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UN votes to implement Durban plan

    The UN General Assembly this week approved a draft resolution to implement the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action.

    The resolution, approved at a UN Social, Humanitarian Cultural Affairs Committee meeting after some revisions, was passed on Tuesday with 126 votes in favour and five against. There were 43 abstentions.

    Originally drafted at the 2001 World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance, the Durban Declaration has been criticised as a thinly masked attempt to single out Israel for criticism and sanctions. Israel is the only country out of 192 UN member states that is charged with racism in the document.

    Speaking on behalf of the EU at Tuesday's General Assembly vote, Poland's delegate said mentions of specific groups or clear references to particular religions or beliefs should not be part of a text that aims to combat racism.

    The EU member states abstained; the five who voted against were Australia, Canada, Israel, the Marshall Islands and the United States.

    This week's General Assembly vote follows a meeting held on 22 September in New York to mark the 10-year anniversary of the first Durban conference. Dubbed "Durban III", the meeting was boycotted by several countries, including the Western veto-holding members of the Security Council - the United States, the UK and France.

    The recently published transcripts from Durban III show a continued focus on Israel. For instance, the Tunisian Foreign Minister said the Durban anniversary provided an opportunity "to highlight… first and foremost, the Palestinian people". The Syrian Ambassador to the UN objected to "the racist concept of a Jewish state of Israel".

    The 2001 Durban conference has been criticised for its harsh language against Israel and for attempting to revive the 1975 UN resolution equating Zionism with racism.

    At the Durban II conference in 2009 in Geneva, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad famously gave a speech in which he attacked Israel and denied the Holocaust.

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