Statement by Dr. Frene Ginwala,
Speaker of the National Assembly of South Africa,
on behalf of the Inter-Parliamentary Union'
4 September 2001 -
Madam President, Distinguished
I am pleased to deliver
this address on behalf of the Inter-Parliamentary Union to the World Conference
The IPU has welcomed this
Conference as a timely opportunity to adopt new initiatives, which are both
concrete and effective in the fight against racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia
and related intolerance. We believe that parliaments and their members have
a crucial role to play in this Conference and in ensuring that its intentions
and programmes are realised.
Last year, heeding the
opening words of the United Nations Charter "We the peoples of the United
Nations", 150 Presiding Officers committed their Parliaments to contribute
more substantively to international co-operation and the work of the UN, and
presented their Vision for International Co-operation at the Dawn of the third
Millenium to the Millenium Summit.
Accordingly, the IPU has
encouraged parliaments to take an active interest in this Conference and its
preparations. Our appeal has been heard and around 300 members of parliament
from more than 50 countries have travelled to Durban to participate in these
On Sunday, they came together
at. a meeting organized jointly by the IPU and the
Parliament of South Africa. In the course of the day's proceedings we debated the tension between freedom of speech and incitement to hatred. While freedom of speech is indispensable to enable us to fulfil our parliamentary mandate, we also have a responsibility to promote a society based on tolerance in which incitement and hate-speech has no place. The participants shared many experiences on how to address hate-speech through legislative and other means.
In our consideration of
the protection of migrants, many underlined the need to build a broader consensus
on international standards in this field, which should include ratification
of the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant
We also discussed special
measures to ensure equality, including affirmative action. Many of the contributions
to the debate focussed on legislative and other means to achieve gender equality
and to facilitate full and equal participation by members of minorities in society.
a declaration which I do not intend to read to you as it is being made available
to delegates. However I urge you to study it carefully as it complements the
work you are currently engaged in.
As elected representatives,
individually and collectively, parliamentarians are both the product and custodians
of the democratic values, processes, and systems in our countries. Institutionalisation
of racism begins when rights and resources acre unfairly allocated to particular
groups while excluding others. It is in Parliaments that this happens through
legislation and changes in the Constitution, and it is in Parliament that Executive
action can be monitored.
This Conference will adopt
a Declaration and Programme of Action, which Parliaments may have had little
opportunity to influence. I would however submit that these will remain pieces
of paper - mere declarations of intent -, unless we as Parliaments intervene
to ensure their implementation.
It is Parliaments which
have to ratify international conventions, treaties and other human rights instruments,
and it is in Parliaments that reservations are expressed. It is in Parliaments
that legislative provisions must be made for implementation of such international
agreements, and to regularly monitor compliance and progress in implementation
and outcome. Parliaments also have a key role to play in developing national
strategies and plans of action.
Their responsibility is
not limited to ensuring implementation of agreements reached at the international
level. These should be seen as a minimum standard. Parliaments should lead in
setting the national tone for tolerance, non-discrimination, inclusivity and
equality, and thereby building political support for an expansion of Human Rights
and an extension of international agreements.
That is why we pledge in
our Declaration to make every effort in our parliaments to combat racism, xenophobia
and racial discrimination and to work towards a society based on solidarity,
tolerance and equality. We also urge parliaments to provide special mechanisms
to monitor and ensure effective implementation by governments and to initiate
activities to fight racism.
I would like to conclude
my statement by conveying to you the commitment of Parliaments and their members
as well as the IPU to take an active part in the process that starts here in