Fellow Speakers,

The Assembly is meeting today, amidst increasingly diverse and intense global challenges, such as ongoing civil conflicts, slowing economies and threats of international terrorism, amongst others. These are the historical products of our bad politics and our reckless pursuit of narrowly defined interests.

Our failure to come together and resolve this political impasse over the years has shaken not only the foundations of global security and stability but has made the world a less secure place to live in.

Many parts of the world, as we are all quite aware, are passing through difficult and trying times. Atrocities and persecution against individuals and states continue unabated. Migrants, including the 65 million forcibly displaced people around the world, face animosity and violence in their host countries. We thank those who have opened their hearts. Women are prevented from pursuing certain careers in some countries and in eight countries women still require their husbands permission to work outside the home. People with disabilities still feel the worst marginalisation.

I believe that it is not too late for us to turn the tide and build a world free of racism, discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerances. This will require us to strengthen global, regional and national efforts to fully implement the Outcome Document of the Durban Review Conference held in South Africa in 2009 and the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination. South Africa welcomes the UN General Assembly’s decision to dedicate the period 2015-2024 as the international decade for people of African descent – aimed at promoting knowledge about cultural heritage.

One of the basic and most comprehensive sources of human rights is the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which stresses human dignity and equality, as well as establishes a solid basis for dialogue between various cultures and civilizations.

South Africa is committed to the universal values, rights and freedoms included in the declaration, which offers equal and universal human rights to all human beings. We have consequently agreed to a range of robust international and regional instruments to establish, in binding law, the legal principles of tolerance and multi-culturalism.

We believe in engaging in genuine dialogue. We believe dialogue empowers people to build alternative bridges. We also believe there could be no peace without understanding and cooperation among religions. We also believe promoting interfaith dialogue should begin from the principle of acceptance of others. We must instil that in our constituencies, as parliamentarians regardless of our religion, ethnicity and race.

We believe in the promotion and preservation of internationally recognised common values such as democracy, good governance, the rule of law and respect for human, religious, and minority rights for a just world.

Hon Members, the UN Resolution1998 stated that the culture of peace is based on the principles established in the Charter of the United Nations and on respect for human rights, democracy and tolerance, the promotion of development, education for peace, the free flow of information and the wider participation of women – as an integral approach to preventing violence and conflicts and efforts aimed at the creation of conditions for peace and its consolidation.

Members, if not all, most of you knew us before 1994, when we were a country in war and racially segregated. We then embodied unique characteristics that withstood ordeals, which tested the will to live together for the past 23 years of democracy. We are not perfect. We still have serious challenges but, with our deeply rooted experience in unity and diversity, we know we will overcome.

Our social harmony and racial integration did not happen by chance, but by deliberate choice and action, government policies and the collective will of our people. We instituted the Truth and Reconciliation Commission to try and find closure of the country’s painful past. Numerous concrete steps to eradicate racism, discrimination, and inequality were taken.

Our Constitution preamble states that: We the people of South Africa, recognise the injustices of our past. Believe that South Africa belongs to all who live in it, united in our diversity.

Our constitutional democracy was forged on the anvil of division, past injustice and economic inequity, but also on hope for reconciliation, nation building and social cohesion. It is also premised on the need for a united, non-racial, non-sexist democratic South Africa.

Our Constitution also guarantees freedom of religion, belief and opinion. The equality clause prohibits unfair discrimination on various grounds, including religion.

Our government has developed a draft national action plan to combat racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance 2016-2021, in collaboration with other role-players. Our President has covered discussions to promote good relations between our citizens and other nationals within our borders. Human rights training for our law enforcement officers has been developed and is being applied.

We must, as parliamentarians, strive in our constituencies to achieve the ideals of the United Nations to ensure that all humans can and must live better lives. We must all be guided by common values and work together to actualize these values in the wider society. Parliaments, therefore, have important roles to play due to their legislative functions and shall create the fundamentals for harmony among people. Parliaments and Parliamentarians, who represent the ideological values of people in different areas, can play influential roles and confront difficult challenges. They can bring positive outcomes based on democracy and ensuring the provision of human rights among all people. Our government is currently processing the prevention and combating of hate crimes and hate speech Bill.

Promoting dialogue is a prerequisite of development. It needs dialogue based on the spirit of reconciliation to achieve mutually beneficial program. Equality should exist between all men and women in the diversity of their cultures and beliefs. That is our role as Parliamentarians.

Regardless of our colour, ethnicity, race, religion or culture we need to make sure that we believe in the equality of all human beings. We need to ensure that our rich cultural diversity makes the world a better place.

Tolerance and respect for the equal dignity of all human beings constitutes the foundations of a democratic, pluralistic society without which there is no ‘democratic society’.

Thank you!

Source: Parliament of the Republic of South Africa