Dissenting Voices on Durban II

German Foreign Minister Frank Walter Steinmeier — “EU threatens boycott of UN racism talks,” International Herald Tribune, March 16, 2009

[The conference] might be abused to produce one-sided statements [about the Middle East]… I am in favor of canceling participation in the conference, unless the documents are changed substantially within the next hours and days.

Dutch Minister of Foreign Affairs Maxime VerhagenRemarks to foreign affairs committee of the Dutch parliament, March 12, 2009

The document is unacceptable. My red lines are: religion is misused to stand above individual rights. There should be no excuse in the text to condone violence against homosexuals, anti-Semitism and Israel-bashing… I am actively involved in the matter. There will be no compromises regarding principles. I am aiming for a joint withdrawal of all EU ministers, unless the document is not changed. If this does not succeed, then I am not afraid to unilaterally withdraw from Durban. Principles come first.

U.S. Representative and Chair of House Foreign Affairs Committee Howard BermanLetter to the Los Angeles Times, “Stepping up on human rights,” March 12, 2009

President Obama sent a salvage operation team that quickly revealed that the opportunity already had been lost. There weren’t any willing partners to refocus the conference on fighting racism, xenophobia and intolerance. And so the president made the hard but right choice: The U.S. should not associate itself with this effort to vilify Israel and to undermine human rights standards.

Paris Mayor Bertrand Delanoë — “La France doit refuser de participer à la conférence Durban II, déclare le maire de Paris,” AFP, March 11, 2009

Le bureau du Comité préparatoire de cet événement, présidé par la Libye, et dont l’Iran est le vice-président, a rédigé un projet de déclaration finale dans lequel la lutte contre le terrorisme et la critique des religions sont présentées comme autant de formes du racisme… L’Etat d’Israël y est accusé d’être par essence raciste. En revanche, il n’est jamais fait mention du Darfour ou du Zimbabwe… Notre pays compromettrait ses valeurs et sa devise en participant à cette mascarade… [Je souhaitant que] la France, à l’instar d’autres grandes nations démocratiques, refuse de siéger dans cette conférence et de contribuer à sa préparation.

Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs Stephen Smith Australian Government Press Conference Transcript, March 11, 2009

If we come to the conclusion that the text being prepared for the Durban review number two conference sets us up for a re-run of an anti-Jewish anti-Semitic harangue, as the first conference was, then Australia will not take part… We won’t propose to go to the conference if all it looks like is being a replica of 2001.

Japan Times  Editorial: “Durban II in danger,” March 10, 2009

Meetings like this undermine the U.N. and empower its critics. Acquiescing to this agenda is a mistake. The more countries protest against this meeting, the more hope there is for getting the U.N. back on track… The charitable explanation for the mentality behind the Durban meetings is the mistaken belief that the best way to remedy the sufferings of one group is to victimize another. Less charitably, one could argue that Durban is an attempt to punish Israel and the Jews, regardless of what they have done. By either explanation, Durban is flawed and should not proceed.

Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini “Frattini slams EU for not taking stand on UN racism meet,” ANSA citing Il Riformista, March 10, 2009  

I am not prepared to remain silent [on Durban II] when it concerns fundamental principles of the EU Charter (on Fundamental Rights), and the total rejection of anti-Semitism is one of those principles.

German member of the European Parliament Alexander Graf Lambsdorff“Don’t go there,” International Herald Tribune, March 8, 2009

The West cannot accept a text that places religion above individuals, fails to condemn discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and fails to condemn anti-Semitism, while equating Zionism with racism… On all these issues the West has drawn clear red lines that have been crossed. The consequence is clear: European Union member states should join Canada and the Obama administration and stay away from an event that will most likely be another sad assembly of hate and racism… We should deny the forces of illiberty the privilege of our legitimizing presence.

