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Saturday, 1 September, 2001, 07:39 GMT 08:39 UK
UN chief declares war on racism
UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan
Kofi Annan: "No one is born racist"
UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan said in his opening speech at the World Conference Against Racism in Durban that the forum should send a signal of hope to people struggling against racism and xenophobia. The following are excerpts from the speech:

"One thing we can celebrate is the fact that racism is now universally condemned...

But far too many people are still victimised because they belong to a particular group, whether national, ethnic, religious, defined by gender or by descent.

Injustice traps people in poverty, poverty becomes a pretext for injustice, and so new wrongs are piled on the old

Often, this discrimination veils itself behind spurious pretexts: people are denied jobs ostensibly because they lack education qualifications, or they are refused housing because there is high crime rate in their community.

Yet these very facts, even when true, are often the result of discrimination.

Injustice traps people in poverty, poverty becomes a pretext for injustice, and so new wrongs are piled on the old.

In many places people are maltreated and denied protection on the grounds that they are not citizens but unwanted immigrants.

Albanian refugee
"Unwanted immigrants are often denied protection"

Yet often they have come to a new country to do work that is badly needed or are present not by choice...

Sometimes these problems are in part the legacy of terrible wrongs in the past, such as the exploitation and extermination of indigenous peoples by colonial powers, or the treatment of millions of human beings as mere merchandise...

Often the stereotypes are reinforced deliberately or inadvertently, by the mass media

We must not leave this city without agreeing on practical measures which... must be reflected in our budgets and development plans, in our laws and institutions, and above all, in our school curricula.

The Press

No-one is born racist. Children learn racism as they grow up, from the society around them, and too often the stereotypes are reinforced deliberately or inadvertently, by the mass media.

We must not sacrifice freedom of the press, but we must actively refute pseudoscientific arguments and oppose negative images with positive ones, teaching our children and our fellow citizens not to fear diversity, but to cherish it.

The Middle East

The accusation of racism against any particular individual or group is particularly hurtful.

It is hurtful to one's pride, because few of us see ourselves as racists, and it arouses fear, because once a group is accused of racism, it becomes a potential target for retaliation, perhaps for persecution, in its turn.

Children running
"Children learn racism as they grow up"
Nowhere is that truer today than in the Middle East. The Jewish people have been victims of anti-Semitism in many parts of the world, and in Europe they were the target of the holocaust, the ultimate abomination.

It is understandable, therefore, that many Jews deeply resent any accusation of racism directed against the state of Israel...

Yet we cannot expect Palestinians to accept this as a reason why the wrongs done to them... should be ignored...

This conference is a test of our ... will to unite on a topic of central importance in people's lives. Let us not fail this test."

BBC Monitoring, based in Caversham in southern England, selects and translates information from radio, television, press, news agencies and the Internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages.

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