Durban Watch

Between Durban II and III

EYEontheUN ALERT - June 21, 2009

Obama Administration Apologetic for Non-Attendance at Durban II

The 11th session of the Human Rights Council, which ended on Friday, included two apologies from the Obama administration for missing Durban II. Obama officials also lauded countries and UN officials for working to improve the Durban II outcome and re-focusing the conference on fighting racism. No effort was made to distance itself from the actual conference - which sported an antisemite as opening speaker - or its outcome which singled out and demonized Israel as racist.

The administration is pursuing actively its new policy of engagement at the Council and ingratiating itself with the human rights abusers who count as Council members and biggest supporters of the Durban process and its outcome. So in the context of the first Council discussion since the conclusion of the conference of Durban and the UN "anti-racism" agenda, two U.S. officials declared on June 16th: "It was with regret that we did not join the recent Durban Review Conference."

In the words of Anna Morawiec Mansfield, Deputy Legal Adviser of the United States Mission in Geneva (speaking during the "interactive dialogue" with the Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance), and repeated by Mark Cassayre, First Secretary of the United States Mission in Geneva, in a later discussion:
    "It was with regret that we did not join the recent Durban Review Conference. We are deeply grateful to the many country delegations and senior UN officials who worked steadfastly to improve the outcome document and to re-focus the Durban Review Conference squarely on the global fight to eliminate racism and racial discrimination."
The Obama administration had made a similar statement when they finally pulled out on Saturday night April 18th just 36 hours before the conference began. But that was before Durban II handed a global microphone to opening speaker Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Although the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay and Secretary-General Ban KiMoon had the speech in advance, both sat glued to their seats as Ahmadinejad declared (among other things): "The word Zionism personifies racism that falsely resorts to religion and abuses religious sentiments to hide their hatred and ugly faces."

Durban II also adopted a declaration that once again approves of singling out Israel and alleging Palestinians are victims of Israeli racism. As High Commissioner Pillay bragged at a news conference on the final day, the Durban II document further demonizes Israel: "The DDPA [Durban Declaration and Programme of Action] 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."

But apparently the actual events at Durban II and its results are not enough to justify for the Obama administration an unapologetic policy of non-attendance. On the contrary, this administration used the opportunity at the Council session to refuse to distance itself from the conference, the appalling behavior of senior UN officials, the failure to re-focus Durban II on a genuine fight to eliminate racism, and its actual outcome.

Instead, Obama officials bent over backwards to issue an obsequious unprincipled statement about working to improve a meeting and its result while fully aware that those improvements never came - unless they mean eliminating international support for modern antisemitism was just one "improvement" among many that fell off the negotiating table.

Music to the ears of the human rights violators in the audience. Embarrassing for those touting Obama's human rights credentials.