Speech by Minister Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma at the Opening Ceremony of the World Conference Against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance (WCAR) Durban 31 August 2001

Your Majesty

Their Excellencies Heads of State and Government

The Secretary General of the United Nations

The Honourable Ministers of Foreign Affairs

The Secretary-General of the World Conference against Racism

Heads of Delegation

Distinguished Guests

Ladies and Gentlemen

In accepting the Presidency of this Conference, it is appropriate to pay a

special tribute to the gallant fighter against racism and son of Africa, Govan

Mbeki, who sadly passed away on the eve of this Conference.

Inspired by the collective efforts of humanity, slavery, slave trade, colonialism

and Apartheid they have all ceased to be. They’ve all been defeated, because

humanity could not countenance oppression of one by another, because

humanity has dared to affirm an injunction that we are all born equal with

inherent rights and dignity. These noble words are enshrined in the Universal

Declaration of Human Rights of the United Nations and serves as a guiding

light and offers hope for all of humanity.

Representing the African women, I know the pain of slavery, colonialism

whose legacy is staring me in the face every day. My continent bears the

scars of conflicts, abject poverty, racism, marginalization, social exclusion,

underdevelopment, economic disparities, humiliation and indignity, all have

their roots in the practices of these abominable systems.

We can take pride in the role of this region in the long struggle against racism.

It was in this province that Mahatma Ghandi launched his non-violent

resistance struggle and later inspired the freedom struggle in India and

world-wide. South Africa has a long history of resistance symbolised by the

award of the Nobel Peace Prize to Chief Albert Lutuli, who was the first

African leader to receive it and comes from this region. Despite the triumph

against racism, all countries of the world continues to battle against the

contemporary forms of racism. It is my hope that at the end of this

Conference, we will learn from and share with the international community on

the ways and means of dealing with racism.

Distinguished Representatives

Our Conference must issue a clarion call to the rest of the world to end the

unspeakable evils of Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related

Intolerance. Concomitantly, with this call, we must launch a sustained

Programme of Action capable of being implemented by every country at every


In recognising the work that has been produced thus far, I wish to thank all

Member States for their contributions in their respective regions. This was

followed by intensive Preparatory Meetings held in Geneva. Indeed, at times it

seemed gloomy and hopeless, but we persevered and recorded substantial

progress. We must build on that, aware of the sensitivity and pain involved in

confronting these issues. It is my hope that we shall together respond to this

challenge before us. We must succeed, we cannot afford anything less than

success. At the end of this century we must look back at this Conference as

the beginning of an offensive against racism.

The Youth Summit and the NGO Forum have also discussed these issues

and challenged the Conference to bequeath them with a non-racial, non-

sexist, tolerant and peaceful world. We dare not fail them. This will be a fitting

tribute to all those who over generations have sacrificed their lives in the

battle against racism.

It will be remiss of me to conclude without acknowledging the dextrous work

of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and her Secretariat. She and her

team have performed brilliantly under trying conditions.

I, therefore, accept with humility, the task assigned to me as President of this

Conference by this distinguished Assembly. My success is dependent on the

co-operation of all of you. I know, without doubt, that all of you will contribute in

any way you can to make this Conference a success. It will be through our

perseverance and co-operation in the spirit of brotherhood and sisterhood that

we will all succeed.

In his book, Long Walk to Freedom, the icon of our struggle Mr Nelson

Mandela made this seminal comment " I have taken a moment here to rest, to

steal a view of the glorious vistas that surround me, to look back on the

distance I have come. But I can rest only for a moment, for with freedom

comes responsibilities and I dare not linger for my long walk is not yet ended.

It is my fervent hope, that at the end of this conference we will look back

proudly at the road traversed thus far and go on to give concrete expression

to the Programme of Action and the Declaration that we would adopt with


I thank you.

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