The United Nations has for too long “downplayed the scourge of anti-Semitism”, a UK diplomat has told the organisation’s Human Rights Council.
Simon Manley, the UK’s permanent representative to the UN and the World Trade Organisation, said one of the most effective ways to tackle racism and anti-Semitism is to “encourage states to uphold their human rights obligations”.
But, speaking on behalf of the UK and Australia, he told a meeting of the UN Human Rights Council that the countries cannot support a resolution on racism over anti-Semitism concerns.
“We remain resolute in our commitment to combating all forms of racism, racial discrimination and xenophobia and related intolerance, whether that be at home or abroad,” he said.
“Our common commitment on this issue is strong.
“Discrimination of any kind has no place in society, and we will continue to treat all forms of discrimination with equal seriousness.”
But Mr Manley said the UK cannot back a resolution on racism tabled by the African Group in the latest session of the Human Rights Council.
The resolution contains multiple references to the Durban Conference, a controversial anti-racism meeting held in 2001, Mr Manley said.
At the time, the US and Israel walked out of the meeting because participants drafted a conference declaration that denounced Israel’s treatment of Palestinians.
And the UK has repeatedly disassociated itself from the Durban Conference due to these historic concerns, and neither the UK nor Australia – along with around 40 other states – attended a recent 20th anniversary commemorative event for the conference.
The UK called for a vote on the African Group’s resolution and was joined in voting against it by a number of nations.
Mr Manley said: “We do not agree with the multiple references to the Durban Conference, given the historic concerns over anti-Semitism. And we cannot accept the references to the Durban Review Conference or the positive language welcoming the recent commemorative event in New York.
“The UK and Australia did not attend the recent 20th anniversary commemorative event for the Third World Conference Against Racism. There were reportedly nearly 40 states who, like us, made the decision not to take part.
“We think we all need to ask ourselves why so many states stayed away and how we can move forward. If we are to be able to forge a consensus in the future then it is clear that we must come together to find a new approach. The importance of this topic requires that we move forward together on a common path.”
He added: “Racism should be tackled in all its forms and, regrettably, for far too long, the UN has downplayed the scourge of anti-Semitism. This must end.
“The UK is clear that we will not attend future iterations of the Durban Conference while concerns over anti-Semitism remain.”
Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said: “The UK remains steadfast in its commitment to tackling racism around the world.
“The resolution presented to the Human Rights Council today contains a number of references to the Durban Conference, from which the UK has repeatedly disassociated itself due to historic concerns over anti-Semitism.
“Discrimination and intolerance has no place in society and we encourage countries to uphold their human rights obligations.”
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