SPEECH BY FORMER PRESIDENT F W DE KLERK
TO THE DISRAELIAN UNION
LONDON, 22 MAY 2006
DEALING WITH DIVERSITY
It is a great pleasure for me to be able to address this famous forum. I note that your Society is ‘moderate, centrist and progressive conservative in political outlook’ in keeping with the orientation of the great British Prime Minister whose name you incorporate.
That is pretty much the part of the political spectrum with which I identify. It is accordingly not surprising that I agree with many of Disraeli’s views: in particular that ‘the most dangerous strategy to jump a chasm is in two leaps’ and that ‘the secret of success is constancy of purpose’. Both sentiments guided many of my decisions during our transformation process in South Africa. Disraeli also said that ‘a bore is one who has the power of speech, but not the capacity for conversation.’ I hope that I shall employ some capacity for conversation and that I shall not burden you with another of Disraeli’s aversions: ‘lies, damned lies and statistics’.
The most important development so far in 2006 may well turn out to be the demonstration in the United States a couple of weeks ago by more than a million immigrants who were protesting against tough new measures against illegal immigration. There are now some 12 million illegal immigrants in America. Last week President Bush alarmed his neighbour, President Vincente Fox of Mexico, by announcing that he was deploying 6 000 members of the National Guard along the US/Mexican border. The demonstration may also be significant because it heralds the arrival of Hispanic Americans as a major force on the American political stage. There are over 40 million of them and they now constitute the nation’s largest ethnic minority. They are also the fastest growing minority and will include more than 100 million people – or one in four Americans – by 2050. Already they make up more than a third of the populations of Texas and California and more than 40% of the population of New Mexico.
However, as we all know, the United States is not the only country that is confronted by an immigration crisis. The accommodation of diverse immigrant groups has become one of the most controversial issues in Europe. It has played a decisive role in recent elections in a number of European countries; last year it led to some of the worst riots that France has experienced since the Second World War – and even here in tolerant Britain it is fuelling a resurgence of far-right nationalist sentiment. Last November, Franco Frattini, the EU’s Justice Commissioner said that the Commission and member states were increasingly convinced that issues of migration should be at the top of the EU’s agenda.
According to Mr Frattini, the Union needed to strike a balance between facilitating immigration of sorely-needed skilled workers and controlling illegal immigration and trafficking. The present work force in EU-25 is expected to decline by 20 million people by 2030 – and the only way of replacing most of them will be through immigration.
At the same time the EU has committed itself to a policy of trying to integrate culturally diverse immigrants into existing European cultures. Immigrants who wish to obtain citizenship of EU countries may have to pass language tests and tests to determine whether they support the core values of the countries where they wish to settle. Such tests have been vehemently rejected by European Moslem organisations as being racist. Conservative politicians are however adamant.
Edmund Stoiber, leader of the Bavarian CSU wants immigrants in all Germany’s länder to take US-style immigration tests. He insisted that in Germany “the monopoly of power belongs to the state and not the Turkish man.”
He was echoing George Bush’s call last week that illegal immigrants in America might regularise their position if they paid a fine for breaking US law and learned to speak English.
All of this is, however, part of the broader global challenge of cultural and religious diversity and co-existence.
The main threat to peace in the new millennium is inter-communal conflict.
According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute there were 19 serious conflicts in the world in 2004 all of which were intrastate conflicts. Six of these conflicts were in Africa and six in Asia. Three were in the Americas and three in the Middle East and one was in Europe.
A deep sense of cultural, religious or ethnic alienation lies at the root of many of the nasty little wars throughout the world – most of which seldom impact on the evening news. Who, for example, has ever heard of South Osetia, a break-away province of Georgia, where local forces supported by Russia are ranged against Georgian forces trained by the United States and Britain? Who knows about the bitter conflict in Guatemala where the native Mayan people are struggling to maintain their cultural identity – or the numerous cultural, religious and ethnic tensions in India, South-East Asia and Africa?
Too often, minority communities around the world feel that they are not sufficiently accommodated, politically or culturally, in the processes by which they are governed. They feel that their governments are insensitive to their languages and cultures; that they are subject to discrimination, repression and efforts to integrate them forcibly into the majority culture.
This sense of alienation often breaks out in conflict, rebellion, demands for secession and sometimes in acts of terrorism. Present or recent conflicts in Chechnya, Sri Lanka, The Philippines, Thailand, Indonesia and Northern Ireland and in many countries in Africa provide more examples of this phenomenon.
Religion also lies at the root of much of the ongoing conflict in the world. Differences between Catholics and protestants in Northern Ireland; Hindus, Moslems and Sikhs in India; and Moslems and Christians in Nigeria and Sudan all create volatile situations that can explode into violence and terrorism at almost any time.
