ACKNOWLEDGEMENT OF PAST, COMPENSATION URGED BY MANY LEADERS
IN CONTINUING DEBATE AT RACISM CONFERENCE
DURBAN, 2 September -- long line of government ministers from developing countries this afternoon and this evening told the United Nations World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance that the problems facing their nations, among them, widespread poverty and underdevelopment, stemmed in part from slavery and colonialism.
Racial prejudice, several of the representatives speaking to the Conference insisted, was responsible for the diminished economic activity in their countries. The wrongs, they continued, could only be righted by clear acknowledgements of the past by the oppressing countries, and by creating schemes for compensation. A number of the speakers urged the Conference to recognize that slavery was a crime against humanity.
As the Conference’s general debate continued, other high-ranking government officials touched on several additional issues, such as the situation between Israel and Palestine, rights of migrant workers, the right to decent employment, the importance of education and the role of the Internet.
Jakaya Kikwete, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of the United Republic of Tanzania, said the slave trade and colonization of Africa in the nineteenth century are responsible in a big way for the poverty, underdevelopment and marginalization that enveloped that continent and people of African descent. After hundreds of years of living under those systems, he said, the consequences live on and will continue to be felt for many years to come.
Christopher Obure, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Kenya, added that the Conference provided the ideal opportunity to meaningfully address the damage inflicted upon millions of people by slavery and colonization, and to recognize the immense suffering caused by those practices. Only in that way, he said, can this Conference go down in history as a success; one that would change the lives of millions of individuals worldwide for the better, he said.
A good place to start, according to Ernest N. Tjriange, Minister of Justice of Namibia, would be the establishment of an international compensation scheme for victims of the slave trade and a development reparation fund. Those mechanisms were outlined in the 1999 African Declaration of Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related
Intolerance, which was adopted in Dakar, Senegal. He emphasized that the Conference could not work out those details -- it could only affirm the principle that such mechanisms were necessary. Echoing his thoughts was Enoch Kavindele, Vice President of Zambia, who noted that while all other groups of victims of the worst crimes against humanity have been adequately redressed for their torment, Africans have not, and continue to suffer.
Some speakers from European countries expressed regret for past actions. Baroness Amos of Brondesbury, the Minister for Africa in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office of the United Kingdom, called slavery and the slave trade among the most dishonourable and abhorrent chapters in the history of humanity. Such acts of acknowledgement, regret and condemnation will allow the international community to move forward and tackle contemporary problems.
Farouk Al Shara, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Syria, charged Israel with racism, saying their practices of killing Palestinians was the most serious danger facing the peoples of the Middle East. If such practices continued, the idea of peace with Arabs was unattainable, he maintained.
The Conference, which opened last week and continues through Friday, has set as a goal adopting a Declaration and Programme of Action that can be used as a framework by individual countries to further promote policies of tolerance and further protect citizens from all forms of discrimination.
Also participating in the debate were the following government representatives: Statements were made by Juan Somavia, Director General of the International Labour Organization (ILO); Arthur Khoza, Deputy Prime Minister of Swaziland; Lydie Polfer, Vice-Prime Minister, and Minister of Foreign Affairs and External Trade of Luxembourg; Motsoahae Thomas Thabane, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Lesotho; Omar Abdullah, Minister of State for External Affairs of India; Han Myeong-Sook, Minister for Gender Equality of the Republic of Korea; Nicos Koshis, Minister of Justice and Public Order of Cyprus; Ali Mohamed Osman Yassin, Minister of Justice of Sudan; Luis Alfonso Davila Garcia, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Venezuela; Lilian Patel, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of Malawi; Georges Chikoti Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Angola; Stafford Neil, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Jamaica.
Also speaking were Gilberto Rincon Gallardo, President of the Citizen Studies Commission against Discrimination of Mexico; Odile Quintin, Director General of the European Commission; Roger van Boxtel, Minister for Urban Policy and Integration of Ethnic Minorities for the Netherlands; Ali Said Abdella, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Eritrea; Abdullah Abdullah, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Afghanistan; Oulai Siene, Minister of Justice and Public Liberty of Côte d’Ivoire; Ntumba Luaba Lumu, Minister for Human Rights of the Democratic Republic of the Congo; Monique Olboudo Secretary of State for the Promotion of Human Rights of Burkina Faso; Wang Guangya, Vice-Foreign Minister for Foreign Affairs of China; Kaori Maruya, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Japan; Ivan Baba, State Secretary for Foreign Affairs of Hungary; Torki bin Mohammed Al-Kaber, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Saudi Arabia; and Serguei Ordzhonikidze, Deputy Minster of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation.
The Conference’s plenary session will return at 10 a.m. tomorrow, 3 September, when it will continue with the general debate.
JUAN SOMAVIA, Director General of the International Labour Organization (ILO): Whether trafficking or sexual tourism, forced labour, bonded labour and child labour or denial of rights to migrants, minorities, indigenous and tribal peoples and other workers -– discrimination is still there. We all know that no delegation in this room can stand up and say: My country does not face any of these problems. Racism is a work place issue. Where racism and discrimination exist, workers are faced with them constantly as they try to earn a living. And if you are unemployed, they are formidable obstacles to getting a job.
The Decent Work Agenda of the ILO is a valuable tool in your hands to implement the conclusions of this Conference. But to allow us to do so, your conclusions must give explicit recognition to fighting discrimination in the world of work. The tools the ILO brings to this task are standard-setting and supervision, backed up by technical assistance and social dialogue, with a long tradition of public and private partnerships. Our Decent Work Agenda is a development agenda. It aims to ensure that all men and women can engage in productive activities with dignity, freedom and security. The expansion of decent employment opportunities for all is essential if exclusion based on race is to be eliminated. We are active in many ways to combat discrimination in the work place. And we will continue to work with the United Nations, and with business, to promote the Secretary-General’s Global Compact.
ENOCH KAVINDELE, Vice President of Zambia: Let us accept that even as we gather here today, racism, racial discrimination and related intolerance affect our attitudes towards one another and even our attempts to develop a common understanding of how to handle the attendant social, political and economic divisiveness. Even as we pledge total commitment to the cause of African people as chair of the African Union -- formerly the Organization of African Unity (OAU) -- we recognize the daunting task of ensuring peace and harmony on the continent. The Union will strive to develop effective conflict-resolution mechanisms, with early warning signals that can prevent future catastrophes. Many such conflicts are embedded in old racial and tribal/ethnic discriminatory practices, especially where the discrimination manifests itself in the allocation or deprivation of resources by one ethnic/tribal group over another.
