Bahai News - Top U.N. Rights Official Seeks U.S. Support for Conference on Racism
Top U.N. Rights Official Seeks U.S. Support for Conference
Robinson is hoping that such problems as xenophobia, ethnic strife in
Africa, trafficking in women and children, the marginalization of minorities,
issues of migration within Europe and anti-Semitic acts there, as well as
racial profiling in the United States, will be addressed at the conference.
The goal of the meeting, called World Conference Against Racism, Racial
Discrimination and Related Intolerance, is to produce legislation that
participating countries can enact.
The conference and the preparatory meetings in Africa, Latin America and the
Middle East will cost $14 million. Robinson has said that $9 million has
already been committed or paid from a total of $11 million she hopes to raise;
an additional $3 million will come from her U.N. agency's coffers.
The Clinton administration pledged $250,000, and Robinson told a small
group of journalists over breakfast yesterday that she hoped to increase
Washington's share of the funding needed to hold the meetings. She noted
that contributions from the European Union and individual European
countries were "significantly more."
Similar conferences were held in 1978 and 1983, with apartheid in South
Africa the dominant issue. Robinson, a former president of Ireland,
stressed that the Durban meeting would have a broader reach, including
"a whole agenda of practical measures," such as the protection of
victims of racism and other forms of intolerance at the national level.
She dubbed the conference a "Magna Carta for victims."
Youth groups as well as nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) will
participate, since the aim will be "a lot of looking forward" in
preparing the younger generation for diversity. She said it was time to
reinforce the international framework for the protection of refugees and
asylum seekers. A growing tendency to embrace a "fortress Europe"
attitude in the face of increased migration is cause for concern, she
said recently. In comments at the United Nations on Tuesday, Robinson
rebuked British Home Secretary Jack Straw for proposing new
measures to exclude immigrants, according to news service reports.
The Durban summit "won't wave a wand and magically solve racial
problems, but it will deepen our awareness for the need to solve them,"
Robinson said. "It is not going to be an easy conference but a
significant one, and NGOs will bring up issues not raised by the
There have been regional meetings in Latin America, Europe and Africa,
and Asian countries have chosen to have their preparatory meeting in
Tehran. The venue should prove interesting, given Iran's record of
discrimination against the Bahai community and its treatment of Iranian
Jews, not to mention Iranian intellectuals and thinkers. Israelis are
entitled to go as observers, but will they?
Request for New 'No-Fly'
A pastor in the diocese of Lui in southern Sudan, which was bombed by
the Sudanese air force in December, has appealed to President
Bush to declare the region a "no-fly" zone for military aircraft,
according to a Frontline Fellowship mission team that just returned from
Drawing from the example of air exclusion zones in Iraq designed to
protect Kurds and Shiite Muslims from the central government in Baghdad,
Pastor Jeffrey -- whose full name was not available -- requested
urgent action to protect Sudanese Christians from bombing campaigns
directed at civilian centers in southern Sudan.
Following air raids on Christmas day and into January, clerical leaders
there and abroad have raised their voices in protest. The destruction of
the Episcopal Fraser Cathedral in Lui on Dec. 29, confirmed by two
independent monitoring groups in Sudan and Nairobi, drew criticism not
only from Bishop Bullen Dolli of the diocese of Lui, but also
from the archbishop of Canterbury, George Carey.
Castro Angered by 'Uproar'
In a six-hour meeting last Saturday, Cuban President Fidel Castro
emphasized to Czech Senate Chairman Petr Pithart how "irritated
he was with the international uproar and media campaign" that erupted
following the arrest of two prominent Czechs, legislator Ivan
Pilip and human rights activist Jan Bubenik, Czech Ambassador
to the United States Alexandr Vondra said yesterday.
The two were arrested last month by Cuban authorities and held for more
than three weeks for contacting Cuban dissidents, which is illegal in
Cuba. The pair acknowledged meeting with dissidents but said they were
not aware they were acting illegally. They were released Monday into the
custody of a human rights representative of the Inter-Parliamentary
Union. Does international pressure really work or is Castro concerned
about his image in the world press these days?
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