About this blog

IntheKut is a blog for simply thinking aloud about politics, human rights, civil rights, civil liberties, and other national issues. The blog’s title itself is a riff on the phrase ‘in the cut’ meaning ‘at the spot’ or at a secluded location.

In case you are wondering, I am a native New Yorker, but currently live in D.C., and work for a public interest organization.

If you would like to reach me, you can contact me at inthekut@gmail.com

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4 responses

11 12 2007
Ava

I would like to ask you a few questions about your blog. I am a grad student, and I’m working on new media project about bloggers. Can you e-mail me.

-Ava

29 02 2008
bibomedia

🙂

26 02 2009
cpinster

Your blog provided interesting factual information about the objectives and outcomes of the Durban conference. It also provides a starting point for some relevant questions as the Durban II meeting date approaches. You point out that the main objective of the conference was to establish a global framework for laws and regulations that countries establish against racism. In order to have this discussion, isn’t it relevant for the participants to have independent legislatures and judicial systems? Without such institutions, the making and implementations of laws are not subject to discussion and review, let alone fairness. Since most of the countries that attend Durban do not have such institutions, what is the point of them participating in a conference which aims to frame laws and regulations against racism? It would seem that the Conference is based upon theoretical grounds, at best, with little practical application. So, what is the point? Even assuming that these countries will apply themselves earnestly to these theoretical discussions, which was roundly disproved by the actual proceedings in Durban I, how does this provide any protections from racism to their citizens or to people globally ? The cases you provided where countries did re-evaluate their laws and/or official actions were democratic countries. In light of the dire global economy and major human rights violations that are going unadressed against such civilians as the Darfurians, the women and girls in the Congo, and children indoctrinated with hatred and used as soldiers in ethnic wars, do we really need a repeat of Durban I?

1 03 2009
KUT

True, not all of the countries participating in the Durban Review Conference have independent legislatures and judicial systems. But I don’t think that it is absolutely necessary that every country meet some standard of Jeffersonian democracy before they are allowed to participate in Durban II.

After all, so much of the world was still under colonial rule in 1948 when the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was signed, but that does not let undermine the legitimacy of the document. In fact, many countries and activists who did not participant in the creation of the UNDR still invoke that document and its spirit when discussing human rights standards.

If the UN only limited participation in Durban solely to countries that meet the kind of standard you are appealing to, it would necessarily exclude a number of countries from the global south and elsewhere, which would seriously undermine the legitimacy of the conference and the UN as a human rights promoter.

We could also ask what was the use of promoting human rights during the cold war if so many countries during that era not only thought it was a veiled attempt to spread Western style free market economies and democracy, but also cynically used human right standards to criticize the U.S. and other nations. I think in end the wisdom of promoting human rights, even when the U.S. fell short of the standards it preached at home and abroad, was in part vindicated at the conclusion of the cold war.

Many countries, if the negotiations were done in good faith, could stand to benefit from even from an imperfect Durban Review Process. One need not be a demographer to see how the migratory patterns are currently changing many countries where so many people are coming from the global south to the global north literally changing the faces of those societies.

Much of Europe is still trying to figure out what kind of assimilation models should it adopt to successfully integrate new immigrant populations and abate discrimination. In 2007, the UK projected that it would have 11 million more people by 2031 — an increase of 18 percent — with an estimate 69 percent of the growth would come from immigrants and their children. As the numbers of immigrants increase, tensions in certain countries, i.e. UK, Italy, England, Holland, France, and Germany will probably led to civil strife, if there is no attempt to address the underlying causes. Cases in point, the murder of Theo van Gogh in Holland, the riots in the suburbs of Paris, the July 7th bombings in London.

To make matters worse, all this is taking place as it grapples with trying to define a supranational and cultural identity that corresponds with its larger ambition of regional integration. How these new populations are treated and take a more affirmative role in those European societies will significantly influence how countries interact with each other just as the war on terror has shaped U.S. and European relations or U.S. and Muslim world relations, or European and Mid East, African and Central Asian relations.

And even after electing its first black president, the toxic debate over immigration has diminished U.S. standing in Latin America, and the war on terror has done the same among Muslim majority countries.

By the same token, acknowledging how xenophobia, racism, and related forms of intolerance can lead to instability will make the international community including those sitting on the UN Security Council much more attuned to the seeds of conflicts and civil strife in the developing world, whether they are a democracies or not. South Africa is a democracy but racial divisions and xenophobia continues create problems that could influence their relationship with their neighbors, including Zimbabwe. These are the sort of problems that the UN can help solve or contain before they ignite regional conflicts.

In the end, Durban II won’t solve all these problems, but it could provide some guidance on how to approach a vexing problem that will get worse if we simply shrug our shoulders about it. The review process helps put racial discrimination on the table as not just a domestic concern for individual countries, but as a significant human rights issue and international relations problem for many UN member states. It also draws attention to the records of certain nations in this regard and places pressure on certain countries to democratize.

During the cold war, much of the world came to accept certain ideas about what an open society looks like in no small part because the U.S. and its allies made an issue of it and sought to promote it through various multilateral institutions. And the world is better for it even if at the time so much of the world under the soviet sphere of influence resisted the acceptance of this standard.

I think given the unique standing of the U.S., especially with its new president and because of its national experience, it can effectively promote racial justice as part of its human rights agenda in the same way it has for promoting open societies and free expression as a way of spreading democracy around the world. I also happen to think that if the U.S. showed leadership in this regard other countries will follow. In sum, Durban II even with all its pitfalls can serve as a stepping stone to a more livable world by making racial equality part of the criteria in which the community of nations should be judged.

Thanks for your comment.

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