Religious and cultural alienation are also some of the main underlying causes of international terrorism.
terrorism,Most terrorists are motivated by a deep sense of religious and cultural grievance. The rampant advance of globalised consumer culture with its attendant political and social ethos, poses a fundamental threat to conservative societies and particularly to fundamentalist Moslems. They fear it with every fibre of their being precisely because their people find its shiny consumer products, its flashy, free-wheeling life-style and its amoral pop culture so alluring.
They believe – probably quite rightly – that the attendant liberal values of unrestrained freedom, democracy, sexual emancipation, abortion on demand, gender equality and materialism are irreconcilable with the austere piety of the vision of their Prophet.
The result is fanatical rejection of western culture and its chief exponent, the United States.
This is further exacerbated by the sense of deep injury that most conservative Moslems feel over Western influence in their region. They are deeply aggrieved
- by continuing American support for Israel;
- by western influence on what they regard as corrupt Moslem national leaders and governments;
- by the western invasion of Iraq; and
- by what they regard as the defilement of their most holy places by the continuing American presence in, and influence on, Saudi Arabia.
One of the great challenges of the new millennium will be to address cultural and religious alienation and to devise norms and approaches that will enable different communities to live together in peace.
In our shrinking and globalised world, different cultural, religious and ethnic communities will inevitably and increasingly be brought into greater proximity with one another. As communities feel themselves increasingly threatened by the emerging global culture it is likely that they will place an even greater emphasis on their cultural identities. The international community will have to pay far greater attention to this question than has thus far been the case. It is a sensitive question – because two thirds of the countries of the world have ethnic, cultural or religious minorities that constitute more than 10% of their populations. Few states welcome international scrutiny of their relationships with minorities within their borders. On the other hand, more than 900 million people throughout the world – one in seven of the human population – belong to ethnic, cultural or religious minorities. Many of them – to a greater or lesser – extent experience alienation and discrimination.
There is an urgent need for more intense and informed debate on how the international community should deal with ethnic, cultural and religious diversity.
For some, the obvious solution to inter-communal conflict is partition – particularly where communities constitute clear majorities in definable geographic areas. This was accepted as the solution in the case of Slovakia and the Czech Republic and was the basis for the fragmentation of the Soviet Union and the old Yugoslavia. But would it be practical or desirable in other cases? What would the position be if the Inuit – the native inhabitants of much of the north of Canada – wished to establish their own state, or if the Navajo were to decide to do so in their homeland in the south-western United States? Clearly we would open the door to chaos if every such community decided to opt for partition.
In South Africa, from 1960 onwards, we tried to achieve a solution to our complex problems on the basis of ethnic territorial partition. We failed – because economic and demographic forces had already integrated the country to such an extent that separation was impossible.
In our shrinking and increasingly inter-dependent world, the challenge is not how different communities should best go their separate ways, but rather, how they can best learn to coexist in a spirit of harmony and mutual respect.
The challenge is to devise approaches and to establish norms that will enable different cultural and ethnic communities to coexist within the same states. To achieve this, we must reach broad agreement on the cultural, linguistic and educational rights that such communities should enjoy. We should also establish globally acceptable norms for the manner in which they should be represented in the processes by which they are governed and the mechanisms that should be created to ensure cordial relations between communities.
The main international conventions and agreements dealing with minority rights include the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (1966); The Draft Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (1994); the Declaration on the Rights of Persons Belonging to National or Ethnic or Religious Minorities (1993); and the European Union’s Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities (1995).
We can draw the following broad conclusions from these international documents:
- in most cases secession is not an option, because it would pose an unacceptable threat to the territorial integrity of existing states;
- the forced assimilation of the melting pot is also unacceptable – not only because of the resistance and conflict that it is likely to cause, but because it does not work and because it is inconsistent with democratic norms and notions of basic justice. So, in terms of evolving international law the United States policy of assimilation and the European Union’s approach of intergration are unacceptable – and probably unworkable.
- There is also a generally accepted norm that states should not discriminate against their citizens because of their ethnic, cultural or religious affiliations.
However, there is less unanimity regarding
- the right of cultural minorities to mother tongue education and the responsibility of states to provide such education;
- the right of communities to a voice in decisions affecting their own communities; and
- the degree to which special provision should be made for the inclusion of minorities in broader national decision-making processes and in the national identity.
South Africa, has some experience in dealing with intercommunity relations. We have identified the following factors that we believe will promote prospects for harmony in multi-community societies:
- Communities should be given maximum “breathing space” to promote their identities and to cherish their traditions. The root of prejudice and inter-communal conflict is fear – the perception that the intimate interests of the community are under threat. The foundation for inter-communal peace is accordingly community security and the assurance that the basic language, religious and cultural rights of communities will be respected.
