AMBASSADOR STAFFORD NEIL
HEAD OF THE JAMAICAN DELEGATION
WORLD CONFERENCE AGAINST RACISM, RACIAL DISCRIMINATION,
XENOPHOBIA AND RELATED INTOLLERANCES
DURBAN, SOUTH AFRICA, SEPTEMBER 2001
At the outset, let me extend congratulations and express appreciation to the Government of South Africa for hosting this third World Conference Against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance, and for the excellent arrangements for our comfort and deliberations. The symbolism of the venue is overpowering. South Africa, which for so long has been a symbol of racial oppression and injustice, has been liberated after a long and victorious struggle. This result was not just a triumph for the people of South Africa, it was also a victory for multilateralism and a vindication of the commitment and support given by the international community over the years in the long campaign against the system of apartheid.
The struggle must go on, as new forms and old manifestations of racism and related intolerance continue to present challenges. In different parts of the world racist attitudes and practices promote violence and suffering, stifle human potential and endanger peace; they undermine social cohesion and the enjoyment of human rights. This clearly requires of us that we remain united and strong in our principles. Whatever may be the psychological, social or economic causes, racism and racial discrimination should find no place in human society. It should be exposed in all its forms and manifestations, wherever it may be found. The search should not be confined to place or time. We should look not only in the present but reach into the past.
The legacy of the past is important, not only in explaining the persistence of certain patterns of racism and racial discrimination, but also in showing the scale and consequences of the damage inflicted. The most outstanding example affected Africa and its Disapora in the Caribbean and the Americas. We speak of slavery and the transatlantic slave trade that continued over three centuries. It is well established that many individuals and companies made substantial fortunes and participating countries were enriched and strengthened by the exploitation of this trade in human misery. But the important thing now is not to catalogue the abuses or highlight the human suffering endured during that era, but to point the way to reconciliation and atonement. The proposals relating to reparations that have been made to this Conference are directed towards this purpose.
These proposals are not intended to be divisive or confrontational, but rather form part of a process to heal the wounds of the past. Indeed we believe that reparations equally serve the interests of the descendants of the victims, as well as the descendants of the oppressors. It is a means by which both may be able to confront the past without guilt or bitterness.
It would be a landmark achievement for this Conference to adopt an endorsement of Reparations in relation to slavery and the transatlantic slave trade. The international community could proceed by way of two forms of action.
First, there should be an acknowledgement that slavery and the transatlantic slave trade was a crime against humanity. This would constitute an acceptable gesture in relation to the historical and ethical issue - an open and strong condemnation of the grave injustice and violation of the rights of the people of Africa. It would set the record straight in the context of universally accepted principles and provide a common judgment on a historical phenomenon of fundamental importance in shaping the modern world.
In the second place, there should be economic measures in the form of policies
and programmes at the international level that seek to remedy the negative consequences
of the historic injustice - the destablisation and underdevelopment of Africa
and the degradation and psychic damage of the people of the Diaspora.
What is important now is for the world community to accept the principle of equity compensating policies which can be applied to improve the development prospects of affected countries. Within this framework, a number of the possible initiatives could be more specifically identified, whether in the form of debt relief, resettlement grants, or programmes for the development of human resources.
This conference could take these important steps now, clearing a major hurdle and laying the basis in the long term for better understanding, goodwill and co-operation. At the same time it could provide the basis for a more effective partnership within the global community in the promotion of economic co-operation, poverty reduction, for human rights and social development.
All of this is made more critical in the light of the ongoing process of globalisation and the expanded international mobility which is part of the dynamics of that process. Increased contact between peoples of diverse culture and racial groupings emphasize the need for attitudes and values of tolerance, non-discrimination and an appreciation of the value of diversity.
To promote this, we expect the Programme of Action of this Conference should emphasize the role of education and socialisation in countering prejudice, racial bigotry and xenophobia.
As racial minorities, particularly migrants and refugee communities are always vulnerable groups, governments should act with vigilance to protect their rights and enforce non-discrimination policies through appropriate legislative and administrative measures, not only for the interests of justice, but also to increase the level of of social harmony. They should seek through a programme of affirmative action, to bring neglected racial minorities into the mainstream of national life, particularly those disadvantaged by a historical process of deprivation, subjugation and discrimination. We refer here to the indigenous peoples who were dispossessed and exploited in the era of conquest and colonialism, as well as descendants of Africans who remain marginalized in certain national communities.
The fundamental challenge which motivates our deliberations is the search for effective remedies for racism, racial discrimination and all forms of racial intolerance. Action by States, supported by the international community are to favour policies and programmes to promote social well-being and the economic development of those most affected by racism.
The global revolution in communications offer a new medium for reversing the negative perceptions based on racial stereotypes and for promoting greater acceptance of differences including cultural and religious ones. Education and training at both formal and informal levels should address cultural biases and prejudices, especially in the curriculum offered to the young. We must break the vicious cycle of inter-generational adoption of discriminatory attitudes and behaviour.
Without complacency, we can point to Jamaica's own experience in developing a multi-racial society demonstrates that these objectives can be realized. Out of slavery and colonialism, the Jamaican people have struggled to overcome adversity to build a society out of diverse races on the basis of mutual respect and equality.
Jamaica's first National Hero, Marcus Mosiah Garvey provided us with a vision of racial upliftment which transcended natural boundaries and gave African descendants in Jamaica and the African Diaspora inspiration for the development of self-respect and equal rights.
Madam Chairman, we expect positive results, from this Conference. There are obvious difficulties in the way, but we will work for the adoption of a Declaration embracing all applicable principles and an Action Plan which is both achievable and effective in combating racism in all its forms.
Full unanimity is of great importance, but consensus should be used to weaken
the force and substance of the actions and commitments to be undertaken. What
we are seeking to do is to improve the human condition, to create a framework
for the maintenance of harmony in social relations and to ensure equality of
opportunity for all. We should make sure that Durban advances these goals.