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UN rights chief urges states to attend anti-racism conference
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09:20, March 03, 2009

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The United Nations' top human rights official on Monday urged all states to participate in a major anti-racism conference scheduled for next month so that it could have a successful outcome.

The conference, to be held on April 20-24 in Geneva, will review the implementation of commitments governments made eight years ago in Durban, South Africa, to eradicate intolerance, racial hatred and discrimination.

"A persuasive outcome of the review conference and beyond hinges upon the genuine commitment of all States to seek consensus," said UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay.

"Narrow, parochial interests and reflexive partisanship must be cast aside in the interest of a greater common good," Pillay told the 10th regular session of the UN Human Rights Council, which began on Monday in Geneva.

The United States, along with Israel, walked out of the 2001 conference, citing concerns that the forum was being used by some to push an anti-Israel agenda.

And two days ago, the Obama administration said that it would not attend the April conference unless the draft text of the declaration to be issued was revised to its satisfaction. Israel and Canada have also said that they would boycott the new conference.

The high commissioner said she is fully aware that the legacy of the 2001 Durban meeting has been "tainted by the anti-Semitic behavior of some NGOs" at the sidelines of that conference.

"And now the review conference has also been the target of a disparaging media and lobbying campaign on the part of those who fear a repetition of anti-Semitic outbursts. This is unwarranted," she emphasized.

Pillay underscored that a failure to seek consensus and ensure a successful outcome may reverberate negatively on the full spectrum of human rights work and mechanisms for years to come.

"We need to prevent the acrimony of the past from encumbering the fight against intolerance which is -- and I am sure we all agree -- both of urgent concern and in the best interest of everyone," she said.


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