We have come to Durban to liberate ourselves from the historical injustices of slavery and servitude and now want to emphasize that slavery should be remembered not only as an appalling tragedy, but also as a factor which for centuries deprived Africa of her human and natural resources. Africa requests an audience, so the world can take responsibility for the crimes of slavery and colonialism. Africa wants to remind the world that there is no need to look for sources, causes and contemporary forms of racism when, as has been recognized by religious leaders for years, the slave trade was the greatest practical evil which has ever afflicted the human race. And though we agree that many other peoples and races have been victims of discrimination and intolerance, the cry on the continent is that while every one of those groups have been adequately redressed for wrongs committed in the past, Africans continue to suffer.
In recognition of the injustices that Africans face on the continent and throughout the diaspora, it pleases me to know that Africa has taken a position on the topical issues of this Conference through the adoption in 1999 of the African Declaration of Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance of Dakar. It is against that backdrop that Zambia, as party to that Declaration and Chair of the African Union, calls for the establishment of an international compensation scheme for victims of the slave trade and a development restoration fund to provide additional resources for the development of countries affected by colonialism. We would like to urge the global community to take immediate measures of prevention, education and protection aimed at the total eradication of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance at the national, regional and international levels.
ARTHUR KHOZA, Deputy Prime Minister of Swaziland: Swaziland believes that while this historic Conference serves, in part, to remind us of the painful history of the evils of slavery, colonialism, apartheid and human suffering, it is also an opportunity to review the harsh effects of those evils and to take remedial action. One of the imperatives is that, with renewed determination and commitment, we must -- at this Conference -- adopt strategies through which we can craft our present world into one where all people have a sense of belonging. It can be a world with equality for human beings, one that is free from racism and racial discrimination.
While the possibilities of global conflict seem to have diminished since the end of the cold war, it is a fact that there has been a corresponding increase in the number of internal conflicts and cross-border disturbances arising from a variety of causes, among them ethnic and religious intolerance. Regrettably, such tensions result in large numbers of innocent causalities and destroyed properties. That has hampered development efforts and, as a consequence, increases the problems of ethnic conflicts, including acts of genocide, religious confrontation and foreign occupation.
It is the fervent hope of Swaziland that the Conference will hammer out remedies and strategies which will be employed to banish racism, and that the strategies will be implemented at the national, regional and international levels. Further, Swaziland hopes an acceptable formula will be found to correct the wrongs of the past.
LYDIE POLFER, Vice-Prime Minister, Minister of Foreign Affairs and External Trade of Luxembourg: Here, more than elsewhere, we think that people know the value of truth and reconciliation. Today, the international community repudiates the racist mentality, which allows racism to become established as a doctrine. Racism has provided a strong alibi for colonialism, as well as scientific reasons for attempting the extermination of the Jews.
If today, in Durban, we are looking at the dark side of the past, it is because we have responsibility for the past. It is our duty to identify in our past the mechanisms which led to racism and identify its principles to combat intolerance. The duty to remember is important, because it helps to become aware of the guilt of all of us. Reconciliation is a strong tool against racism and xenophobia.
At a time when globalization is facing us with unprecedented problems of migration and asylum seekers, it is important to ward off unilateral reactions by a common stance. This Conference cannot do justice to the victims, but it does confront States with their responsibilities. Solidarity towards those countries that were victims of racial practices should be affirmed. This is part of the spirit that has led the international community to say that development is a shared right.
JAKAYA KIKWETE, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the United Republic of Tanzania: Slavery and colonialism are the historic roots and prime causes of the problems of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance in the context of the African continent and the African people across the world. Slavery and colonialism are also responsible in a big way, for poverty, underdevelopment, marginalization and economic disparity in Africa and among people of African descent in the diaspora. After several hundred years of slavery and colonialism, the legacy of those obnoxious systems are so deeply rooted that the consequences live on and will continue to be felt for many years to come.
Tanzania supports the proposal that States which benefited from slavery, the slave trade and colonialism should acknowledge responsibility for their past injustices, express explicit remorse and apologies as well as assume full responsibility and provide reparations and compensation to the victims. The Tanzanian delegation is fully aware of the concerns of some States and their rejection of the Dakar position. We are utterly surprised by that response, for we believe acknowledgement of responsibility and apology are important first steps in the healing process and would repair the enormous damage caused by those crimes against humanity. They form essential elements for reconciliation and for building societies based on justice, equality and solidarity.
Payment of reparation and compensation are logically the best way of demonstrating that justice has been done to those who have been wronged. After all, it is common practice everywhere -- why not apply it to Africa? The Germans paid reparation to Europe for crimes against humanity during the First World War. The Jews are being compensated for crimes committed against them during the Holocaust. There are many such examples. We do not understand why there is total hostility to the idea of reparation and compensation to Africa. What is it that is so blasphemous about it? Is it because Africa does not deserve it? Or is it the difficulty of determining the compensation? Africans deserve this -- it is a matter of principle. What form that reparation and compensation will take is a matter that can be discussed.
CHRISTOPHER OBURE, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Kenya: Despite the abolition of apartheid in South Africa, it is regrettable that the goal of having a world free of racial hatred and bias continues to elude us. Racism, discrimination, xenophobia and bigotry have continued to thrive in many parts of the world and to take more deep-rooted and virulent forms than ever before. Individuals and groups of people perceived to be different have been subjected to inhuman, unjust and cruel treatment. The holding of this Conference, therefore, should stand as testimony that the world is moving away from apparent apathy to a deliberate and conscious effort to address the problems of racism and racial discrimination, as well as review the progress made since the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
The fight against racism requires a collaborative effort and sustained commitment. As we strive towards a common understanding of how best to tackle racism, we must address the causes and its evolving nature. We must confront the complex forms of intolerance and prejudice that exist today. And in doing so, we should all heed the words of the High Commissioner for Human Right when she said it was important to come to terms with the past in order to move forward. It is therefore important to tackle the historical injustices of slavery, the slave trade and colonialism which continues to cast shadows over the present, and we must seek to heal the wounds they inflicted. This Conference provides an opportunity to acknowledge that slavery, the slave trade and colonialism constitute crimes against humanity. It provides the opportunity to meaningfully address the damage inflicted upon millions of people, and to recognize the immense suffering caused by those practices, as well as to finally recognize the humanity of those who had to endure slavery, the slave trade and colonialism. It is only in this way that we can ensure that this Conference goes down in history as a success; one that would change the lives of millions of individuals worldwide for the better.
