ALHAJI MUSTAPHA IDRIS
HON. DEPUTY MINISTER OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS OF THE REPUBLIC OF GHANA,
AT THE WORLD CONFERENCE ON RACISM, RACIAL
XENOPHOBIA AND RELATED INTOLERANCE
IN DURBAN SOUTH AFRICA 31 AUGUST - 7 SEPTEMBER, 2001.
I am pleased to express appreciation to Madarn High Commissioner for Human Rights and her Office for according me the honour and privilege to address this important World Conference on a theme of tremendous historical significance and enormous contemporary relevance. I believe it is not by chance that such an epoch-making conference takes place in South Africa, the defunct citadel of apartheid. Indeed, the choice of Africa as the venue for the discussion of this subject is as eminently significant as selecting South Africa as a host is eloquently symbolic.
The Government of Ghana is proud to be a participant in the enactment of this aspect of the modem history of other world, and would like to take the opportunity to commend the resourceful braies behind the choice of such a suitable theme and venue for this conference. It is our conviction, Mr. President, that under your skilful stewardship, and with the dedicated assistance of your efficient Bureau, all distinguished delegations will demonstrate flexibility and sensitivity to facilitate the building of consensus on the delicate issues of paramount importance to all victims of racism and racial discrimination.
Mr. President, it is reassuring that the emerging world order seeks to demolish all barriers for humanity to live together as one family. Progressive as the initiative appears to be, the process will succeed in constructing paradise out of this world if all human beings accept the differences in colour, creed, sex and.levels of economic and technological development for equality, equity, respect, understanding and harmony to hold sway in the global village. humanity, therefore, has to learn to live in diversity in unity. In this way, our continuing common survival in relative peace and. security will be guaranteed.
It is thus imperative for all peace loving peoples to contribute to the untiring efforts of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights to address the perennial problem of racism, racial discrimination and xenophobia. It is necessary to discuss ways of combating contemporary forms of racisin, but it is also essential to focus on the equally important past manifestations of racism, especially the slave trade, which violated the human rights of millions of people. To attempt to combat contemporary forms of racism without giving due attention to the tragedies of the slave trade which devastated the continent of Africa, destroyed its population and economies, and brought untold hardships to fellow human beings will be an exercise in futility.
In an era when human rights, democratic principles, accountability, transparency and good governance are considered indispensable elements for the running of the global village, the formulation of resolutions and major decisions by the Conference needs to be guided by objectivity and faimess. The violation of human rights, including racism, is a universal problem, which must be confronted with collective commitment without any discrimination.
It is admitted that all States have the right to adopt strategies, policies and programmes, fashioned out of their limitations and peculiar circumstances; to secure acceptable living conditions for their peoples. As a matter of fact, any attempt to impose uniformity on all peoples will be a clear violation of their rights.
Mr. President, the Govemment of Ghana shares the view that
it is the responsibility of States to create conditions conducive to the full
enjoyment of the right to development, and takes note of the UNDP Development
Report 2000 which establishes a correlation between human rights and human development.
However, it is also true to assert that these favourable conditions, cannot
be created in a vacuum nor out of a situation of endless debt-servicing, abject
poverty, widespread illiteracy, chronic misery and painful hunger. While it
is untenable for developing countries to expect the developed countries to assume
responsibility for the development of the whole world., it is equally important
for the affluent North to realise that the poor South cannot rigorously to promote
and enforce good governance, human rights, democracy, the rule of law and the
fondamental freedoms in a situation of acute poverty. In a world of increased
interdependence, no one country or community can,develop in isolation. Consequently,
there is a need for more effective cooperation and partnership to design pragmatic
strategies for achieving sustainable growth and national development:
Mr. President, Ghana firmly believes that the future of every nation depends considerably on the calibre of its children. There should be no justification for denying children their basic rights to life, food, shelter, protection and education. In fart, it is the duty of adults and the law tao promote and protect the rights of the children to ensure that their formative years are not wasted on the street and in the workplace, but are usefully spent in the classroom. These truths underpinned the decision of Ghana to ratify the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child in January 199© to become the first country to do so. All Governments are conscious of these basic rights of the child but extreme poverty in Africa, in particular, and its debilitating effects tend to undermine the obligation and determination to uphold the dignity of the child.
Closely related to the rights of the child are the rights of women. Women are frequently discriminated against because they are, by nature, vulnerable and tend to be far from the decision-making process. Their rights are violated with impunity in the form of rape, sexual harassment, physical injury and mental torture, particularly in conflict situations. It is tune the international community adopted drastic measures to combat the various instances of violence against women and the violation of their rights as human beings.
Mr. President, with globalization virtually removing all borders and boundaries, international migration is rendered not only feasible but also inevitable. In the circumstance, it is incumbent upon the Human Rights Commission, in collaboration with States, to defme and enforce the rights of migrant workers and their families. Policies and programmes to protect the dignity of migrants may be structured to include just remunerations for their skills and services and reliable and efficient mechanisms for the transfer of their earnings to destinations of their choice. Migrants should also have unrestricted access to health insurance, medicare and the other basic needs to enable them to make host living in the host country.
Regarding the problem of religious intolerance States, assisted by the Commission, should launch sustained educational campaigns that will seek to debunk the doctrinal basis of violent acts of dogmatism. If individuals have the right to be members of different political parties and social groups with little incidence ot intolerance, it is incomprehensible why members of different religions cannot tolerate the faith of one another. Man should be more concerned about how to eschew evil in favour of good and not about the mode and form of worshipping God.
Finally, I which to reiterate the commitment of the Government of Ghana to the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms. To this end, cultural practices which violate the rights of women and children have been outlawed.
Mr. President, permit me to conclude with best wishes for successful deliberations in a spirit of dispassion and faimess, which will yield constructive results to strengthen the tie of friendship among all races and peoples of the global village.
Thank you for your attention.