NZ won't attend racism conference
Labour and the Greens are at odds with the Government over its decision to boycott this week's United Nations conference on racism.
Foreign Minister Murray McCully confirmed today New Zealand would not take part, joining other countries including the United States, Australia, Canada, Italy, Israel and Germany.
The Geneva conference is in trouble because of intense sensitivity around Israel and Arab states – the last UN meeting called to condemn racism ended in chaos when Muslim delegates tried to insert language into a declaration defining Zionism as racist.
Mr McCully said New Zealand would not attend because he was not satisfied the wording of the draft declaration would prevent the conference from "descending into the same kind of rancorous and unproductive debate that took place in 2001".
"I was determined that New Zealand's participation in the review conference would be on the basis of a draft outcome document that did not endorse the 2001 declaration, and which responsibly and productively addressed racism."
Labour's associate foreign affairs spokesman, Grant Robertson, said it was unfortunate the Government had allowed "rhetoric around Israel" to override important issues about racism.
"In multilateral discussions there will be things said that we find unpalatable but it is vital that we are at the table to ensure that New Zealand's opposition to racism in any form is expressed at the highest levels," he said.
"Mr McCully needs to be careful that New Zealand continues to adopt an independent and principled approach to foreign affairs."
The Green Party's foreign affairs spokesman, Keith Locke, said the Government's decision was "an unacceptable insult" to the UN at a time when former prime minister Helen Clark was taking up an important position at the world body.
"The fact that we won't agree with all the speeches at the conference is hardly a reason to withdraw," he said.
This is a refreshing change from the stance of the previous New Zealand administration.