Durban, South Africa

Statement of Ambassador Samuel T. Ramel
Permanent Representative to the UN at Geneva
Head of the Philippine Delegation


Madame President,

Allow me first of all to extend my delegation's best wishes to you on your assumption of the Presidency as well as to the vice-presidents and the rapporteur on their election. I would also like to take this opportunity to express my delegation's appreciation to South Africa for its warm hospitality and for the excellent arrangements for this historic conference.

Madame President,

More than fifty years after the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the world is still confronted by the scourge of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance. The plague we sought to stump out decades ago has shown not only remarkable resilience and virulence but also the ability to take new forms and find new carriers for transmitting the infection to innocent minds.

It is sad to note that the technological and information revolutions that offer promises of a better life for all also provide the means for propagating the dreadful disease of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance. Hundreds of sites in the Internet are promoting racial hatred and intolerance. If we really care, then we should dare to confront this menace squarely and pay particular attention to the need for a code of conduct that would make the Internet unfriendly to those who seek to corrupt minds and undermine cherished human values. In addressing this problem, we
have to take into account the concerns expressed with respect to the freedoms of speech, expression and belief. Nevertheless, it would be useful to keep in mind Article 20 (2) of the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights which states: "Any advocacy of national, racial or religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence shall be prohibited by law."

Madame President,

The seeds of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance will not take root where there is no fertile ground or receptive minds. We therefore need to stress the importance of education in programmes for the eradication of all forms of racism and related intolerance. We need to teach our children not only that they have rights and freedoms but also that their rights and freedoms can only flourish in a world where everybody respects the rights and freedoms of others. Our children must learn to appreciate the richness and diversity of the world's cultures and peoples. We also need to imprint in their minds the importance of tolerance, acceptance and respect for all human beings, the virtues of peace and non-violence, and the need for compassion for those who are less privileged in life. It is with this in mind that we fully endorsed the United Nations Declaration and Programme of Action on a Culture of Peace as well as the objectives of the International Decade for a Culture of Peace and Non-violence for the Children of the World (2001-2010).

Madame President,

Globalization has placed various groups under severe threat from racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance. Among them are migrant workers, indigenous groups and women and children.

With respect to migrant workers, it is widely acknowledged that they bring various benefits to both their countries of origin and countries of destination. Indeed, migrant workers have contributed to the wealth of many of today's developed countries.

They do not deserve the racist and xenophobic discriminations, indignities and assaults that many of them are victims of. We therefore stress the need for a fair, just and equitable treatment to them in the society and the place of work where they find themselves in.

To enhance international protection of the rights of migrant workers, particularly women migrant workers who are most vulnerable to discrimination and indignities, we invite other countries to consider signing and ratifying the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families. We also urge all countries to fully respect and comply with the 1963 Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, particularly where it relates to the right of foreign nationals, regardless of immigration status, to communicate with a consular officer of their own State in the event of arrest or detention.

Madame President,

In many parts of the world, indigenous populations are historic victims of racism and racial discrimination. As a result, their way of life and very existence are under serious threat. We wish to note that we are within the International Decade of the World's Indigenous People and, therefore, extra efforts should be taken to correct the historic wrong done to them through international and national recognition of their rights and special needs within constitutional framework of states. In the case of the Philippines, our constitution and laws recognize indigenous peoples' rights to their ancestral lands and domains, including natural resources found therein. We also recognize their right to self governance, including the right to use their justice systems, conflict resolution institutions, peace-building processes, and other customary laws and practices as may be compatible with the national legal system and internationally recognized human rights.

We welcome the creation of the Permanent Forum for Indigenous Issues within the United Nations system in accordance with the vision contained in the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action. It is our hope that this forum will serve as an instrument for the close examination of issues and problems that would lead to the formulation of concrete programmes to protect the rights and promote the welfare of indigenous peoples worldwide.

Madame President,

The world community must also give special attention to the problems and needs of women and children, particularly those who are victims of trafficking for sexual exploitation. Women and children, whether migrant, indigenous refugee or victim of trafficking are the most vulnerable to multiple forms of discrimination. They are the ones to suffer most from acts and manifestations of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance. Special programmes for women and children need to be developed within the programmes for each vulnerable group.

With respect to trafficking in women and girls, we are pleased to note that the resolution in the Commission on Human Rights enjoys the widest support with no less than 85 co-sponsors from all regions of the world. A key provision of the resolution calls upon governments to criminalize trafficking in women and children in all its forms and to condemn and penalize traffickers and intermediaries, while ensuring protection and assistance to the victims of trafficking with full respect for their human rights. It is our hope that a similar provision will be adopted in the Programme of Action of this conference.

Madame President,

There are many minority groups that are vulnerable to racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance. While I can only highlight a few within my limited time, I wish to stress that all groups, all victims, are equally important and their problems must be addressed if we are serious in fighting racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance. We believe that victims are the living reminder that the scourge is still upon us. They provide the human faces to the pain and suffering that racial discrimination and related intolerance inflict. It is only when we are ready to look at the faces of the victims that we can really say that we are ready to fight racism and racial discrimination and banish them from the face of the earth.

Thank you, Madame President