Durban Watch

Durban II

EYEontheUN ALERT - April 29, 2009

Durban Diary, Closing Day - Another undignified spectacle

This article, by Anne Bayefsky, originally appeared in The New York Daily News.

The UN conference, known as Durban II, ended on Friday with the UN scrambling to spin it as something other than what it was - an allegedly anti-racism forum that provided the world's leading racist and genocidal maniac a global soapbox. While Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad told the world "the word 'Zionism' personifies racism" - the UN was busy translating his speech into six languages with Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon remaining fixed to his chair immediately behind him.

But UN High Commissioner and Secretary General of the Conference Navi Pillay remembers things differently. She told a news conference Friday that Durban II was "a celebration of tolerance and dignity for all."


At her final summing-up party, Pillay came clean on a number of fronts. First, she freely admitted - what she strenuously denied in advance of the conference - that the Durban II declaration singles out Israel as racist by reaffirming Durban I. In her words, "The Durban Declaration and Programme of Action (the DDPA) includes . . . one paragraph which mentions the suffering of the Palestinians . . . Palestine is mentioned . . . in the DDPA and the word 'reaffirm' carries those paragraphs into this document."

Second, she thanked her pals from Arab and Islamic states, which she singled out for high praise. Arab countries, she said, had made "extremely difficult" . . . "political concessions" in not insisting on even more condemnations of Israel, and the Organization of the Islamic Conference "was also very cooperative." Somehow it slipped Pillay's mind that it was their stubborn refusal to agree to any outcome that did not declare Israel racist that led to the boycott by leading democracies in the first place.

The UN had attempted to control Durban II tightly by holding it in Geneva. The irony of running the conference in a manner akin to Big Brother was that there is no one else to blame for what happened, in contrast to the UN mythology that Durban I was all the fault of the nongovernmental organizations, known as NGOs. At Durban II, it was the UN that did nothing to prevent NGO speakers from being harassed and intimidated by Iran, Libya, South Africa and China. Their constant points of order interrupted and eliminated any mention of any human rights victim not Palestinian or Canadian. (Canada's a favorite whipping boy for those who believe life is better in Iran.)

In the final analysis, the UN was unperturbed that Iran signed on to the Durban II declaration while the U.S., Canada, Australia, the Netherlands, Italy, Germany, New Zealand, Poland, the Czech Republic (currently head of the European Union) and Israel did not. Pillay announced proudly: ". . . a few states disengaged from the process . . . They are not part of the consensus that adopted this text . . . And Iran is part of that consensus. When the final call came, Iran did not oppose the text." She thought this proved Iran was reasonable, rather than proving the declaration was unreasonable - a disturbingly twisted thought process for the UN's leading human rights official.

The self-congratulation among participating states and UN officials on closing day was a testament to the delusional UN environment. Some claimed the Durban II outcome represents a "consensus in international politics." Others were looking forward to a "Durban 10 year" conference. But the average person who had come a long way to raise their voice in defense of human rights went home believing there has to be a better way to protect our planet from the very real intolerance tolerated at the UN.