On November 23, Sudan, on behalf of the Group of 77, introduced in the General Assembly’s Third Committee a resolution on the adoption of the Outcome Document of the Durban Review Conference. The Conference was held in Geneva from April 20 – 24, 2009, and is best remembered by the dozens of democracies that walked out during Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s controversial opening address.
The delegation of Israel called for the vote, explaining that her government refused to afford credibility to a process that was “obsessed” with the Middle East. The text was initially adopted with 161 countries in favor, 6 against, and 12 abstaining.
After the vote, however, the delegation of the Russian Federation raised a point of order to note that their “yes” had been recorded as an abstention; they then requested a new vote. The United States responded that it was “highly unusual” for a new vote to be recorded, asking under what rule of procedure the Committee would be acting. The Chair replied that although it was, indeed, unusual, the rules do not prohibit the retaking of votes. Furthermore, in previous demands for a new vote, the requesting delegation had pressed the wrong button. As the Russian delegation had insisted that he had pressed the correct button, the Chair deemed it acceptable to grant a re-vote. However, the United States argued that because the delegation had not requested a reconsideration of the resolution, a second vote would be invalid.
The Chair decided to hold another vote, and the final count was 163 in favor, 5 against, and 9 abstaining. The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and Bosnia and Herzegovina, as well as the Russian Federation, changed their votes from abstentions to “yes.” The Marshall Islands, which initially voted “no” was absent during the second vote, as was Macedonia, which had voted “yes” originally.
Canada was one of five nations to refuse to vote for the Durban Outcome Document (the other four were Australia, Israel, the Netherlands, and the United States.) The Canadian representative explained that the language in the text reaffirmed the outcome document of the first Durban Conference in 2001, and that his government would not lend its approval to such a politicized process. Moreover, the delegation argued that references in the document to the Middle East bore no relevancy to the fight against intolerance.
The other five countries that walked out of the Conference, namely Germany, the Czech Republic, New Zealand, Poland and Italy, all abstained. They were joined by Georgia, the Republic of Moldova, Romania and Tonga.
In a general statement on the resolution, the delegation of Israel remarked that “the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over while expecting different results.” Israel argued that the 2001 Durban Conference “had descended in a brazen display of anti-Semitic racism,” and the promotion of racist agendas. The representative of Israel further explained that they had initially decided to reserve judgment on the General Assembly’s decision to convene the Durban Review Conference; that they had realized the Conference’s potential to rectify the wrongs of 2001, but that these hopes had been misplaced. Though Israel acknowledged the importance of various elements of the Review, the Conference had, nevertheless, reaffirmed the 2001 Durban Declaration. The delegation explained that Israel was “fully committed to address, in a professional manner, the scourge of racism, xenophobia and intolerance,” but that it could not support a document that endorsed the 2001 Durban Declaration.