MOTSOAHAE THOMAS THABANE, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Lesotho: It is a hard fact that the principal objectives of the last two Decades of Action to Combat Racism and Racial Discrimination have not been attained. Hence, a heavy burden lies on all of us here to agree on further actions and initiatives that would eventually eradicate those evils, which are the legacy of slavery, the slave trade and colonialism. Member States should realize the need, now more than even before, to enact legislation declaring illegal and prohibiting all platforms, organizations and activities that promote or incite racial discrimination.
Trafficking in human beings, particularly women and children, takes place from poor to rich nations. It is the latter who benefit. The moneys used to support those heinous practices must be ploughed back to develop those communities where the women, children and other victims come from. Clear and serious consideration should be given to the historical atrocities of slavery, the slave trade and colonialism. They must be declared crimes against humanity. Perpetrators and beneficiaries of those practices must admit and explicitly apologize for atrocities committed. Material and moral reparations must be provided by perpetrators and beneficiaries of the mentioned practices.
The African continent continues to suffer socio-economic underdevelopment, grinding poverty, high levels of foreign debt, civil and territorial wars, and lack of market access. It is the legacy of the exploitative nature of the policies of slavery, the slave trade and colonialism. My delegation regrettably notes that nothing concrete has been achieved, notwithstanding endless negotiations with our partners and former colonial masters. It is our fervent hope that this Conference will bring about new, fresh and positive commitment from them to re-examine the situation.
OMAR ABDULLAH, Minister of State for External Affairs of India: It is in Durban, South Africa, that Mahatma Gandhi launched the Satyagraha movement -- struggle based on truth -- against the racist regime here. In 1946, India was the first country to raise its voice against apartheid at the United Nations. We have always regarded racism and racial discrimination as the antithesis of everything humanity stands for -- equality, justice, peace and progress. It is a negation of the Charter of the United Nations and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. India itself, inspired by Gandhi and guided by other social reformers, built into its Constitution human rights and fundamental freedoms as principles of justice. It prohibits discrimination on any ground, including race.
In the run-up to the World Conference, there has been propaganda, highly exaggerated and misleading, often based on anecdotal evidence, regarding caste-based discrimination in India. India has faced that evil squarely. It is unequivocally condemned, as is any other form of discrimination. The issue remains at the top of the national agenda. India is firmly of the view that the issue of caste is not an appropriate subject for discussion at this Conference. We are here to ensure that there is no State-sponsored, institutionalized discrimination against any individual citizen or group of citizens. We are here to ensure that States do not condone or encourage regressive social attitudes. We are not here to engage in social engineering within Member States. It is neither legitimate nor feasible nor practical for this Conference, or, for that matter, even the United Nations to legislate, let alone police, individual behaviour in our societies. The battle has to be fought within our respective societies to change thoughts, processes and attitudes. This is the task that we pledge ourselves to remain engaged in.
The Conference should call for effective recourse and remedies for victims of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, based on the principles outlined in the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination. The Conference should also encourage countries to introduce affirmative action in respect of disadvantaged segments of their populations. Special attention needs to be paid to secure, for women and children, who are victims of such discrimination, their basic human rights and dignity. The power of education has to be harnessed to instil the right values in young minds.
HAN MYEONG-SOOK, Minister for Gender Equality of Republic of Korea: Movement across national borders has become a common phenomenon as a result of globalization and economic integration. Yet, there are virtually no safeguards for the protection of the rights of migrant workers -- including illegal migrant workers -- from discriminatory and unjust treatment, as well as human rights violations. Special care should be taken to protect the rights of such vulnerable groups.
Eliminating violence against women is a first step in protecting and promoting the human rights of women. Ending domestic violence and sexual violence, along with the protection of victims, is a priority for the Ministry. There are grave concerns regarding the situation of women migrants who face double discrimination on the basis of gender and race. The importance of mainstreaming gender perspectives in the establishment and implementation of all policies related to racial discrimination must be underlined. Women of ethnic or racial minorities are often targeted victims in armed conflicts and times of foreign occupation, and the level of such violence is alarming. The world has been shocked by such atrocities as incidents of rape committed in the Balkans.
Another grave injustice of modern history is the issue of the so-called Korean comfort women under Japanese rule. There is great concern that Japan, which had caused pain that defies description to its neighbouring nations, recently approved history textbooks rationalizing and glorifying past wrongdoings, as well as distorting, abridging and covering up facts. History is by no means solely about the past -- it shapes the future. If young generations are taught a misrepresentation of history through the use of distorted textbooks, past mistakes can be repeated in the future. What has to be stressed above all is the importance of genuine repentance, a true reflection of history, and a full acknowledgement of historical facts in the approach to history and its teaching
NICOS KOSHIS, Minister of Justice and Public Order of Cyprus: It is indeed significant that a conference that focuses on racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance takes place in the continent whose people were subjected to the most abhorrent practices of racial discrimination and oppression. Cyprus, throughout its history of 10 millenniums and to this very day, has not been immune from these abhorrent practices that stain the history of human civilization. The people of Cyprus have experienced the evils of colonialism, massive violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms, military invasions and ethnic cleansing.
Since 1974, the United Nations and other international bodies have adopted scores of resolutions calling for the termination of the military occupation of the northern part of the island that separates the people of Cyprus on a racial basis; respect for the demographic character of the island that is being altered through the illegal importation of tens of thousands of colonists; and respect for the human rights of the Cypriots, which are massively violated due to the foreign occupation.
The two main documents of this Conference, the Declaration and the Programme of Action, are equally important, interdependent and mutually complementary. Their value will depend on how we can transform into concrete action the principles and values we adopt. Compliance and accountability, honouring the commitments we enter into, re-establishing the rule of law where and when it is violated, and holding to full account those responsible for those violations, are of vital importance for combating racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance.
