- 2012elections - 9/11 Special Coverage - aca - africanamericanalzheimers - aids - Alabama News Network - american - Awards & Expo - bees - bilingual - border - californiaeducation - Caribbean - cir - citizenship - climatechange - collgeinmiami - community - democrats - ecotourism - Elders - Election 2012 - elections2012 - escuelas - Ethnic Media in the News - Ethnicities - Events - Eye on Egypt - Fellowships - food - Foreclosures - Growing Up Poor in the Bay Area - Health Care Reform - healthyhungerfreekids - howtodie - humiliating - immigrants - Inside the Shadow Economy - kimjongun - Latin America - Law & Justice - Living - Media - memphismediaroundtable - Multimedia - NAM en Espaol - Politics & Governance - Religion - Richmond Pulse - Science & Technology - Sports - The Movement to Expand Health Care Access - Video - Voter Suppression - War & Conflict - 攔截盤查政策 - Top Stories - Immigration - Health - Economy - Education - Environment - Ethnic Media Headlines - International Affairs - NAM en Español - Occupy Protests - Youth Culture - Collaborative Reporting

World Conference Against Racism: History is Important

The Washington Informer, Commentary , Nicole Lee Posted: Apr 20, 2009

History is important. To understand the present we must understand our past.

A number of U.N. Resolutions, conventions and declarations show how the world has struggled with issues of racism and discrimination over the years. We have seen the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and the adoption of the First Decade to Combat Racism and Racial Discrimination in 1973, but neither seemed to address the underlying causes of discrimination.

As we approach the Durban Review Conference which will take place in Geneva, Switzerland on April 20-24, the discussion seems to focus only in terms of the 2001 World Conference against Racism. .

What we fail to properly articulate is that both conferences evolved from historical movements that have worked to combat global racial discrimination and ethnic violence against the most marginalized people around the world.

During the 1978 and 1983 World Conferences to Combat Racism and Racial Discrimination, in Geneva, we saw how unjust discrimination began to take the center stage on the international arena as the world addressed apartheid South Africa. Even though powerful countries such as the United States and the United Kingdom were sympathetic to the apartheid regime at the time, the international forum served as an important catalyst to galvanize the world opinion to support the people South Africa in their struggle against racial segregation.

For me personally, the most vivid memories of that complex and difficult conference were of the ordinary people, many of whom had never traveled before, who had come from all corners of the globe to tell their own stories, observed former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson on the 2001 Durban conference.

That conference expanded on the previous gatherings, amplified its mission in the official title: World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance.

Afro-descendant and indigenous organizations in Latin America consistently point to the conference and its outcome document as an important catalyst to increase the visibility of and support for their civil rights movements.

Durban ignited the acknowledgement in Latin America of the racial disparities existing in many countries. In Brazil, affirmative action programs saw movement which did not exist before.

The forum was important to African- Americans as it brought the issue slavery reparations onto the international stage. Mary Robinson notes that Amongst the most striking aspects of the consensus which emerged out of Durban was the identification of a number of specific victim groups, and agreement on measures for redressing the injustices they continue to face.

Fast forward to 2009, where we see the U.S. inaugurate its first Black President, Barack H. Obama. A powerful message is sent worldwide. As a Presidential candidate, Obama pledged that the U.S. would be more engaged with the international community if he was elected.

Sadly, as the Durban Review Conference prepares to begin, the Obama administration has chosen not to be engaged in the process that has been years in the making. Language that the Obama administration called severely flawed was removed from the draft outcome document, and yet still they will not participate in this vital conference.

The Administrations actions are reminiscent of past U.S. administrations non-engagement with the international community. The Reagan Administration pulled out of UNESCO, and Secretary of State Colin Powell walked out in Durban in 2001. Our actions in the past have emboldened nations who do not want deal with the legacy of discrimination in their own countries to also pull out of the Durban Review Conference, and our absence in this vital discussion sends a clear signal to countries that taking action to combat the legacy of racism is not important.

The world is watching and it does not like what it sees. History is important, and the U.S. will help write the next chapter in this historical battle against global racism and discrimination. I can only wonder, what will that chapter say?

Related Articles:

Black Power: 1968 and Beyond

NAACP Accuses Banks Of Racism

'No More Sagging' Pants Campaign Hopes Obama Style Will Catch On

Page 1 of 1




Just Posted

NAM Coverage

Civil Liberties

Why There Are Words

Aug 10, 2011