Geneva – Preceeding the official opening of the Durban II conference, U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay hosted a panel entitled “United Against Racism.” She welcomed the delegates and other attendees. Immediately following was a short film detailing instances of racism around the world. Guess what story was given pride of place as the first example? No prizes for a question so easy. It was, of course, Racism in America.
The Rest of the West Isn’t Much Better
With a few notable exceptions, the opening remarks of Durban II were typical calls for member states to fulfill the goals of the conference. Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon acknowledged that Durban II is the beginning of the process not the end–a generous characterization of the current document which arguably is a retreat from earlier U.N. human-rights documents like the Universal Declaration.
Deviating sharply from the general tone, however, was Francisco Jose Lacayo, special adviser to the general-assembly president and strident anti-American, Miguel d’Escoto Brockmann. Consistent with d’Escoto, Lacayo blamed the Rwandan genocide and other violent acts of racism on colonial legacies.
U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay took a swipe at the U.S. and others who boycotted the conference, saying that the accomplishments reached through negotiations at Durban II would illustrate that their decision would be a mistake.
By contrast, Pillay outrageously thanked the Palestinians and the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) for their flexibility and cooperation in agreeing to last-minute changes to the text. Left unsaid was the fact that it was the inflexibility of the OIC in earlier discussions that led the U.S. and other countries to boycott the conference over the “unsalvageable” text in the first place.