U.N. conference reaches agreement on anti-racism resolution

Delegates from more than 100 United Nations (U.N.) member nations met in Geneva, Switzerland, this week to discuss strategies for eradicating racism. The Durban Review Conference (Durban II) is a follow-up to the World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance, which was held in 2001 in Durban, South Africa.

After months of contentious negotiations, the conference's organizing committee reached an agreement Tuesday on a final resolution outlining how U.N. member states can eradicate racism. The resolution, which represents a broad consensus on how to tackle racism and related forms of intolerance around the world, will be formally adopted by the full conference on Friday.

Recommendations in the resolution include:

* aggressively investigating hate crimes; * affirming the right to organize for native-born and migrant workers alike; * encouraging governments to embrace equal opportunity programs; * calling for the ratification of other U.N. social justice treaties; and * establishing independent national human rights bodies that would launch investigations, make policy proposals, and monitor compliance with human rights treaties and domestic law.

In the weeks leading up to this year's conference, U.N. officials and experts worried that it would be impossible for the conference participants to come to consensus because of sharp disagreements among countries concerning the right to free expression, singling out certain conflicts in the world, and the refusal of some countries to attend the conference.

The U.S. boycotted this year's conference, as it did in 2001, citing objections to provisions prohibiting hate speech and references to Mid-East policies. Eight other countries, mainly from Europe, also withdrew from Durban II.

But U.N. officials were still encouraged by the level of participation of the countries that did attend the conference. 'What we have decided shows the outcome when you remain engaged in the process. It shows that boycotts do not assist,' said Amos Wako, president of the conference.

But not everyone felt that way. Representatives of many countries and human rights advocates were deeply disappointed with how the final resolution failed to recommend compensation regarding the lasting effects of transatlantic slave trade, although that topic was addressed in the 2001 conference.