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 RIGHTS CHIEF ‘SHOCKED’ AT US WITHDRAWAL FROM ANTI-RACISM CONFERENCE
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The US, along with Israel, had withdrawn from the 2001 conference citing concerns the forum was being used by some to push an anti-Israel agenda.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
DIVISIVENESS PERPETUATES RACISM, SECRETARY-GENERAL WARNS
UN News, New York, Apr 20 2009 2:00PM
Sent directly to debito.org
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)