Baseless accusations, angry protests, boycotts, walkouts and general mud slinging were a feature which, until recently we associated with our dear and beloved netas in Parliament. But apparently, the circus has left town and set up shop in the world’s town meeting: the United Nations. I speak of that sorry affair called The Durban Review Conference (which, by the way, happened in Geneva and not in Durban) or the ‘ World Conference Against Racism’. Sounds nice, doesn’t it? Well, it wasn’t, unless you are an anarchist, a journalist or Ban-Ki-Moon.
In 2001, they held the World Conference Against Racism in Durban, where they came up with the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action to work towards the eradication of racism. So this Conference was called the ‘Durban Review’ because its aim was to come up with a way to implement the Programme. So here’s a quick review of the Durban Review:
Low level delegations (Diplospeke for “This party is lame and I didn’t want to be here anyway”): 23, and the Checzs buggered off after the first day.
Kicked out: 3 Activist Groups (Iranians, Franco-Jews and Londoners) and 2 journalists (one guy tried to seize the dias while the other guy filmed it).
Party Pooper-in Chief: Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (more about him later)
At the end of the conference, they came up with an utterly worthless Outcome Document which didn’t even pretend to disguise the fact that the Conference had failed.
The following are my thoughts on why the Conference was doomed to failure:
1. Blasphemy resolution: The UN had been toying with a Resolution that banned “defamation of religion.” Thankfully, the resolution did not get enough votes to become binding, but it’s implications are scary. Basically, the resolution makes religion entirely sacrosanct: above all criticism. Religion, after all is an idea (and unproven and unscientific at that) and freedom of speech demands that the opinion of one cannot be suppressed because it confilcts with a deeply held and emotionally and setimentally charged opinion of another. The Muslim countries, led by Pakistan, tried to foist this draconian law upon the world, and thankfully failed (there are still many right thinking nations in the UN, the Danes, for example). But this episode increased suspicion that the Durban Review Conference would be used in order to promote the blasphemy law and many nations chose not to attend in protest. The Blasphemy episode is a smudge on the UN’s reputation, especially since the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights, in Article 19, declares the fundamental freedom of opinion and expression. This pretty much fucked things up in the cradle for the Durban Review.
2. Several countries were disappointed by the fact that key issues in the 2001 Conference such as reparations for slavery and discrimination against homosexuals were dropped from the agenda. Also, the Arabs had campainged for the inclusion of Zionism within the scope of the conference. Now what is Zionism if not discriminatory? A philosophy that gives one group exclusive right to another’s territory for reasons of religion and religious supremacy is undoubtedly and inherently so. But this was of course not included, so the Arabs had an axe to grind. And this leads me to….
I love this guy. Not in the way I love Bhagat Singh or Gandhi, but more in the manner of my love for Bugs Bunny. But what were they thinking? This man has publicly denied the Holocaust. Denied it ever happened, mind you, and all the evidence be damned. On more than one occasion, he has declared his intention to drive an entire nation of people (women, children and all) into the sea. If you are going to invite him to speak before a room full of international delegates at a racism meet, what do you think he’s going to talk about? Rainbows? And this was on- get this- Holocaust Memorial Day. No good could have come out of it. When news of his attendance spread, nations’ opinion of the Conference sank to a new low. Even many that atteneded did so shiftily and did not send anyone important. It was a PR disaster for the UN. And the doubters were right, weren’ t they? If you don’t know what followed, here:
Crazy son of a bitch. He’s got balls, though.
Now I acknowlegde that the creation of Israel and the subsequent acts of its government are horrible human rights violations. But does that warrant the invitation of an equally racist and inhuman opponent? Everything, all the careful preparations, the diplomacy, the cajoling, and meticulous planning (India, for some reason, was on the preparatory committee) went into the crapper when Ahmadinejad decided to moon the world (of course, he was hailed as a hero in Iran).
There’s a lesson to be learnt here. It is that the UN must be true to itself when it endeavours to eradicate the world’s evils. The UN is not, and cannot, in the near future, be a true world body. As long as inequalities exist (the permanent seats of the Security Council, for example), a UN programme can never be truly global. Zionism was steered clear of in order to “keep it cool” and this backfired in the worst way imaginable. Little constructive work was achieved, and as long as the UN bows to pressure from one quarter or another, it will always be this way. The blasphemy resolution and the exclusion of Zionism from the Durban Review are a case in point. I believe in the UN and its achivements, but these cancers remain. They must be expelled if the UN is to avoid the fate of the League of Nations and if it is not to become a puppet or sink into obscurity. It must stand for the principles on which it was formed with a straight back.
But until then the delegates would do well to bring an extra shoe or two.