This report examines the new draft Declaration for the Durban II racism conference, released
by the UN on 26 December 2008, measured according to the red lines established by the
European Union for participation in the gathering to be held on April 20-24, 2009 in Geneva.
As stated by the European Union in its 19 September 2008 Statement to the UN Human
Rights Council, the EU red lines reject (1) singling out one region of the world in particular;
(2) reopening the 2001 Durban declaration by inserting a prohibition against “defamation of
religion,” designed to restrict free speech and impose the censorship of Islamic antiblasphemy
laws; (3) drawing up an order of priority among victims; and (4) politicizing or
polarizing the discussion.
Each of these red lines is breached by the new draft, as detailed in the chart below. The
dominant thesis of the draft Declaration, despite the modification of certain offensive
provisions, remains that the U.S., Western Europe, Israel, and other liberal democracies—
their principles, institutions, policies, respective histories and national identities—are
singularly racist, and, in addition, discriminatory against Islam. Free speech, wealth,
globalization, security measures to combat terrorism of the kind that targets innocents in
Mumbai, Sderot, Baghdad and elsewhere—all of these are attacked, expressly or by
implication, as causes of racism, discrimination, and the “defamation of Islam.”
Indeed, the new language seeking to distort human rights law for the purposes of Islamic
censorship makes the Durban II draft even more regressive than the 2001 text. While there
remain some positive proposals in the text, such as opposition to the persecution of gays
(introduced by the European Union), these are almost certain to be eliminated under pressure
from powerful U.N. voting blocs dominated by Iran, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and like-minded
Contrary to the new draft’s introductory claim that “Region-specific language was made
general or deleted,” the draft focuses on one specific country—Israel—which it portrays as
uniquely racist, using language lifted verbatim from the notorious 2001 Tehran Declaration.
The committee planning the Durban Review Conference and its outcome document is chaired
by Libya, and counts Iran, Pakistan, and Cuba as vice-chairs.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy, speaking last year in advance of his country’s presidency
of the EU, pledged “unambiguously” to withdraw France and the EU from the Durban II
process if the 2001 excesses repeated themselves and the EU’s concerns were ignored. The
EU, now under presidency of the Czech Republic, has yet to react to the new Durban II draft,
which will be presented at the upcoming Geneva prep session on January 19-23, 2009.
Pledges by European Union Governments
FRENCH PRESIDENT NICOLAS SARKOZY:
“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.”
Source: Nicolas Sarkozy au diner annuel du crif, February 13, 2008.
U.K. MINISTER FOR EUROPE JIM MURPHY:
“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.”
Source: Parliamentary debates, May 13, 2008
NETHERLANDS FOREIGN MINISTER MAXIME VERHAGEN:
“Report from Radio Netherlands, May 18, 2008: 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.”
Source: Radio Netherlands, May 18, 2008.
DANISH FOREIGN MINISTER PER STIG MØLLER:
“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.”
Source: “Danish foreign minister threatens Western boycott of
Durban II,” Europe News, citing Jyllands-Posten, October 28 2008.
See full PDF for analysis of paragraphs.