The UN human rights chief on Wednesday urged countries to take part in a controversial conference against racism next week, following boycott threats by Western nations.
Navi Pillay sharply criticised progress made in fighting discrimination and xenophobia since the World Conference Against Racism in 2001 in , where more than 160 countries agreed on a landmark declaration to fight racism.
She urged governments to “transcend their differences”, after a row over anti-Semitism in recent weeks prompted several Western states to threaten a boycott of the meeting in Geneva next Monday.
“Eight years on, anti-racism pledges and measures have not yet succeeded in relegating discriminatory practices and intolerance to the heap of history?s repugnant debris,” said the.
“The goals set out in the DDPA () have not been achieved,” she told a preparatory meeting for the Durban Review Conference.
The five-day review conference, which begins in Geneva on Monday, is due to take stock of progress in fighting racism and xenophobia since the gathering in South Africa eight years ago.
The United States and Israel walked out of the 2001 conference amid charges that it had become a forum for anti-Semitism, and preparations for the Geneva meeting have been marred by a similar row in recent months.
Several Western states have threatened to boycott the meeting in a dispute over the wording of a draft declaration, especially over references to Israel.
However, on Wednesday, negotiators released another revised version of the draft text, which has been amended several times in an attempt to avoid a walkout.
A Western diplomat said the talks were “very close to an agreement”.
Up to 40 countries have so far confirmed their participation just five days before the start of the event, a relatively low number, an official said.
Pillay appealed to all states to take part in the conference next week.
“Lives are at stake,” Pillay told the negotiators. “The future and hope of countless victims of racism lie in your hands.”
Holocaust a “myth” and for his anti-Israel comments, was the only prominent head of state registered for the conference so far., who has stirred outrage for repeatedly calling the
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But even as diplomats squared off over language for an acceptable text, opponents of the conference, dubbed Durban II, argued that the event was tainted and could not be rescued because of the heavy involvement of human rights abusers such as Libya and Iran.
Libya has chaired the planning committee, whose membership includes countries like Iran and Cuba.
“It is a conference on human rights that is being chaired by people who abuse these rights,” said Michael Schneider, secretary-general of the World Jewish Congress.
Among the high-ranking officials who will address the conference’s opening session on Monday – which coincidentally falls on the eve of Holocaust Memorial Day – is Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
The non-governmental group UN Watch has noted that Saudi Arabia, which also has a problematic record on human rights, has contributed $150,000 to the event, China $20,000 and Iran $40,000.
Many in the Israeli government and media refer to the U.N. Racism Conference in Durbin as the “Jew bashing Conference”….