UN News posts on Durban Review Conference on human rights, Geneva Apr 20 2009


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Hi Blog. Expanding the scope of the fight for human rights beyond Japan’s borders, here’s what’s happening on a macro scale: The UN “Olympics” on human rights (held quite infrequently) has become a right mess, from what I saw of Ahmadinejad’s speech live on CNN Monday night (there was nasty invective marbling whatever salient points he was there to make; generated more heat than light). Here is the UN’s point of view. Doesn’t give me a lot of hope for seeing Japan’s issues as all that urgent. Arudou Debito in Sapporo

UN News, New York, Apr 19 2009 1:00PM

Sent directly to debito.org

Expressing her deep regret that the United States has decided to not attend the global anti-racism gathering beginning tomorrow, the top United Nations human rights official has called on States shift their priorities to prohibiting racism over politics.

The US withdrawal from the Durban Review Conference in Geneva comes on the heels of nations agreeing on a draft outcome document just last Friday, said High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay.

“I am shocked and deeply disappointed by the United States decision not to attend a conference that aims to combat racism, xenophobia, racial discrimination and other forms of intolerance worldwide,” she said.

Several states have permitted one or two issues to dominate their approaches to the entire issue of racism, Ms. Pillay said, “allowing them to outweigh the concerns of numerous groups of people that suffer racism and similar forms of intolerance to a pernicious and life-damaging degree on a daily basis all across the world, in both developed and developing countries.”

She stressed that no matter how sensitive and difficult they are, these issues must be discussed on a global level.

The statement by the US announcing that it will not be attending the Conference nonetheless praised the significant progress made in recent weeks, culminating in nations attending the Preparatory Committee agreeing on a 16-page document last week.

The main stumbling block for the US is the current text’s reaffirmation of the landmark Durban Declaration and Programme of Action (DDPA) agreed by consensus at the end of the 2001 World Summit against Racism in Durban, South Africa.

The US, along with Israel, had withdrawn from the 2001 conference citing concerns the forum was being used by some to push an anti-Israel agenda. Israel has already declared that it will not be taking part in the Review Conference.

Ms. Pillay stressed that that the US’ objections could have been overcome.

“It would have been possible to make it clear in a footnote that the US had not affirmed the original document and therefore is not in a position to reaffirm it, which is a routine practice in multilateral negotiations to enable consensus-building while allowing for individual positions to be expressed,” she noted. “And then we could have all moved on together, and put the problems of 2001 behind us.”

According to the US statement, the nation also finds the draft outcome’s reference to incitement to hatred as problematic, even though it is a well-established concept under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).

That pact, the High Commissioner highlighted, was “intended to ensure that the type of incitement to hatred employed by the Nazi propaganda machine in the 1930s and 40s would be prohibited by law.”

The need for such an agreement, she said, was underscored by the creation of an environ
ment by the media and politicians in which the Rwandan genocide occurred 15 years ago this month, when 800,000 ethnic Tutsis and Hutu moderates died, mostly by machete, during a period of less than 100 days.

“We should not underestimate the power of incitement to hatred to fuel violence, conflict and even genocide,” the High Commissioner maintained. “I therefore believe it is very relevant to include this concept in a conference designed to tackle racism and xenophobia.”

According to some media reports, the US’ withdrawal centres around the continued use of language on defamation of religion and anti-Semitism in the outcome document, but she pointed out that no such language exists in the text adopted last week.

Further, it clearly calls for the Holocaust to “never be forgotten” and also deplores all forms of racism, including Islamophobia and anti-Semitism, Ms. Pillay noted.

“I fail to see why, given that the Middle East is not mentioned in this document, that politics relate
d to the Middle East continue to intrude into the process,” she said.

Hailing the flexibility of member States in the difficult negotiations that ended with agreement on a revised text last week, the High Commissioner said that the draft document “still provides us with a meaningful outcome.”

Nearly 4,000 people — including Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon — have registered to participate in the week-long gathering, including more than 100 heads of delegation from Member States and over 2,500 representatives from non-governmental organizations (NGOs).

For more details go to UN News Centre at http://www.un.org/news



UN News, New York, Apr 20 2009 2:00PM

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Unity is essential to moving past intolerance, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon underscored today, lamenting the decision by several nations not to attend the United Nations anti-racism conference which kicked off today and deploring remarks made by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

“Some nations, who by rights should be helping to forge a path to a better future, are not here,” Mr. Ban <“http://www.un.org/apps/news/infocus/sgspeeches/statments_full.asp?statID=467“>said at the start of the <“http://www.un.org/durbanreview2009/“>Durban Review Conference in Geneva, referring to countries such as the United States and Israel which have refused to attend the five-day gathering.

He also spoke out against the comments made by Mr. Ahmadinejad at today’s session which he said were intended to “accuse, divide and even incite,” calling them a roadblock to tackling the scourge of racism.

