Address by the International Federation
of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies

Presented by Mr A. BANDIARE

World Conference against racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance

31 August - 07 Septembre 2001 Durban - South Africa


Mister/ Madame Chair,
Our International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies works in the framework of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement. In this respect, we wish to support the position of the International Committee of the Red Cross.

Wrongdoing motivated by racism and racial discrimination taints our common history. Descendants of victims, perpetrators or spectators - we all share that past. It is our common duty to look back, to learn from history, so that we never forget. Because if we forget. we may allow history to repeat itself.

History should help us meet present and future challenges. For flit: war against racism and racial discrimination has not yet been won. Even if the mere name of the host country for this Conference recalls a landmark victory over racism and discrimination - there is still much work to do.

Racism is not only a shameful page in our history. It is not entirely behind us. Outdated ideas and antiquated mindsets are still present and accepted. Discriminatory laws and practices are very much in vigour in some places. In other places, people accept, silently, the more subtle forms of discrimination. Those hidden practices, that no-one will admit exists. that make it more difficult for some people than others to obtain justice, fair representation, access to the labour or housing market, or even a visa. Racism and racial discrimination make a mockery out of human dignity. No rhetoric about equality and fairness is credible if we accept racism and racial discrimination.

We must look forward, and agree on the best strategies to rid mankind of the corruption and pollution that creates racism and discrimination. The Red Cross and Red Crescent federation, our 177 National Societies, almost 100 million volunteers and members know that we can make a difference. Every day, we use our nearly generalised presence and Our vast network of volunteers to help vulnerable people. That includes not only material assistance. That embraces advocacy against all forms of discrimination. Through education and information, we fight the ignorance and intolerance that breeds racism and discrimination. Action through people helps us construct a more tolerant world.

This is not new to us. Our tight against discrimination is as old as the red cross idea. It is one of our Fundamental Principles: the principle of Impartiality. We tolerate no discrimination. Not in our work, not within our own ranks.

It is not enough to make people aware of where we stand. Indeed, we must make the best possible use of our biggest asset: our omnipresent volunteers, who are known and respected members of their communities; who are peers, good examples and role model,. Who arc listened to, who are opinion makers. We can create a change in attitudes, and contribute to wipe out ideas that support racism.

To do that, we need committed governments, partners„National Societies, and volunteers. We have that commitment. At the last International Conference of the Red Cross Red Crescent, Geneva 1999, States and National Societies pledged to "cooperate and take initiatives to promote tolerance, non-violence in the community and respect for cultural diversity".

We note that, as part of the draft Plan of Action and Final Declaration of this Conference. a number of issues have already been committed both by States and National Societies during the International Conference of the Red Cross Red Crescent.

The International Federation has translated that into its operational strategies. We are in a unique position to make an important contribution to this work through our mandate. our Fundamental Principles and the esteem ill Which Our emblems arc held. taut our efforts alone will not suffice. We need continued support from governments and partners. And we must cooperate more with UN and other partners.

It prides me to see that the young people in our Movement are the initiators, catalysts and main actors in programmes to oppose racism and racial or other discrimination. I am reassured to know that the fight against racism is championed by the commitment and power Of our young volunteers. Because I know that they will not look away and tolerate the intolerable.

As part of our mandate, we are ready to contribute actively to the implementation of' the agreement reached at this Conference. We are convinced that together, we can build and protect human dignity and tolerance.

Thank you.