Thursday, January 24, 2008

Canada expected to back out of UN racism conference

From Canwest News Service, by Steven Edwards, Tuesday, January 22, 2008:

Critics fear Durban conference would be anti-west, anti-Israel

UNITED NATIONS -- Canada is poised to become the first country to significantly distance itself from a major anti-racism conference the United Nations is planning for next year.

Maxime Bernier, the Foreign Minister, is expected to announce as early as Wednesday Canada is dropping out of planning for the Durban II Conference, which the UN is billing as a global follow-up to its 2001 World Conference Against Racism in Durban, South Africa. Insiders say the government feels the new conference is shaping up to be like the anti-West and anti-Israel free-for-all that critics said the initial gathering quickly turned into.

...."At the moment, much of the planning for the conference suggests it will focus little on denouncing racism wherever it occurs, and a lot on advancing some countries' agendas against Israel and the West," said one insider familiar with the new policy. "The government feels that taking a stand against the gathering will do more in the long run for combatting racism than joining in."

Arab- and Muslim-led verbal attacks on Israel at the 2001 conference were so dominant the United States and Israel walked out in protest. Canada, then under a Liberal administration, stayed, but its senior delegate told the assembly it did so "only ... to ... decry the attempts ... to de-legitimize the State of Israel and to dishonour the history and suffering of the Jewish people."...

....The UN gave planning oversight to its Human Rights Council, which since its launch less than two years ago has targeted Israel in 14 of its 15 resolutions charging human rights violations.
States sitting on the Council then placed Iran, which has called for Israel's destruction, on an executive planning committee. Libya is the chair....

...."Make no mistake, Durban II is on track to be even worse than Durban I," said Anne Bayefsky, a Canadian academic who edits the New York-based monitoring Web site "Canada, if it drops out, would be exhibiting moral clarity and courage after making the mistake at Durban I of staying despite serious reservations."

Canada was among 41 countries that last month opposed allocating US$6.8-million in UN funding to help pay for preparatory meetings for Durban II. The measure carried in the 192-member General Assembly. "No one can stop Durban II because countries that are classified as less than democratic hold a majority in the General Assembly, and they are for it," said Ms. Bayefsky. "But Canada's move would not only be consistent with its opposition at the General Assembly, but also encourage other democratic countries to follow suit, and send a strong signal de-legitimizing the final gathering."

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