MR. CHARLES JOSSELIN,
MINISTER DELEGATE FOR COOPERATION AND FRANCOPHONIE
TO THE WORLD CONFERENCE AGAINST RACISM, RACIAL DISCRIMINATION,
XENOPHOBIA AND RELATED INTOLERANCE
(DURBAN, SEPTEMBER 1, 2001)
Mr. (Madam) Chair
Madam High Commissioner,
Heads of Delegation,
Ladies and Gentlemen
What country could better symbolize our hopes of vainquishing the scourges of racism and xenophobia than South Africa, where a people victoriously rose up to regain its dignity, to shatter the barriers of apartheid and to unite?
We are in Durban to tell the world that we utterly reject racism, xenophobia and discrimination in ail its forms. We refuse to countenance the horrific massacres they provoke, and the daily humiliations that accompany them. They are both an insult to the equality in dignity of the individual.
Faced with this many-faceted evil, ail governments, ail peoples, ail women and men and ail the world's citizens are under a buming obligation to unite against it. For there is only one human species, and we reject out of hand any theory attempting to assert the existence of distinct human species.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Durban offers an outstanding opportunity for us to confront our common past. We must have the courage to grasp it.
The practice of slavery dates from time immemorial. Although officially abolished, in reality it continues to be practised in various forms, insidiously, in some parts of the worid. Ail civilisations have experienced, practised or approved it; ail of them. With the discovery of the New World, the organisation of the slave trade brought an expansion of this odious commerce on an unparalleled scale. Rooted in the denial of the Other, in his reduction to the status of an objsct, Cool, or merchandise, the slave trade caused untold suffering, especially among the peoples of Africa, and their descendants in their places of exile. The Wodd Conference should be an occasion for us to acknowledge and express our regret, and to hail the memory of ail victims of this trade. It should act as a stimulus to our process of remembrance, for at present those victims occupy too srnall a -place in fhs official history and the collective memory of our countries. We must educate our children to keep this history alive, and I wish to pay tribute here to UNESCO's pioneering "Slave Route" programme.
In 1848, the French Republic adopted the decree that definitively abolished slavery throughout its territory. To quote the words of Victor Schoelcher, the decree's instigator, "the French Republic thus declares loudly and clearly that it excludes no one from its undyiing motto: Liberty, Equality, Fraternity."
Last May, at the motion of several members of Parliament, the French Padiament unanimously enacted a law recognising that slavery, the transatlantic trade in black slaves and the trade in the Indian Ocean, perpetrated since the 15 th century against the African, Amerindian, Malgache and Indian peoples, constituted a crime against humanity. France alone has taken such a step to this day.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Colonialism is another dark page in our common history. Initially inspired by the desire to appropriate the wealth of other continents, though founded aiso on the domination of the Other, where the strong dominated the weak, this system too was a source of suffering and humilation. It is right and proper that we should remember its invisible and nameless victims today. This is not to say that colonialism can be defined purely in terms of its excesses or its systematic violations of human dignity. But we must have the courage to face up to our history, in ail its aspects.
Yes, colonialism did have sustainable effects on the political and economical structures of these countries. The international community should show further solidarity in adressing the issues faced by these countries, many of which were subject to the slave trade. Misery is often a fertile breeding ground for hatred. Inequality in the world breeds all_kinds-of violence. We believe the issue of development and the fight against poverty is of central importance. Cooperation between nations - which is what our Conference seeks t.o reinforce - is a powerfui means of acting on the many causes of the phenomena of racism, discrimination and exclusion. France has included this dimension in its policy on development aid, as in the relations of trust that it maintains with the United Nations High Commission for Human Rights, around a number of specific projects.
My country is one of the main providers of officiai development aid among the OECD's members and intends to maintain that position. The main criterion for our aid must remain the fight against poverty, whatever its causes. We fully realise that those causes sometimes have their roots in the past. What is more, our aid must be designed in a spirit of partnership, which is why I welcome the New African Initiative, the commitment by the countries of Africa to work together for their development.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
There is a part of our history that exceeded in horror, scale and systematic abjection ail that went before it. This is the Shoah. To deny the unique nature of this crime against hurnanity would be to insult the memory of its victims, and a travesty of history. The anti-Semitism that gave rise to it should be condemned with utmost severity each and every time it raises again. In this sens, as was underlined by Kofi Annan no violence suffered by a people in their recent or ancient history will be tolerated as an excuse for violence inflicted on other communities in the name of this people.
