Your Majesty

Their Excellencies Heads of State and Government The Secretary General of the United Nations

The Honourable Ministers of Foreign Affairs

The Secretary-General of the World Conference Against Racism Heads of Delegation

Distinguished Guests Ladies and Gentlemen

Inspired by the collective efforts of humanity, slavery, slave trade, colonialism and apartheid have all ceased to be. They have all been defeated because; humanity could not countenance oppression of one by another, because humanity has dared to affirm an injunction that we are all born equal with inherent rights and dignity. These noble words are enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of the United Nations and serves as a guiding light and offers hope for all of humanity.

Representing the African women, I know the pain of slavery, colonialism and apartheid whose legacy is staring me in the face everyday. My continent bears the scars of conflicts, abject poverty, racism,
marginalization, social exclusion, underdevelopment, economic disparities, humiliation and indignity, that all have their roots in the practices of these abominable systems.

 

Of all these systems, our country and its peoples have had to grapple with the most stubborn and worse form of institutionalised racism, namely Apartheid. It is because of the evils of apartheid that humanity took a decision that as long as this system was allowed to exist, their own humanity would be denied and their dignity violated. Consequently, they took a conscious decision to work energetically and tirelessly to remove this aberration. We thank the international community for this selfless act.

 

We can take pride in the rote of this region in the long struggle against racism. It was in this Province that Mahatma Gandhi launched his non-violent resistance struggle and later inspired the freedom struggle in India. South Africa has a long history of resistance symbolised by the award of the Nobel Peace Prize to Chief Albert Lutuli, who was the first African leader to receive it and comes from this region. Despite the triumph against racism, all countries of the world continue to battle against the contemporary forms of racism. It is my hope that at the end of this Conference, we will learn from and share with the international community on the ways and means of dealing with racism.

 

Distinguished Delegates

 

Our Conference must issue a clarion call to the rest of the world to end the evils of Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance. Concomitantly, with this call, we must launch a sustained Programme of Action capable of being implemented by every country at every level.

 

In recognising the work that has been produced thus far, I wish to thank all Member States for their contributions in their respective regions. This was


followed by intensive preparatory meetings and consultations in Geneva. Indeed, at times it seemed gloomy and hopeless, but we persevered and recorded substantial progress. We must build on that, aware of the sensitivity and pain involved in confronting these issues. It is my hope that we shall together respond to the challenge before us. We must succeed; we cannot afford anything less than success.

The Youth Summit and the NGO Forum have also discussed these issues and challenged the conference to bequeath them with non-racial, non-sexist, tolerant and peaceful world. We dare not fait them. This will be a fitting tribute to ail those who over generations have sacrificed their lives in the battle against racism.

 

It will be remiss of me to conclude without acknowledging the dextrous work of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and her Secretariat. She and her team have performed brilliantly under trying conditions.

I, therefore, accept with humility, the task assigned to me as President of this Conference by this distinguished Assembly. My success is dependent on the cooperation of ail of you. I know, without doubt, that ail of you will contribute in any way you can to make this Conference a success.

 

In his book, Long Walk to Freedom, the icon of our struggle Mr Nelson Mandela made this seminal comment " I have taken a moment here to rest, to steal a view of the glorious vistas that surrounds me, to look back on the distance I have come. But I can rest only for a moment, for with freedom comes responsibilities and I dare not linger for my long walk is not yet ended". It is my fervent hope; at the end of this conference we will look back proudly of the road traversed thus far and go on to give concrete expression to the Programme of Action and the Declaration that we would adopt.

 

I thank you.