Intervention by HE Dr Naledi Pandor, Minister of International Relations and Cooperation of the Republic of South Africa, at the High-Level UN General Assembly Roundtable Meeting to commemorate the Twentieth Anniversary of the adoption of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action (DDPA) against racism, xenophobia and related intolerance, 22 September 2021
South Africa is pleased that we are commemorating the 20th anniversary of the DDPA under the important theme “Reparations, racial justice and equality for people of African descent”. We believe that the theme fully captures the contemporary realities of racial injustice against Africans and people of African descent and, most importantly, highlights the urgent need for restorative justice and equality amongst the peoples of the world.
We are aware that although the majority of the countries and stakeholders supported the consensus outcomes of the Durban Conference, disagreements and differences persists.
It is regrettable that we have allowed ourselves to be so greatly polarised on such a critical matter of existential nature for the majority of the people across the world.
We find it unfortunate that others elected not to take part in this commemoration of the DDPA, at a time when incidents of racism and racial injustice continue to occur even in their own countries and societies. At a time when leadership is required from all of us they chose to stay away.
The contemporary manifestations of racism against Africans and people of African descent remain deeply embedded in the institutional power systems that govern human affairs.
To this end, we call on the international community to use this moment to recommit itself to implementing the DDPA and intensify all efforts to fight against racism.
We remain inspired by the words of former Presidents Nelson Mandela and Mary Robinson who called for the “conversion of mind and heart” during the Durban Conference. Their wisdom remains our fountain of hope, as we continue to confront the growing scourge of racism, xenophobia and related intolerance. System, processes and human hearts and minds must be changed in order to build societies envisaged by the Durban Declaration.
COVID-19 has also exacerbated the situation already flammable and afflicted by multiple crises ranging from detrimental climate change, inequality, irregular migration and poverty. These challenges have seamlessly combined with the scourge of racism and further polarised many societies and communities. COVID-19 exposed systemic racism in all its dimensions.
As the Durban Conference demands of Member States, let us join together “in a spirit of renewed political will and commitment to universal equality, justice and dignity”.
As President Ramaphosa stated during the opening session, we would like to take this opportunity again to encourage everybody to adopt special measures, including affirmative action programmes, leverage legislative frameworks to facilitate access to meaningful economic assets and targeted financial assistance at the national and international level, which would be instrumental in addressing historical and contemporary discrimination against people of African descent. This could include increased representation of people of African descent in global institutions and leadership positions.
Furthermore, we would like to urge everybody to actively participate in the revitalisation of the multilateral institutions through clear demonstration of practices of leadership that manifest our commitment to equality and non-discrimination.
In conclusion, I would like to thank the President of the General Assembly and all Member States present here today for your commitment and desire to work towards the creation of the world free from racism and related intolerance.
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