ALI MOHAMED OSMAN YASSIN, Minister of Justice of Sudan: We note with sadness and regret that minorities, indigenous people, migrants, asylum seekers and refugees still suffer from widespread inequalities and racial discrimination. Education remains key to the promotion of respect for the racial, ethnic, cultural and linguistic diversity of societies, and for the promotion and protection of values, which are essential to prevent the spread of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance.
The slave trade, particularly against Africans, was an appalling tragedy in its abhorrent barbarism, enormous magnitude, institutionalized nature, transnational dimension and particularly in its negation of the essence of the victims. Africa’s economic marginalization started with the deprivation of its manpower by the slave trade, followed by uneven exploitation and the siphoning of its natural resources during the colonial era. It is culminating today in economic globalization, where Africa lacks the capacity to compete commercially in the world economy. Justice and fairness necessitate that those responsible for these injustices should bear the responsibility and assist in rectifying that unfortunate situation.
It is imperative that this Conference address and condemn the ongoing Israeli practices of occupation based on settlement, displacement, blockade, collective punishment and extra-judicial killings against the Palestinian people, committed in flagrant defiance of the international community and international legality.
LUIS ALFONSO DAVILA GARCIA, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Venezuela: We in Venezuela are a proud multi-ethnic and multi-cultural society. Our laws ensure respect for all our indigenous cultures, traditions and identities. We reject all forms of discrimination which infringe on the equal enjoyment of the fundamental rights of human beings. We believe that the struggle against racism begins with respect for all affected groups, including indigenous peoples and ethnic minorities. At the same time, we realize that we have to go further than this. In that regard, we feel it is necessary to criminalize xenophobic practices so that persecuted groups or individuals ceased to be marginalized. It is necessary to foster a culture of respect, starting with formal education systems. We would also like to stress that new information technologies can also be a tool used to foster tolerance.
We have come here because we wish to re-emphasize our historical opposition to racism, racial discrimination and all forms of intolerance. We are also concerned about the success of the Conference and note the risk of failure to achieve the objectives that have brought all of us here. We hope that the Conference will, at the very least, produce an action plan and declaration reflective of the aspirations of the international community to protect those suffering various forms of exclusion. The Conference should aim to establish a framework so that the issues before us can be resolved once and for all. We also believe that we should pause now to correct the great imbalances the modern world has produced, such as poverty and forced displacement.
With respect to the issue of Palestine, we support the position that, without hiding the truths and recognizing the pain suffered by people in the occupied territories, would permit negotiation between the parties leading to a just and peaceful solution. With respect to the issue of reparations, we suggest that it is important to bear in mind the pain still felt by the families and descendents of slavery. The Conference must also acknowledge the horrific consequences of ethnic cleansing in order to show the world that we have undertaken that those events shall never happen again.
LILIAN PATEL, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of Malawi: No rational or scientific basis exists to support racism and racial discrimination and xenophobia, except selfishness and a quest for socio-economic dominance of the powerful. Discrimination, propelled by that dominance, has a wider operational playground whose philosophical and practical base must be destroyed.
The time has come to reinforce human rights in the broadest sense and create a hopeful future for the downtrodden, who feel the pangs of exclusion and deprivation in the face of elusive opportunity. History is important, but more challenging will be the measures each State embarks upon to educate and protect those marginalized in order to eradicate racism, which manifests itself in discrimination and social intolerance, first at the national level and eventually at the regional and international levels.
Malawi views with great concern the misuse and abuse of the new information technology. While we celebrate the digital revolution, some unscrupulous people take delight in using the new technology to promote evil. The hate speeches on the Internet only serve to perpetuate racial discrimination and dominance to victimize the weaker. That trend deserves special examination at this Conference.
FAROUK AL-SHARA, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Syria: Racism is one of the most dangerous social evils as it combines the substance of all evils in the world -- a blind fanatic mind that may transform itself in a scientific fashion, or at random, under the eyes of the entire world to practices that are more horrid and appalling than anything witnessed by human beings. Many contemporary historians have registered with admiration, not shorn of surprise, the human and religious diversity in Syria, as many of the oppressed people found a generous and secure haven there. They lived, and are still living, as Syrian citizens, enjoying equality in both rights and duties.
The most serious danger facing the peoples of the Middle East is the racist Israeli practices, particularly if the Israelis believe that the killing of Palestinians and the perpetration of massacres against them, beginning with Dier Yasssin in 1948, and ending up with hunting children, shooting them at random and killing them and assassinating Palestinian leaders selectively, may all continue without accountability. The Israelis will also be wrong to believe that they can continue for long in behaving as though they are above the law and international legitimacy, ignoring the resolve of the Arabs and the belief in justice and equality among people, added to a human culture that never resigns itself to subjugation or humiliation.
If the racial practices of the Israelis were to continue, they are going to make the idea of peace with the Arabs unattainable. The rulers of Israel want to combine the strangest anomalies in history -- they want security with the continuation of occupation, and they want a pure Jewish State with the land but without Palestinians and, yet, they reject the right of Palestinians to establish their independent state on their occupied Palestinian territory. Hence, the Israeli occupation forces demolish the houses of Palestinians under the pretext that those houses are not licensed, and in the meantime, they facilitate the building of settlements for Jews coming from the furthest point on earth and grant them licenses and financial assistance in order to build on occupied Palestinian territory.
Rights of Reply
The representative of Turkey, exercising his right of reply, said it is distressing to see that Armenia chose to use this forum for the purpose of defaming two countries, including his. Genocide is a word that cannot be used lightly. It has a legal meaning and for an act to be considered genocide, it must fall under international law, in particular article 2 of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. Yet, Armenia describes some events as genocide. Those allegations can only have one aim, to create a hostile environment. Rarely in history have facts been so distorted. Unless we stop defaming others, we cannot act together to fight against the real menace, be it racism or genocide.
As to the implied reference by Cyprus to my country as an occupying Power, we can only say that the intervention was based on stopping the bloodshed of Turkish people there and preventing annexation of the island by Greece.
Exercising the right of reply, the representative of Azerbaijan said that the groundless and irresponsible statements regarding his country made by the representative of Armenia earlier today required him to take the floor. The representative of Armenia should recognize the United Nations requirement that all parties respect the territorial integrity of States. Those international requirements also condemned aggression. It was a well-known fact that the Armenian statement had been made with a single purpose. Still, even such obvious propaganda will never mask the fact that the reality of the situation was the direct opposite of the Armenian statement.
