I would like to update the House on the UN Durban Review Conference, the follow-up to the 2001 UN World Conference Against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance which took place in Geneva from 20 to
The UK's engagement in the review process has always come with clear red lines that, if breached, would have led to our withdrawal. We made clear in particular that we would not accept a repeat of the appalling anti-Semitism seen at the first Durban conference in 2001. And the outcome text would need to meet a number of explicit conditions.
In the event, we negotiated a text that did meet those conditions. In particular, we resisted attempts for language calling for restrictions to the right of freedom of expression, including through the concept of "defamation of religions". We secured language on Holocaust remembrance (to which Iran objected but then, in a minority of one, agreed) and the fight against anti-Semitism, and successfully rebutted attempts to single out any country for criticism in the outcome document. We also ensured the text included references to multiple forms of discrimination—which we interpret to cover also the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people—and the importance of the right to freedom of expression in combating racism.
Given that the UK and its partners were successful in achieving our red lines in the outcome document, we decided that the UK should participate in the conference. But we shared the concerns of those who feared the misuse of this conference for intolerant ends and worked hard to avoid such a scenario. I wrote to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights on
The British ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva, Peter Gooderham, delivered a statement on
The UK delegation kept in close touch with UK-based non-governmental organisation stakeholders throughout the conference.
The fight against racism remains a global struggle. Victims of racism deserve better than political squabbling and intolerant polemics. I believe that the Government did the right thing by remaining in the conference, having our voices heard, and ensuring an acceptable outcome document.