Durban Review Conference still a sham

So Denmark participates in the Durban Review Conference set to last April 20-24th 2009. Yesterday the Foreign Ministry announced that Denmark would go along with the majority of nations in EU and apparently that means we are going. Not a very principled stance if you ask me.

Whereas EU unity on any kind of foreign policy issue would be preferable, weighing that illusion over the very real prospect of giving in to various oppressive regimes’ idea of human rights is very worrying indeed.

This sheepish notion that it is more important to stick together than the contents of the issue being discussed is unfortunately a common one. We see it not only in comments deploring the inability of EU to make up its mind but also in the voting patterns of 3rd world countries in the UN: “there is a solidarity that people will maintain, even in the face of that which is manifestly not in their interest or even manifestly wrong. The larger value, for a lot of countries, is to stick together because they feel weak and powerless. They largely are, but… they seem to feel that if they can stick together, they at least have some kind of clout vis-à-vis the United States and the other powerful countries”.

Leader of Centre for European Politics at the University of Copenhagen Marlene Wind in one sense has the right idea when she says: “EU not attending and leaving it all to more or less fundamentalist regimes is undermining the entire UN system and the credibility of UN”.

Yes… but you say it like it’s a bad thing??!?!? Her next comment reveals her misunderstanding: “This is a UN conference and if countries that think like the free western world no longer dominate those values and norms then the long prospect is very unpleasant indeed.”

What she apparently doesn’t know is that the cards in the UN Human Rights Council are already stacked in favour of countries that want to attack the West. As I wrote about here, studies by both the Canadian government and the European Council on Foreign Relations are clear in their analysis:

“The Committee is concerned that, faced with these bloc politics, there is little that human rights defenders such as Canada can currently do on the Human Rights Council. The Western Europe and other states group of members is effectively outnumbered.”

“The trend away from the Europeans is markedly worse on the new Human Rights Council (HRC) where EU positions have been defeated in over half the votes.”

In other words EU boycotting the UN is not a question of handing anything over to dictatorships and thus unfortunately undermining the UN. It is a question of undermining the UN because you accept the fact that various oppressive regimes and enemies of the West already control the UN Human Rights Council and have made it into a vehicle for attacks on the West. And yes that is very unpleasant indeed.

In a perfect world EU would agree on how to oppose limitations on our hard-won freedoms and present a united front till the very end. Unfortunately that is far from realistic. Germany’s withdrawal yesterday is in clear acknowledgement that amendments to the final documents at UN conferences may occur up to the very last moment leaving no time for EU to discuss that and achieve a common stance (as if that ever happens anyway). Looking at the people involved and the draft declaration as it was presented one day before the conference Germany therefore wisely opted not to grace this mockery of a human rights conference with her presence.

Among other nations the US has also wisely backed out of Durban II. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay has this comment: “Some media have interpreted the US withdrawal as based on the continued retention of language on defamation of religion and anti-semitism in the outcome document, when in fact no such language exists in the text adopted last week,” Pillay noted. “In addition, the draft outcome document clearly states that ‘the Holocaust must never be forgotten’ and deplores all forms of racism including Islamophobia and anti-Semitism.”

This is exactly the problem: the draft outcome document clearly (…) ‘deplores all forms of racism including Islamophobia.

First of all I object to the word Islamophobia. As if it is a disease to disagree with stoning as a reasonable reaction to homosexuality. It is not. Secondly disagreeing with Islam is not racism. Islam is an ideology, a set of ideas – not a race.

This part of the document is fully sufficient to warrant a boycott of Durban II. If criticizing a set of ideas amounts to racism then we might as well dismantle democracy altogether right away. Or we might acknowledge that people disagree with each other and learn to live with it.

Apart from India, bringing western ideas of right and wrong to the colonies did not create a whole lot of good things. Rather, the project ended in a large number of wars and hatred towards the West. For the OIC to try and bring their ideas of right and wrong into the West now is bound to not create a whole lot of good things either.