Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Federal Republic of Germany,
at theWorld Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination,
Xenophobia and Related Intolerance
in Durban on 1 September 2001
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Firstly I should like to congratulate you, Madam Chair, on your election as chairperson of this conference. I should also like to thank the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mary Robinson, and Ambassador Diallo very much for their resolute commitment in the difficult run-up to this meeting. I also extend my thanks to our host, the South African Government. South Africa has succeeded in liberating itself peacefully and by its own energies from a dictatorship based on racism and in finding its way to a more just society. The courage the South Africans have shown in reaching out to each other despite all the scars of the past should be an incentive for us at this conference.
Racism and xenophobia have led humanity into the darkest depths, into mass slavery and colonialism, the eradication of entire populations on several continents, or in more recent times the mass murders in Rwanda and Burundi. The 20th century's most terrible crime of all, however, took place in my country: the genocide of six million European Jews, of Roma and Sinti. The memory of this act, which can in no way be relativized, and the responsibility deriving from it will lastingly shape Germany's policy. Germany therefore cannot accept the trivialization, relativization or even denial of the Holocaust, and it will resolutely counter any such attempts.
At this conference we must begin with the past. In many parts of the world
the pain of the persisting consequences of slavery and colonial exploitation
still sits deep. Past injustice cannot be undone. But to recognize guilt, assume
responsibility and face up to historical obligations may at least give back
to the victims and their descendants the dignity of which they were robbed.
I should therefore like to do that here and now on behalf of the Federal Republic
Our historical responsibility in particular, but also the universal principles of humanity and justice therefore demand of Europe today a special solidarity with the developing countries. Our prime goal in this regard must be to help them overcome poverty and become integrated into the world economy and to strengthen their capacities for good governance and thus for action on their own responsibility. The Koln Debt Initiative for the poorest countries, as well as support for the New African Initiative, the UN AIDS Fund and the aim of halving extreme poverty by 2015 are a few examples of our solidarity. But we will certainly have to step up our efforts considerably in the future.
The shocking increase in violence and hatred in the Middle East fills us
with the gravest concern. The many victims and their families on both sides
have our deep sympathy. The vicious circle of violence must finally be broken
using all available means. The Israeli and the Palestinian peoples have a right
to collective and individual security, to a life without fear, a life in dignity
and offering prospects for their children and grandchildren. This includes Israel's
right to exist, which we regard as inviolable, but equally also the continuing
and unqualified Palestinian right to self-determination, including the option
of a state, as the EU Berlin Declaration puts it.
The Mitchell Plan is the "road map", accepted by both sides, for ending the violence, building new confidence and restarting the interrupted negotiations. There is no reasonable alternative. A broad international coalition, united as never before, is backing this approach. We call upon both sides, Israelis and Palestinians, to begin the planned direct talks quickly. These talks must lead to success. Too much depends on their success for the people of the region. We will make our contribution in this regard.
In contrast, polarizing the debate on the Middle East conflict or even singularizing Israel - directly or indirectly - here in Durban is, in the current situation, not conducive to building confidence and reviving the peace process. One-sided condemnations will also jeopardize this conference, perhaps cause its failure. .
I therefore urgently appeal to all participants here, and especially to our Arab and Palestinian friends, to ward off this danger to the success of the conference. Two World Conferences against Racism have failed already. If it happens again, the losers would again be those whom we are together endeavouring to protecoppressed and degraded across the world.
Globalization and migration are leading to the emergence of multicultural
and multiethnic societies across the world. This is very enriching for each
and every one of us. The related fears of loss of identity and security are,
however, also a source of hatred and violence against foreigners. Today right-wing
extremists and racist groups spread their ideas via the Internet and other new
media, thus strengthening their cooperation at international level too. This
World Conference must focus primarily on ways to combat these new forms of racism
and xenophobia. For this will be the challenge of xhe future.
Racism and xenophobia are a bitter reality in many countries. We Germans are outraged and deeply ashamed that violence against and hatred of foreigners are again increasing in Germany.
Our state and our society therefore pledge to fight categorically against all forms of right-wing extremism, racism and anti-Semitism, This requires a tough, unequivocal approach by the state towards perpetrators, and at the same time education and persuasion.
Germany today devotes particular attention to issues relating to integration. Unfortunately, foreigners in our country often still encounter a climate of prejudice and arrogance. The Federal Government has reformed the outdated German nationality law and made naturalization easier. It is now easier for asylum-seekers and refugees to enter the labour market. Proposals for modern regulations orb migration to Germany are currently being drawn up. We very much hope that all this will help bring about greater acceptance of people of foreign origin in Germany. Nevertheless, much remains to be done.
Xenophobia has a lot to do with ignorance. Education and information are therefore extremely important. The more we can do to persuade young people in particular of the importance of respecting the rights and dignity of others, the greater the chance that we can overcome prejudice. Educational measures, particularly those making use of the digital media, must therefore be a focus of our efforts, at both national and international level.
The double discrimination - on grounds of race and gender - that many women and girls throughout the world have to endure deserves particular condemnation. Millions of women and girls throughout the world are still being treated like people stripped of dignity, refused the right to determine their own social and economic lives and deprived of an education. The trade in women and girls is a loathsome form of slavery.
A few days ago, the Federal Government made a declaration pursuant to Article 14 of the UN Anti-Racism Convention, thus recognizing the right of individuals to submit petitions under the Convention. In this way, we want to make a concrete German contribution towards the success of this conference, and we hope that other states will follow our example. The accession of as many states as possible to the Anti-Racism Convention and its translation into national law must be central objectives of this conference.
The diversity of humanity is a gift, not a threat. Let us therefore try our utmost to develop a, concrete plan of action which will give us orientation and assistance to overcome the burning problems of today and tomorrow. If we succeed in this, Durban will be an important beacon of hope for a more humane world. Learning from the past means shaping a better future. That must be the aim of this conference.