He said that Azerbaijanis had been annihilated from their historical lands since Armenians had begun to settle in the disputed territory. The delegate omitted to recall that by 1980, the number of Armenians in the territory stood at over half a million as a result of the Government’s policy of expelling Azerbaijanis. That policy had been accompanied by brutal killings and other violations of human rights. With the unique discriminatory, mono-ethnic State Armenia had created, it was peculiar to hear that country trying to teach others about respect for diversity.
Some might be surprised to hear that more than 18,000 Azerbaijani’s had been killed and more than 50,000 wounded or maimed in the conflict. Kidnapped hostages held in the occupied territories were forced into labour and made to endure violations of their human rights. The Armenian statement was a further attempt at launching an extensive anti-Azerbaijani campaign that justified its aggression against Azerbaijan. He said there was no need for him to comment on the right of peoples to self-determination. The Armenian delegate should familiarize himself with the Security Council resolution which condemned the occupation and which had demanded Armenia’s withdrawal. He hoped his statement would cause the delegate to approach his work at the Conference more responsibly.
The representative of Armenia, exercising the right of reply, said delegations present here were surprised to hear the excuse of the Turkish ambassador concerning the Armenian genocide. The genocide carried out by the Ottoman Empire has still gone unrecognized by Turkey, although it took place in 1915. To be part of the civilized world, one cannot resort to denials in the instance of such atrocities. The recognition of the genocide by Turkey would lead to the elimination of many psychological barriers. It was hard to remain silent when the Turkish delegation makes the references it did.
The Azerbaijan statement served no purpose other than propaganda. The picture painted here would be totally reversed if one were to look at the facts. The statement should be condemned, and the Azerbaijani delegation asked to be factual. Azerbaijan should eliminate their racist activities, as well as the propaganda and hatred.
The representative of Turkey, exercising his second right of reply, said despite repeated pleas that speakers not point fingers, our neighbour seems to be unaffected by the request. He still hoped that Armenians would find a way to find their identity, other than through the distortion of their past.
GEORGES CHIKOTI, Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs of Angola: The Conference should recall that Angola was colonized for more than 450 years by the Portuguese -- the pioneers of the transatlantic slave trade. During the inhuman colonialist system that accompanied the years of the slave trade and servitude, Angola became a province of Portugal, where colonial repression was considered the bloodiest in Africa. All claims for independence were denied. Under those circumstances, the only option left to us was to wage a war which lasted for 14 years, ending in a military coup in Portugal, the collapse of the colonial Power and independence for our country. Before Angola could enjoy the fruits of its freedom, we were invaded by troops of the apartheid regime and plunged into another 16 years of conflict. Resolutions of the Security Council were passed for that regime to pay reparations, but to this day not a penny was given, nor apology made.
Despite this long and tragic history, we have established a non-racial society based on equality, where blacks and whites live together in harmony. That is why it is regrettable that at a time when the world is becoming more democratic and the United Nations is elaborating instruments that promote peace and understanding among peoples, some countries, particularly the rich and powerful nations, have sought to boycott and intimidate smaller States. Are we not allowed to consider such an attitude a form of intolerance and rejection? I think this Conference must make clear that Africans and victims of racism and racial discrimination are ready to forgive, but at the same time, are worried about the future. That is because so many of the problems associated with discrimination have yet to be overcome and Africans and black people still face more bigotry than any other peoples. I believe that no nation should be allowed to use force or wealth to impose its will upon others. Intimidation is not the way forward. It is necessary that this Conference identify slavery as a crime against humanity and reparations have to be made to the victims of that tragedy.
STAFFORD NEIL, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Jamaica: The legacy of the past is important, not only in explaining the persistence of patterns of racism and racial discrimination, but also in showing the scale and consequences of the damage inflicted. It is well established that many individuals and companies made substantial fortunes from the transatlantic slave trade and participating countries were enriched. The important thing now is not to catalogue the abuses or highlight the human suffering endured during that era, but to point the way to reconciliation and atonement.
The proposals relating to reparations are not intended to be divisive or confrontational, but rather form part of a process to heal the wounds of the past. We believe that reparations equally serve the interests of the descendants of the victims, as well as the descendants of the oppressors. It is a means by which both may be able to confront the past without guilt or bitterness. The international community could proceed with two forms of action. First, there should be an acknowledgement that slavery and the transatlantic slave trade was a crime against humanity. Second, there should be economic measures in the form of policies and programmes at the international level that seek to remedy the negative consequences of the historic injustice -- the destabilization and underdevelopment of Africa and the degradation and psychic damage of the people of the diaspora. This Conference could take those important steps now, clearing a major hurdle and laying the basis in the long term for better understanding, goodwill and cooperation.
The global revolution in communications offers a new medium for reversing the negative perceptions based on racial stereotypes and for promoting greater acceptance of differences, including cultural and religious ones. Education and training at both formal and informal levels should address cultural biases and prejudices, especially in the curriculum offered to the young. We must break the vicious cycle of inter-generational adoption of discriminatory attitudes and behaviour.
GILBERTO RINCON GALLARDO, President of the Citizen Studies Commission against Discrimination of Mexico: Mexico acknowledges that large sectors of its population are discriminated against and excluded from opportunities. For the first time in our history, the Mexican Senate has approved a meaningful legal reform of the Constitution, prohibiting any form of discrimination to the detriment of the rights and opportunities of our citizens.
This World Conference will establish an anti-discrimination agenda for the twenty-first century and should begin by recognizing that conquest, colonialism and slavery are the historical sources of racism and other forms of discrimination. If such practices took place today they would have to be regarded as international crimes against humanity and thus subject to compensation and restitution.
This Conference offers a unique opportunity to enhance the recognition of the rights of indigenous peoples. It should also make an explicit statement against discrimination suffered by migrants. The Conference must not forget the discrimination suffered by disabled people, who constitute 10 per cent of the world’s population. And it would not be complete if it did not acknowledge discriminatory practices against 50 per cent of the world population – women.
ODILE QUINTIN, Director General of the European Commission: No corner of the world is entirely free from racist violence, ethnic hatred of discrimination. Racism and the activities of racists -- particularly in the days of the Internet -- are no longer limited to the borders of a single country. Transnational groups such as the European Union can add value to the efforts of individual States to combat racism. The fight against racism is now firmly rooted in European law, with specific reference to the fight against racism contained in the treaty establishing the European Community. Last year, the Union’s Council of Ministers adopted two pieces of binding legislation prohibiting discrimination on the grounds of racial or ethnic origin, religion and belief, disability, age and sexual orientation.
