SP: "Foreign Minister Must Attend UN Anti-Racism Summit"

6 March 2009

SP: "Foreign Minister Must Attend UN Anti-Racism Summit"

According to SP Member of Parliament and foreign affairs spokesman Harry van Bommel, Foreign Minister Maxime Verhagen should not be threatening to boycott the coming UN anti-racism summit. Verhagen did just that in Geneva this week, saying that he would shun the event if the closing declaration was not drastically amended. In the minister's view, the aim of the proposed declaration appears to be 'to brand Israel, and condemn the West for slavery and the colonial past." Yet the SP notes that the text proposed by a UN working party is based for the most part on wording close to that of previous UN declarations.

Harry van Bommel In Van Bommel's opinion the minister's threat not to attend is simply mistaken. "You can't influence a discussion by staying away," he says. "By doing so you hand the game to other countries, because they don't meet any resistance. Staying away is a sign of weakness, not of strength.”

Van Bommel has today put a number of written questions on the affair to the minister, asking him to outline the amendments which he would want to see to the existing text before the Netherlands could guarantee participation.

The declaration currently circulating includes statements to the effect that indigenous peoples have for centuries been the victims of racism, discrimination and xenophobia. At the same time, the right of individuals and of peoples to protest against evils such as colonialism, slavery and ethnic cleansing is established. The declaration recalls previous UN declarations in stating the inalienable right to self-determination of the Palestinian people and that they are oppressed under the Israeli occupation through collective punishment, torture, economic blockade and the arbitrary sealing off of their territories. It states also that the building of illegal settlements in the Palestinian territory is continuing. "There's nothing new here," says Van Bommel. "The UN has expressed these views in countless resolutions and the problem is that these have not been respected. Not participating in the anti-racism summit gives the impression that the Netherlands wants to distance itself from these earlier resolutions. This should not be the case for a country whose own Constitution commits us to promoting the international rule of law."

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