THE MINISTER OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS AND INTERNATIONAL COOPERATION
DURING THE WORLD CONFERENCE AGAINST RACISM, RACIAL DISCRIMINATION AND OTHER FORMS OF INTOLERANCE,
DURBAN 31 ST AUGUST TO 7TH SEPTEMBER 2001
Secretary General of the UN Hon Ministers
Distinguished Delegates Ladies and Gentlemen
On behalf of the government of Malawi, 1 wish, firstly, to join others in conveying sincere condolences to President Mbeki on the demise of Dr Govan Mbeki. Secondly, allow me, Madam President, to congratulate you for your election to the challenging high office of Conference President, you can count on my support and that of others.
This World Conference Against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance has come at an opportune time when the world, rapidly being reduced into a global village, finds itself at socio economic and political crossroads where careful selection of difficult choices for survival must, more than ever before, form our agenda to address causes, results and remedies of human problems.
This conference is designed to focus on racism, a state of mind and its practical application through racial discrimination, xenophobia and other related forms of intolerance. These issues lie at the center of human rights which for a long time have suffered disregard by the beneficiaries whose joy has derived from the suffering of those experiencing exploitation.
No rational or scientific basis exists to support racism and racial discrimination and xenophobia except selfishness and a quest for socio-economic dominance of the powerful. Madam President, discrimination propelled by this dominance has a wider operational play ground whose philosophical and practical base must be destroyed in totality
The theme of this conference touches almost all of us in one way or another and history reminds us of events of the past which gave rise to untold human suffering and devastation of hope for the majority. Slavery and colonization are terrible forms of exploitation preserved through the instruments of discrimination and intolerance. Most of us in this hall today have suffered marginalisation perpetrated by those in stronger positions. Histury and our own experiences have challenged us to re-examine our consciences. Hence, this conference.
Time has come to reinforce human rights in the broadest sense and create a hopeful future for the downtrodden who feel the pangs of exclusion and deprivation in the face of elusive opportunity. The Durban Conference mooted by the United Nations Genet-ai Assembly in its resolution 52/111 of 12 thDecember 1997, represents a bold step in giving the world a chance to reconcile itself with the virtues of the common good through the restoration of human dignity, respect and self esteem. During the Millenniuin Assembly, in his call for renewed commitment to the creation of this human hope for protection of human rights, the UN Secretary General challenged the international community with his erudite statement " ... for every right we proclaim, hundreds of abuses are committed everyday, for every voice whose freedom we secure, many more are still threatened. For every woman or girl whose rights to equality we uphold, thousands more suffer from discrimination or violence. For every child whose right to education and peaceful childhood we seek, far too many remain beyond our reach. Truly, our work is never done." Our challenge today is to get the work done in eliminating from our midst the feeling of bigotry which is the generator for political and economic segregation, social tension and wars.
The legacy of the past, which formed the foundation of human tribulations featuring in this conference serves as a faithful reminder of the urgent need for action for change including the culture base to attain a truly just society. History is important, but more challenging will be the measures each state embarks upon to prevent, educate and protect those marginalized in order to eradicate racism which manifests itself in discrimination and social intolerance, first at the national level and eventually moving afïeld to the regional and international levels. Nations will have to come up with effective remedies, indeed reinforced by legislation and legal instruments to serve as deterrents against continued racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and other forms of discrimination to lend meaning to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the African Charter on Human and People's Rights, the International Convention on Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination and the Convention of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), among others.
Your Excellencies, Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen
These preceding efforts by the international community deserve our praise in the struggle against racism and other forms of exploitation and intolerance. Equally important to spur us into further and tangible action is the indelible memory of the victims and martyrs in the struggle against racial and social injustices. Clearly the national responsibility will be crucial in the promotion of greater knowledge and respect for human rights in enhancing cultural identity and heritage.
Malawi gained independence from colonial rule in 1964. on a plank of multiparty democracy. However, the independent government quickly slid into a dictatorship which ceased to respect the constitution and human rights. From 1994, the present multiparty democratic government took power and condemned human discrimination in all its forms as an infringement of the sanctity of human dignity and rights so central to peace and good governance
The renewed interest of the new democratic Malawi in international conventions previously flouted by the former government signals a commitment to the outcome of Durban. In its own yard, the government of Malawi, in total support of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights has included in the new constitution a Bill of Rights. Malawi has, in addition, set up important bodies such as the Human Rights Commission, the Office of theOmbusdman, the Law Commission to safeguard the satisfactory performance of human rights whose evident violations call for punishment. Even corruption, an enemy to good governance, has its watchdog, the Anti Corruption Bureau created by an Act of Parliament. Legal instruments to protect the rights of women and children, often marginalized and abused in society have been put in place. Malawi recognizes the impossibility of national dignity without the deserved recognition, empowerment and participation of women in all areas of national endeavours.
Discrimination against women is often a fonction of cultural values which now must be reexamined and changed. Malawi disapproves of the abuse inherent in child labour which only stands in the way of positive and meaningful personal and national socio-economic development. Equally unacceptable is violence against women and the girl child. In recognition of the seriousness of gender discrimination and violence against women and children, Malawi has in fact set up a Ministry of Gender, Youth and Community Services to create an enabling environment for women and children to participate and benefit from the development process.
Alongside the Ministry, there is a Cabinet Committee on Gender° Youth and Persons with Disabilities, and the NGO Gender Coordinating Network. The National Assembly also has several committees that lobby for removal of discriminatory laws against women and children such as the Women's Parliamentary Caucus and the Committee on Children Affairs to mention two.
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen
Our governments should consider as their sacred preoccupation the protection of the rights of the disadvantaged groups for these people to enjoy a dignified place in a productive society. Governments must create a conducive environment using appropriate legal measures to protect the victims to emphasize the message of equality.
A quick word about xenophobia. In addressing this undesirable scourge, knowledge of both its psychological and practical causes is essential. Some people willfully enter other countries to seek new economic opportunities while others are forced to do so by, for example, civil wars which render them refugees. Malawi has several tribes, but for a long time, we have enjoyed the absence of serious ethnie conflicts based on discrimination. Our parliament bears testimony to that fact. We have members of parliament of other races, various religions and tribal groups from all regions.
There is an urgent need for nations to create state mechanisms to protect the victims of xenophobia which is becoming rampant in our continent and elsewhere. It is important to understand that a democratic culture must partly be characterized by free movement of people. We need to address this practical economic challenge with effective measures in the direction of poverty reduction through the expansion of economic opportunities.
Before I resume my seat, a brief reference to the negative use of Information Technology. Malawi views with great concern, the misuse and abuse of the new information technology. While we celebrate the digital revolution, some unscrupulous people take delight in using the new technology to promote evil. The hate speeches on the internet only serve to perpetuate racial discrimination and dominance to victimize the weaker. This trend deserves special examination at this conference in an attempt to arrest it.
Let me conclude with a sincere plea that the world can not be at peace with itself if the evils of racism, racial discrimination and xenophobia which threaten human security continue unchallenged, in a concerted manner. We need to put our heads together even beyond the historic Durban conference and continue sharing information and resources together to confront the cancer oh intolerance globally, starting with our own states.
Lastly, Madam President, let me observe that the developing world, especially Africa have had more than a fair share of problems emanating from racism, racial discrimination xenophobia and other forms of intolerance. Africa has been marginalized in many aspects. The situation is made worse by the HIV/AIDS scourge that has hit Africa hardest. My delegation would like to make a special plea to delegates of this conference to ensure that the outcome of this conference gives Africa the attention that it deserves and supports it in its rebuilding efforts.
I thank you Madam President.