On Holocaust Remembrance Day, it seems fitting to write a little about the United Nations conference on racism being held in Geneva. Officially named the Durban Review Conference in reference to the Durban, South Africa conference on racism in 2001, which was to provide a "framework for guiding governments, non-governmental organizations and other institutions in their efforts to combat racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance." The United States boycotted the original conference and Obama's administration, in a move I happen to agree with, has decided to continue that boycott. The US is not the only nation to boycott what once became a forum for denouncing Israel, this year nine countries are refusing to attend the conference while twenty-four more countries' delegations walked out during the opening speech by Iranian president Ahmadinejad.
Why all the controversy? I can think of two reasons off-hand: one, in the case of the USA, the wording of the resolution to be adopted would conflict with the Bill of Rights, in that the resolution attempts to stifle criticisms that might be offensive to a racial or ethnic group; two, the conference, as is often the case with UN conferences, gets derailed for the political ends of member states as a soapbox for their agendas, in this case Ahmadinejad's denunciations of Israel.
I've been trying to find the text of Ahmadinejad's speech, but all I'm finding are comments in reaction to his words. Go here for the Vatican's response, here for the responses by the Office of French President Sarkozy, the UN Secretary-General, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and others. Al Jazeera ran an interesting article including Israel's reaction, as well.
What does all this mean for us? Not much, which is pretty much what any UN resolution means, especially when the organization continues to undermine its own credibility by asking a well known anti-Semite to headline a conference on racism. It's almost like asking Libya to head a committee on Human Rights abuse... but that was back in 2003.