H. E. Mr. Jan Kavan
Deputy-Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs

World Conference Against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance

Durban, South Africa
Sunday 2 September 2001

Mr. Secretary-General,
Mrs. Secretary-General,
Mr. President,
Esteemed Presidents, Prime Ministers, Government Ministers,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is indeed a pleasure to address such a distinguished gathering that has met here in Durban.

I wish to express my most sincere gratitude to the Republic of South Africa for assuming the role of the host of this World Conference.

I view the large attendance here as a sign of determination to combat racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance as well as as an important step towards forming a world front to fight these pathological social phenomena.

The Czech Republic attaches great importance to this Conference. It actively participated in its preparation as a member of the group of 21 states and it is obviously concerned about the ability of this gathering to agree on concrete results.

We are living at a time of accelerating globalization. And globalization opens before the mankind not only immense, unthinkable opportunities but it also presents grave new risks. It widens the gap between those who participate in the globalization processes and those who do not. It widens the gap between the rich and the poor.

In our era of rapidly developing technologies we are fully aware of the pressing need to improve the protection of human rights and to tackle the phenomena which threaten the rights of human beings. In spite of the forty-year-long existence of the human rights standards and more than thirty-years record of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, we are still grappling with racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance. We have been encountering these phenomena in various contexts, they express themselves with various intensity and do acquire various concrete forms practically in all countries of the world.

Should mankind be able to exploit all the immense opportunities offered to it in the 21st century, it must be able to challenge and to successfully tackle these serious social pathological phenomena. If it fails to do so, there is the risk that it will be permanently pulled down in its development, that it will be dragged into crises and conflicts at both national and international levels.

National, regional and local levels are, and will remain, in the foreseeable future the front lines of the fight against racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance. Our main emphasis must be put on preventive measures, in particular on education, work of the media, on the removal of the existing disproportions in the economic and social level between minorities and the majority population. Energetic and uncompromisingly forthright measures have to be resorted to in cases when preventive measures prove ineffective and when the manifestations of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance become more frequent and even acquire organized forms. The Czech Republic in the course of the preparatory process suggested that all this should be reflected in the final documents of this World Conference.

The Czech Republic regards racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance as phenomena which must be resolutely combatted and it places great emphasis on the need for the establishment of conditions for their elimination. The main methods of our struggle against racism and xenophobia are based on education towards the protection of human rights, towards tolerance and against racism. The Czech Government supports the Projects of Tolerance in which educational institutions as well as media take part. The Government is resolved to apply tough enforcement measures whenever there will be need to protect the society against the spread of racism and xenophobia. Integral part of the Government´s policy is the newly formulated conceptual approach to the status of our country´s numerous Roma community as well as affirmative actions towards Roma integration. It aims to close the social gap between this minority and the majority society. These particular problems are, unfortunately, affected not only by their considerable social dimension but they are further aggravated by clear expressions of xenophobia and intolerance.

In the era of globalization and the ever stronger links between individual countries, groups of states and whole continents, the importance of a uniform international approach to the elimination of pathological social phenomena, to which racism and xenophobia really belong, has been increasing.

And this is precisely where I see the significance and importance of this UN World Conference. Indeed, it offers a unique opportunity to mobilize forces at the international level to combat such phenomena as well as to help individual countries in their respective efforts. This Conference enables us to evalue the progress achieved to date in these endeavours, to identify any obstacles which still hinder further progress, to consider how to implement existing standards most effectively and how to increase the effectiveness of the UN mechanisms. It is important to give a complex consideration to all the factors - political, historic, economic, cultural and others - which give rise to racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance.

The Czech Republic views the demand to deal with historical events that led to these phenomena as fully justified. It is clearly both desirable and necessary to spell out the historical injustices and to define their relation to the current manifestations of racism and xenophobia. Responsibilities for historical injustices must be accepted by the perpetrators and this should lead to concrete consequences. The victims fully deserve that. To handle historical wrongs correctly and sensitively is, however, neither a simple nor an easy task. We know it well from our own experience. It is also important not to lose sight of the main purpose of our endeavours. Let me illustrate this on the situation of a driver looking at the rear view window of his car which gives him a far better picture of the traffic behind. If we concentrate on the situation behind us, we shall inevitably risk a head-on collision. We should learn from the past to ensure a better future but not dwell too much on the past and risk endangering the future.

The Czech Republic is of the opinion that measures should be adopted on the international level which reflect the consequences of the historical injustices. This should lead to the successful implementation of a multitude of development programmes by which the developed world should continue to assist, in a more profound manner, the less privileged parts of our planet. It is absolutely essential for all parties to guarantee truly consistent implementation of these measures, especially on national, regional and local level.

The Czech Republic is convinced that balanced approaches and a working and non-confrontational atmosphere will contribute to the successful fulfilment of the tasks this Conference has set itself. Excessive attention paid e.g. to individual regions could upset this balance and weaken the weight and impact of adopted conclusions. The Middle East problem is dominated by other than racial causes. We are convinced that there is no alternative to bilateral political negotiations on a peaceful settlement which must include mutually acceptable compromises. The Czech Republic rejects all forms of violence as means to achieve solutions of political disputes and we fully support the position related so eloquently here few days ago by UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan. If the parties concerned express their interest, the Czech Republic is prepared to contribute to the resumption of the peace process.

The ability to find consensus on measures to combat the manifestations of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance is a crucial step towards the elimination of these pathological social phenomena, which feed on prejudices and fears of range of differences, from the colour of skin to religion and all the way to social origin, culture or even political convictions. The Czech Republic attaches great importance to the follow-up mechanism which will enable the fulfilment of all the commitments which stem from the final documents of this World Conference. For this purpose, it recommends that the World Conference should utilize the existing UN mechanisms. To this end, it puts forward the proposal that - while working in conjunction with the Human Rights Commission and using the background materials provided by the individual states - the High Commissioner for Human Rights should annually submit to the Commission and to the UN General Assembly a report on how the commitments which will be adopted by this World Conference are being met and fulfilled.

Mr. President,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

thank your for your attention.