Geneva: (Agencies: 2/3/2009): All countries should attend the upcoming United Nations-sponsored conference against racism, the international body’s top rights expert said recently. Navi Pillay, the High Commissioner for Human Rights, said victims of racism would reap the greatest benefits from the conference which should not get bogged down by "diversions," a reference to parochial issues that some states had been pursuing.
So far, she noted, five heads of state and numerous ministers had agreed to attend, including the South African foreign minister. The official announcement of who exactly would attend was to be made closer to the date of the conference.
The racism review set to take place for four days starting on April 20 would be a follow-up to a 2001 conference which took place in Durban, South Africa.
While some parts of the original conference were tainted with controversy, 189 states signed the final declaration, with the notable exception of the United States and Israel, who left early.
Lately, some critics of the conference have slammed the Durban Declaration, known as the DDPA.
"I am surprised how few people have read the DDPA," said Pillay talking to reporters. "Over eight years this review conference has been stigmatized.
" She felt that if more people read the 2001 declaration they would drop their objections.
An original text circulated for the upcoming review included specific mentions of Israeli policy in the Palestinian territories and blasted the defamation of religion. However, both these issues were removed in a slimmed down text presented last month.
The drafting committee was set to meet again this week for a last time before the conference, to hammer out the details of the document.
Israel has said it will not attend, while the US has yet to announce a decision.
The Durban Review Conference meeting later this month is to assess and accelerate progress on the implementation of measures adopted at the 2001 World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance, which was held in Durban, South Africa.
The High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, serves as the Secretary-General of the Review Conference, and a Preparatory Committee (PrepCom) whose work is open to all UN Member States, is charged with overseeing substantive negotiations on the text that will become the outcome document of the Review Conference.
The Preparatory Committee will hold its final substantive session in Geneva from 15 to 17 April 2009, shortly before the Review Conference itself, to approve what is planned to be the draft outcome document.