Well, as I type it appears that the USA, Australia, the Netherlands, Israel and Canada have all pulled out of the Durban Review Conference to be held in Geneva starting tomorrow. This conference is to review progress on combating racism since the Durban 2001 World Conference Against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance.
The main sticking point appears to be the issue of Israel, with the USA in particular playing their traditional role of defending any criticism of Israel’s genocidal policies towards the Palestinian peoples. The final declaration has already been watered down considerably by the conference organisers in an attempt at compromise, but apparently this is not enough for the USA and its loyal allies.
In truth this is hardly surprising, and in many ways is a repeat of the original 2001 Conference where the USA were generally apathetic and hostile to the whole affair. It will cause some to pause though, especially with the USA achieving, superficially at least, a mile-stone with the election of its first African-American President. It is a rather sobering slap in the face I would think to many of those who had hoped President Obama would take the mantle of global leadership to combat bigotry and injustice.
I agree that the newly released ‘outcome document’ put out by the UN in advance of the conference, specifically stripped of what was thought to be the problematic language and controversy, is not perfect, but having read over it surely it serves the working basis for a start in combating bigotry and injustice globally?
For all its problems, surely it would have been better for the Obama-led USA to have attended and argued its case there, rather than to effectively pull the plug on the whole thing simply because it has some issues with a few aspects of the conference? Then again, with the outcome document calling for ‘particular measures to provide support and reparations to all the victims both of long-ago histories, like the descendants of the European-Atlantic slave trade, and those facing contemporary forms of discrimination and apartheid policies, such as the Roma, the Dalits (India’s “untouchables”) and the Palestinians’ perhaps this move is not all that surprising, and show just how superficial the ‘change we can believe in’ really is when it comes to race issues.