Wednesday, 22 April 2009

The strange case of the UN racism summit...

You may or may not be aware that a UN Summit on racism is currently in session.

Australia - and a number of other countries including the US - is boycotting it, largely on the basis of lobbying from Israel as far as can be gathered, on the basis that it is primarily about giving a platform to anti-semitic rants by the President of Iran. And there have indeed been anti-Israeli rants at the Conference.

According to the Catholic News Service, President "Ahmadinejad told conference participants in Geneva April 20 that Israel had "resorted to military aggression to make an entire nation homeless under the pretext of Jewish suffering" and had established a "totally racist government in the occupied Palestine." His comments prompted a temporary walkout by dozens of diplomats in attendance."

The Pope, on the other hand, has been promoting participation in the conference, arguing for the need to tackle racism and discrimination head-on.

The Vatican issued a statement condemning President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's remarks: “Statements like those of the Iranian president do not go in the right direction, because even if he did not deny the Holocaust or the right of Israel to exist, he expressed extremist and unacceptable positions,” said Father Lombardi.

CNS reports that the following day, the Vatican spokesman issued a broader statement, saying that "the Holy See deplores the use of this United Nations forum for the adoption of political positions of an extremist and offensive nature against any state."

"This does not contribute to dialogue and it provokes an unacceptable atmosphere of conflict," it said. Father Lombardi said the conference was an important opportunity to take new steps toward "effectively combating the racism and intolerance that still today affect children, women, those of African descent, migrants and indigenous peoples ... in every part of the world."

So just what are the proper limits of dialogue? And does the UN really perform a useful function these days?


Son of Trypho said...

Terra - you need to provide some context to readers if they don't know what this is about.

This goes back to Durban I (2001 IIRC) the original UN conference against racism. The conference had portions run by UN member states and NGOs. The NGO's portion descended into farce with the distribution and advocacy by both national groups and NGO's of racist and hate literature/speech, particularly anti-semitic material. Irrespective of Israeli lobbying, many nations (and the UN itself) was deeply embarrassed by the situation.

Many nations who have boycotted or downgraded their participation have recognised that (aside from the hypocrisy of having human rights paragons like Libya and Iran actually chairing the event) the forum will be used to advocate a disproportionate amount of time to criticism Israel rather than address the primary concern of racism in the world.

In terms of dialogue - I just don't think it is worth the effort here - again, IMHO the UN needs to simply outline that member states comply with its own charter of rights. If they don't want to, or start to fail to do so, they should be turfed out, regarded as a rogue nation and boycotted by member states that do. If they then proceed to indulge in human rights abuses etc they should be dealt with by UN military forces and administered by the UN using member states military forces until they are mature enough to function in line with those fundamental values/rights.

Terra said...

And yet the Pope is supporting it...

Son of Trypho said...

Thankfully we can acknowledge that the Pope's views on political issues are not infallible.

I would say that he is displaying a naieve sense of hope that something positive will turn out of this or that the issues can be addressed by attendence.

I guess he hasn't learnt from the pounding he has recieved in the last few years that discourse on these types of issues are toxic and futile.

Terra said...

Oe perhaps he thought the posturing over Israel was essentially a sideshow, and that there are real issues that do need to be discusssed.

Progress doesn't get made when only the good guys get around the table - but when you actually bring the problems in to be exposed to others perspectives.

Notwithstanidng the flak he has copped, I think the Pope has generally called it pretty right on these issues up until now - his comments on Islam in particular prompted the first serious engagement on the topic in recent years.

These issues are certainly toxic - but talking about them isn't necessarily futile.

Nor can Israel expect to muzzle all debate about its policies toward its neighbours.

Son of Trypho said...


Sitting around the table with the bad guys merely legitimises them unless they are willing to actually abide by the decisions of the group - in just about every instance they are involved not in good faith but out of self-interest - hence the total discreditment of the CHR through this type of approach.

As it is the new HRC has managed to express some concern (or some similar nonsense language) about Darfur (without actually naming Sudan as the offender) but managed in the same period (3 years?) to condemn Israel outright something like 12+ times.

I'm not calling for the muzzling of criticism of Israel (I am vocal myself about it) but I am calling for a realistic assessment of this type of forum and situation in light of the past before participation is done.

As to engagement with Islam - perhaps you can point out the concessions made to Catholics by Islamic leaders/states since 2006?