And yet, the Shoah has not served as a definitive lesson for mankind. Prejudice, racial hatred and fear of the Other, exploited for destructive ends, have bred other genocides and fateful campaigns of ethnic purification. Still, no violence inflicted on a people in its history, be it recent or ancient, should provide for an excuse or an absolution for inflicting damage to other communities in the name of this people.
If the Durban conference manages to persuade the international community to take a balanced, clearsighted look at the dramas of its past, to pay hommage to ail their victims, and to pass on to those we represent our determination to combat ail attempts to repeat these tragedies in any form whatever, then in the eyes of France it will have achieved an essential aspect of its aims.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
If this conference must exorcise the past, it is also in order to tackle the present and above ail to look to the future more effectively. Remembrance of the past forces us to intensify our fight against contemporary forms of racism.
In this fight, France draws its inspiration from a universalistic philosophy that recognises the human person, in ail their diversity, in ail their freedom, respects them and protects their rights. In keeping with the undertakings given when ratifying the International Convention on the Eliminatiort of ail Forms of Racial Discrimination, my govemment is working to strengthen the means available to it to prevent and punish racism and xenophobia. It is developing means of legal protection for people suffering from discrimination. A recent law provides greater protection in housing and work. The govemment administration is expanding its means so as to be closer to victims of discrimination. A major effort is being made in the field of education and awareness-building for citizens, drawing in particular on the annual report of the National Consultative Commission on Human Rights to the Prime Minister.
French society is multicultural. Many French people are themselves the descendants of slaves, especially in the Overseas Departments and Territories. The diversity of our population is a source of wealth to the nation, but I am well aware that racist behaviour persists condemned by our law and punished by our courts. This conference is also an occasion to take a cold, hard look at our own society.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
France expects this Conference to establish the Universal Alliance against Racism as called for by the Presidency of the European Union in a thoroughly remarkable speech. France expects this Conference to corne up with a far-reaching analysis of new forets of discrimination, and it hopes it will provide a powerful impetus to fight these more effectively. Among these new forets of discrimination, 1 would like to focus on the misuse of the new means of communication by people seeking to promote scurrilous racist views. The international community has a duty to prevent this contamination of the Internet. Recent developments in the field of bioethics, too, call for extreme vigilance, for here we touch on the very essence of individual human beings, through their genetic patrimony. To prevent any such deviations, Germany and France have proposed that the international community adopt a binding instrument prohibiting cloning for reproductive purposes. Finally, there is the question of equality of treatment in the administration of justice. This is an old question, but it remains as acute as ever. For us, the discrimination observed in this domain, particularly in cases of irremediable sentences like the death penalty, have become intolerable.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Many people have placed great hopes in us. First among these are the most vulnerable sections of the population, those who suffer twofold discrimination, namely women and children, people marginalized by their sickness - I am thinking of HIV/AIDS sufferers - and those suffering from a handicap, those who suffer discriminaton purely on account of their birth or their sexual orientation, refugees, migrants, and the victims of trafficking in humans. Special mention should be made here of the Rom and the indigenous peoples whose culture, traditions and world view are stil) alien to the modem state. I welcome in that respect the rote of national human rights institutions in the implementation of govemment measures to combat discrimination. Non-govemmental organisations and defenders of human rights are key actors in this combat, in which the social partners, trade unions and business leaders are taking part, together with representatives of the principal religious and philosophical currents.
My delegation has tome to Durban with a commitment to work
in a spirit of openness and dialogue for the success of the Third World Conference
against racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance. It
will play an active and constructive part in your proceedings. We are confident
that, at the conclusion of our meeting, the countries gathered here in the homeland
of Nelson Mandela, and with the support of the High Commissioner for Human Rights
- whose courage and constancy I salute - will be able to send a message of brotherhood
and unity to the world and to affirm their common desire to enable each human
being to live in dignity.