Statement by

Ms. Karen Jespersen
Minister of the Interior


Durban, 1 September 2001

Madame President, distinguished delegates.

It is an honour and a great challenge to address this World Conférence against racism in a country which has felt thé horror of Apartheid. Denmark salutes thé host country, its people and government for thé heroic struggle it has fought against thé inhuman and degrading system of Apartheid. Your successful struggle is a milestone in thé fight against racism worldwide.

I believe we in Denmark have learned thé lessons from our own past. Over thé last 150 years we have been struggling to develop a democratic society built upon thé rule of law and human rights and with a social welfare system based on solidarity and participation of all members of society. An essential feature in that development has been education - from thé primary school free of charge to life-long learning. Such a measure combined with a social system based on burden-sharing and thé principle of equal opportunity for everyone provides in my view thé basic means for overcoming
prejudices and for promoting understanding and tolerance among people. We will use our best efforts to secure that these basic values are reflected in thé Programme of Action from this Conférence.

The solidarity developed within our own nation has gradually been extended towards other nations in need of development and social justice. As often mentioned by South Africa, Denmark was at thé international forefront in thé fight against Apartheid. During thé dark decades of thé 1970's and 80's Denmark provided substantial humanitarian and educational assistance to thé victims of Apartheid, and thousands of Danes were actively supporting your struggle.

In thé view of thé Danish Government solidarity is an important concept which should emerge from thé Durban Conférence. An important tool in strengthening this concept is thé development cooperation between thé developed and thé developing countries. Denmark's development and cooperation with our partner countries is basically oriented towards eradication of poverty. The annual contribution amounts to some USD 1.8 billions representing 1 per cent of our Gross National Product. This is thé highest ratio of any donor country and well above thé UN target of 0.7 per cent. This reflects a genuine sense of solidarity by thé Danish People with thé less privileged nations of thé world. We urge other developed countries to follow that path.

Madame President, manifestations of racism and racial discrimination exist in all parts of thé world including, unfortunately, in my own country. Any such manifestations should never be taken lightly. In its extreme fornrn, it may lead to ethnic cleansing and genocide as we have witnessed in thé past. We therefore need constantly to watch out for thé dangerous signs of racism and to combat this phenomenon by all legal means. In this context thé co-opération amongst thé social partners is significant in creating concrete action at thé workplace.
In Denmark we offer protection to refugees who have a well-founded fear of persecution based on racial or ethnic origin. We canne, however, accept that people in this way are forced to levee their country of origin. Therefore, I would like to emphasise that it is of crucial importance that we work to ensure that thé country of origin respects thé fundamental human rights, including freedom of religion. In that case thé right of return will be available to those refugees who so wish. We also seek to ensure that refugees in Denmark can live a dignified life and be empowered to réalise their full potential.

In order to strengthen thé fight against discrimination and racism in Denmark a new body for thé promotion of equal treatment of all persons irrespective of racial or ethnic origin will be established. This is in line with thé recommendations of this Conférence which also underlines thé importance of establishing independent national human rights institutions.

The law is a powerful weapon for combating racism, and we regard thé United Nations Convention against Racism from 1965 as a cornerstone in that work. A faithful implementation of thé Convention and of thé recommendations of its monitoring Committee will bring us a long way towards eliminating racist attitudes and stereotypes affecting various sections of society.

We welcome thé many substantial provisions in thé Final Document dealing with thé problems confronting indigenous peoples. Since thé World Conférence on Human Rights in Vienna 8 years ago Denmark has actively pursued thé idea of creating a Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues within thé United Nations system with equal participation of governmental and indigenous representatives. The idea has now materialized and thé Permanent Forum will hold its first annual session in New York in May next year. It matters to pursue an issue also at thé global level. I am confident that thé Durban Conférence too will provide a break-through on many issues relevant to thé fight against racism in all countries.

This World Conférence also addresses multiple forms of discrimination, including discrimination based on religion and descent. Women and girls are in particular affected by multiple discrimination. We, therefore, need to integrate a gender perspective into our programme of action against racism. This is all thé more relevant as we are even today witnessing serious set-backs of thé status of women in some part of thé world where even education is denied women, and only women. Let me stress again, that education is one of thé most effective ways of countering racism and intolerance.
Still, prevention is better than cure. In particular examples of best practices to overcome racist attitudes would appear to be an essential means by which we may assist each other in advancing tolerance and equality. With a view to keeping thé spirit from Durban alive and as a special measure of follow-up to thé conclusions of thé Conférence, I would like to suggest that we all make an effort within thé next year to answer thé following two questions:

l. Which measure does Your Government consider to be thé most effective in countering racist attitudes and related intolerance?
2. Are there any examples of good practices strengthening tolerance and equality in Your society?

The replies to these two questions could be handed in to thé Office of thé High Commissioner for Human Rights before thé start of thé General Assembly in September 2002.

An analysis of thé answers received could provide an inspiring basis for our continuing efforts to advance tolerance and equality among all people.

In conclusion, Madame President, I wish to thank You, Your government, Your people and thé City of Durban for hosting this Third United Nations World Conférence against Racism. Once again South Africa has set a milestone in thé fight against racism - this time at thé global level. The task ahead now consists of translating our oral commitments into deeds in such a way that thé message from Durban will have a positive impact on peoples'daily life all over thé world.

I thank you Madame President, distinguished delegates for your attention.