Chairperson and distinguished delegates. Thank you for giving the South African national institutions an opportunity to share with you our collective experiences in combating racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerances.

Racism and racial discrimination have for over 350 years become deeply ingrained in the lives of South Africans. The struggle against racism and racial discrimination has been well documented and the international solidarity against apartheid certainly hastened its demise.

In 1994 a new Constitution was adopted. It sets the values and legal framework for the creation of a non-racist and non-sexist South Africa. Included in that Constitution is the creation of institutions to support constitutional democracy. These include amongst others, the South African Human Rights Commission, the Commission on Gender Equality, the Independent Electoral Commission and the Public Protector.

Racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance continue to manifest themselves in various forms, including, racial violence, hate crimes and economic and social disparities. Economic policies of the past have served to marginalize rural people and their communities and have created a reservoir of poverty. These policies have become a contemporary manifestation of racism. The establishment of a society free of racism will contribute to the eradication of poverty and the promotion of sustainable human development.

Structures such as the judiciary and other institutions which dispense justice still do not adequately reflect the diversity of our people. All these continue to undermine the realization of a truly non-racial and non-sexist society. The advent of the new democracy has resulted in South Africa having to assume its responsibilities among the community of nations. Among these is the duty and responsibility to provide sanctuary for and express solidarity with the plight of refugees and asylum seekers. Their presence in our country has led to unacceptable levels of xenophobia and intolerance, directed particularly at people of African decent. Denial, evasion and an unwillingness to accept both the legacy of racism and its current manifestations, obstruct efforts to redress racism.

Victims of racism continue to be poor black people mainly in rural areas. Many of these are African women. Similarly, people infected and/or affected by HIV/AIDS suffer multiple forms of racial and gendered discrimination. Again, the majority of these are African women and children.

National institutions have employed various measures to combat racism and gender discrimination. These include anti-racism initiatives such as national inquiries into racism in the education system, the media and investigations of racism in the police and the judiciary. These enquiries embody a gender sensitive format.

In addition, legislative, administrative and other measures have been implemented to deal with the demons of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance. As a precursor to this conference, we held a gender summit and one of the themes explored was the intersectionality between race and gender.

Last year we convened a national conference against racism at the request of President Mbeki under the theme "Combating Racism: A Nation in Dialogue". The conference adopted the "Millennium Statement". The statement serves as a basis around which all anti-racism initiatives can be consolidated. The conference, the first of it's kind in our country brought together South Africans in a common commitment to share experiences and chart a vision for the future. It was a resounding success. Among some of the key recommendations was a call to establish a national anti-racism forum. Much progress has been made in this regard. Provincial and local racism conferences have been held in most parts of the country.

There is a powerful and growing momentum that has become unstoppable and will, we hope result, in the birth of a strong national anti-racist movement. We are also preparing, in a consultative process, a national action plan and strategy to combat racism.

As South African national institutions we aim to continue to work at the national and international levels to combat this scourge of racism as well as the intersectionality between gender and race. We remain willing to join individual and collective efforts in supporting the global and national movements to eradicate racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance.

We are at the beginning of the threshold of the African Century. New and exciting possibilities beckon. Much rests on our shoulders to create a better tomorrow for ourselves and for future generations.

I thank you