Durban, South Africa, 1 September 2001


Madam President,


Ladies and Gentlemen,


On behalf of the Republic of Slovenia, I would like to express sincere gratitude to the United Nations and the Government of South Africa for organising the World Conference against Racism, taking place in the country that has overcome the apartheid regime in its historic struggle for human dignity, freedom and equality.

True understanding and cooperation among nations can be developed only on the basis of the full recognition of ethnic, religious and cultural diversity of mankind. Different crises over the world clearly show how quickly the rejection of diversity can escalate into the most dreadful manifestation of violence. Gross human rights violations can no longer hide behind the competence of the state. The global responsibility for the protection of human rights should be once more strongly reconfirmed.

There is general consensus that racism and racial discrimination must be fought by all legal means. Hopefully, this consensus could soon be reflected in the universal ratification of the International Convention of the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination. Each state party should implement it faithfully in the way that best addresses its own specific situation of racism and xenophobia, taking into account also recommendations of the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.

Slovenia applauds the latest developments in the area of the international criminal law and practice. Criminal tribunals for Former Yugoslavia and for Ruanda paved the way by holding individuals responsible for war crimes and crimes against humanity, especially with break-through cases establishing responsibility for the crime of genocide. It is to be hoped that the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court will enter into force soon and I might add that its ratification is one of the most important Slovenian foreign policy priorities in the field of human rights.

Madam President,

Under the Constitution of the Republic of Slovenia, everyone is guaranteed the right to preserve and develop his or her ethnic identity, to foster his culture and to use his own language. In addition, the Constitution stipulates a corpus of special individual and collective rights for Italian and Hungarian national minorities and for the Roma community. These rights are realised through different laws in various fields of social life, from education and media to direct representation in decision-making process. Regarding Roma, special Government programme is focused not only on assisting them in their special needs, but also on suppressing still existing prejudices towards them among other population. While the protection of those minorities is well beyond valid regional and universal standards, we are on the other hand also looking for ways to better address other situations in present-day Slovene society, such as so-called new minorities that resulted from economic migrations, refugees and asylum-seekers.

I would particularly like to emphasise the need to fight racism and intolerance through promotive activities, especially education. Young generations must be taught not just to tolerate, but also to understand and accept diversity as normal characteristic of every modern society. Human rights education is an important part of awarenessraising activities and it is being integrated into the curricula of elementary and secondary schools. Combating racism and intolerance is the primary responsibility of the state and us politicians, however the role of media, civil society and nongovernmental organisations is also crucial.

Slovenia is a party to all core human rights instruments. In the framework of national preparations to the World Conference against Racism, the Government of Slovenia decided to recognise the competence of the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination to receive individual communications alleging violations of the Convention rights. This will open new complaint possibility at the international level but is also likely to contribute to further improvement of the human rights protection system at the national level.

Madam President,

In the past, people and also citizens of European countries used to invest and articulate their interests at the national level, while the trust and confidence to supranational institutions was lacking, it was lagging behind. We live in an era of globalisation, which is, predominantly, a positive development. As we all know, globalisation has produced "interference" in national affairs. Humanitarian intervention has affected notions such as national sovereignty. This has brought relief to minorities and underprivileged groups, but it has, on the other hand, mobilised antiglobalist groups that, in many cases, fight for a continuation or a restoration of an old order. We have not studied enough these new developments, their positive and negative results. They are perhaps the most serious challenge of our time.

In recent years, European continent was confronted with the worst collapse of interethnic relations after the Second World War. The region of South Eastern Europe, which lies South-East of Slovenia, was marked with hatred of the most abhorrent practices arising from ideas of superiority of particular nation. Nationalism resulted in thousands of dead, masses of refugees and displaced and the overall destruction of inter-ethnic tolerance. Necessary conditions for the stability and prosperity of the region should be built on the basis of diversity-management approach that takes fully into account complete ethnic, cultural and religious variety of the region. Recognising the importance of inter-ethnic relations for the future of South Eastern Europe, Slovenia initiated several activities in the field of human rights and rights of minorities, especially within the Stability Pact for South Eastern Europe.

Madam President,

The preparatory process of the conference has opened up different sensitive questions, which are still being negotiated. It is my conviction that all of us are realising the responsibility we have to make this conference successful in our joint endeavours to eradicate racism and intolerance globally and nationally. Therefore, we all should bear in mind words of the High Commissioner Mary Robinson: "Inequality is the pressing challenge of our times. Durban is crucial and it must succeed. Its success lies in hands of all of us, everyone should play their part all the way to a successful outcome. Let us all respond positively and constructively."

Thank you.