Statement of the Honourable A.K. Gayan

Minister of ForeignAffairs and regional co-operation

At the world conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance.

1 st September 2001 Durban.

Madam President,

Excellencies and Ministers,

Distinguished Delegates Heads of NGO's
Ladies and Gentlemen and Friends,

If ever there was a place on earth that deserved to be the venue historic conference against Xenophobia and Related
that place is South Africa. By its symbolism, successful struggle against and victory over the institutionalised racism which apartheid was but also, and more importantly, by its capacity to confront, overcome the hate and anger associated with apartheid and to embark on a process of reconciliation, South Africa is unparalleled and deserves to be adopted as a for this extremely important and Racism, Racial Discrimination, Intolerance, model for the Programme of Action that we expect to have at the end of the Durban conference.

We also need to pay tribute to Madam Robinson, the UN commissioner for human rights towards the preparations for the conference.

Slavery, intolerance, hate, bigotry, ethnic cleansing, genocide, holocaust, prejudice, racism, colour bar, apartheid extremism, just to mention a few, constitute humanity's legacies. But these are the unacceptable legacies which this Conference must address in the hope that never again will we or generations after us experience the cruelty that the white man has been able to inflict on his and her African and Asian equals over centuries.

We should never forget slavery and trading of human beings as commodities which reckon as the prime manifestations of racism. This Conference must acknowledge that these practices, by their magnitude and transoceanic dimensions, had crippling effects on the socio-economic development of many parts of the world but particularly in Africa, which at its most critical period of it's history was deprived of its able-bodied men and women in millions. It should also recognise that they constituted a crime against humanity and it should, if only for record purposes hold accountable all those states, corporations and individuals which were involved, directly or otherwise, and which derived a monetary or other benefits for them. Like slavery colonisation also has destroyed the dignity and self-respect of the colonised. For all this remedial action has to be initiated and the victims or their descendants must be at the receiving end of such action.

It is possible for us in Durban to:

i. Condemn racism in all its manifestations,
ii. Call on the international community and governments to ensure that the fundamental provisions of the UN declaration of human rights are adhered to in all circumstances,
iii. Promote policies in order to eliminate discrimination against women, minorities and other vulnerable groups,
iv. Take measures against states that tacitly endorse xenophobia, religious and other forms of intolerance,
v, Establish norms & principles that will effectively and permanently do away with racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, and
vi. Ensure that meaningful follow-up initiatives are pursued.

Madam President, as globalisation takes hold} people will increasingly move across countries and continents. Not as refugees but as workers whose expertise and talents are needed world-wide. These persons ought not to be the targets and victims of modern forms of extremist behaviour. A framework to protect them must be set up.

The injustices of the past are too numerous to be catalogued. But they should not be removed from human consciousness. The past will help us shape the future. For example, how many innocent blacks have not been tried and convicted by the criminal justice system of some countries on the basis of colour alone and without any evidence?

How many talented sportsmen and women have been denied access to facilities because of their colour? The list is endless but we are convinced that we should not continue to dwell in the past. We believe that we have to map the road ahead so that the fight against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance is finally won. Mauritius has experienced both slavery and indentured labour and their scars are still present.

But this is not the forum to examine the non-racist credentials and practices of states which all profess to condemn racism and to have removed from their system all forms of Xenophobia and Racial Discrimination. As a principle that is perfect. Reality unfortunately is different and all countries must rafter the conclusion of the conference revisit all their laws, practices, linguistic expressions etc, to determine whether in fact racism and its negative influences have been eliminated. This exercise has to be conducted honestly and we owe it to the dignity of the human being to ensure that we take all appropriate measures to remedy whatever has to be remedied. We are against singling out any country and we are in favour of a culture of engagement and enhanced education. It is widely recognised that it is in the earliest childhood days that the fundamental principles of tolerance and equality must be instilled. This is a task that all States that cherish the dignity and equality of all human beings should tackle forthwith.

There are many ongoing conflicts in the world and all of them stem from either Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Intolerance. Whether it is in the Middle East, Rwanda or Kosovo, the need for tolerance is unquestionable. Racism is not yet ancient history but it can become so when this Conference comes up with energetic measures to effectively combat racism. We recognise that this conference cannot attempt or expect to solve all problems of a bilateral, regional or internal character. Every country must within its own system but taking on board the UN Declaration of Human Rights determine the appropriate measures, mechanisms and institutions that are necessary to eliminate Racism, Racial Discrimination, and Intolerance.

While the Conference takes stock of the past and condemns the racist tragedies, whenever and wherever they occurred, the international community must undertake to teach the lessons of history to the young all over the world. We are in favour of reconciliation and of a world where justice, equality and solidarity are not mere slogans.

Slavery, Colonisation, Racism and Xenophobia are the direct causes o~ poverty, underdevelopment, marginalisation, social exclusion, insecurity, disease and lingering disabilities. Those who were involved and benefited from those repugnant practices have more than a moral obligation to undo the damage. In the
course of the deliberations this week we shall put forward concrete proposals in this context which we hope will be widely acceptable.
We shall explore convergence between concrete remedies and the early implementation of the New African Initiative.

The outcome of this conference must shame every individual or state that contemplates, or indulges in, racist practices or adopt policies of intolerance. It is our hope that the final product will be non-confrontational, balanced and something everyone anywhere can live with. Whatever we agree on must contain a commitment for all sides to honour the undertakings that have been universally acclaimed.

We need to leave Durban with a Programme of Action which will be the basis for our future endeavours. This is the beginning of a long struggle. Since it is in the minds of men and women that hatred generates it is there that the attack that has to be launched. This conference must succeed and we have to do the utmost to acchieve it's success. Any failure will be impossible to explain and we would then mightly be taxed with dereliction of our duties. We cannot afford to fail.

I thank you for your attention.