Statement by the Honourable Steven Blackett M.P., Minister of Community Development and Culture of Barbados to the High Level Segment of the Durban Review Conference, April 20-24, 2009.
Madame High Commissioner
Ladies and Gentlemen;
1. It is my honour to lead the Barbados delegation to this timely and important Durban Review Conference. The subject of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerances goes to the very heart of the United Nations system for the protection of human rights; the dignity and freedom of the individual; and the equality of all men and women.
2. We have before us a document forwarded by the Preparatory committee, which, with the guidance of the Chair of the Intersessional Working group and the cooperation of all member states, speaks to the progress made since the Durban conference in 2001 and the efforts that still need to be made to honour the historic commitments contained in the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action (DDPA.
3. I applaud those member states that constructively engaged in this process. Individual member states will always have different perspectives but it is incumbent on us to recall that it is the victims of racism and intolerance whose views we have to represent and to whom we will be accountable.
4. As is well documented, we in the Caribbean have had a history characterized by slavery. Our societies have been plagued by the negative effects of that crime against humanity but we have emerged from that cruel and inhumane part of our history with the conviction that it is our shared responsibility to ensure that such a tragedy, in any permutation, never occurs again.
5. In Barbados we have strived to develop workable resolutions to confront the effects of slavery, colonialism, racism and inequality on our societies and peoples and have demonstrated success at this. We have emerged as good examples of the non-violent management of race relations and we have been able to establish peaceful, productive and cohesive multi-cultural societies. But we are also aware that there is still much work to be done.
6. Barbados views this Conference as an opportunity to further define ways of overcoming those obstacles that prevent our working together, as an international community, in pursuit of common solutions to our real enemies. These enemies include disease, famine, climate change and, of course, poverty. Sustained success in our quest will only be realized if we ensure that we are not to be divided along racial lines but rather, that we are united across them.
7. The will of delegations and the agreement of this Conference to effect change must now be bolstered by full implementation of the DDPA. There must also be renewed efforts to confront new scourges of racism and intolerance such as the misuse of the internet for spreading hateful and racist propaganda; and the legitimization of far right extremist and neo-nazi political parties. In addition we must ensure that immigration policies are not executed in such a manner as to cause discrimination based on race, gender, ethnicity and country of origin.
8. We in the small island state of Barbados understand the contribution that we must make to repair the damage caused by racism, racial discrimination and by slavery. At the same time, we know that much still needs to be done, especially at the international level. We believe in the power of multi-lateralism, and are confident that viable and sustainable solutions will be found to advance the implementation of the DDPA.
9. At the Durban Conference Against Racism in South Africa in 2001, Barbados was unequivocal in its support for the eradication of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerances, wherever they occur. Barbados was also vocal in its support for the view that concrete and tangible measures must be taken to repair the damage done to societies by the transatlantic slave trade. We took a logical, practical and developmental approach to the matter of reparations, and this was reflected in paragraph 158 of the DDPA.
10. I take this opportunity to say that Barbados now calls on the international community to address specifically the implementation of the provisions of this paragraph.
11. I also wish to draw attention to Paragraph 171 of the DDPA. This paragraph makes specific reference to the Caribbean region and the fact that we have been able to develop ‘relatively successful multiracial and multicultural societies’ and that there is merit in having an examination and analysis of ‘the techniques, mechanism and policies’ that we have implemented. It further recommends that the United Nations and its relevant specialized agencies consider establishing an International Centre for Multiracial and Multicultural Studies and Policy Development.
12. Barbados considers the establishment of such a Centre as timely and critical for addressing the needs of the region as well as contributing to international policy development. We believe there is much in our experience that can contribute to the building of tolerance and understanding and it is our hope that we can partner with the United Nations and other interested member states and organizations to make this Centre a reality. We are confident that it will be an important tool to enhance the research, dialogue and policy formulation on issues related to race, ethnicity and multi-culturalism.
13. Education and culture as conduits to healing and comprehension of our history are paramount. At all levels, there is an urgent demand for a comprehensive review of curricula in schools and of national cultural policies. Such a review would assist in the correction and updating of the perspectives recorded in our historiography, reference material and educational literature. This would fundamentally contribute to the further development of an appreciation of our heritage and our triumph out of struggle.
14. At Durban, Barbados also posited the need for the creation and implementation of a programme to restore to the country of origin, the many invaluable art objects, historical artifacts and documents which, over the centuries, have been removed from Africa and the Americas, and from people of African descent and indigenous people. We strongly feel that as a follow-up to this, there should be provision for financial and technical assistance, to equip the relevant states with museums and related facilities so that they can properly conserve, store and display these items which are important parts of our heritage. We welcome the opportunity to have a further discussion with our partners on how these initiatives can be fully realized.
15. Mr. President, Ladies and Gentlemen, these examples of reparation to which I have alluded, do not go beyond what was previously discussed at Durban and what was expressly stated in the DDPA.
16. We are well aware of the many political, economic, security and financial challenges of the past eight years that may have hampered the full implementation of the DDPA. Today the entire world is preoccupied with the global financial and economic crisis, which threatens to reverse many of the advances and gains we have made over the years. It may be argued that this makes it challenging to commit financial resources to the implementation of the DDPA.
17. However, we are convinced that this is an opportunity to utilise the developmental aspects of reparation as a means of supporting historically disadvantaged people and societies through, inter alia, poverty eradication, the improvement of productive capacity and the building of infrastructure. It must be recognized that implementing the DDPA can be an important international policy instrument to help us to achieve the Millennium Development Goals and sustain the social and cultural pillars of our economies in these difficult times.
18. Mr. President let me reaffirm Barbados’ commitment to multi-lateralism and to the success of this conference. Within the United Nations, Barbados supported the resolution that led to the decision to establish a permanent Monument at the United Nations to commemorate the abolition of the slave trade. We have followed up by making our financial contribution to that project and look forward to its full implementation. The Caribbean was also at the forefront of the call for the commemoration of the 200th anniversary of the abolition of the Trans Atlantic Slave Trade.
19. Our investment and commitment to the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action and this Review Process are clear and we look forward to working with the member states and the organizations represented here to make this Conference the success that it HAS to be.
Mr. President, Ladies and Gentlemen, I thank you.