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Sunday, 9 September, 2001, 01:49 GMT 02:49 UK
Analysis: Racism summit outcome
Durban protesters
Few in Durban are fully satisfied
By Elizabeth Blunt in Durban

The World Conference against Racism finally closed - more than 24 hours over schedule - with the adoption of two detailed and far-reaching documents.

They finally put on record in an international document the full enormity of the slave trade, and confirmed that the world owes the victims of that trade support and help, to restore their dignity and repair the damage slavery did.

Anti-slavery protester
There was no clear apology for slavery from those who profited
But as well as this historic declaration, the documents are full of detailed practical recommendations for combating racism.

They endorse the principles that cultural diversity should be valued and supported, that the children of minority groups should be educated in their own language and their own culture.

There are places in the world where this would mean a radical change of official policy.

They urge countries to tackle racism in their criminal justice systems, not least by keeping full statistics which show up inequalities and discrimination.

Last-minute wrangle

They address the currently vexed question of migrants and asylum-seekers, enshrining the principle that countries should not discriminate between them on grounds of race.

But all this work was almost lost on the last day of the conference because of a last-minute wrangle between Arab countries and Europe over three apparently insignificant paragraphs.

They were not part of the main section on the Middle East - indeed they did not name Israel and Palestine at all.

But they mentioned colonisation by settlers and foreign occupation as a source of racism, and could have been construed as criticism of Israel.

Forced to vote

The final meeting of the main committee went into an interminable wrangle about rulings and motions and points of procedure, as staff began to leave, and workmen dismantled the facilities and began clearing the conference complex.

In order to close the meeting at all the matter was forced to full vote - something the UN hates.

An adjournment was approved and the closing ceremony could begin, but the price was a feeling that full discussion had been stifled.

Good intentions

At the moment few people who were here in Durban are fully satisfied.

The African group never got the clear apology for slavery it wanted from the descendants of those who profited.

The Arab group did not get the platform they wanted to make their points about Israel.

And Europe did not quite escape the notion that it was up to them to make reparations for the past.

The true test of this meeting will only come when some time has passed, the passions have cooled and it can be seen whether the good intentions of the final resolutions will make a real difference in practice.

See also:

08 Sep 01 | Africa
Mixed emotions as Durban winds up
05 Sep 01 | Africa
Conference split on slavery issue
04 Sep 01 | Americas
Compensation for slavery
03 Sep 01 | Africa
Racism summit turmoil: Reactions
03 Sep 01 | UK Politics
UK challenged over slavery
03 Sep 01 | Africa
Focus on the slave trade
03 Sep 01 | Europe
Europe split over slavery row
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