Racism – The Durban II, Geneva Conference

April 26, 2009

By Padmini Arhant

The past week – April 20 -24, 2009, Geneva, Switzerland hosted ‘The Durban II conference’ on racism. The preceding event in 2001 held in Durban, South Africa marred by racial overtones and negative attacks against the state of Israel evidently led the United States and Western allies to boycott the recent U.N meeting.

It was a United Nations gathering to address the persisting contemporary discriminatory practices often transforming into persecution, oppression and even genocide in some parts of the world. According to the White House and media reports, the reason behind United States and allies’ absence at the symposium was the blue print content notably against Israel by the Islamic Republic of Iran. However, the United Nations’ assurance to eliminate any anti-Israeli inflammatory remarks from the Iranian President’s speech failed in convincing the United States, Israel and others to attend the world forum.

Meanwhile, predictably the Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinijad’s rhetorical speech caused spectacle prompting other European diplomats to briefly abandon the summit. To the United Nations’ credit, the subsequent address by the Iranian President modified to reflect reality on the tragic holocaust previously denied by the political figure.

Whenever a consortium organized to deal with sensitive humanitarian issue of great magnitude, the stage is set for fireworks and doesn’t require more than a spark to ignite the flame into blazing fire. All those refuting the one nation’s contentious repetitive conduct, regrettably ignored the wide spectrum of humanitarian crises around the world. The objection against a particular nation’s demeanor effectively dismissed the urgency for unanimous solutions to global problems affecting humanity.
Further, such action conspicuously displayed hierarchy prevalent in the humanitarian priorities.

Every continent has nations with dark legacy and embarrassing episodes of human rights violation. In the new millennium, the global community challenged to empathize with those currently enduring incessant suffering due to lack of freedom, inequality, injustice including intolerance.

The Geneva conference was a great platform for the nations that boycotted the meeting exclusively the United States and Israel to express serious commitment in resolving the age-old Middle East conflict between Israel and Palestine. Any glimpse of hope in the two states solutions approved by vast majority of population on both sides with a free Palestine comprising West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem alongside the democratic Israel unequivocally accepted as a sovereign state in the entire region would have instantaneously gained credibility in the large presence of the United Nations.

Needlessly, as holocaust victims Israel was better qualified to condemn any crime against humanity and set an example by leading the world in the establishment of peace and democracy with its neighbor Palestine. Israel had a unique opportunity in Geneva to demonstrate solemn pledge and action to aid those, relevantly the Palestinians deserving similar liberty granted to Israel predominantly with the support and solidarity among the nations around the world. Israel’s unprecedented humanitarian gesture would have made it incumbent on the Arab nations at the conference to forge alliance in promoting regional unity and peace.

If the world would not have heeded to the humanitarian call for an Independent Israel, it could have resulted in the devastating annihilation of a specific human race. Likewise, South Africa proudly declaring results from a democratic election today would have succumbed to oppressive apartheid without the international community’s involvement in the freedom of that nation.

There is immense misery and extreme hardships in various parts of the world. People in these regions generally exposed to despair, depression and death at infancy consider themselves fortunate if they live beyond the short life expectancy because of poverty, disease, war and deprivation of basic human rights.

Geneva conference reached a broad based consensus against racial and gender discrimination, anti-Semitism, Islamophobia other than human rights abuses across the globe. An international assembly by governments from most parts of the world had the moment and venue to review pertinent matter concerning different nations and people. Unfortunately, the U.N committee presumably under intense pressure from nations prioritizing political agenda in their allegiance to a single ally, did not layout the importance of relieving humanity from the perpetual violence through war, invasion and occupation reminiscent of the twentieth century’s imperialism and colonialism .

Is there deficiency in related topics involving the remaining population on the planet seeking entitlement to the international representation, rescue and relief from burgeoning crimes against innocent civilians?

Only if rationality and utilitarianism prevailed over popular political dogma of individualism, the desirable goals for fairness and justice are attainable in human affairs.

Is the struggle for peace and independence by the population in Palestine, Burma, Tibet, and North Korea any less significant than the international feud between Israel and Iran?

What about the status quo of civil wars contributing to genocides in Rwanda, Darfur, Congo and other parts of Africa?

Should the world ignore the escalating ethnic cleansing in Sri Lanka as an internal matter rather than an international moral issue?

Where was the denunciation of the pervasive Taliban abuse of women in Afghanistan now dangerously spreading to the Northwestern regions of Pakistan?

Why did the summit not extensively focus on the various abuses in Latin, Central and South America and China, notwithstanding the denial of equal status to women in the Middle East and other Islamic nations?

On the generic concept of racism, xenophobia – typically the fear of the unknown, homophobia – the overt hate crimes against gay and trans-gender community and other horrific incidents in human trafficking, child pornography and numerous offenses were excluded during the five-day long international meeting.

Apparently, the interpretation of ‘tolerance’ in the crimes against humanity is subject to the relationship among existing and emerging economic and political powers in the global society.

The protocol on protests, boycott and co-operation alike varies depending on the nations along with political and economic repercussions arising from such action.

For example, the Iranian President’s controversial stance against Israel held responsible for the Western nations’ boycott of the latest Geneva conference on racism while implying the other attendees’ motive questionable.

Nevertheless, the human rights activists’ plea to boycott the 2008 Beijing Olympics to draw attention towards the plight of the Tibetan population persecuted by the hour and suppression of the democracy movement in the People’s Republic of China rejected by the participating nations prominently those who recently boycotted the Geneva conference.

It is widespread knowledge that the emerging economic power China being the treasury and
Exchequer for the world economy, a nuclear nation possessing veto power routinely exercised against common benefit in the U.N. Security Council decisions, privileged with supreme diplomatic immunity in all things inhumane.

In the recent G-20 summit, call for globalization over protectionism dominated the theme for global economic revival. Synonymously, in the environmental matter and international security collective effort embraced as a successful strategy. Henceforth, collaborative action regarded imminent to resolve international crises.

Ironically, abstaining from leadership at the summit to formulate policies in the restoration of human rights, freedom and civil liberties, the fundamental requirements for peace, progress and prosperity, creates a vacuum rather than serving the real purpose.

History is testimony to the rise and fall of civilizations that fair well when guided by wisdom, compassion and courage for universal good.

Thank you.

Padmini Arhant