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Address by President Cyril Ramaphosa on the occasion of the 20th Anniversary of the Durban Declaration during the 76th United Nations General Assembly

President of the General Assembly, Mr Abdulla Shahid, 
Secretary-General of the United Nations, Mr António Guterres,
United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Ms. Michelle Bachelet, Excellencies,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is 20 years since the world adopted the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action.

And it is 25 years since the people of South Africa adopted a democratic Constitution.

In that Constitution, we affirmed that as South Africans we are called upon to build a society based on social justice and fundamental human rights, with a view of correcting the injustices of our past.

These words ring true for all the injustices that have been committed against many peoples around the world.

Slavery was one of the darkest periods in the history of humankind and a crime of unparalleled barbarity.

Its legacy persists in the Americas, the Caribbean, Europe, the Middle East, and in Africa itself.

Millions of the descendants of Africans who were sold into slavery remain trapped in lives of underdevelopment, disadvantage, discrimination and poverty.

South Africa calls on the United Nations to put the issue of reparations for victims of the slave trade on its agenda.

We support the adoption of special measures, including affirmative action programmes and targeted financial assistance, as restitution to communities whose ancestors were sold into slavery.

We further support all measures being undertaken to address the historic and contemporary discrimination against people of African descent.

This includes increasing representation of people of African descent in global institutions and in positions of leadership.

As we strive to correct the wrongs of the past, we must combat the racism, sexism and national chauvinism of the present.

Racism directed at ethnic minorities, migrants, refugees, the LGBTQI+ community and other marginalised groups has led to the denial of opportunity, to institutionalised discrimination, and to violence.

Twenty years ago at the World Conference against Racism, we committed to an anti- discrimination agenda that would bring new hope and change to the lives of millions.

Just as we stand united to combat the COVID-19 pandemic, must recommit ourselves to implement the Durban Declaration and Platform for Action.

We must pursue this objective with energy and goodwill.

Ending racism is a fight in which each of us has a stake.

Let us all allow humanism to be our guide and solidarity be our strongest force.

We are called upon by history to redouble our efforts to build a world free of racism, to right the wrongs of the past and to restore the human dignity of all.

I thank you.