In Inclusiveness Lie Seeds of Harmony, Secretary-General Tells Symposium on South Africa’s Contribution to Fight against Racism, Xenophobia

22 September 2011

In Inclusiveness Lie Seeds of Harmony, Secretary-General Tells Symposium on South Africa’s Contribution to Fight against Racism, Xenophobia

22 September 2011
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

In Inclusiveness Lie Seeds of Harmony, Secretary-General Tells Symposium


on South Africa’s Contribution to Fight against Racism, Xenophobia


Following are UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s remarks to the high-level symposium on South Africa’s contribution to the fight against racism and xenophobia, in New York on 22 September:

Three years ago, I had the immense honour to meet Nelson Mandela.  I began to thank him for all he had done for freedom and justice, but he interrupted me.

The thanks, he said, should go to the millions of people in South Africa — known and unknown people — and around the world, men and women who stood up for these essential principles.  It is they who freed South Africa from the bonds of apartheid.  Madiba’s words capture the essence of what we are celebrating this afternoon — the universal values of human dignity and equality.

I am honoured to be in such distinguished company today, as we gather to celebrate the centenary of the Africa National Congress (ANC).  The ANC is more than a political party; it is a movement — and a tangible expression of a vision.

The commitment and sacrifice of its members led to the emancipation of a nation from racist colonial rule.  The justness of its cause attracted support from around the world and from all races and religions.

Its membership, too, reflects this broad approach.  The ANC was devoted to freeing black Africans, but it was never — nor is it now — a party exclusively for black Africans.  In such inclusiveness lie the seeds of harmony.

This morning, I spoke at the General Assembly meeting commemorating the tenth anniversary of the World Conference against Racism, which was held in Durban, South Africa.  I observed that we have come a long way.

New laws, institutions, initiatives and means of communicating are changing mindsets.  We are better attuned to recognize and reject discrimination based on race, faith gender or sexual orientation.  We are better prepared to prosecute and protect against grave crimes such as genocide.

Yet intolerance and hate are still with us.  Discrimination against Africans and persons of African descent remains.  Anti-Semitism and Islamophobia persist.  Asians and persons of Asian descent, indigenous peoples, migrants, refugees and minorities still endure discrimination and persecution throughout our world.  We must all do more to embrace diversity and safeguard peoples’ rights.

When Nelson Mandela walked free, the world sang with joy.  Ever since, South Africa has stood as a beacon of hope for Africa.  I felt it myself last year when I visited Johannesburg for the opening of the World Cup.

Overwhelmingly, people want this non-racial democracy to succeed.  Under the leadership of the ANC, and President Jacob Zuma, the new South Africa established firm foundations.  It has quickly built a tradition of smooth democratic transition.  It has a progressive Constitution that entrenches and protects rights that most developed countries have not managed to guarantee, and gives women one third of the seats in Parliament.

South Africa has a robust economy and is an influential voice in continental and world affairs.  This year, it will host the important climate change negotiations in Durban.  All these things are testament to the country’s success and to the ANC’s success, for it is the ANC that has presided unassailably throughout.

Yet with such success, such power, also comes great responsibility.  The power of the ANC lies not just in the numbers of people who vote for it, but the vision that it stands for.  This has always been the movement’s strength, and it is this vision that the world looks to now.

The struggle for freedom, justice, human rights and against racism is a global battle.  I see the ANC in the vanguard, not just in South Africa, but throughout the continent and the globe.

I count on your continued determined effort to defend the fundamental principles enshrined in our United Nations Charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Defeating racism, tribalism, intolerance and all forms of discrimination will liberate us all, victim and perpetrator alike.

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For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.