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UN racism meeting recommits to goals but renews divides
Published in Ahram Online on 22 - 09 - 2021

The U.N. General Assembly pledged Wednesday to redouble efforts to combat racism around the world, commemorating a landmark but contentious 2001 anti-racism conference by holding an anniversary meeting once again riven with divisions.

Looking back on the two decades since the conference in Durban, South Africa, the assembly adopted a resolution that acknowledged some progress but deplored what it called a rise in discrimination, violence and intolerance directed at people of African heritage and many other groups _ from the Roma to refugees, the young to the old, people with disabilities to people who have been displaced.

Vowing ``to accelerate momentum to make the fight against racism ... a high priority for our countries,`` the measure pointed to the effects of slavery, colonialism and genocide and called for ensuring that people of African descent can seek ``adequate reparation or satisfaction'' through national institutions. It also noted ills caused by religious prejudices, specifically including anti-Muslim, antisemitic and anti-Christian bias.

But Israel, the United States and some other countries _ at least 19 nations in all, by Israel's count _ boycotted the meeting because of continued grievances about the Durban meeting 20 years ago, where the U.S. and Israel walked out because participants drafted a conference declaration that denounced Israel's treatment of Palestinians.

And Jamaica, while joining Wednesday's meeting, complained there weren't sufficient calls for slavery reparations in a new political declaration that was drafted but apparently stalled over disagreements.

Still, the event _ coinciding with the assembly's annual meeting of world leaders _ spotlighted the cause of racial equality at a time when the coronavirus pandemic has underscored inequities, and as the 2020 police killing of George Floyd in the U.S. has re-energized racial justice movements around the world.

``As we strive to correct the wrongs of the past, we must combat racism, sexism and national chauvinism of the present,`` South African President Cyril Ramaphosa told the gathering via video.

``Just as we have united to combat the COVID 19 pandemic. Let us recommit ourselves to implement`` the promises made in Durban, he added. ``Ending racism is a fight in which each of us has a stake.''


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