WORLD CONFERENCE AGAINST
RACISM, RACIAL DISCRIMINATION,
XENOPHOBIA AND RELATED INTOLERANCE
MR. MURAT SUNGAR
HEAD OF DELEGATION
OF THE REPUBLIC OF TURKEY TO
THE UNITED NATIONS OFFICE IN GENEVA
Durban, 3 September 2001
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Since this is the first time my delegation is taking the floor in the plenary, allow me to extend our congratulations to you on assuming the chair. I would also like to congratulate the other members of the Bureau and pay a special tribute to Mrs. Mary Robinson, the High Commissioner for Human Rights, whose dedication and tireless efforts contributed greatly to the realization of the Conference.
After a lengthy preparatory process, we have finally gathered in Durban, South Africa for the World Conference Against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance. I wish to thank the Government and the people of South Africa for hosting the World Conference. Given the heroic struggle of the people of South Africa against apartheid which was one of the worst forms of institutionalised forms of racism, no other venue would better symbolise the importance of combating racism. The emergence of the post-apartheid South Africa as a democratic and multi-racial state is a source of inspiration for the World Conference in its endeavours to eradicate the scourges of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance.
All human beings are born equal in dignity and rights. Any doctrine of racial superiority is therefore legally and morally unacceptable and cannot be justified on any ground. Racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance threaten the fabric of our societies and moral values.
Despite all the efforts for the promotion and protection of human rights, violations persist in the world. Racism and racial discrimination are among the most serious violations of human rights. The resurgence of racism, racial discrimination and xenophobia continues to challenge the exercise of most fundamental human rights and freedoms in many parts of the world.
In spite of the success in the elimination of institutionalised forms of discrimination such as the Holocaust and apartheid, international community is still experiencing new, mounting waves of bias, exclusion, racism and violence. Contemporary forms of racism constitute a major threat to friendly and peaceful relations not only among states, but peoples as well. Hence, the need to struggle against all forms of discrimination is more evident than ever.
It is the changing nature of racism and the complex forms of intolerance and prejudice existing today which has necessitated a third World Conference against racism. We must stop this breed of racism. Understanding the past is of course essential to building a better future. However, we should not become captive to the past, but rather be forward looking. Then, we could perhaps protect those who are vulnerable to or who have been victimised by racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related in tolerance in the contemporary world.
The patterns of contemporary racism are different from those
of past decades. Official doctrines of superiority based on racial differentiation
perhaps no longer exist. However, the resurgence of ultra-right parties or movements,
particularly in the midst of multi-cultural societies, must be deterred by the
international community through co-operation and show of solidarity.
During the World Conference we should deal with a wide range of issues expanding from the sources, causes, victims and measures of prevention. Given the time constraint, please allow me to touch upon one particular group of victims, namely migrants and migrant workers. As a state having four million citizens living in foreign countries as migrant workers and members of their families, Turkey has gained first hand experience about discrimination and xenophobia against its migrant workers in some countries.
In a number of countries, form of discrimination suffered by the migrants and migrant workers, find expression in limited access to or even denial of public education, health care and employment. This situation often leads to violation of their social and economic rights.
ILO studies provide ample evidence of direct and indirect
discrimination against migrant workers. Discrimination is the seed that breeds
racism with migrants and migrant workers often being the main target. Racism,
racial discrimination and xenophobia aimed at the migrant workers sometimes
tragically result in deadly violence. Unfortunately, numerous Turkish citizens
living in western societies have lost their lives in such acts of violence.
It is our utmost hope that, after the World Conference, the international community
will exert all the required efforts for ending the sufferings of all the victims
of contemporary forms of racism, including migrant workers.
Regarding the measures of prevention, I would like to draw your attention to the role of the media in fighting racism. We should not underestimate the positive contribution of the media to the struggle against racism and discrimination. Nevertheless, certain media circles, by promoting false images and stereotypes of vulnerable groups and individuals, particularly of migrants, migrant workers and refugees, have indirectly encouraged the spread of racist and xenophobic sentiments. We believe that we should have a unified stand against these circles. The successfiil conclusion of this conference will be an important step in that direction.
In today's world, values such as "democracy", "the supremacy of law", "human rights" and "tolerance" have become the main criteria for evaluating the advancement of nations individually and collectively. It is therefore incumbent upon every state and every nation to do its utmost to advance human rights and the culture of tolerance.
Intolerance is a rejection of diversity and one of the most crucial issues of our time. It is one of the root causes of many conflicts in the world. Its extreme fonns have lead to human suffering, ethnic cleansing and atrocities.
Turkey, as the successor of the Ottoman Empire, has acquired
a legacy of centuries old culture of peace and tolerance. We are proud that
the Turkish Republic has cherished and further improved this culture.
It is our most sincere wish that at the end of this Conference
we will be able to take a significant step in the struggle against racism and
come up with concrete results to ensure progress in combating racism, racial
discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance. Furthermore, we hope that
we would be able to forge partnership between governments, civil society and
the media, which would constitute a global alliance aimed at eliminating all
kinds of racial discrimination.
Turkey is ready to undertake its responsibilities within this global alliance.