Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Statement by Hon. Dikgakgamatso M. Seretse, Minister for Defence, Justice and Security, during the High Level Segment of the Durban Review Conference

source: Republic of Botswana (22/4/09): TAUTONA TIMES no 11 of 2009
The Weekly Electronic Press Circular of the Office of the President
Democracy, Development, Dignity and Discipline


[Salutations]…Distinguished delegates:

1. It is a privilege and an honour for me to address this High-Level Segment of the Durban Review Conference.

2. Botswana is pleased to join the nations of the world in reviewing progress regarding the implementation of the Durban Declaration and Plan of Action. For those of us from Southern Africa who witnessed and lived the experience of institutionalised racism and state sponsored terrorism based on racial discrimination, this Review Conference is a moment for celebration. A celebration of the end of apartheid, a crime against humanity, not only on the soil of Southern Africa but also on the face of our planet.

3. This Review Conference also serves as a reminder, a painful reminder that silence and lack of action in the face of injustice can correctly be interpreted as taking a position. We must ask why it was possible for apartheid to be institutionalized shortly after the defeat of the Nazis and their genocidal ideology of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related influence.

4. It is against this background that in Botswana from the very beginning of our sovereign and independent nation, we established a society that abhors racism in all its forms and manifestations. We are committed to protect and respect human rights in general but also to take measures to promote greater harmony and tolerance.

5. Mr. President, the Durban 2001 World Conference Against Racism represented something that is good and positive about humanity. It marked our common desire to remember and learn from our past mistakes. We emerged out of Durban with a stronger determination – aptly embodied in the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action (DDPA) – to address racism, having acknowledged in a consensus voice that racism and all its forms constituted the worst forms of attack on human dignity. Let us therefore continue to build on this achievement so that we can reach the objectives of global humanitarianism and the difficult but important world citizenship which is possible when we are tolerant, just, and kind to one another.

6. This Review Conference is not about vilifying any nation nor civilisation. It would not serve any purpose if the conference is used as a platform for demonising some states or dividing the world into descendants of the oppressed and the oppressors. We must recognise that whatever the circumstances of our history we are meeting here today as elements of humanity with a common destiny. We must be united in the search for solutions and issues that unite us.

7. Mr. President, in undertaking this crucial review of progress and assessment of the implementation of the commitments that we made – as the international community - under the DDPA, it is important to remind ourselves of what we set out to do in 2001.

8. The Durban Declaration and Programme of Action inspired us with the knowledge that as Governments, as nongovernmental organisations, as countries and as peoples, we had reached the crucial time to dedicate our minds, our skills and our resources to the creation of a new world free of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance.

9. Most importantly, the DDPA made recommendations and practical measures, comprehensive national action plans, policies and programmes. The Programme of Action particularly calls on States to strengthen national human rights institutions; and undertake preventive and concerted action, especially in the fields of education and awareness raising.

10. I must underscore the importance of education in all our efforts. Education is about “providing intellectual and moral training for the mind, for the purpose of leading it out of the darkness of ignorance into the light of a true understanding of all things and the development of each individual personality”.

11. This mammoth task is not the responsibility of States alone. The programme of action also called for the active involvement of non-governmental organizations, the media, the political parties, and the private sector. This is because something as insidious as racism cannot be eradicated through legislative action alone. It requires social change as well.

12. Racism is a global concern, and tackling it should be a universal effort. It is regrettable, however, that there are still palpable signs of a lack of political will and genuine international readiness to translate the lofty ideals and practical recommendations of the DDPA into tangible results. This has also been evident in the build-up to this Review Conference, where differences of opinion on the so-called red-line issues appeared.

13. Botswana believes that it is most appropriate for this Review Conference to reaffirm our unity of purpose and the will to address the root causes of racism in all its forms.

14. A few months ago we met here in Geneva to celebrate the 60th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Let us therefore be guided by our firm belief in the spirit and letter of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which clearly stipulates that “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights…”As a country, Botswana translated this ethos into a practice that is aimed primarily at ensuring a stable and more tolerant democratic society founded on a strong foundation that abhors the menace of racism and any form of discrimination.

15. Mr. President, as a State party to several key international human rights instruments – including the International Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (ICERD), the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), and the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) - Botswana has continued to cooperate with the relevant treaty bodies and the United Nations human rights system in order to play a more significant role in ensuring that a world free of exclusion and racial discrimination is achieved – at the national regional and international levels.

16. Botswana has also done its best to submit periodic reports to the respective treaty bodies, as well as seeking to meet most of the recommendations to fully align domestic legislation with international standards regarding racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance. The Government of Botswana has, therefore, always made efforts through its legal reform initiatives that have sought to preserve human rights and equality principles that foster multiculturalism.

17. Mr. President, Botswana strongly believes that political commitment to the implementation of the DDPA remains vital. It is imperative to seek to mobilize and maintain political momentum through the established Durban follow-up mechanisms – including the Intergovernmental Working Group, the Group of Independent Eminent Persons, and the Expert Group on People of African Descent.

18. All of us face the challenge of working consistently for positive and meaningful change that can leave behind what has been negative about the past.

19. It is also important that, in pursuit of all efforts to combat racism and all its various manifestations, we carefully examine the role of law at the national, regional and international levels. Botswana reaffirms her commitment to a legal reform process that embraces translating the principles of non-discrimination into binding norms. This entails domestication of relevant international human rights instruments as well as full cooperation with relevant treaty bodies and the Universal Periodic Review.

20. Mr. President, allow me to conclude by reaffirming Botswana’s commitment to the effective implementation and follow-up of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action.

21. My delegation acknowledges that consensus on the issues at hand is not easy to achieve. We are pleased that we begin this Conference with a carefully balanced and agreeable draft outcome document, reflecting the compromises by States on most issues that threatened to divide us.

22. We have noted the painful reality of some of us deciding to stay away from this important Conference. Such is an attestation to the fact that we still have problems that require our resoluteness to surmount. It remains a challenge, therefore, for all of us gathered here today, to seek means in the future of drawing on all the stakeholders towards a common vision.

23. Mr. President, we must succeed in ending racism because failure to do so can only imply that humanity is unable or is refusing to come out of its primitive existence of wild animals that fight and tear each other to pieces. All this is attainable if we pull together, recognizing the need for genuine dialogue.

24. Botswana maintains the unwavering belief in the inevitable triumph of good over evil. This Review Conference must have a positive outcome. In working towards a consensual outcome, we need to draw strength from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which proclaims that "All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights … and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood". I thank you for your attention.

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