Geneva: (Agencies: 19/4/2009: UN human rights chief Navi Pillay expressed shock and disappointment yesterday at the US decision to stay away from a major conference on racism opening here today.
The United States and five other countries are boycotting the event out of concern that some countries will demand that it denounce Israel.
In a statement, the UN high commissioner for human rights said most of the reasons given by the countries staying away from the Durban Review Conference could easily have been overcome.“I am shocked and deeply disappointed by the United States’ decision not to attend a conference that aims to combat racism, xenophobia, racial discrimination and other forms of intolerance worldwide,” she said.
“A handful of states have permitted one or two issues to dominate their approach to this issue, allowing them to outweigh the concerns of numerous groups of people that suffer racism and similar forms of intolerance to a pernicious and life-damaging degree on a daily basis all across the world,” she added.
“These are truly global issues, and it is essential that they are discussed at a global level however sensitive and difficult they may be.”
The US announced Saturday that it would boycott the weeklong meeting. The Netherlands declared its boycott yesterday, while Australia, Canada, Israel and Italy already have said they would not attend.
“I would love to be involved in a useful conference that addressed continuing issues of racism and discrimination around the globe,” US President Barack Obama said in Trinidad. But he said the language of the UN’s draft declaration “raised a whole set of objectionable provisions” and risked repeating Durban, “which became a session through which folks expressed antagonism toward Israel.”