“This is the opposite of what this Conference seeks to achieve,” noted the Secretary-General in a <“http://www.un.org/apps/news/infocus/sgspeeches/statments_full.asp?statID=466“>statement, who, at an earlier meeting with the Iranian official, emphasized the importance of the gathering to galvanize global will to fight intolerance.

During their talks, Mr. Ban said that he also underlined the need to look ahead to the future, not to the past of divisiveness, reminding Mr. Ahmadinejad that the UN General Assembly has adopted resolutions rejecting the equation of Zionism with racism and reaffirming the Holocaust’s historical facts.

In a statement directed at the Iranian President’s subsequent remarks, however, he said “we must all turn away from such a message in both form and substance.”

In his address to the Geneva gathering today, he called for nations to move beyond old divisions and form a united front against racism.

“Let us recognize the difference between honest disagreement and mere divisiveness – or worse, sheer obstructionism,” the Secretary-General said.

If left unchecked, he warned that racism could spiral into social unrest and violence, especially during the current economic crisis.

“If ever there were a cause in which we can all believe, this is it – a truly great and noble cause that binds [us] as human beings,” Mr. Ban maintained, calling on nations to seize the moment to work together to combat racism in all its manifestations.

Nearly 4,000 people have registered to take part in the Conference, including more than 100 heads of delegation from Member States and over 2,500 representatives from non-governmental organizations (NGOs).

The event seeks to assess progress and implementation thus far of the landmark Durban Declaration and Programme of Action (DDPA) agreed on by States eight years ago.

“The hopes of millions of victims are pinned on the implementation of this document, but the noblest charter is reduced to empty rhetoric if the commitments it enshrines are given no practical effect,” UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said in <“http://www.un.org/durbanreview2009/stmt20-04-09_pillay.shtml“>remarks to the Conference today.

She pointed out that “a failure to agree on the way forward would negatively reverberate on the human rights agenda for years to come,” stressing that “each and every one of us has a stake in the fight against racism.”

Participants at the Conference are expected to consider and adopt a 16-page draft outcome, agreed on last Friday by States attending the Preparatory Committee.

Drafting the text was not an “easy process, but it is excellent that delegates have agreed on the key issues,” the High Commissioner said in welcoming agreement on the outcome document, voicing hope that this week’s Conference will send an unequivocal message that “we are, indeed, united against racism.”

For more details go to UN News Centre at http://www.un.org/news

Japan ‘regrets’ US boycott of UN racism conference

TOKYO (AFP) – Japan said Monday that it would attend a UN conference on racism and regretted a US boycott of the event, which has been overshadowed by fears of a Western walkout and a verbal onsault on Israel.

“I regret that the United States cannot participate in the conference,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Takeo Kawamura told reporters. “Japan will send our delegation led by Ambassador to Geneva (Shinichi) Kitajima.”

UN chief Ban Ki-moon was due to open the anti-racism conference in Geneva later Monday amid fears Iran’s president will attack Israel.

The US government decided Saturday to join Canada and Israel in staying away from the Geneva meeting. The boycott has snowballed as Australia, Germany, Italy and the Netherlands have also followed suit.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad — who has called for Israel to be “wiped off the map” and described the Holocaust as a “myth” — arrived in Geneva late Sunday as one of the few heads of state attending the conference.

Before setting off for Switzerland, Ahmadinejad — who is seeking re-election in June — was quoted by Iran’s state broadcaster as saying that “the Zionist ideology and regime are the flag-bearers of racism”.

Similar sentiments expressed by some Arab and African countries eight years ago prompted a US and Israeli walkout during the World Conference against Racism in Durban, South Africa, and the five-day Geneva follow-up this week has descended into what Israel called a “tragic farce” even before it starts.

In a rare break with its Western allies, Japan has historically enjoyed warm relations with Iran, although ties have recently soured somewhat as Tokyo has backed international efforts to stop Tehran’s nuclear drive. (AFP)


4 comments on “UN News posts on Durban Review Conference on human rights, Geneva Apr 20 2009

  • As stated, the United States was not the only country to withdraw from this conference. Canada, Italy, Holland, Germany, Australia and New Zealand also withdrew. Most European countries walked out when Ahmadinejad (some describe as the modern day Hitler) spoke. Furthermore with calls for suppression of free speach (rules/laws against criticism of Islam) has made this conference somewhat of a farce.

    Japan has a “dog in the hunt here” (or for non country boys a vested interest). Japan surely has a sovereign right to comment on the US withdrawal, however I think Japan should perform a bit of introspection before expressing such strong words as “deep regret”.

    The irony of all of this is that the ultimate decision to boycott this conference was made by President Barrack Obama.

    The United Nations has continued to lose credibility by perpetuating these types of conferences.

    Ahmadinejad, who attended the international conference against racism along with a 180 Iranian representatives, was the only head of state to accept the United Nations’ invitation to speak before the delegates. I think most people see this as the UN giving him a forum to continue to preach hatred and intolerance.

