U.S. wants change in Durban anti-racism document

The U.S. has announced that it will not participate in further preparations for a follow-up conference against racism — UNLESS there are changes in the document being prepared for the conference.

You can bet that there will now be more feverish activity around the world to try to change the document in a way that the U.S. will like. If that happens, it might even be possible that Israel would eventually participate …

There has, apparently, already been a lot of effort into negotiations, and the U.S. has apparently not achieved what it wanted so far.

But, by throwing down the gauntlet in the announcement made by the U.S. State Department on Friday, the U.S. has put maximum pressure now into changing the situation.

That’s clearly indicated in the wording.

A State Department spokesman said that “The document being negotiated has gone from bad to worse, and the current text of the draft outcome document is not salvageable. As a result, the United States will not engage in further negotiations on this text, nor will we participate in a conference based on this text. A conference based on this text would be a missed opportunity to speak clearly about the persistent problem of racism. The United States remains open to a positive result in Geneva based on a document that takes a constructive approach to tackling the challenges of racism and discrimination”.

Then, the announcement describes in detail the actual changes it would like to see:
“The U.S. believes any viable text for the Review Conference must be shortened and not reaffirm in toto the flawed 2001 Durban Declaration and Program of Action (DDPA). It must not single out any one country or conflict, nor embrace the troubling concept of ‘defamation of religion’. The U.S. also believes an acceptable document should not go further than the DDPA on the issue of reparations for slavery”.

Ah, so it’s not only about Israel … The reparations-for-slavery issue was a big, big problem in the first Anti-racism conference in Durban, South Africa, a few years ago.

The U.S. statement then goes on to reinforce the message that they MIGHT participate if it sees the changes it wants to see: “We will observe developments in Geneva and in capitals to see if such an outcome emerges. We would be prepared to re-engage if a document that meets these criteria becomes the basis for deliberations”.

The statement they goes on to say that the U.S. will not withdraw from participating in the UN Human Rights Council — to which it was NOT elected, to its shock (and due to a maneuver by European countries, too!) a few years ago: “On the UN Human Rights Council, we share the concerns of many that the Council’s trajectory is disturbing, that it needs fundamental change to do more to promote and protect the human rights of people around the world, and that it should end its repeated and unbalanced criticisms of Israel. We believe, however, it furthers our interests and will do more both to achieve these ends and advance human rights if we are part of the conversation and present at the Council’s proceedings. Accordingly, we will participate in this month’s Human Rights Council session as an observer and will use the opportunity to strengthen old partnerships and forge new ones. These times demand seriousness and candor, and we pledge to closely work with our partners in the international community to avoid politicization and to achieve our shared goals”.

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