Nobel-laureate Elie Wiesel“Elie Wiesel: Durban II likely to harm UN, not Israel,” Haaretz March 6, 2009

The anti-Israeli resolutions to be expected at Durban II will harm the UN, not Israel… If these resolutions are not altered and corrected, the UN, and not Israel, will leave the conference damaged and ridiculed… The passing of such resolutions will debase the ideal that the global organization seeks to represent to the very lowest level.

French philosopher Bernard-Henri Lévy Refusons la mascarade de Durban II,” Le Point, March 5, 2009

Mais le point de départ étant celui-là, le socle de propositions servant de base au débat étant cette addition de préjugés, de haines et de silences, le rapport de forces, enfin, étant ce que l’on peut présumer qu’il sera au sein d’un Comité préparatoire dominé, je le répète, par les représentants d’Ahmadinejad et Kadhafi, on voit mal comment, même amendée, la Déclaration qui nous est présentée pourrait servir de Charte à une action antiraciste mondiale et concertée… La solution du boycott semble être la plus raisonnable, la plus digne, en même temps que la plus conforme à la vocation de la France… Dans l’intérêt même de cette lutte, par égard pour la belle et noble cause qu’est la cause antiraciste, en hommage à tous ceux qui, de Fanon à Mandela, en ont défini l’esprit, il faut refuser, très vite, très fermement, et sans appel, la farce de Durban II.

Dutch Minister of Foreign Affairs Maxime Verhagen, — Speech at the U.N. Human Rights Council, March 3, 2009

Reaching out to one another does not mean we will not always agree. It is safe to say that we will continue to have our differences. And that is legitimate. What is not legitimate is holding the entire UN human rights system hostage to those differences. Take the Durban Review Conference as an example. The Netherlands is firmly committed to eliminating racism and related forms of intolerance. We would like to report on our progress in implementing the Durban Declaration and Program of Action. But I am deeply disturbed by the turn this event is taking. The way in which the preparatory process for this review conference has been proceeding suggests that it is unlikely to be a useful exercise, a meeting that will really assist in reaching our shared objective: abolishing racism. I therefore fully understand why some countries have decided not to participate in these proceedings any longer. For the Netherlands, too, the draft outcome document is not acceptable in its present form. It does not focus on the main challenges to address the problem of racism. Instead, the thematic world conference is used by some to try to force their concept of defamation of religion and their focus on one regional conflict on all of us. To all the delegates who doubt the Netherlands’ intentions, I say this: we do want to participate and work together on a useful outcome — but not at any price. We cannot accept any text, which would: (1) Put religion above individuals; (2) Not condemn discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation; (3) Condone anti-Semitism; (4) Or single out Israel. These are clear red lines for the Netherlands. That is certainly not what I have in mind when I call for a more empathic approach.

Danish Minister of Foreign Affairs Dr. Per Stig Moller — Speech at the U.N. Human Rights Council, March 3, 2009

Next month, the Durban Review Conference against racism takes place here in Geneva. The conference shall review the progress made in the fight against racism on the basis of the Durban Declaration and Plan of Action adopted at the Durban Conference in 2001. Racism shows its ugly face in all parts of the world and must be addressed also through international cooperation. The Review conference should and must be an important event to this end. Denmark is committed to make the conference a success, and has from the outset been actively engaged in the negotiations of a draft outcome document. However, the preparations of the conference so far give rise to serious concerns, and a consensus based on the draft outcome document after the first reading seems unlikely. Attempts are being made to divert the focus of the conference away from the real problems of racism. Denmark is committed to working for the promotion and protection of human rights. We cannot accept that the conference is being diverted from combating racism and racial discrimination to restricting freedom of expression or any other human right or fundamental freedom. The stakes are high. If we lose focus, we risk that the consensus in Durban in 2001 will unravel to the detriment of our common endeavor to fight racism. It is a high price to be paid by those men, women, and children for whom racial discrimination is reality and who rely on us to further the international work to end their suffering. They are the focus of the Durban Review Conference. Let us keep that focus.

