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 Chairperson

Honourable Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Islamic Republic of Iran

The High Commissioner of Human Rights, Ms Mary Robinson

Honourable Leaders of Delegations

Distinguished Delegates

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.


Chairperson


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.


Chairperson


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 labourers.


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.


Chairperson


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 to worsen.


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 corruption.


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.


Chairperson,


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.


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