Italy and Holland pull out of UN’s Durban III conference on racism

GENEVA –  UN Watch commended Italy and Holland for pulling out of the UN’s September 22 commemoration of the 2001 Durban conference, a supposed anti-racism meeting that turned into a mass display of hate. The boycott announcements followed that of the Czech government yesterday. Canada, Israel and the US are also staying away from the “Durban III” summit.

The Geneva-based rights group called on other EU states and democracies worldwide to follow suit.

“The Durban process has been marked by ugly displays of intolerance and anti-Semitism, and that is not something that should be  commemorated,” said UN Watch executive director Hillel Neuer.

“We are further concerned by the timing and venue, given that New York will have just held solemn ten-year memorials for those murdered in the September 11 terrorist attacks.”

“UN Watch is fully committed to combating discrimination, intolerance, and bigotry, and to promoting human rights for all.  We call on all democracies to join us in opposing the attempts by dictators and bigots to use the Durban process to hijack this noble cause.”

See Italian and Dutch announcements below.


Netherlands Not Attending UN anti-Racism Meeting

THE HAGUE, 23/07/11 – The Netherlands will not be present in New York on 22 September at the celebration of the 10th anniversary of the Durban Declaration. Italy and the Czech Republic are also boycotting the conference because some countries use it for anti-Israeli propaganda.

In the South African city of Durban in 2001, it was agreed to combat worldwide racism, xenophobia and discrimination. The Netherlands, Italy and the Czech Republic wanted to include in the final statement of the meeting in September “that all participating states emphatically distance themselves from the linking of subjects that have nothing to do with the fight against racism,” but “because it is not possible to get such a guarantee, the three countries now see themselves forced to no longer participate in the preparations for the celebration, and also not to attend it, ” the foreign affairs ministry said Friday.

“A number of countries have in the past continually put the peace process in the Middle East in the centre of the discussions on combating racism, xenophobia and discrimination, along with which denying Israel’s right to exist,” according to the ministry. Although they are boycotting the conference, “the Netherlands will of course continue to make active efforts to combat racism, xenophobia and discrimination in more productive ways.”


Declaration by Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini

Rome 22 July 2011

For some time now we have had some reserves over the exercise known in the UN sphere as the “Durban Process”, because over the years it has been instrumentalised in political terms. The Process has been transformed from a forum for debate on and coordination of international action against racism, discrimination and xenophobia, into a tribunal for accusations against Israel.

It was for this reason more than any other that we decided not to take part in 2009 in the “Durban II” Review Conference. And it was for that same reason that Italy, along with other Western and European Union countries, voted against convening the event celebrating the 10th anniversary of Durban. This is scheduled to take pace on 22 September 2011 in New York, at Heads of State and Government level.

In the negotiations under way in recent weeks in New York on the content and organisation of September’s event, we therefore took steps, with the EU partners whose thinking reflects ours in this respect, to seek to avoid the shift of emphasis that took place in the conferences of 2001 and 2009. I recall the address by the Iranian President, Ahmadinejad, on that latter occasion, in which, inter alia, he legitimised the Holocaust denial theories. For this reason, we asked for the final document to explicitly recognise that past references, in the context of the Durban Process, to the specific situation of the Middle East are not part of the international commitment against racial discrimination. We feel that any axiomatic linkage between racism and Israel’s defence of its right to exist as a state is unacceptable.

Unfortunately, however, just some weeks before the forthcoming event, I have to say that this request was not accepted. In these circumstances, I feel that the minimum conditions for Italy to take part in the commemoration on 22 September are not in place.

Italy reiterates it commitment to combat racism and all forms of intolerance and discrimination. We continue to view international cooperation in this sector as one of the key instruments to improve the protection and promotion of human rights throughout the world.

UN Watch