06 March 2009
New York / Brussels
06 March 2009
Ronald S. Lauder: "Italian decision to stay out of Durban Review Conference should be a strong signal for other European governments"
The decision by the Italian government not to participate in the upcoming UN anti-racism conference in Geneva ('Durban Review Conference', or 'Durban II') over concerns that it will become a repeat of the failed 2001 conference in Durban, South Africa, has been welcomed by the World Jewish Congress (WJC). Ronald S. Lauder, the WJC's president, said: "Italy has given a strong signal, which should be a rallying call for other European Union countries. The leadership of Prime Minister Berlusconi and Foreign Minister Franco Frattini have shown on this issue is praiseworthy. All 27 European Union governments should now announce their withdrawal from this conference. That is the only way to prevent another disaster," he pointed out.
Lauder added: "We will continue to try and convince governments that a lackluster response to the looming repeat of the 2001 Durban anti-Israel forum would seriously undermine their impartiality and credibility in fighting human rights abuses in the world. The World Jewish Congress will continue to urge world leaders not to send delegations to the Durban Review Conference, because they would lend credibility to the efforts by some states to single out Israel for criticism, restrict freedom of expression and distract from the very real problems of state-sponsored racism in their own countries."
The WJC president said he expected other EU countries such as Britain, France and Germany to follow the Italian decision soon. "The EU countries have promised to give an unambiguous and united response on this issue. We hope that it will soon be forthcoming." Last week, the United States announced it would not take part in the Durban Review Conference. Canada and Israel already pulled out in 2008.
The World Jewish Congress is the international organization representing Jewish communities in 92 countries. Founded in Geneva in 1936, the WJC serves as the diplomatic arm of the Jewish people to governments and international organizations. It has a special consultative status with the United Nations Economic and Social Council. The Durban Review Conference is to be held from 20-24 April 2009 in Geneva. The UN Human Rights Council is organizing the event.
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