Address by Minister Dlamini Zuma to
the Asian Regional Preparatory Conference for the World
Conference Against Racism and Related Intolerance, Tehran,
Iran 19 - 21 February 2001
Honourable Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Islamic
Republic of Iran
The High Commissioner of Human Rights, Ms Mary Robinson
Honourable Leaders of Delegations
Ladies and Gentlemen
I have the honour and privilege to bring greetings from
the President, Government and Peoples of South Africa,
to all the participants of this Regional Conference.
I also express our appreciation and gratitude to the
government and peoples of the Islamic Republic of Iran
for hosting this important Regional Conference.
We are particularly grateful to the government of the
Islamic Republic of Iran for inviting us to participate
as observers in this conference because it gives us
an opportunity to gain insight into the important issues
which the Durban Conference will have to address. I
also wish to record our appreciation to the government
of Chile and the Regional Conference of the Americas
for having extended a similar invitation to our government.
May I from the onset congratulate the government of
Iran on assumption of the Chairpersonship of the G77
in New York. The G77 and China represent the main negotiating
forum on all the development issues relating to the
countries of the South. The excellent co-operation between
the G77 and the NAM as well as the historic South Summit
in Havana last year produced a coherent developmental
agenda, which is also reflected substantially in the
United Nations Millennium Declaration.
Last month we held an African Regional Conference in
Dakar, Senegal, which focused on the special experience
of the people of the continent and addressed colonialism,
apartheid as well as the devastating and traumatic experience
of slavery. These collective experiences will define
how we look at the future.
This Conference being the last of the preparatory conference
also has a special significance in that, together with
Santiago and Dakar, Tehran completes the collective
experience of the peoples of the South who suffered
the effects of colonialism.
As we meet here in Asia we also recollect on the rich
history and centuries of great civilisations of the
South whose contributions enriched humanity through
successive generations. However, the concept of white
supremacy did not respect and acknowledge these civilisations
but also tried to inculcate in our people the denial
of our inherent worth and dignity.
The peoples of the Asian region suffered gruesome experiences
of being transported across the seas to Africa and as
far afield as the Caribbean both as slaves and indentured
Our present day reality reflects the cumulative impact
of slavery and colonialism on our continents, which
have perpetuated conditions of inequality, poverty,
underdevelopment and exploitation.
There are many who would wish us to believe that racism
is dead but recent events especially in the North testify
to the resurgence of a particularly aggressive and at
times violent forms of racism. It is regrettable that
many political parties and institutions provide platforms
for racial incitement.
The developed countries usually arrogate to themselves
the responsibility of promoting human rights, democracy
and equality and yet during the period of colonial rule
they failed to observe these basic principles.
We pay tribute to the peoples of Palestine who are still
struggling for the restoration of their dignity, and
self-determination as well as their efforts to attain
their own homeland.
Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related
Intolerance are a global phenomena and there is no country
which can claim not to have been affected by it. The
tragedy of racism is in the denial, by some, of the
existence of the problem. At the same time there are
those who recognise the problem but insist that it should
not be discussed and will somehow disappear with the
passage of time. This will not disappear with the passage
of time unless we face the problem of racism squarely.
However the decision by the United Nations to convene
the World Conference against Racism has enabled all
the regions to engage the issue.
The World Conference in Durban provides us with a unique
opportunity to chart a new course and finally rid the
world of racism. It will require political courage and
commitment as well as new and sustainable partnerships
to address past and present injustices and to develop
a new equitable and just world.
In paying tribute to the martyrs who have sacrificed
their lives in the struggle against racism and for democracy,
we have to remind ourselves that throughout our struggle
we have sought to create non-racial societies and have
always forgiven rather than sought revenge.
Despite the fact that many of our racial problems are
rooted in legacies of colonialism, we have to assume
responsibility at national and regional levels. It is
our duty to respect human dignity which also involves
the promotion and protection of human rights including
gender equality. Women are vulnerable to multiple discrimination
including gender discrimination. Governments, business
and religious leaders, and civil societies must form
a strong partnership if they are to succeed in fighting
against racism, racial discrimination and Xenophobia.
We in South Africa inherited a special type of legacy
arising out of the Apartheid system. In his State of
the National Address on 9 February 2001, President Thabo
Mbeki stated "We had to make the determination
that this was a legacy that we did not desire and were
therefore committed to eradicate". He added, "The
past of which I speak is well known to all of us.
It is a past of a racially divided country, of masters
and servants, of racially inspired conflict and mistrust.
It is a past of endemic and widespread poverty and gross
imbalances in levels of development and the distribution
of wealth, income and opportunity. It is a past of an
economy that was immersed in a crisis that was destined
It is a past of the denial of freedom to the majority,
gross violation of human rights and repression, of entrenched
sexism, a past of high levels of crime, violence and
It is a past of a South Africa isolated from the rest
of Africa and the world, a pariah among the nations.
It is away from this painful past that our country is
progressing and must progress".
This reflects the scale of some of the challenges that
we face in transforming our society.
South Africa is a microcosm of the world and the problems
that we face similar to those confronting humanity as
a whole. We are therefore particularly honoured to host
the forthcoming World Conference against racism, Racial
Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance.
This first Conference of the new Millennium offers an
opportunity to eliminate the scourge of racism, racial
discrimination and related intolerance from the face
of the earth. It also ushers in real hope for the future.
I wish this Asian Conference every success, and I am
sure that it will focus on the seven objectives outlined
in the General Assembly Resolution 52/111 of December
1997. The Conference should also adopt a forward-looking
program of action, with concrete measurable objectives
which are implementable at the national level. In this
context, the World Conference will be expected to strife
for effective corrective measures which will give hope
to the millions of victims of racism, and for humanity
as a whole.
I thank you.