The last time the United Nations had a big conference on fighting “racism,” the star speaker and sole head of state to attend was Iran’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. That was in April, 2009, in Geneva, at the “Durban Review Conference” prepared by a UN committee chaired by an envoy of Qaddafi’s Libya, with help from such quarters as Iran, Pakistan and Cuba. It was all part of what the UN calls the “Durban Process” — named for the original, 2001 conference that launched this Orwellian routine. That conference was held in Durban, South Africa, and, as a fitting precursor to Ahmadinejad’s elocutions, it was devoted chiefly to beating up the world’s only Jewish state, Israel.
Now comes the UN’s next step, which some have dubbed Durban III. Rather than apologize for its “Durban Process” iniquities, the UN General Assembly wishes to commemorate them.
As one of the main events of this year’s annual opening of the UN General Assembly in New York, the General Assembly will host a day-long “high-level” conference, Sept. 22, with which it proposes to mark the 10th anniversary of the original Durban conclave. The organizers and proponents of these festivities, including the current General Assembly president, Switzerland’s Joseph Deiss (who this past March offered the General Assembly hall as a venue for the U.S. premiere of an Israel-trashing movie), are hoping the timing will attract some of the many heads of state who will be in New York for the General Assembly “debate” (they deliver monologues, but at the UN is it called a debate) that kicks off a day earlier, on Sept. 21.
Nine countries so far have explicitly decided not to attend Durban III: Canada, Germany, Italy, the Czech Republic, Austria, Australia, the Netherlands, Israel and the U.S.
Who might attend? There’s an educated guess to be gleaned from checking the roster of 104 countries whose governments voted last December in favor of this Durban “follow-up” commemoration. You have to scroll down in the UN tome to Annex I for the full list — but here are some highlights: Afghanistan, Algeria, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Belarus, Bolivia, Cameroon, China, North Korea, Egypt, Eritrea, Iran, Laos, Lebanon, Burma, Nicaragua, Nigeria, Niger, Pakistan, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Sudan, Syria, Turkey, Venezuela, Vietnam, Zimbabwe, and Qaddafi’s Libya (it will be interesting to see whether post-Qaddafi Tripoli has the decency to steer clear).
The number of countries that voted against Durban III is relatively small, just 22. But that group of nay-sayers has the distinction that unlike the above yea-sayers to Durban III, there is not a dictatorship in the lot.
For Iran’s Ahmadinejad, it has the makings of another thrilling visit to New York — his seventh trip to speak at a General Assembly opening since he first took the UN stage in 2005. He is scheduled to address the General Assembly on Sept. 22, the same day as Durban III. So much to do. He can run back and forth between the General Assembly podium and Durban III, availing himself of the UN’s Manhattan facilities, for which U.S. taxpayers are bearing the brunt of a $2 billion renovation.
Maybe that’s as much as anyone can stomach in one sitting of Durban III’s coming attractions. But if you’re in the mood for a video sample, here’s an item from the UN’s 2009 Durban Review Conference in Geneva. I’m not going to bother with Ahmadinejad’s speech — you’ll be hearing from him again soon enough, and if you want to scroll through the webcast menu, you can find it here. But sometimes the finer points also speak volumes. This is the Iranian delegation, protesting that an NGO has had the audacity to speak ill of Ahmadinejad and the regime he represents, and demanding as a point of order than any such criticism be silenced — to which the president of the conference agrees.