I am honoured to be with you today, to remember and mourn the tragedy of the Minsk Ghetto and discuss the issue of racism and xenophobia that led to such atrocities. 

Earlier today we have gathered at Jama to commemorate the fate of the Minsk Ghetto and the millions of people who perished in Europe in the Holocaust. We respect and remember those who survived and those who helped others to survive.

And we repeated in our hearts the resolve and hope that such man-made horror should not happen again. Never Again.

The United Nations organisation that I represent here was founded when the World War 2 came to an end. In 1948, when atrocities committed by the Nazis became fully apparent, the consensus within the world community was that the UN Charter was not sufficient in defining the human rights to which it referred. It was therefore decided to create a declaration that specified the fundamental rights of individuals, including the right to live free from racial discrimination.

This year, as we celebrate the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of HR, the lessons of the second world war and the holocaust are ever more relevant and important. At United Nations around the world we stand with those who work against discrimination in all its forms. We know that discrimination causes and perpetuates disadvantage, it undermines human dignity and adversely affects the equal enjoyment of a person’s rights and freedoms. Discrimination leads to conflict, displacement and abuse. It leads to acts of violence against the most vulnerable members of the human kind.

In Belarus, as we focus on the new agenda 2030 and the Sustainable Development Goals, we see a new dimension of human rights expressed in the ambition of the SDGs which seek to bring sustainable development to all and leave noone behind. The SDGs uphold the values of the Universal Declaration and challenge us all to create “a world of universal respect for equality and non-discrimination” between- and within countries.

As the Secretary General of the United Nations said earlier this year, on the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination: “We still have a long way to go before we end the discriminatory attitudes, actions and practices that blight our world… The answer is to preach and practice tolerance, inclusion and respect for diversity. This is achieved through greater debate and openness, and the exchange of different views, experiences and perspectives.”

The anniversary of the Minsk Ghetto and today’s discussion about those events is a great opportunity to do just that, to listen to the people affected by racism and xenophobia and other forms of discrimination, to hear their views and perspectives, and to support those that are working to overcome it.

Let me reiterate once again the UN’s readiness to engage and support such efforts.

Thank you for your attention.