- All communities should be regarded as equal. Minority communities should not be relegated to some kind of second-class status. Their identities should be accepted as essential parts of the national identity. They should be entitled to the same rights as other communities regardless of their ethnic, religious, cultural or class origins.
- Multicultural societies, should wherever possible strive for inclusivity. Simple majoritarianism, where significant minorities can be excluded from all the processes of government should be avoided. All communities should feel that they are adequately represented in all of the institutions through which they are governed. Special care should be taken that no community feels isolated or alienated from the governmental process.
- Communities should play a major role in all decisions that affect their interests. The principle of a high degree of autonomy for such communities within the broader national framework, should be respected.
- A culture of toleration and pride in diversity should be cultivated. Mutual respect and pride in the diversity of national cultures should be fostered through the educational system, through the teaching of national languages and through the media.
- Negative discrimination of any form should be strictly prohibited. No community should feel victimised or excluded from any aspect of national life because of its cultural or ethnic identity.
- There should be a concerted effort to establish an inclusive, overarching national identity. Common values; common national symbols; and common goals should form the framework for the new national identity.
According to the United Nations’s Development Programmes 2004 Human Development Survey multiculturism is the most effective response to the challenge of diversity. It points out that
“Cultural liberty is a vital part of human development …. People want freedom to participate in society without having to slip off their chosen cultural moorings. States face an urgent challenge in responding to these demands. If handled well, greater recognition of identities will bring greater cultural diversity in society, enriching people’s lives. But ther is also a great risk. These struggles over identity, if left unmanaged or poorly managed, can quickly become one of the greatest sources of instability within states and between them – and in so doing can trigger conflict that takes development backwards.”
The report goes on to deal with – and dismiss – various myths relating to the management of intercommunal relations and concludes that “policies recognizing cultural identities and encouraging diversity to flourish do not result in fragmentation, conflict, weak development and authoritarian rule. Such policies are both viable, and necessary, for it is often the suppression of culturally identified groups that leads to tension.”
The efficacy of multiculturism is also borne out by the experience of the Ottoman Empire which for centuries, under the ‘millet system’ governed a vast array of different cultural groups and religions with remarkable success and toleration.
In terms of the Millet System minorities enjoyed a high degree of religious and cultural freedom including their own civil courts, places of worship and educational institutions where they could teach in the language of their choice and pass down their cultural traditions. Communities were permitted to manage most of their own affairs according to their customs – all on the clear understanding that, ultimately, they would obey the laws and the will of the Sultan.
Naturally, there were aberrations and inconsistencies – but the Millet System demonstrated the efficacy in an intensely multicultural society of allowing cultural and religious communities the greatest possible space to determine their own affairs and to maintain their own identities.
Certainly, it was a much more attractive proposition than the fanatical intolerance, pogroms and conflict that characterized inter-religious and inter-cultural relations in Europe during the same period.
We humans are complex social beings with many important concentric relationships. We are individuals. We belong to families. We pursue our economic interests. We belong to clubs and organisations. Many of us have religious affiliations. We often belong to distinct cultural groups. We have gender and sexual orientation. We are citizens of countries and increasingly we belong to the international community.
All of these relationships are important to us – and some are critically important. In many, if not most of them, we are minorities. True freedom consists of our being able to make lawful choices for ourselves and our families in all these spheres. The borders of these freedoms should be defined only by manifest public interest and the point where our freedoms begin to impact negatively and unfairly on the interests of others.
For example, I am an individual. I belong to the De Klerk family. I belong to the Reformed Church. I am a member of a number of private organisations – including a number of golf clubs. I am an Afrikaner. I derive my language, my history, and my traditions and much of my identity from this fact. I am also very proud to be a citizen of the new vibrant and multi-cultural South Africa. Like my ancestors since 1688, I am an African – and I like to think that I am a citizen of the world.
None of these relationships is mutually exclusive. People can be all these things at the same time. Their reasonable rights in all these spheres need to be protected. Neither should they suffer discrimination because of any of these affiliations.
As I have pointed out above, the affiliation that is increasingly relevant to the maintenance of peace and harmony in our shrinking global community is our cultural identity:
- We need to do much more to define and protect the rights of cultural, ethnic and religious minorities throughout the world.
- We need to establish an international norm for these rights, just as we have already done for individuals, for women and for children.
- We need to measure the behaviour of governments against this norm. If we do so, I am confident that we will soon discover that the societies that are the worst afflicted by inter-communal violence are also those that have the least respect for the rights of their constituent communities.
We have entered the global village. It is exciting; it is often very confusing; and sometimes a little frightening. Increasingly, people from different cultural backgrounds will be rubbing shoulders in the streets and market places of the global village. The presence of people from so many different cultures is one of the most enriching aspects of our new world. But it will also require us to observe new codes of behaviour and to acknowledge the multidimensional rights of people – as citizens, as members of organisations and communities, and as individual men and women.