Late Friday evening, well after Shabbat, the State Department finally releases its reasons for dumping Durban.
Not that the U.S. government needs to hew to ancient proscriptions, but a lot of Jewish organizations were champing at the bit to deliver their kudos … now it will have to wait until Saturday night.
The wrinkle no one reported (and maybe what prevented its release until past 10 PM?): The U.S. will keep attending sessions – but as an observer.*
And what am I doing up, you might ask? News junkie.
Anyway, here it is.
Robert WoodActing Department Spokesman, Office of the SpokesmanWashington, DCFebruary 27, 2009This Administration is committed to diplomacy and to active and effective engagement with international institutions, which can play a vital role in addressing the challenges we face. The United States looks forward to engaging with our partners around the world to build a more peaceful and secure world.
The Administration is also strongly committed to fighting racism and discrimination. Consistent with that commitment, and with the goal of trying to achieve a positive constructive result in the Durban Review Conference, the United States recently sent a distinguished delegation to attend the ongoing negotiations on the draft outcome document.
Our delegates met with over 30 delegations, the UN High Commissioner on Human Rights, and other interested parties. In addition, the Department consulted with many governments in capitals regarding our effort. The engagement by the U.S. delegation was widely welcomed and appreciated.
Sadly, however, the document being negotiated has gone from bad to worse, and the current text of the draft outcome document is not salvageable. As a result, the United States will not engage in further negotiations on this text, nor will we participate in a conference based on this text. A conference based on this text would be a missed opportunity to speak clearly about the persistent problem of racism.
The United States remains open to a positive result in Geneva based on a document that takes a constructive approach to tackling the challenges of racism and discrimination. The U.S. believes any viable text for the Review Conference must be shortened and not reaffirm in toto the flawed 2001 Durban Declaration and Program of Action (DDPA). It must not single out any one country or conflict, nor embrace the troubling concept of “defamation of religion.” The U.S. also believes an acceptable document should not go further than the DDPA on the issue of reparations for slavery.
We will observe developments in Geneva and in capitals to see if such an outcome emerges. We would be prepared to re-engage if a document that meets these criteria becomes the basis for deliberations.
On the UN Human Rights Council, we share the concerns of many that the Council’s trajectory is disturbing, that it needs fundamental change to do more to promote and protect the human rights of people around the world, and that it should end its repeated and unbalanced criticisms of Israel.
We believe, however, it furthers our interests and will do more both to achieve these ends and advance human rights if we are part of the conversation and present at the Council’s proceedings.
Accordingly, we will participate in this month’s Human Rights Council session as an observer and will use the opportunity to strengthen old partnerships and forge new ones. These times demand seriousness and candor, and we pledge to closely work with our partners in the international community to avoid politicization and to achieve our shared goals.
Our participation as an observer is a sign of the commitment of the Administration to advancing the cause of human rights in the multilateral arena. We look forward to the help and cooperation of our friends and allies to ensure the Human Rights Council focuses on the pressing human rights concerns of our time.
*UPDATE: I’m told Jewish organizational leaders on Friday afternoon’s White House conference call asked about observers, and were told that one would attend as a note-taker. So this isn’t a Friday night ambush. The observer will not be identified as "U.S." (i.e., no placard), so his or her presence has no political meaning.