UN Watch Intervention
Regional Conference for Africa
Preparatory to the Durban Review Conference
24 August 2008
Delivered by Mr. Leon Saltiel of UN Watch
Thank you, Mr. President.
We assemble here in the Nigerian capital of Abuja, in the heart of Africa, to discuss how to fight racism, and to prepare for the Durban Review Conference that will take place in April 2009.
That I have come here from afar is testament to the great importance that UN Watch attaches to the African cause, to the global struggle against racism, and to the outcome of this gathering.
UN Watch has always stood in solidarity with the African people in their struggle for human rights, equality and freedom.
A half century ago, UN Watch founder Morris Abram was a leading advocate in the American civil rights movement led by Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King. It was Mr. Abram who won the 1963 U.S. Supreme Court case that recognized African-American voting rights, under the principle of “one person, one vote,” and who went on to head the United Negro College Fund.
In 1993, guided by the same vision of human rights and equality, Morris Abram founded UN Watch.
Since then, we have been a leading voice at the United Nations for victims of persecution—for Africans in places like Darfur and Zimbabwe, as for millions of other victims of racism and intolerance around the world.
It is with this legacy, and with these principles, that UN Watch urges this conference to rise to the occasion.
Let this African gathering give voice to all who suffer from racism, persecution and intolerance.
Let us promise that the crime of slavery shall never be forgotten. That men and women everywhere should be treated with basic dignity and equality.
Let us be true to the universal principles of human rights that underlie the struggle against racism.
We will only advance toward these goals if we stay on the true path—by avoiding dangerous diversions, and by remedying the wrongs of the past. We must prevent a recurrence of the foul actions of 2001, which paradoxically turned a conference on racism into a platform for racist hatred and anti-Semitism.
Let us oppose the campaign by certain governments and lobby groups to distort the language of human rights for a narrow and extreme political agenda, which only distracts from and harms the African cause.
Let us ensure that our outcome document—which will influence the final declaration of the April conference in Geneva—will neither single out nor demonize any country or people.
Finally, let us keep this conference a serious one. Its credibility is at stake when countries preach one thing while blatantly practicing the very opposite.
Consider, for example, the official submission of Libya that is before us today. The Libyan government speaks of racism against the African people and how it confronts, and I quote, “[a] new form of racism related to house helpers [and] (maids).”
Yet just last month, when Mr. Hannibal Qaddafi was arrested in Geneva for the crime of beating his African maid and African house-helper,
[At this point, Sudan interrupted with an objection, supported by Morocco and Algeria]
Libya fully supported his actions. Worse, Libya then punished one of these African victims by kidnapping his mother. With this same country being the chair of the committee organizing the Durban Review Conference, what should the world think?
The eyes of the world are upon us. When history is written, let it be recorded that in Abuja, in August 2008, the struggle against racism was advanced, and not harmed; promoted, and not politicized. We owe its victims—in Africa and around the world—no less.
Thank you, Mr. President.