcome
this poverty and underdevelopment.
that remains to be answered is what is to be done to deploy these powerful
intellectual and material resources so that poverty everywhere becomes a thing
of the past.
necessary that we convene in Durban because, together, we recognised the fact
there are many in our common world who suffer indignity and humiliation because
they are not white.
and traditions are despised as savage and primitive and their identities denied.
They are not white and are deeply immersed in poverty. Of them it is said
that they are human but black, whereas others are described as human and white.
who have to bear the pain of this real world, it seems the blues singers were
right when they decried the world in which it was said - if you're white you're
alright; if you are brown, stick around; if you are black, oh brother! get
back, get back, get back!
in these terms, which some may think are too harsh and stark, because I come
from a people that have known the bitter experience of slavery, colonialism
a people who know what it means to be the victim of rabid racism and racial
discrimination. Among us are the women who suffered most because they had
to carry the additional burden of gender oppression and discrimination.
of that experience, against whose results we continue to struggle to this
day, as we will do for a considerable time to come, we also know what can
be achieved when the peoples of the world unite to say no longer will they
allow that another human being will suffer at the hands of another because
of their race, colour, nationality and origin.
you to South Africa, we welcome you as fellow combatants who joined us in
struggle to defeat and suppress the apartheid crime against humanity.
I am privileged to have the opportunity as you, who represent the nations
of the world, meet in this country, which not so long ago was the fountainhead
of racism, once more to convey to you the immense gratitude of the millions
of our people that you did not stand aside when that crime against humanity
was being committed.
are convinced that when you waged that protracted struggle, you did so because
you were opposed to racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related
the fact that you decided-to convene this World Conference here in the belief
that you did so because you have confidence that we too remain an active part
of the world movement determined to fight on until racism ceases to define
anybody's place in society and the world.
happy that you would come, because this would give us an opportunity to reaffirm
in front of you all that to us slavery, colonialism and racism are fundamentally
give us the possibility to pledge to the peoples of the world that we will
not betray the friendship and solidarity which drove you to act against apartheid
and will therefore join with you in the difficult struggle to eradicate the
legacy of slavery, colonialism and racism.
our common universe, who are defined by the blues singers as brown and black,
expect much of this important World Conference. They believe that something
will come out of here that will signify a united and sustained global drive
within their countries and throughout the world to help rid them of the suffering
they bear because they are brown and black.
this hope because their suffering is real and immense. And yet they can also
see that there are others who are as human as they, who lead decent lives
and are certain of even better lives in future, whatever other problems they
by poverty, fearful of the future because they know that tomorrow will be
worse than today, forced to behave towards others as though some are inferior
and others superior, simply to get something to eat, many take to their feet to flee from their lands of despair, at all costs trying to reach other countries they believe have the possibility to introduce them to a life of hope.
humanity dictates that as we rose against apartheid racism, so must we combine
to defeat the consequences of slavery, colonialism and racism which, to this
day, continue to define the lives of billions of people who are brown and
black, as lives of hopelessness.
chose to be a slave, to be colonised, to be racially oppressed. The impulses
of the time caused these crimes to be committed by human beings against others.
the impulse of our own time says to all of us that we must do everything we
can to free those who to this day suffer from racism, xenophobia and related
intolerance because their forebears were enslaved, colonised and racially
must be that this World Conference will say that, in all countries, both of
the North and the South, the brown and black ghettos of poverty, despair and
human degradation must no longer exist.
Conference will have to indicate what is to be done practically so that this
call results in a changed and changing world in which all human beings actually
enjoy the inalienable right to human dignity.
part of our legitimacy as governments derives from our commitment to serve
the people. Our own experience tells us that these people whom we serve always
feel pain when another, who might be a citizen of other lands, feels pain.
masses, human solidarity is not a foreign concept. To them, this World Conference
must convey the message that the peoples of the world are inspired by a new
internationalism that says that we are determined to unite in action to repair
the gross human damage that was caused in the past.
inspire them with the knowledge that as governments, as nongovernmental organisations,
as countries and as peoples, we are ready now, to dedicate our minds, our
skills and our resources to the creation of a new world free of racism, racial
discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance.
convey a message of hope to the peoples of the world that, together, we are
resolved to work hard for peace everywhere on our universe, so that the
doors open everywhere for the fullest and all-round development of all human beings in conditions of freedom'` safety and security.
East cries out for a just, stable and permanent peace that is long overdue.
The people of Palestine, like those of Israel and everywhere else in the world,
are also entitled to pursue their fullest and all-round development in conditions
of freedom, safety and security.
Continent of Africa also deserves peace like any other, to rescue the peoples
from death and destruction and to open the doors for us too, to develop in
conditions of freedom, safety', and security.
the conditions be created for us as Africans to take to the long road towards
the eradication of the legacy, which is our daily companion, of slavery, colonialism
we bade farewell to a century that has visited terrible suffering to millions
of people. It inflicted a terrible Holocaust on the Jewish people. It imposed
a frightful genocide on, the people of Rwanda. It produced criminal regimes
of people demented by adherence to anti-human ideologies of racial superiority.
this same century gave: us a global compact in the form of the Universal Declaration
of Human Rights. It 1 gave humanity as a whole the possibility to accumulate
the knowledge and!, the means to realise the noble vision contained in that
gathered in Durban to make the commitment that this we will do and, together,
to decide what steps we will take to ensure what has to be done, is done.
I welcome you to this country which you helped to liberate from apartheid
racism and hope that the celebration of that victory will give this World
Conference the inspiration to produce the results that will define the 21St
century as the century that restored to all, their human dignity.