Czech Republic Minister of Foreign Affairs Karel Schwarzenberg, speaking for the European Union  — Speech at the U.N. Human Rights Council, March 3, 2009

The EU cannot subscribe to the outcome of this conference where the result would limit or undermine human rights and fundamental freedoms. The EU remains committed to the Durban Review Conference and believes that the final text will in the end be much shorter than the current one and reflect our principles as we have clearly outlined from the beginning.

British Minister of State Lord Mark Malloch-Brown, — Speech at the London conference on combating anti-Semitism, February 17, 2009

And we will work with the US to try and make sure that we get a good outcome, but we are extremely clear we cannot get a fair and balanced (indistinct) we will withdraw… So while we will fight to get a good resolution and fight to make sure that reason and decency prevails at the conference, we are very much there at the moment on a sort of last warning. But if we can’t prevail we’re not going to stay and see a conference whose outcome we can’t accept. 

Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni“Livni: Israel not going to Durban II,” Jewish Telegraphic Agency, November 19, 2008

During recent months, we expressed the hope that the language of hatred will not repeat itself; we declared that we will not agree to the singling out of Israel, and we will object to incitement and condemnation of Israel… Despite our efforts and those of friendly countries, for whose position we are grateful, the conference appears to be heading once again towards becoming an anti-Israeli tribunal, which has nothing to do with fighting racism… In view of this situation, Israel will not participate and will not legitimize the Review Conference, which will be used as a platform for further anti-Israeli and anti-Semitic activity. We call upon the international community not to participate in a conference which seeks to legitimize hatred and extremism under the banner of the fight against racism.

Danish Foreign Minister Per Stig Moller“Danish foreign minister threatens Western boycott of Durban II,”Europe News, citing Jyllands-Posten, October 28 2008

If the OIC (Organization of the Islamic Conference) pushes through this draft resolution, they shall not expect European or Western countries to be present at the table… we cannot accept that religion be conflated with racism.

Netherlands Foreign Minister Maxime Verhagen
Radio Netherlands, May 18, 2008

Report from Radio Netherlands: The Netherlands will not accept it if there are any attempts to call Israel a racist state at a UN conference in the South African city of Durban next year, said Foreign Minister Maxime Verhagen. He said that the Netherlands was involved in the organization of the new Durban conference and would not hesitate to withdraw if there is a similar negative spiral of events.

U.K. Minister for Europe Jim MurphyParliamentary debates, May 13, 2008

There should be no repeat of the disgraceful anti-Semitism that blighted events surrounding the 2001 world conference against racism… [We] will play no part in an international conference that exhibits the degree of anti-Semitism that was disgracefully on view on the previous occasion… If it gets to a point that we come to the view that the conference cannot be a success, the option of withdrawal from the conference remains available to us.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy
At the CRIF annual dinner, February 13, 2008

Translated from French: You have spoken about the Durban conference. I will tell you: The Durban conference in 2001 led to intolerable excesses from certain states and numerous NGOs that turned the conference into a forum against Israel. No one has forgotten. A follow-up conference is planned for 2009. Mr. President [of the CRIF], you asked me a question. I will answer very frankly. France will not allow a repetition of the excesses and abuses of 2001… Our European partners share France’s concerns. France will chair the EU in the final months preceding the review conference. I say to you: if ever our legitimate demands are not taken into account, we will disengage from the process. I think my answer is unambiguous.

Canadian Foreign Minister Maxime BernierCanada to skip UN racism conference due to expected ‘anti-Semitism,’” Haaretz, January 24, 2008

(We) had hoped that the preparatory process for the 2009 … conference would remedy the mistakes of the past. Despite our efforts, we have concluded that it will not. Canada will therefore not participate.

Canadian Secretary of State for Multiculturalism Jason KenneyCanada to skip UN racism conference due to expected ‘anti-Semitism,’” Haaretz, January 24, 2008

Our government sees no value in allowing Canada‘s participation to continue to dignify or legitimate such hateful and un-Canadian propaganda.

UN Watch