Statement of the Delegation of the Kingdom of Nepal

World Conference Against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance

Durban, South Africa, September 03, 2001


Madam Chairperson

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

I bring greetings and best wishes to you and to this Conference from His Majesty King Gyanendra Bir Bikram Shah Dev, Rt. Hon. Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba, His Majesty's Government and all Nepalese people. 'We are delighted to see you in the Chair, representing the new South Africa where all men and women, irrespective of race, colour or religion, are free and equal. We congratulate you, your Government and all your people for the achievements and wish you well in your continuing endeavors. We thank you for hosting this important Conference and for your warm hospitality.

Having had the privilege of presiding over the process leading up to the formation of the Preparatory Committee for this conference and having followed closely the work of the Prepcom, under the able leadership of my dear friend and colleague Ambassador Diallo of Senegal and the Secretary-General of the Conference, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Mrs. Mary Robinson, I feel a personal sense of involvement with this Conference. I know how hard you have worked. Under your leadership I wish thi Conference all success.

Madam Chair,

The 20th century history of the human search for greater dignity and rights is a
mixed one. At the crossroads of the second and third millennium, humanity has much to celebrate : colonialism is a thing of the past, slavery is illegal, gender equality, rights of the children, minorities and indigenous peoples have come to occupy an important place in the human rights agenda. As humanity embarks on its journey into the 21" century, development in science and technology have no doubt created tremendous opportunities for further far reaching social transformation. Amidst these positive developments, however, a large section of the human family in the developing world, particularly in Africa and parts of Asia continue to face extreme
poverty, deprivation, disease and ignorance, denial, exclusion and marginalization. Many in the world still face discrimination and subjugation. With so much potential for prosperity and peaceful change, co-existence and cooperation, acts of violence and conflict in the name of ethnicity, religion or belief, evils of discrimination and domination is a sad commentary on human wisdom. When will the wall of misunderstanding, hatred and prejudice leading to injustice and inequality disappear ? The growing inequality, largely the present day manifestation of the wrongs of history continue to pose a threat to collective human progress. President Mbeki is so right when he says, « The process of globalization contains within it the makings of an insoluble crisis that will affect even its greatest beneficiaries, unless the :inherent tendency to marginalize many is halted and reversed ». I would like to record my appreciation to President Thabo Mbeki, Secretary General Kofi Annan and High Commissioner Mary Robinson for their words of wisdom which should guide our deliberations here and our work beyond.

Madam Chairperson

In the Nepalese context, the Constitution of the Kingdom of Nepal 1990, promulgated with the widest possible participation of the people, in whom sovereignty is now vested for the first time in Nepal's history, guarantees non discrimination on grounds of religion, race, sex, caste or tribe, ideological conviction or any of these. Article 11 of the Constitution provides that all citizens are equal before the law and are entitled to equal protection of the law. The Constitution guarantees basic human rights to every citizen, consolidating the institution of adult franchise, constitutional monarchy and a system of multi-party democracy and an independent and competent judiciary. Commitment of His Majesty's Government to promote human rights by eliminating any and all forms of discrimination are clearly reflected in the legislative, administrative and other measures taken by the Government since the restoration of multi-party democracy in 1990.

Despite these measures unfortunate acts of injustice based on gender, caste division and the practice of untouchability, exploitation of large sections of the dalits who continue to be victims of ethnic, religious, cultural, social and economic injustices affecting parts of our society stand as major challenges in our effort of creating an inclusive society in which all our people enjoy greater dignity and rights. Inequality, growing signs of distrust and division, conflict and violence in a. society well known for its tradition of tolerance, ethno-religious harmony in the midst: of geophysical and socio-cultural diversity are indeed painful developments. While we recognize these challenges, we also stress our determination to build our society on the foundation of justice and morality through more equitable distribution of available resources and economic gains, emphasizing harmony amongst all religions, languages, races and communities. HMG has ratified several and is committed to the fulfilment of the obligations of international human rights instruments to uplift all including national minorities and and indegenous peoples.

In a statement of public importance to the Parliament recently, on August 16, the Prime Minister announced special programmes of far reaching reforms including land reform, abolition of social discrimination such as untouchability, women's property rights and other forms of discrimination against women. The Prime Minister announced the prohibition of any kind of social discrimination based on caste, making prohibition of entry into public places including places of worship or the practice of untouchability a crime punishable by law. Government will present a bill at this session of Parliament aimed at eradicating this kind of attitude from society. He also announced the decision of the Government to form a National Commission on Dalits, after consultations with all concerned. Similarly, a bill for the establishment of a fully empowered and effective academy for the upliftment of religion, culture and language of the indigenous and ethnic minorities, left behind due to various economic and social reasons, would be presented to this session of Parliament.

As other historic and forward looking steps in the process of greater social justice, the Prime Minister announced the decision of the Government to try to get a bill aimed at giving equal property rights to women passed at the current session of Parliament and present a bill for the establishment of a National Commission on Women to work for ending any acts of exploitation, injustice and discrimination against women. A 25 year Special Action Plan designed to expedite the process of social transformation as a national priority by ensuring opportunities in education and employment for those deprived of their socio-economic and political rights such as women, dalits, ethnic minorities and indigenous people would also be announced through the current session of Parliament. We would like to see all forms of discrimination including the evil of untouchability eradicated.

As socio-economic factors such as poverty and illiteracy exacerbate other forms of discrimination, His Majesty's Government has made poverty reduction and
education topmost policy priorities. Special targeted programmes designed to assist the most vulnerable groups in society and bring about changes at the grass roots have been launched. A programme for the rehabilitation of the Kamayas , Time bound programme for the elimination of child labour, programme against trafficking of women and children, provision of old age and disability allowances and equal pay for equal work are some examples. Of course, values and attitudes change slowly. Such changes do not come only with legislation or action of Government alone. Our open political space enables all, including civil society to participate actively in the process of national development. We appreciate the support and cooperation of the international community in our development endeavours. Our actions reflect our determination to fight all forms of discrimination within our own country and always raise our voice against the manifestations of these evils everywhere. As we do so we must express our alarm at the emergence of ideas of racial superiority in some parts of the world, the plight of refugees and migrant workers and negative stereotyping of certain groups of people of Asian and African origin by some.

Madam Chairperson,

Durban has a special place in the march towards emancipation. It is here that Mahatma Gandhi started his movement that inspired the independence movements in many parts of Asia and Africa. Although always an independent Kingdom, Nepal always stood in solidarity with those who suffered from colonialism and the evils of the slave trade or its other manifestations. Nepal's active role in the Committee Against Apartheid in the United Nations is a testimony of our solidarity with the people of Africa in their struggle against racism.

The struggles of leaders like Mahatma Gandhi and Nelson Mandela represent the principles of transformation through non-violence and tolerance. It is our hope that Durban once again becomes a defining venue where we board the train crossing the barrier of prejudice and intolerance, passing through the bridge of solidarity among all members of the human family. The delegation of the Kingdom of Nepal has come to Durban with the philosophy « Basu dhaiba Kutumbhakam », which means treat every human being as a family. This is a philosophy whose time has come. Sekunjalo.

Thank you.