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Mr. Ban Ki-moon

22 September 2011

  • Statement: English (Check against delivery)

Statement Summary:

BAN KI-MOON, Secretary-General of the United Nations, said that 10 years ago, in adopting the Durban outcomes, the international community had acknowledged that no country could claim to be free of discrimination and intolerance. Ten years later, that was still the case. However, the international community had come a long way, and had seen new laws enacted, new institutions pursuing justice, new initiatives promoting dialogue, and new mindsets taking hold.

The world was better prepared to prosecute and protect against grave crimes such as genocide, apartheid, ethnic cleansing, and contemporary forms of slavery, he continued. The antennae of the international community were better attuned to see the insidious forms of discrimination — the subtle face-to-face interactions and institutionalized prejudice that could be every bit as destructive as outright aggressive behaviour. Yet, it must be acknowledged that intolerance had increased in many parts of the world over the past decade, he noted. The resurgence and persistence of such inhumane attitudes and detrimental practices indicated that not enough had been done to stem the tide.

He noted that participants in the Meeting had before them a global action plan containing recommendations for combating discrimination against Africans and persons of African descent, Asians and persons of Asian descent, indigenous peoples, migrants, refugees, minorities, the Roma and others. The international community must do more to embrace diversity and safeguard the dignity of those groups, he said. Welcoming this year’s observance of the International Year of People of African Descent, and the many constructive initiatives it had generated, he emphasized that the world must also stand firm against anti-Semitism, oppose Islamophobia, and reject discrimination against Christians.

Reiterating that bias based on religious identity had no place in the world, he said the international community must defend the rights of all, without distinction of any kind, as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights proclaimed. Neither race, colour, language, political nor other opinions, property, birth or other status should be a barrier to the enjoyment of rights and freedoms. The United Nations must remain the vanguard against bigotry and commit to fight discrimination based on gender and sexual orientation, he declared, emphasizing that victims of prejudice must be at the centre of the Organization’s efforts. The stakes were very high indeed.

He went on to describe racism and discrimination as major obstacles to development, noting that all too often, there was a vicious cycle in which discrimination led to deprivation, and poverty deepened discrimination. A marked characteristic of virtually all extremely poor communities was that they lacked equal access to State institutions and services, he pointed out. The prevailing hard economic times only exacerbated the situation as competition for jobs and other difficulties triggered hostility towards migrants and minorities. Governments must ensure that unemployment and deteriorating living standards did not provide excuses for attacks on vulnerable groups, he stressed, adding that the international community must resist polarizing politicians who played on people’s fears and used stereotypes to gain electoral advantage.

Recalling that the Durban Conference and its follow-up two years ago had caused immense controversy, he urged the international community to re-state some basic principles on this anniversary — the process was meant to further the world’s essential fight against racism. Anyone who used the Conference as a platform to subvert that effort with inflammatory rhetoric, baseless assertions and hateful speech should be condemned, he said, emphasizing that the international community’s common commitment must be to focus on the real problems of racism and intolerance. The world must strive to ensure dignity, equality and justice for all, he reiterated, adding that it must work hand in hand with the civil society groups that were so central to that cause. He urged the international community to work in harmony to promote harmony.

Source: GA/11149

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