Those laws give the victims of discrimination the right to seek redress, before the courts, with effective dissuasive sanctions. The member States of the European Union are now working with their civil society partners to put those laws in place in their own countries. The Commission intends to make a new proposal to create a framework for the European Union’s member States laws on racist and xenophobic offences. The proposal will also address racist and xenophobic material on the Internet, so that what is deemed illegal offline will be illegal online.
We also have initiatives under way to ensure common Union policies on migrants and immigration. The Council declared that the objective of its policies should be to grant migrants rights and obligations comparable to those of the citizens of the European Union. What I have described today are just some of the wide range of actions we have been able to undertake with member States of the Union. Yet, hardly a day goes by in the Union without reports of racist attacks. Sadly, the same is true in other parts of the world. We will all benefit from a positive and concrete Action Plan to guide us towards our common goal of banishing racism and xenophobia from our world.
Baroness AMOS OF BRONDESBURY, Minister for Africa in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office of the United Kingdom: the fight against racism and racial discrimination is one of the most important we face in Britain today. We have made progress nationally in recent years in tackling racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia, anti-Semitism and Islamophobia. But significant areas of concern remain. Many of you will be aware of the violent disturbances in recent months between young people from different ethnic communities. The causes of those disturbances are deeply rooted in the structures of our society. We are doing everything we can to support local people in finding practical ways to bring communities together.
The catalyst for much of our Government’s work to tackle racism has been the recommendations from the inquiry into the death of Stephen Lawrence in 1993, a black youth stabbed to death by a group of white youths. The inquiry identified a collective failure of the police and other institutions to provide appropriate and professional services to people because of their colour, culture or ethnicity. The report led to a radical strengthening of the United Kingdom’s race relations legislation. But Government policies alone cannot defeat racism. In the United Kingdom, the Commission for Racial Equality and the Northern Ireland Equality Commission play a vital, independent role in monitoring and enforcing anti-discrimination legislation.
Out of this Conference we want a powerful new impetus to international efforts to tackle racism. The promotion and protection of human rights, including the right to be free from racial discrimination, are priorities for the British Government. We want a strong statement which looks unflinchingly at the past. The British Government and the European Union profoundly deplore the human suffering, both individual and collective, caused by slavery and the slave trade. They are among the most dishonourable and abhorrent chapters in the history of humanity. Such acts of acknowledgement, regret and condemnation will allow us to move forward in a spirit of hope and give us the basis on which to continue to tackle contemporary problems. We also want the Conference to identify concrete, practical measures that can make a difference in the fight against racism.
ROGER VAN BOXTEL, Minister for Urban Policy and Integration of Ethnic Minorities for the Netherlands: Every day, we have to fight racism with all legal means. We owe that to our society and to our younger generations. It is a democratic duty to stand for respect, justice, dignity and equality for all. Therefore, I reject some expressions of racism and intolerance around this Conference. Forms of multiple racial discrimination victimize groups even more. In particular, it concerns race and gender, race and sexual orientation, and race and mental or physical disability, among others. Trafficking in women and girls is another example. It is my firm wish that this Conference address those issues. In the struggle against racism, our guiding light should be the universality of human rights.
This Conference provides us the necessary moment to state to all people that racism and discrimination must be eradicated. But that affirmation can only be credible if we recognize the great injustices of the past. We express deep remorse about enslavement and the slave trade. But an expression of remorse is not enough and cannot be used as an excuse for taking no action in the present. It is important to implement structural measures that benefit the descendents of former slaves and future generations. In the Netherlands we have actively worked to fight discrimination and social exclusion. At this moment, Dutch society is a multicultural “salad bowl” of people living together in relative peace and harmony.
Our approach has also been to tackle racism on many fronts, with broad-based coalitions. Our primary focus is the local level, because that is where society is most directly affected by racism and racial discrimination. The Netherlands has had positive experiences fighting racism on the Internet through private-public partnerships. As the Internet has immense influence in our modern world, we must take international measures against its use for the dissemination of hate speech and racist material.
ALI SAID ABDELLA, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Eritrea: Racism has assumed subtle forms, coming encoded in ethnic and religious virtues, and is being glorified by several groups as a supremely suitable form of societal organization. Under that pretext, it has, in some glaring cases, been possible to install ethno-apartheid systems in which one ethnic group monopolizes power and establishes a comprehensive system of ethnic domination. Consequently, it is impossible for the other ethnic groups in such a society to enjoy human rights on an equal footing with the ruling ethnic group, or to participate in the political, economic, cultural or any other field of public life. The people of Eritrea have been the victims of racist oppression and discrimination for almost a century, under three different colonial administrations. During the Italian colonialism, and most particularly during the fascist period, official policies on race were implemented which ruthlessly discriminated on the basis of race.
Eritrea’s commitment to the elimination of all forms of racial discrimination has a history going back to the earliest days of the liberation struggle. Indeed, it was part of the liberation struggle. After independence, the Ministry of Justice undertook a systematic review of the colonial country’s legislation to get rid of what was not consistent with all human rights conventions. Convinced that racism was closely related to economic conditions, the Government ensures that all citizens have the right to be engaged equally and fruitfully in the economic activities of the country.
ERNEST N. TJRIANGE, Minister of Justice of Namibia: It should be noted that apart from the injustices of slavery, colonialism and conquest, Africa also suffers from foreign exploitation of its resources, and is subjected to the dumping of unwanted surplus arms left over from the cold war and is further subjected to an unfavourable international economic environment and unjustifiable foreign debt. In that respect, the Conference must declare solemnly that the international community fully recognizes the historical injustices of the slave trade, colonialism and conquest. My delegation endorsed the African position that recognition of the evils of the slave trade and colonialism would be hollow without an explicit apology by those who committed those injustices against their fellow human beings. Such an apology will also be meaningless if a mechanism for compensation and reparation is not put in place. Without such actions, this Conference will be condemned by future generations. Namibia will leave the modalities of how such a compensation mechanism will be made operational to the appropriate United Nations agencies.
