The U.S. and U.K. skipped a United Nations conference on race and reparations.
On September 22, in New York, the UN held a conference commentary on the 20th anniversary of the adoption of the Durban Declaration and Program of Action. The Durban Declaration is a framework for fighting racial intolerance and was originally conceived at the 2001 World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia, and Related Intolerance in Durban, South Africa.
Missing in action from the conference were two major world powerhouses, the U.S. and U.K. Representatives from other countries were in attendance at the day-long event.
The conference examined how several countries “once grew fantastically rich from colonialism and slavery, including the U.S., Canada, and the U.K.,” CNN reported.
Ambassadors from once-exploited regions in Africa, South America, and Asia addressed structural inequality and racism at the conference, themed “Reparations, racial justice and equality for people of African descent.”
“Racism and racial discrimination still permeate institutions, social structures, and everyday life in every society. Structural racism and systematic injustice still deny people their fundamental human rights,” UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.
Journalist Richard Sudan tweeted, “The United Nations held a special anti-racism conference…It included a focus on reparations, & racial justice for people of African heritage. The UK and US didn’t show up.”
“Wow,that’s pretty telling. I figured that they’d be the main ones who needed to be there,” tweeted Lennox Leone @LeonDeOro1976.
Brotha Hat @FFbootcamp4u tweeted, “Every other country was present except two! Let that sink in & marinate. America keeps telling the world how they feel about Black people, yet we keep expecting something different.”
The U.S. claimed it skipped the event due to its controversial origins.
The 2001 inaugural Durban event ended in a tense debate over whether to include Israel-Palestinian issues under the umbrella of discrimination. The U.S. and Israel walked out in protest of one draft of the conference’s final declaration that denounced “racial discrimination against the Palestinians” and others by Israel and equated Zionism with racism.
After the American and Israeli walkout, the wording was changed to recognize the “plight” of the Palestinians, and the document was eventually adopted, AP reported. Despite these changes, the U.S. still decided to boycott the most recent Durban conference.
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“The original Durban Conference in 2001 was intended to fight racism but in reality it did the exact opposite, encouraging hate and antisemitism,” Israel’s Ambassador to the United States and the United Nations Gilad Erdan said in a statement to CNN.
He applauded the U.S.’ decision not to participate.
“This proves that there is a growing recognition of the fact that the Durban Conference was plagued with bigotry and that the Durban Declaration does nothing to promote the fight against racism … I hope this will be the last UN event commemorating that shameful conference.”