Rhein on Energy and Climate

April 20, 2009 should be remembered as a black day in UN history. At the opening day of the “Fourth World Conference against Racism” some 40 delegations left the meeting, protesting against outrageous statements by the Iranian President Ahmadi Nejad against Israel.

The UN and the international community could have avoided the public relations damage caused by this walkout by not organising for the fourth time an international conference on a subject that has fortunately lost its relevance for humanity.

It was normal for the UN to focus on racial discrimination in South Africa in the 1970-80`s and to devote two conferences to this issue. The third conference on racism, held in Durban in 2001, when South Africa had finally overcome its apartheid regime, was already superfluous. The Arab countries transformed it into a conference on Israeli occupation of Palestinian land and “Zionism”, leading to a “clash” between the West and Arab States.

It was therefore next to certain that in 2009 the Iranian President would assume the role of the Arab States and hijack the conference for launching another of his famous tirades against Israel, the Jews and the West.

Humanity has more important concerns to deal with than “racism” that has largely ceased to exist as government backed discrimination or repression. After this debacle the UN should therefore end the series of international conferences held on the subject during the past three decades.

In any event, the EU, USA, Japan and other key contributors to the UN should announce that they will not endorse a fifth Word Conference against Racism.

The UN debacle has also badly hurt the EU image as a coherent foreign policy actor. It has been unable to agree on a common stand: the majority of members states attended, a minority of four countries (Germany, Italy, Netherlands and Poland) refused to do so. This is extremely regrettable and should have been avoided. The EU should have decided by majority vote on what was more a procedural than a substantive issue. It is shocking to see the Czech Presidency having lacked the authority to impose a common EU stand.

Brussels, 21.04.09 Eberhard Rhein

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