Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Durban ll - review of racism "around the world"

Since racial hatred has animated some of the worst atrocities in history, one would think that an opportunity for nations to come together and seek solutions to racial tensions would be welcomed. So says Ken Connor

Think again. The upcoming United Nations Durban Review Conference in Durban, South Africa—billed as an international effort to achieve racial reconciliation—is likely to make a mockery of any bona fide attempt to overcome racial discrimination.

The Conference, scheduled for 2009, will review the international progress made in response to the "
Durban Declaration and Programme of Action" released by the first Durban conference in 2001.

Among those countries attending the 2001 conference were China, Columbia, Cuba, Saudi Arabia, and Syria. Two of these countries (Syria and Cuba) are on the U.S. State Department's
top ten list of worst human rights violators, and China was only just dropped from the list in 2008. The United States and Israel quickly saw that they were going to be the scapegoats of the conference, and not surprisingly, they withdrew their delegations a few days into the conference.

As the Durban review conference (or "Durban II") approaches, many are wondering whether the United States will participate at all. The U.S. voted against holding the review conference, but has not yet taken an official stance on whether or not it will attend the proceedings. Canada and Israel have
already stated that they will boycott the proceedings, because they are convinced that the conference will be another exercise in anti-Israel propaganda.

Casting a further shadow over Durban II is the new U.N. Human Rights Council (HRC) which is planning the conference. Among the members of the council are traditional human rights violators China, Cuba, and Saudi Arabia. The HRC has been a disappointment since its inception in 2006. Its
stated purpose is to "[promote] universal respect for the protection of all human rights and fundamental freedoms for all" and to "address situations of violations of human rights." All signs so far indicate that Durban II will be no better than Durban I.

A well-framed international condemnation of racism has the potential to transform the global discussion on race and discrimination. All countries ought to acknowledge their own shortcomings as we work to overcome racial hatred at home and around the world.

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