Geneva, April 24, 2009 — The conclusion today of a U.N. conference on racism and discrimination was “a missed opportunity,” said Hillel Neuer, executive director of the Geneva-based UN Watch, a non-governmental watchdog.
“Despite its title, and notwithstanding promises made by U.N. officials such as High Commissioner Navi Pillay, the conference failed to review a single country for its record on racism and discrimination—not Sudan for racist genocide in Darfur, not China for ethnic repression in Tibet, not Saudi Arabia for systematic discrimination against women, and not gays in Iran. The worst abusers got off scot-free, and the U.N. chose consensus over victims.”
“Contrary to what the U.N. promised, the reality is that millions of victims of racism and discrimination worldwide have been let down by a conference that squandered a golden opportunity to turn an international spotlight on countries that practice systematic bigotry, discrimination and persecution,” said Neuer.
“At the same time, UN Watch appreciates that the outcome text, however unacceptable, is the least toxic to have emerged in a long time from a UN conference on racism, thanks only to the red lines firmly asserted by several Western democracies.”
“High Commissioner Pillay should thank all governmental and nongovernmental voices who nobly resisted many of the offensive provisions of earlier drafts, rather than pay tribute to the forces who tried but failed to preserve them.”
While the UN rights chief today suggested that Western governments were fooled by “disinformation,” Neuer said that sophisticated governments such as the U.S., Germany and the Netherlands were capable of making informed decisions based on the facts.
“It’s unseemly for a high UN rights official to lash out like that,” said Neuer. “The case for and against Durban II was made in full over the past two years, and ten leading democracies made their decision. If the U.N. rights chief failed to win over foreign ministers by force of her arguments, that says somerthing about the merits of her case — not the alleged avarice of her counterparts. She needs to accept this and move on, rather than scapegoat any particular sector.”
On the sidelines of Durban II, UN Watch this week put a spotlight on the compelling situations ignored by the U.N. conference, organizing major human rights events together with more than 100 NGOs, bringing victims to testify from Darfur, Burma, Venzuela, Cuba, Rwanda, Egypt and elsewhere. Click here for video and photos. See also www.genevasummit.org.