STATEMENT BY

HIS EXCELLENCY LYONPO THINLEY GYAMTSHO

MINISTER FOR HOME AFFAIRS,
ROYAL GOVERNMENT OF BHUTAN
LEADER OF THE BHUTANESE DELEGATION

TO THE WORLD CONFERENCE AGAINST RACISM,
RACIAL DISCRIMINATION, XENOPHOBIA AND RELATED INTOLERANCE

DURBAN, SOUTH AFRICA

31 AUGUST TO 7 SEPTEMBER 2001

 

Madam President,
Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

I would like to thank the Government and the people of the Republic of South Africa for the warm welcome and generous hospitality extended to me and the members of my delegation. I bring the warm greetings and good wishes of His Majesty, King Jigme Singye Wangchuck, the people and the government of Bhutan for the success of this important conference. I would also like to express our appreciation to Mrs. Mary Robinson, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and Secretary General of the World Conference, for guiding this Conference and its preparatory process with wisdom and dedication.

The strife of the South African people against apartheid was a major concern at the two previous World Conferences to combat racism and racial discrimination held in Geneva in 1978 and 1983. We are all inspired by the encouraging and positive developments that have taken place in South Africa despite the challenges that appeared insurmountable at the time.

Madam President, it is important to recognize that many of the problems related to racism today are legacies of the past that have caused untold suffering to people in many parts of the world. In our global village of the 21' century, there should be no place for .racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance. Yet, inspite of continued international efforts and phenomenal human progress in all spheres of life, the scourge of racism still persists. Its negative effects of continued exclusion and conflict are felt to this day in many parts of the world

The challenge of racism is perhaps even greater today than it was in the past. Racist stereotyping of certain categories of persons, including people of Asian and African descent and indigenous people, and xenophobic attitudes against such persons are widespread. Political movements in certain parts of the world openly expound racist ideas and exploit ethnic diversity to spread fear through violence and terrorism. The dissemination of racist ideas is tolerated in the name of freedom of expression. New information technology such as the Internet is being misused to propagate racial hatred. Globalization, which has so much potential to spread prosperity worldwide, can also result in economic disparity, cultural homogenization and marginalization of certain countries, which in turn contribute to strengthening of racist attitudes. We must ensure that globalization contributes to the overall well-being of all people in the world while at the same time respecting the uniqueness of different cultures and traditions.

The World Conference must find a common approach to promote a genuine culture of tolerance and respect for diversity, both within and among nations. It must envisage a new inclusive international order with equitable participation of all groups and countries in decision-making. Governments, international organizations, the media and civil society can and must work together to develop appropriate measures against racism and build harmony.

Madam President, in Bhutan, tolerance and compassion are core values in society. Our development philosophy of Gross National Happiness is one where the individual well-being is the focus of all development initiatives. It aims to promote and maximize the happiness and human rights of the people through good governance, sustainable development and preservation and promotion of the national twin rich heritages in terms of environment and culture. Our approach to development emphasizes a conscious process of decentralization aimed at empowering local communities and building their capacity to take decisions. Such initiatives have democratized the processes of decision-making and have significantly enlarged the horizons and opportunities of all communities who are now well integrated in the national mainstream and fully represented in all spheres of social, economic and political life of the country.

As a small and vulnerable country, Bhutan continues to face many challenges which have serious implications for its security and sovereignty. These include the problem of illegal immigration and the presence of foreign armed militants who have infiltrated the thick jungles of the south- eastern parts of my country. The resolution of these problems is a high national priority in order to ensure the full enjoyment of human rights of all our people.

Bhutan fully subscribes to and respects, both in spirit and in practice, the principles enshrined in the main international human rights instruments. Despite our limited institutional capacity, we have acceded to the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women and the Convention on the Rights of Child and have become a signatory to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination. It is our desire, in due course, to also accede to the other international human rights treaties. In this regard, I would like to take this opportunity to express our appreciation to the Office of the High Commissioner for its assistance in conducting numerous human rights related trainings for our officials under its technical cooperation programme.

Madam President, this World Conference, the first in the new millennium, provides us with a unique opportunity to eliminate the scourge of racism in its varied forms and manifestations. It is a time to reconcile with the past and at the same time to take a creative and forward-looking approach. Let us overcome our differences, and resolve to strengthen our fight against all forms of racism through greater compassion, dedication, and cooperation. I am confident that we will prevail in this act that we owe, not just to posterity, but also for the greater interest of our human legacy.

Madam President, I would like to assure you of our full support and cooperation in ensuring the success of this conference.

Thank you and Tashi Delek!