Durban Watch

Durban II

EYEontheUN ALERT - April 7, 2009

Negotiations Update: From Bad to Worse

This article, by Anne Bayefsky, originally appeared in National Review Online.

The festivities at the U.N. Durban II "anti-racism" planning meeting continued this afternoon in Geneva. The conference starts in two weeks, but the negotiations are already heated. Not surprisingly, the most active participants by a huge margin are the member states of the Organization of the Islamic Conference [OIC]. And right at the top of the OIC's star contributors - in a meeting to combat intolerance - is Iran. That's the country where homosexuality is a capital offence, women are stoned to death for alleged adultery, and whose president openly advocates the murder of 5 million Jews.

Iran made 13 suggestions about how the final declaration, to be adopted formally at the conference itself, could better protect human rights. And that bastion of civil rights Syria intervened to help draft a "human rights" declaration five times. By comparison, the Czech Republic, on behalf of the 27 members of the European Union, had something to say six times. When U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice gives speeches about the glories of being there, this what being there actually means.

Iran introduced the idea of adding more protection for "cultural diversity." Iran also suggested a new paragraph concerned with "defamation of religions." That's the alleged criticism of a religion, not concern with human rights. The targets are anything religious fanatics think "project...negative, insulting and derogatory images of religions and religious personalities." And by the way the concern is not with any religion, but "Islam in particular."

And Iran proposed this new paragraph on freedom of expression interested not with freedom but with the "abuse" of freedom:
    Notes that other obstacles hampering progress in the collective struggle against racism and racial discrimination...including negative abuse of freedom of expression, counter-terrorism, and national security stereotypical association of religion with terrorism and violence by the media and national security forces.
Immediately after these contributions, the Syrian delegate burst out: "We want to announce that we will be submitting money to the Durban Review Conference!" The Russian Chair then exclaimed, "That's the best news we've had today!"

Are you excited too? Because your U.N. ambassador is tearing up the phone lines wanting to participate.

Just in case the phony Durban II "anti-racism" agenda isn't clear yet, there was also a big push to get rid of any suggestion that this is about non-discrimination. The European Union wanted a paragraph saying:
    There should be no hierarchy among potential victims of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance and that all victims should receive the same attention, the necessary protection and accordingly appropriate treatment.
South Africa and Iran called for the deletion of this idea. Without the slightest embarrassment, Pakistan declared: "Not all victims are in the same category."

Iran went on to call for taking " sensitize the public at large and raise understanding of cultural differences and foster cultural diversity...[and] build the culture of peace." Quite a mouthful coming from a country on the verge of acquiring weapons of mass destruction and using them.

Various states proposed getting rid of the role of a "competent and impartial judiciary to determine in fair and public procedure whether acts presented before it constitute acts of racism." Still more states called for the deletion of "Affirms that full implementation of the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights is fundamental for the global fight against racism and racial discrimination." (The 1965 convention is perceived by Islamic countries as insufficient to deal with what they call "contemporary forms of racism and intolerance." In other words, promoting this treaty would run counter to the idea that Muslims are the premier victims of intolerance.)

This is U.N.-based "engagement" up -close and personal, without the gloss of fancy speeches from the new Waldorf-Astoria digs of Ambassador Rice. So why is the Obama administration still toying with legitimizing Durban II?