Mr. Juli Minoves-Triquell
Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Principality of Andorra
World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance
Durban, South Africa, September 2001
Permit me to begin my speech today by breaching established forms of protocol - the requisite greetings and thanks, and this for a reason, the topic of this conference: racism, xenophobia, and intolerance.
For there is nothing elegant, nothing formal, nothing distinguished, concerning racism and xenophobia. For these are acts of violence that reduce human beings to nothing, to signs of hatred.
When people talk about the roots of intolerance and racism, they often speak of the fear of the other, of the unfamiliar or different. Fear of the loss of personal or economic security. This may indeed be so. But I think that another way to explain racism is a refusal to look with delight, a refusal to look to know, a refusal to look on the unknown as new. Let me explain.
When I look around me here, at this conference, and recognize my world, in all of its wondrous diversity, I recognize the pleasure I take in looking. And I recall the words of Miranda, in that strangest of Shakespeare's plays, The Tempest, when she first caught sight of the newly shipwrecked voyagers: "Oh brave new world, to have such people in it!" Shakespeare gave her these lines, despite the fact that these people - at least the Duke - were responsible for the attempted murder and ultimate banishment of her father, Prospero. Despite this irony - picked up by Huxley, of course, in his famous novel Brave New World - Miranda is not wrong, the world is a brave and marvelous place. And we can recognize her wonder now, just by looking about us.
So it is to me vital, to insist, that racism should never destroy the wonderful experience of looking, the pleasures we have in seeing the world about us, yes in objectifying others. And let us recall the etymology of the name Shakespeare gave to his heroine, miranda, she who must see.
For I believe there has been an unfortunate association between racism and objectification. Objectification is the pleasure of looking, the "desire to understand," in Aristotle's phrase, while racism and xenophobia are the obverse: the desire to categorize only as a means to exclude, the desire not to understand.
Miranda's delight in seeing reminds me of the "Vision
Declaration: Tolerance and Diversity: A vision for the 215` Century," of
which Andorra's President, Marc Forne Molne, was one of the first dignitaries
to sign when he participated last year in the Millennium Summit. Today, 79 other
Heads of State have added their names to the list. In the statement, he expressed
the wish that this conference would give a definitive thrust to the achievement
of human dignity and equality for all of the inhabitants of the our brave new
world. Let us hope that by the end of this new millennium, the plague of racism,
xenophobia, and all forms of intolerance may become a memory consigned to the
annals of history.
I am hopeful. For while there remains much work to be done, there has also been progress since the previous United Nations Conferences on Racism, in 1978 and 1983, progress, I would like to add, we can see clearly here in South Africa.
Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,
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."
In order to ensure these rights, the Parliament of the Principality of Andorra established the institution of ombusdman in 1998, an institution that has proven efficient in providing an alternative recourse for justice for Andorrans, especially on issues related to human rights.
Since 1995, Andorra has also been represented in the European Commission against racism and intolerance. Recently, the Council of Europe High Commissioner for Human rights visited Andorra and produced a favorable report concerning human rights within the country. We do, however, need to continue to work. Human Rights education is a responsibility of all states to which Andorra is fully committed.
With respect to international instruments, the Principality of Andorra has 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.
Today I can also announce from this forum that it is our intention to sign, very soon, the 1965 International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, if possible during our attendance of the Special Session of the General Assembly on Children, that will take place in New York from the 19th to the 21St of September.
In conclusion, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, Distinguished Delegates - indeed now let me also here thank the President of the Conference, and the Secretary of the Conference, Mrs. Mary Robinson, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights - might we not look forward to the end of racism and intolerance? For this is the reason we are now gathered here: to try to find an end to this terrible but all too human plague that seems to have infected our history.
For when we look across history, we see that there has always been racism. That the logic of violence has always turned to the simple fact of racial, or ethnic difference, as a means to achieve its destruction. We can move back in time from apartheid, here in South Africa, to Europe's tragic treatment of the Jews and the Roma, to the vast system of slavery by which the New World of the Americas was colonized on the death and slaughter of her indigenous peoples.
But how far back into the past can we travel? Are the terrible wars of pre-colonial Africa acts of xenophobia? Are the campaigns of the early Emperors of China racist? And closer to my home, were the wars waged against the Cathars - the "perfects" who turned against the Catholic Church in the thirteenth century, and were systematically and terribly destroyed - not so long after the establishment of my country, in fact - may we not count their deaths as well? Where do we draw the line in the sands of time?
I raise this point because much, perhaps, as we would like this conference to be about the present, the here and now, we cannot separate racism from its past. We need to come to terms and accept its painful legacy. Only by understanding history, the terrible history of intolerance, can we be fully freed from its grasp.
Of course practically - we can speak practically - people will say, 'these events happened long ago, in the time of my great grandparents, what has this to do with me? Or even - here in South Africa - these events belong to my parent's generation. What has this - what have their crimes - to do with me?
A good deal, the historian would say. But at the same time, I want to insist on the innocence, and indeed the correctness, of their response, just as 1 want to hold onto the idealism of Miranda's cry in that great play, the Tempest: "Oh Brave New World to have such people in it!"
For Shakespeare realized, and so must we, if we are to survive, and forgive, that the world is always new, it is - with each change of the season, with each turn around the globe - always starting anew. And that is a wonderful, a marvelous thing. We need to hold onto this idealism, the innocence of Miranda, the delight in first catching sight of the new.