More of the same… Durban Review Conference boycotts

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.

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7 thoughts on “More of the same… Durban Review Conference boycotts

  1. You know, I wasn’t aware that Canada pulled out, but being a Native person currently living in “Canada” and getting to experience first hand the wondrous racism of Canadian settler-colonialism, it does not surprise me in the least that Harper and Co. would bail on the conference.

  2. I also meant to add that the real joke regarding Canada’s puling out from the conference is that it is currently the UN’s model for “living with out differences”.

  3. I understand from the news that Western diplomats have walked out of the Iranian President’s speech to the conference – see http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/8008572.stm

    Without reading the entirety of Mr. Ahmadinejad’s speech, from the excerpts on the BBC site I don’t really have that big a problem with his argument that ‘Jewish migrants from Europe and the United States had been sent to the Middle East “in order to establish a racist government in the occupied Palestine”‘. Personally I do see the creation of Israel as wrong, and I do think that it is a de facto apartheid state with its bantustans and discrimination towards Israeli Arabs and interference in the new ‘frontline states’.

    I should stress that I do not agree with his previous comments, or those of others, that Israel needs to be wiped off the face of the earth or whatnot. I am anti-Israeli in the sense that I oppose the actions of the Israeli state, but I think the majority of Israeli citizens are just as much victims of this situation as others. Just a different form of victims. But I do think that all out rejection of even discussing Israels apartheid actions, as shown by the Western diplomats here, is wrong.

  4. JS,

    There’s a time and a place for everything. The Iranian leader’s “remarks” (which can be easily construed as being on the verge of hate speech)has no place at a conference which is entitled “anti-racist.” That is not the way to go about seeking reconciliation between two divided nations.

    I mean you can easily use BDA’s Big Conversation as an example. The stated goal (which is admirable, but in the end just words) is to seek reconciliation between the whites and blacks of Bermuda. But when you actually attend one of these “conversations” it is all about denigrating and demonising all white Bermudians and placing blame all on one half of the participants (personal experience). So what happens next? The whites get defensive after being attacked and respond in a manner which aslo isn’t conducive to the debate or its main objective, by dismissing it all together.

    The discussion is needed, but a proper approach to any subject will result in a greater understanding of the issue by both sides. I didn’t say agreement, but an understanding. From this garnered knowledge the involved parties will be able to embark on a middle line or compromise which will benefit both individuals/parties/groups/nations etc.

    To start an anti-racist conference with aggressive rants provides nothing to the debate and create even further divide between the participants.

    Plus what did the UN expect to happen by allowing the opening remarks to be conducted by a leader who has publicly denied the systematic execution of 6 million Jews and called for the complete elimination of Israel from the map? Not too smart I would think.

  5. @ 9Ps – I certainly agree that President Ahmadinejad wouldn’t have been my first pick for a speaker at such a conference, but that doesn’t mean that his argument, as presented in his speech, is not necessarily a valid one, and, at least, it does reflect a very real perception and anger amongst many people as regards Israel. The point should be to discuss and defeat what one considers as wrong by argument, not by silence.

    The BBC now has a series of excerpts from his speech:

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/8008850.stm

  6. “The point should be to discuss and defeat what one considers as wrong by argument, not by silence.”

    JS,

    I think you must’ve misunderstood me. I never said to ignore the validity of his argument, but his approach will never lead to a desireable outcome. humans naturally get defensive when attacked (phsyicallyor verbally).

    Therefore when the OPENING remarks can be classified as hate speech, what do you expect the inevitable reaction to be from the individuals which the accusations are being made towards? These are supposed to be world leaders? What type of example is that to set for the population? If a leader finds that type of talk acceptable in public forums such as this, then what do you thinkthe average Joe on the street will react? That is why their is an inherent limit on the freedom of speech. That level of rhetoric aims at playing upon people’s inner emotions and inciting some to take “revenge” (there are many forms) against the others.

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