Durban, September l, 2001

Madam President,

1 would like to congratulate you on being elected to thé Chair of thé most important international conférence held in thé first year of a new millennium. The fact that this World Conference is being held in South Africa is a recognition of thé role your country has played in thé struggle for thé élimination of racism and apartheid as well as in thé création of a new democratic society based on thé principles of reconciliation, tolerance, equality and justice. The former President of South Africa, The Right Honorable Nelson Mandela, has become a universal symbol of thé struggle against racism and apartheid. His idéals were fully expressed in thé Déclaration "Tolérance and Diversity: a Vision for thé 21 st Century", that he signed with thé Président of South Africa, H.E. Mr. Thabo Mbeki, and thé UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mrs. Mary Robinson.

Madam President,

The Federal Republic of Yugoslavia attaches great importance to thé holding of thé World Conférence against Racism. Even more so, since we come from a region which over thé past century has been faced with thé most severe forms of intolerance, xenophobia, national extremism resulting in serious conflicts.

The new democratic Yugoslav Government is aware that thé territories we live in bear thé legacy of ethnic strife, massive violations of human rights and of humanitarian law. 1 am sure that everyone knows thé tragic outcome of more than ten-year wrongful and failed efforts by thé proponents of various nationalist policies in thé région of Southeast Europe, including by thé former regime in thé FR of Yugoslavia, thé consequences of which will be felt for many years to come.

Therefore, 1 would like to take this opportunity to reiterate our readiness to discuss openly all thé tragic events in these territories. A compréhensive process of reconstruction and reconciliation means that truth should be found out and that all forms of human rights violations and crimes should be uncovered and punished. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission set up in thé FR of Yugoslavia, and similar commissions currently being established in other countries, may play an important role in this process.

One of the essential elements upon which the new authorities in the FR of Yugoslavia want to build a society, is the rule of law and the respect for human rights. A lot has been achieved in this field after 5 October last year, above all making the domestic legislation compatible with the obligations that the FR of Yugoslavia assumed internationally, in the reorganization of the judiciary, improving the human rights record in the country, particularly minority rights. However, we are still not satisfied and we are aware that this process is a long-term one and that it should constitute a basis for a just and prosperous society.

By the Statement on succession, the Federal Government reaffirmed in March 2001 that it continued to be a party to all international conventions concluded in this field within the framework of the United Nations, including the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination. As an expression of its commitment to cooperate in a comprehensive manner with the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, in June 2001 we acknowledged also the Committee's mandate to consider grievances made by individuals.

Madam President,

Allow me to briefly touch upon a problem, which is, in our opinion, of crucial importance not only to the stabilization of the situation in my country but for the region of Southeast Europe as a whole. It deals with the status of the national minorities and ethnic communities, as well as with confidence-building at the national and regional level.

We truly believe that national minorities and other ethnic communities, which account for a third of the population of my country, represent a factor of successful democratization and development, security and social stability. At the saine time, they represent not only an important element for the development of our society, but a test for the promotion of tolerance and dialogue in a modem State based on the rule of law, without threatening the territorial integrity and sovereignty of the State they live in.

In view of the importance of this issue, the FR of Yugoslavia has started the process of ratifying the European Framework Convention for the Protection of Minorities, it has established a separate Federal Ministry dealing with problems facing minorities and ethnic communities and it is preparing a draft law on minority rights to be adopted soon. We are convinced that with a modem and fresh approach, while not forgetting our baggage of thé past, we shall be able to build a civic society.

Madam President,

The promotion and protection of human rights and thé struggle against racism and racial discrimination have for years been in thé focus of UN activities. We cannot be satisfied with thé results achieved so far, because despite thé two World Conférences, thé three Decades proclaimed, thé successful work of thé Committee on thé Elimination of Racial Discrimination, thé efforts made at national and regional levels, thé problems of racism and discrimination are unfortunately still very much in evidence.

Racism and racial discrimination have always represented a violation of fundamental human rights embodied in thé Universal Declaration of Human Rights. They have been and still are thé most common causes of human rights violations, and of internal and international conflicts. Therefore, no society can possibly tolerate racism even if it is directed at thé smallest group without threatening, at thé saine time, thé human rights of all.
The Durban World Conférence is being held at a time when thé international community is faced with thé prolifération of some new forms of racism. Inequality, intolerance, bigotry, exclusion of thé entire population groups from social life, persecution on thé basis of national or ethnic origin, nationality; religion or language are thé main causes that stand in thé way of further democratization and development of friendly and peaceful relations between States and nations in thé contemporary world causing and triggering various conflicts.

Therefore we perceive this Conférence as an important encouragement to thé struggle against all forets of racism, modem, old and still existing. If thé results of this Conférence are to live up to our expectations, its Declaration and Program of Action should be forward-looking and action-oriented. They should include all contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and other forets of intolerance, but also contain concrete measures for their elimination as soon as possible.

In line with thé past practice, these documents should reflect thé broadest possible consensus of thé international community on thé above issues. The delegation of thé FR of Yugoslavia expects that all issues on thé Conférence agenda will be discussed in a spirit of tolerance and that all of
us shall seek to avoid unnecessary politicization that might bring its results in question.

We share thé views presented in other statements that we heard so far, that thé success of our common and individual struggle in this field implies thé improvement of national legislation, efficient implementation of national policies against racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and all forms of intolerance, promotion of education on human rights, adequate campaigns to raise thé awareness of thé need to build a society based on non-discrimination and tolerance, as well as thé strengthening of international cooperation in this field.

In conclusion, I would like to reiterate thé readiness of my delegation to make a constructive contribution to thé success of thé World Conférence and to thé adoption of thé Déclaration and thé Program of Action which would pave thé way for true elimination of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and other forms of intolerance, representing one of thé major obstacles to thé democratization and integration trends in a global world.

Madam President,

I would like to express thé hope that there will be no need for thé documents emanating from thé Conférence to make a direct reference to thé situation in certain countries or regions, since thé Conférence is an opportunity for each country to face its own historical legacy, to explore its own ways and means to improve relations within thé society as well as those among various ethnic groups, with a view to respecting différences and building a society based on tolerance.

Tolerance is thé basis of democracy and human rights. Intolerance in multi-ethnic, multi-religious or multi-cultural societies leads to human rights violations, violence and armed conflicts.

In thé context of building a multi-ethnic society, we are investing efforts towards thé résolution of thé situation in thé province of Kosovo. By adopting a one-sided approach to this problem and making a reference to it in thé final document from thé Conférence, would greatly harm a sensitive process of thé stabilization of thé situation in Kosovo and Metohija and undermine thé efforts thé Government of FR of Yugoslavia has undertaken, in cooperation with thé international community, in particular UNMIK and KFOR, in order to consolidate and establish at least initial elements for building a multi-ethnic society in that province including thé return of thé expelled non-Albanian population.