UN Meeting Adopts Anti-Racism Declaration

Te UN’s first global racism conference in eight years adopted on Tuesday, April 20, a final declaration against racism, xenophobia and intolerance.

"Ladies and gentlemen, you have taken a momentous decision to adopt the document," Amos Wako, the attorney general of Kenya and the president of the meeting, told participants.

"[This] shows that one can remain constructively engaged and reach a consensus."

The 16-page text was adopted by consensus and without debate at a public session, well before the end of the week-long meeting.

It was approved by all UN member states except those boycotting the forum — the US, Israel, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Germany, the Netherlands, Poland and the Czech Republic.

"We couldn’t allow our determination and consensus to be destroyed by isolated instances or intolerances and incitement to hatred as we witnessed yesterday," British Ambassador Peter Gooderham told Agence France-Presse (AFP).

He was apparently referring to the speech of Iranian Mahmoud Ahmadinejad who criticized Israel as "the most cruel and repressive racist regime," sparking a walkout by 23 delegations of EU countries.

The adopted text "reaffirms" the document adopted at the conclusion of the first UN anti-racism conference held in Durban, South Africa, in 2001.

The Durban declaration refers six times to Israel and the Middle East.

Good News

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said the anti-racism declaration could "take the heat off" sensitive issues related to discrimination and intolerance.

"This is very good news indeed," she told a news conference.

"The fact that this document has been adopted by all but nine states I think is our answer, what I call success."

Officials hope the early endorsement of the text will return the focus to issues such as links between poverty and discrimination and ways to prevent xenophobic attacks on foreign workers.

UN human rights spokesman Rupert Colville told journalists that the conference had moved on from the drama that surrounded Ahmadinejad’s speech.

"It was a very bruising episode yesterday, clearly, but we have to get back to the issues."

The US and Israel led about other nations in boycotting the meeting.

Washington had largely sat out negotiations over that text in preparatory meetings in Geneva.

Although the EU did take part, and endorsed the draft as "conference-ready" last week, several EU states said over the weekend they would also boycott the meeting, along with Australia and New Zealand.

Several delegates and human rights groups expressed regret that some countries were boycotting the meeting instead of arguing their position on racism.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon had expressed regret that some countries had stayed away from the conference.

(IslamOnline.net and Agencies)

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