H.E. MR YUSRIL IHZA MAHENDRA
MINISTER OF JUSTICE AND HUMAN RIGHTS OF THE REPUBLIC OF INDONESIA
BEFORE THE WORLD CONFERENCE AGAINST RACISM, RACIAL DISCRIMINATION,
XENOPHOBIA AND RELATED INTOLERANCE
Durban. 2 September 2001
Madam President, Distinguished delegates, Ladies and gentlemen,
Allow me to begin, on behalf of the Government and the people of Indonesia, by expressing our deep appreciation to the people and Government of South Africa for the warm welcome and generous hospitality extended to us and for hosting this important event. As we gather for this Conference, which surely deserves to become a prominent feature in this century's human rights calendar, we wish to congratulate you, Madam President, on your election, as well as the members of the Bureau on their respective elections to assist you in discharging your task. Let me assure you of my delegation's fullest confidence in your able stewardship to lead this Conference to a fruitful outcome.
It is highly significant that this gathering should be held in a country which symbolises the coming together of different races and cultures bent on overcoming their past differences to build a nation free from the shackles of apartheid. South Africa constitutes an important example and an inspiration for this Conference through the heroic struggle of its people for equality and justice, and through its contribution to the ongoing global efforts to combat racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance. This World Conference embodies the hopes of millions of people who aspire to see their situation acknowledged and, more importantly, remedied.
History is replete with terrible wrongs inflicted through lack of respect for the equality of human beings, manifested through colonialism, wars of conquest, slavery, genocide, apartheid, ethnic cleansing and other atrocities. Despite a victory over apartheid, there nevertheless remains a plethora of discriminatory laws and practices which affect the lives of whole communities in many parts of the world. In some regions, these practices have reached alarming proportions, marked by endemic conflicts which threaten to spread beyond the borders of the countries in question. These conflicts often sterri from the politicisation of ethnic, racial and religious differences, orfrom discrimination resulting from foreign interference, frequently resulting in the systematic violation of basic human rights.
We share the view that slavery, slave trading, colonialism and apartheid are major historical sources and manifestations of racism, racial discrimination and related intolerance, with enduring consequences for the peoples of African and Asian descent. The contemporary effects of these past practices and policies manifest themselves in the foret of poverty, underdevelopment, marginalisation and socio-economic exclusion which, despite the much-vaunted merits of globalisation, have worsened in developing countries over the last few years. These effects not only seriously threaten global security, they also deny a large fraction of the world's population its human rights, dignity and fundamental freedoms, In this regard, we join in the appeal to the international community to adopt appropriate and remedial action, including reparation and compensatory measures, in order to halt and reverse the consequences of these past policies and practices.
As far back as 1963, the international community set itself the task of eradicating racial bias with the adoption of the UN Declaration on the Elimination of All Forets of Racial Discrimination. This objective was reinforced in 1965 by a further commitment through the adoption of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination. Despite the holding of two further World Conferences on these same issues in 1978 and 1983 and the adoption of numerous programmes of action, these ills unfortunately continue to beset our modern world. More troubling still, new forets of racism and racial discrimination are emerging which, in many cases, are not only tolerated but are occasionally even off icially endorsed, In an unexpected development, widespread access to the Internet coupled with tremendous technological advances in the field of communications and the media have facilitated the worldwide dissemination of xenophobia and ideas of racial superiority. In the face of these developments, new tools are called for to tackle racism and there is a growing need for strong and concerted action to combat problems of inequality on a global scale.
This Conference therefore provides a timely opportunity for the international community to renew its commitment to the equalïty, dignity and rights of all human beings. It also forces us to confront the past and to take action to remedy those unresolved problems which continue to poison thé présent, by laying stronger foundations now for thé shaping of a more just future, based on thé full recognition that diversity is a fondamental value and a precious asset for humanity.
As a multi-cultural, multi-ethnic and multilingual society, Indonesia takes pride in its mosaic of peoples, which has evolved from our country's long history of tolerance and solidarity, born of a centuries-old cohabitation. However, thé political transformation in today's nation-building process, combined with thé economic crisis currently besetting Indonesia, have had a significant impact on thé overall situation there. In this regard, thé May 1998 riots and thé récent communal conflicts in some parts of thé country, many of which have ethnic and religious overtones, are an unfortunate case in point and have frequently been associated with horrendous human rights abuses. We have drawn thé lesson from these human tragédies and, for thé saké of our national unity, have rediscovered thé value of harmony and tolerance between thé différent ethnic and religious groups making up our country.
The Government of Indonesia is determined to act on these lessons by addressing thé root causes of domestic conflicts arising from racial, ethnic or religious differences and thus hopefully prevent their recurrence. Under thé leadership of President Megawati Soekarnoputri, thé new government continues to take legislative, judicial, regulatory, administrative and other measures to eliminate racism and related discrimination in thé country. In this respect, thé Indonesian Government is concentrating on establishing and maintaining a spirit of tolerance and mutual respect between thé country's diverse communities through education programmes and reconciliatory dialogue.
My government attaches great importance to thé follow-up activities in thé wake of thé Durban Conference. Let me also reaffirm my government's readiness to join thé international community in its efforts to address thé problems identified in this Conference, and to help all victims of inequality whose plight requires international recognition and coopération. In this regard, we believe that thé international community must ensure thé greater effectiveness of thé activities and mechanisms of thé United Nations and equip thé latter with thé necessary financial resources for its actions to combat racism and other manifestations of discrimination.
I should not like to conclude these remarks without briefly touching on the sensitive issue of the plight of the Palestinians as well as other inhabitants of the Arab occupied territories in this World Conference. We have before our eyes a tragic example of the speed with which a situation can degenerate almost to the point of full-blown conflict despite countless efforts at mediation and peace talks, which not long ago seemed close to success. Therefore, in the face of all these considerations as well as the hardships borne by the Palestinians for decades as a result of the racist and the hegemonic practices of Israel, the occupying power, it is morally imperative that the international community take effective measures to protect people urider this kind of foreign occupation.
To sum up, Madam President, one should not belittle the important advances which have undoubtedly been achieved in the fight against racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance over the fifty years which have elapsed since the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948. However, despite these very real efforts, racial hatred can take on many subtle and complex forms, making it hard to eradicate. It is this major challenge which now faces this World Conference and it behoves all of us here to take it on, so that we can set the stage for a new and more tolerant millennium, characterised by respect for diversity and greater understanding among men.
Thank you, Madam President.