The African proposal for the establishment of an international compensation scheme and a development reparation fund is a good place to start. It should be emphasized that the Conference cannot work out those details, only the principle that such mechanisms are necessary. When we in Africa emphasize the historical importance of slavery and colonialism in the outcome of this Conference, it is not out of a sheer obsession with the past. It is the reality that we live today. As for the fears that reparations to Africans and people of African descent will reduce the living condition of those who practised slavery and colonialism, let me add that those fears are unfounded and can only cause further mistrust and suspicion.
Turning to the situation in Palestine, another important issue before the Conference, let me say that the recent increase in tension has been of particular concern to the international community. It is the view of my delegation that the escalation in violence in Palestine is an issue that must be considered in this forum. With so many lives being lost in recent months and the continued violations of the human rights of the Palestinian people, we here in Durban must act.
ABDULLAH ABDULLAH, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Afghanistan: I would like to draw your attention to the particularly dramatic situation in the Taliban-controlled areas of Afghanistan. Every single fundamental, individual or collective right of the Afghan people is seriously and brutally violated. A de facto authority is maintained against the Afghan people’s right to self-determination by the direct armed interference of Pakistan. There are summary executions, punitive sanction or absurd rules of everyday life, forced displacements, looting and destruction of our country’s rich historical, cultural and artistic heritage, and more. As a consequence, inside the country, our people are hostages of a never before seen terror, and outside the country, millions of our refugees no longer know where to go.
Naturally, the Afghan people, under the leadership of its legal and worldwide recognized Government, will continue to resist until the Pakstani-Taliban-Bin Laden aggression comes to an end. We will not turn down any negotiation proposal under the auspices of the United Nations. That is the reason why we ask the Conference to condemn that aggression and occupation, the first signs of which are precisely the violation of the fundamental human rights that we are supposed to guarantee and protect.
OULAI SIENE, Minister of Justice and Public Liberty of Côte d’Ivoire: Poverty is the root cause of a dysfunctional society. If you think that slavery has disappeared, think again. How else can one understand the fact that the price of a product made during long months of hard labour, in sun and rain, by millions of peasants, is determined by someone sitting on a chair behind a computer in a cold office, without taking into account their suffering. Only the methods have changed. They have become more “humane”. The blacks are no longer loaded into boats to the Antilles and America; they must stay at home to till the soil, to sweat blood and water to see the price of the fruit of their labour fixed in London, Paris, or New York. The slavers did not die, they became speculators.
For racism and racial discrimination to disappear, every country must sweep its own front yard. By adopting the new Constitution of 2000, Côte d’Ivoire has decided to build a united society by banning the establishment of parties and political groups on a regional, tribal, ethnic or racial basis. Côte d’Ivoire believes in a fraternal society without any discrimination. Ever since its independence in 1960, the country has been a cultural and religious melting pot, comprised of 66 ethnic groups living in harmony. My country is host to more than 126,000 refugees of various nationalities.
This Conference should be an opportunity to look back to the past with courage, taking into account the mistakes made and use the lessons for the future. The horrors of the past, such as slavery, colonialism and apartheid should be raised without hesitation. We are in favour of any partnership in healing old wounds of the victims.
NTUMBA LUABA LUMU, Minister for Human Rights of the Democratic Republic of the Congo: Right after we thought we had closed the chapter of the Holocaust, we have seen examples of its resurgence around the world. There was the genocide of Rwanda, in which more than 1 million people were killed, and the atrocities in the Balkans. Every day, Palestinians and Israelis kill each other. Many humanitarian disasters stem from racial discrimination and xenophobia. There is ethnic cleansing, displaced persons, discrimination against women, children and the elderly, and the destruction of property, among others. Those are among the hardships faced every day by the people of the Democratic Republic of the Congo from the aggressions of its neighbours from Rwanda, Uganda and Burundi.
There were thousands of killings, and even more refugees. How is it possible to see yesterday’s victims become today’s executioners? The Democratic Republic of the Congo supports the call for a tribunal to investigate the atrocities committed there. The Democratic Republic of the Congo wants to live in peace with its neighbours, and advocates peaceful settlements with its neighbours.
Current trends in the Democratic Republic of the Congo favour national unity rather than differentiation based on origin. The Government prohibits discrimination, and the Congolese Charter on Human Rights goes further, protecting by law the rights of persons belonging to minorities. That includes the right to one’s own culture. The Democratic Republic of the Congo, after acceding to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, has ratified most of the international conventions. The objective of those instruments, and indeed of this Conference, is protecting human dignity and preserving humanity.
MONIQUE OLBOUDO, Secretary of State for the Promotion of Human Rights of Burkina Faso: Practices of racism, xenophobia and other forms of intolerance deny the rights of others due to the colour of their skin or ethnic background. Add to those sexism, which still underlies a wide variety of injustices and discrimination against women. All those manifestations have the effect of denying human rights, fundamental freedoms and justice in all parts of their lives. We live in a landlocked country and therefore we are under unique physical and geographical pressures. As such, we have always had to deal with the phenomenon of immigration and the particular issue of migrants is of profound concern to us. We are working to elaborate laws and policies which allow the free exercise of human rights and guarantee equality before the law of such persons. That will provide them with a legal arsenal with which to combat injustice.
More than 60 ethnic groups live in our country and a spirit of tolerance reigns. However, we make no claim to be strangers to racial discrimination and intolerance. We welcome the holding of the Conference and note with satisfaction the desire to reach consensus on issues that effect each and every nation in attendance. Cooperation will be necessary in order to ensure that the scourges we are trying to combat are eliminated once and for all. We also prescribe to the provisions of the African Initiative on combating racism as laid out in the Dakar declaration. We also support broad respect for the international conventions and covenants by all nations, particularly those instruments concerning racial discrimination and protecting the rights of the child. Finally, we recommend that the slave trade be named a crime against humanity and that a reparations scheme be implemented.
WANG GUANGYA, Vice-Foreign Minister for Foreign Affairs of China: Colonialism, foreign invasion, the slave trade and apartheid are all typical manifestations of the forms of racism which has inflicted untold suffering on countries and people across Asia, Africa and Latin America. Thanks to the strenuous and protracted struggles of all the peoples of those regions and the joint efforts of the international community, nearly 100 countries were able to shake off the shackles of colonialist rule and win national emancipation and independence. At this very moment, however, we have to be aware that the struggle against racism remains an uphill endeavour. As the pernicious influence of past racism lingers, many countries are also beset by poverty, internal conflict and turmoil.
