[JURIST] The UN Durban Review Conference on racism [official website] began on Monday with the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon [official profile; JURIST news archive] expressing concerns [press release] over the decision by the US and several other countries to boycott the summit. The US, along with Australia, Canada, Germany, Israel, Italy, Netherlands, and New Zealand, decided to boycott to conference due the draft declaration's position on Israel and the Middle East. Additionally, the selection of Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad [official profile; JURIST news archive] as a speaker at the conference has led to protests [NYT report] from the Israeli government. Ban defended the draft declaration, saying:
The document before us is carefully balanced. It addresses key issues. It sets the stage for concrete action in a global campaign for justice for victims of racism worldwide. I deeply regret that some have chosen to stand aside. I hope they will not do so for long.The conference is first of its kind since 2001. Many critics viewed the 2001 conference has being anti-Israel, which undoubtedly led to the heightened concerns leading up to this year's conference.
Like Theodore Roosevelt, among others, my allegiance and sympathies have always been with the men and women in the arena, struggling with courage and determination to win the day. It may be easier to criticize those efforts from afar, but it does not advance the universal cause. We need you.
Last month, the US initially threatened [JURIST report] to boycott [Washington Post report] the conference due to the document draft's bias against Israel. The US has refused to continue negotiations [press release] on the document that the Department of State believes "must not single out any one country or conflict, nor embrace the troubling concept of 'defamation of religion' [and] ... should not go further than the DDPA on the issue of reparations for slavery." In preparation of the conference, the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) [official website] passed a resolution [JURIST report] last month calling for laws against defamation of religion.