    Additionally the UN continues to make a farce of some of the comities (putting despots and dictators in charge of the human rights comity).

    In this case, I believe that the United States and the other countries that walked out have made the correct decision. I respect Japan’s decision to attend, but Japan expressing “deep regret” shows a bit of a divide between the U.S. and Japan perspectives on racism and equality.

  • The problem is that Durban and Durban II (Geneva) were hijacked by the Islamic states trying to make any criticism of Islam a crime, so many high-level participants like the Canadians and US walked out. (Quite right, too.)
    What we need is a proper UN police force with the power to issue international arrest warrants for any politician guilty of the crime of facilitating racism. Of course, that would lead to most Japnese politicans being locked up, but then again, wouldn’t that be a good thing? Racism is as serious a crime as murder and rape, and it should be punished as such.

  • UN NEWS reports:

    New York, Apr 23 2009 4:00PM
    The ongoing United Nations anti-racism conference in Geneva concluded its general debate today after hearing statements on new forms of racist discrimination and expelling three non-governmental organizations (NGOs) for disruptive behaviour.

    A number of the UN agencies spoke at the five-day Durban Review Conference, which comes to a close tomorrow, including the International Labour Organization (ILO), which warned that saying no to racism in the work is key to promoting respect, tolerance and inclusiveness.

    For its part, the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) highlighted its own role in countering pseudo-scientific theories of racial superiority.

    In a related development, the High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay, in her capacity as Secretary-General of the conference, took steps to banish three NGOs as a result of unacceptable behaviour inside UN premises “in clear violation of the rules laid down regarding the conduct of NGOs during the conference,” according to a press release.

    The ousted Union des Etudiants Juifs de France (UEJF) participants were “extremely prominent” during disruptions that took place on the opening day of the Conference.

    “There has, in the view of the organizers of the Conference, been a clearly orchestrated effort by members of this NGO, possibly in league with others, to disrupt the conference,” the release sad.

    Two delegates from the Neda Institute for Political and Scientific Research were intercepted with inciting materials, possibly in coordination with other organizations, and the distribution of any materials, especially offensive ones, outside designated areas is clearly prohibited.

    The third group to be kicked out of the conference was COEXIST for similar behaviour as UEJF, during several of the same incidents.

    On the Conference’s opening day, delegates of several nations walked out of the room during Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s address, which Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said were intended to “accuse, divide and even incite” and are a roadblock to tackling the scourge of racism.

    On Tuesday, the conference unanimously adopted an outcome document, emphasizing the need to address all manifestations of intolerance with greater resolve, calling on States to take effective, tangible and comprehensive measures to prevent, combat and eradicate all forms of racism, and urging countries which have not yet done so to create and implement national plans to combat intolerance, among other steps.

    For more details go to UN News Centre at http://www.un.org/news


    New York, Apr 24 2009 4:00PM
    At the close of the Durban Review Conference, 182 countries were able to come together on an anti-racism report despite a highly-organized “campaign of disinformation” the United Nations human rights chief said today.

    The draft outcome adopted by consensus this Tuesday is a “good document,” High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said as the gathering, assessing progress on the implementation of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action (DDPA), wrapped up in Geneva.

    As for those levelling accusations that the 2001 document is anti-Semitic, it is “clear that either they had not bothered to read what it actually said, or they were putting a cast on it that was, to say the least, decidedly exaggerated,” she said, stressing that it includes a paragraph which says that “the Holocaust should never be forgotten,” a sentiment reiterated in the final document of the Conference which ended today.

    Ms. Pillay, who cited numerous personal attacks against her in the media, countered arguments that the five-day Conference that ended today was a “hate fest,” calling the characterization a “hyperbole” and a “gross exaggeration.”

    She stressed that although the gathering was a “strange rough-and-tumble affair full of smoke and mirrors,” it was still “very definitely a success story.”

    Several countries, even after agreeing to the draft outcome last week, pulled out of the Conference just before its start, including the United States. “I do hope they will come back into the process now,” the High Commissioner said.

    She noted that even Iran, whose leader made remarks at the start of the event that Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said were intended to “accuse, divide and even incite,” joined the consensus in adopting the text, which emphasizes the need to address all manifestations of intolerance with greater resolve.

    Ms. Pillay hailed the regional and political groups for making concessions regarding the outcome document, noting, for example, that the Arab countries accepted that neither Palestine nor the Middle East are mentioned in the text.

    Welcoming the adoption of the text on Tuesday, the second day of the gathering, she said it contains valuable elements, calling on States to take effective, tangible and comprehensive measures to prevent, combat and eradicate all forms and manifestations of racism, and urging countries which have not yet done so to create and implement national plans to combat intolerance.

    Further, it highlights the increased suffering since 2001 of many different groups of victims of racism and reaffirms the positive role of the freedom of expression while deploring derogatory stigmatization of people based on their religion.

    For more details go to UN News Centre at http://www.un.org/news


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