New forms of racism are on the rise and incidents of xenophobia, discrimination against immigrants and neo-nazism are also becoming more frequent. All those manifestations of contempt for equality and dignity constitute a blatant challenge to a world searching for peace and sustained development. Racial hatred is also on the rise in the Middle East. The Palestinian people are still being deprived of their legitimate rights and interests. The international community must take a clear stand on that issue. Holding this Conference at the start of the new millennium will help mankind formulate effective measures to combat racism in the future.
Here, I would stress three points: We must face history and eliminate the roots of both old and new racist practices; we must advocate equality and mutual respect and understanding through dialogue, and we must boost cooperation for the common development of all countries in the world. The Conference should commit itself to greater cooperation with a view to establishing a just and rational political and economic order as soon as possible, so that all countries can benefit from globalization and thus, eventually contribute to peace, development and prosperity for all mankind.
KAORI MARUYA, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Japan: Building from our deep remorse over our past colonial rule and aggression, Japan is determined to eliminate self-righteous nationalism, promote international cooperation and, thereby, advance the principles of peace and democracy throughout the world. Regarding the concerns expressed by some neighbouring countries, I would like to reiterate here that the Government of Japan firmly maintains the above-mentioned acknowledgement of history. Based on that recognition, the Government requires that schoolchildren understand through history education that the Second World War caused disaster to all humankind.
We have been fighting against various forms of discrimination based on race and other reasons in Japan. Improvement has been seen, but discriminatory attitudes towards some people, such as the Ainu people and Korean residents, still exist among individuals in daily life. A gender-equal society is another goal to be achieved. There are also reported incidents of human rights violation against foreigners. Recognizing the urgent need for solutions, Japan has been striving to break a vicious circle of prejudice, discrimination and poverty through legislative and administrative measures. Human rights education and awareness-raising campaigns are particularly important in eliminating prejudice. Social and grass-roots activities by non-governmental organizations also play an important role in that connection.
Most cruel forms of human rights violation and discrimination have been experienced by people during conflicts instigated by racial and ethnic animosities. In the face of enormous devastation and violence, reconciliation is easy to say but hard to achieve. I believe that co-existence and tolerance will be clues for global peace and prosperity. We should endeavour to accept those who are different from us, respect difference and live together in harmony. Then eventually, reconciliation will be achieved. To that goal, every one of us should ask ourselves critically whether we are truly free from any sentiment of discrimination.
IVAN BABA, State Secretary for Foreign Affairs of Hungary: We strongly believe that when the international community combats racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, it should act in a human rights context. National implementation of international norms and practices, enhanced cooperation among States and reaffirmation of values enshrined in international documents must be in the forefront of our efforts, if we want to be successful.
The issue of minority rights is no longer an internal affair of any given State. The past decade has amply demonstrated that the denial of minority rights may undermine the stability of entire regions. Progress in international protection of minorities is one of the keys to making human rights even more relevant in our times. The international community should pay attention to the human rights situation of minorities not only when tragic events are already taking place, but also much earlier, when gross violations of the rights of minorities can still be prevented.
We reaffirm our proposal for the elaboration of a universally binding international legal document on the rights of minorities. That new instrument could be based on the provisions of relevant universal and regional human rights and minority rights conventions. Appropriate attention could also be paid to the standards set forth in the United Nations declaration on minorities. Besides concentrating on political, civil and cultural, as well as social and economic rights of minorities, a new convention could also stipulate recourse for an international complaint mechanism for individuals or communities directly concerned. We express our fervent hope that the outcome of this Conference will give an impetus to that proposal of ours.
TORKI BIN MOHAMMED AL-KABER, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Saudi Arabia: Saudi Arabia is committed to the noble and lofty principles to uphold human rights, including the fight against racism. That is fully in accordance with the Islamic values that it holds dear. The Islamic faith of more than 1 billion people is one of the sources that support human rights. It denounces prejudices, whether tribal or national, that could lead to discrimination of one group over another. Saudi Arabia has signed a number of international instruments, including the Geneva Convention of 1936 against slavery, and several International Labour Organization treaties that prevent discrimination in employment.
The international community has to be fully aware of the consequences of discrimination. All discrimination and theories of racial superiority have to be denounced so that future generations can learn that all people are equal. The attempt to turn the attention of the Conference to some extraneous concepts would detract from its main work and its efforts to reach consensus.
Questions of racism have to be raised in the situation of the Israeli treatment of the Palestinian people. In 1950, Israel denied Palestinian citizenship rights, and that led to the collective punishment, torture and displacement of the people. Israel is violating the Fourth Geneva Convention, and its actions are racist. Saudi Arabia wants the Conference to result in a final document adopted by consensus.
Saudi Arabia regrets the attempts to link Islam with some aggressions, including terrorism and prejudice. That should end. Islam preaches tolerance. The campaign against Islam and Muslims is politically motivated. The delegation hopes the Conference can help in overcoming that phenomenon.
SERGUEI ORDZHONIKIDZE, Deputy Minster for Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation: The fact that the Conference is held in South Africa is of symbolic importance. The Russian Federation attaches great importance to the Conference. Despite efforts of countries and the international community as a whole, racism, extreme nationalism and xenophobia continue to remain a global phenomenon. It has many faces and forms and has become more sophisticated.
The present task of the Conference lies in focusing on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance. The most dangerous forms of them are national and regional religious extremism. Terrorists try to manipulate public opinion to undermine the sovereignty and integrity of States. A few years ago, a conflict in the Balkans was shaking the world. Regarding Kosovo, we think that without the return of Serb refugees, the future of the province is quite somber.
One of the most important priorities in Russia is the protection of compatriots abroad. Millions were abroad during the collapse of the Soviet Union and tried to retain their language and culture. Some host countries rejected that and turned to forced assimilation. Those who did not comply were forced to leave. That is the case in Estonia and Lithuania. Those countries cannot expect to be called genuinely democratic States.
The main thing is to look to the future and ask questions of how we see the life of the next generation and how we approach the problem of affirming the universality of the United Nations and its Charter, to universalize the international rights instruments regarding human rights. The development of linguistic and religious minorities must also be protected and the dangers to human rights posed by new technologies must be monitored.
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