1 September 2001
OPENING SESSION OF CONFERENCE GENERAL DEBATE
FOCUSES ON ADDRESSING LEGACY OF SLAVERY, COLONIALISM
Several heads of State and other top government officials from countries around the world this morning spoke on the scourge of racial hatredand the need to broaden practices of tolerance, as the United Nations World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance opened its general debate.
Yasser Arafat, the President of the Palestinian Authority, said Palestinians had been waging a struggle for liberation and independence for decades, and that they were suffering under the most severe policies of oppression and racial discrimination resulting from the Israeli occupation of their land and holy places. The world has to recognize that helping the Palestinian people to achieve independence and sovereignty would guarantee peace in the whole region.
The Conference, which opened Friday and continues through 7 September, has a goal of adopting a Declaration and Programme of Action that would serve as a blueprint for all nations to promote tolerance and protect all of their citizens from racial discrimination.
ABDELAZIZ BOUTEFLIKA, President of Algeria: ...
A fresh reading of history is needed that would allow the damage to be assessed, and allow the future to be considered. There is also a need to go beyond certain responses, and rise above selfishness and self-interest. A week ago, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) remembered the effects of the slave trade. The victims of colonialism and apartheid are also remembered, as are those who live in occupied lands. The plight of the Palestinian people is a daily reminder of the actions in which people have tried to de-personalize other people.
FIDEL CASTRO, President of the Councils of State and Ministers of Cuba: Racism, racial discrimination and xenophobia are not naturally instinctive reactions, but are rather social, cultural and political phenomena born of war, military conquest, slavery and the exploitation of the weak. No one has the right to boycott this Conference, which is attempting to bring some sort of relief to the overwhelming majority of mankind afflicted by the unbearable suffering and enormous injustice caused by racism. Neither has anyone the right to set preconditions on the Conference or on the way we will decide to categorize the dreadful genocide being perpetrated at this very moment against our Palestinian brothers by extreme-right leaders.
YASSER ARAFAT, President of the Palestine Authority: The victory of the South African peoples and others over the inhuman and immoral evils of racial discrimination is a victory for those peoples still grievously suffering from discrimination and racist policies. Among such struggling peoples are the Palestinians, who are fighting for liberation from the grasp of Israeli occupation and of all the ugliest forms of racial discrimination that occupation so flagrantly embodies. The convening of this Conference and the issues to be discussed here represent a firm conviction and common desire to identify the appropriate way to deal with the ramifications of the policy of racial discrimination and its attendant harmful and egregious effects.
As you know, our Palestinian people have been subjected to a painful and grave historical injustice as a result of the rivalries and conspiracies of the colonialist forces in the region at that time. For decades, our people have been waging a struggle for liberation and independence; they are and have been suffering under the most severe policies of oppression and racial discrimination resulting from Israeli occupation of their land and holy places. This ongoing occupation, which is the last colonialist military occupation in the world, has practised all sorts of oppression against our people over the years, including torture, assassinations and evictions in order to force our people into submission.
In spite of all the grave and painful historical injustice inflicted on our people, we have chosen, out of our deep-rooted belief in justice and equality, to try and find a just and permanent solution based on resolutions of international legitimacy and the principle of land for peace. The war waged against our people by Israel makes it incumbent on the international community to bear its responsibilities. It is unacceptable that international consensus on this issue remains paralysed. It is necessary to find the appropriate international mechanism that will force Israel to stop its war against our people and to provide them with international protection. The explosive situation in the Palestinian territories cannot wait. Only peace will provide all the people of the region with security and stability and protect the interests of our children. The world has to recognize that enabling and helping the Palestinian people to achieve the sacred and legitimate right of independence and sovereignty will not be at anyone else's expense. Indeed, it would guarantee a just and permanent peace in the whole region.
* *** *
For information media - not an official record