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Green Party LogoGreens urge Obama to reverse decision to shun the third World Conference against Racism


For Immediate Release:
Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Scott McLarty, Media Coordinator, cell 202-904-7614,
Starlene Rankin, Media Coordinator, 916-995-3805,

US Greens will attend the conference

WASHINGTON, DC -- Green Party leaders urged President Obama to reverse his decision to withdraw from participation in the third World Conference against Racism ("Durban III").

The conference, sponsored by the United Nations, will take place in New York City on September 22, 2011, marking the tenth anniversary of the first World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia, and Related Intolerance in 2001, which was held in Durban, South Africa. The Obama Administration has cited widespread anger against Israel and the US at past conferences, perceived to be antisemitic and anti-American, as the reason for the withdrawal.

"2011 is both the International Year of Afrodescendants and the 150th anniversary of the beginning of the US Civil War. As such, it is vitally important the United States of America have an official presence at Durban III, to join an open discussion with the rest of the world on racism and how to end it; racism here in the USA, as well as in other countries," said Marian Douglas-Ungaro, co-chair of the Green Party's International Committee ( and a member of the Green Party Black Caucus (

"Any statement expressing religious or ethnic intolerance or incitement to hatred against the Jewish people deserves swift condemnation. But the U.S. and other western countries have often interpreted legitimate criticism of the state of Israel, which has maintained its brutal and illegal occupation of Palestinian lands and internal apartheid, as 'antisemitic'. They've used this thinly-veiled excuse to withdraw from the Durban conferences to avoid situations where certain rights-violating policies would face scrutiny and criticism on the world stage," said Muhammed Malik, Co-Chair of the Miami-Dade Green Party ( and former Racial Justice and Voting Rights Projects Associate at the ACLU Florida. Mr. Malik recently spoke about racial justice as a panelist on the opening plenary of the Rights Working Group's Southeastern Regional Conference and is organizing a rally at the Israeli Consulate in Miami in support of Palestinian rights and the Freedom Flotilla II to Gaza (

Greens said that the White House has avoided the Durban conferences also because of the failure of the US to address internal racial inequality, including continuing economic disparities and disadvantages suffered by people of color (such as the disproportionate loss of black families' homes during the recent sub-prime mortgage crisis), the unaddressed call for reparations for the descendants of slavery, harassment and deportation of undocumented immigrants, the targeting of people of color in the War on Drugs, and record incarceration rates, with black, brown, poor, and young people locked up to feed the for-profit private prison industry.

Referring to Attorney General Eric Holder's recent announcement that he will authorize the release of 5,500 federal prisoners to begin correcting sentencing disparities between crack and cocaine offenders, Green Party co-chair Theresa El-Amin said, "In this International Year of People of African Descent it's beyond disappointing that the Obama Administration lifts a release of [only] 5,500 for nonviolent drug offenses when there are 2.4 million incarcerated in the United States. The fact that the majority of the 2.4 million are people of color makes the 5,500 release a non-event. The US is number one in the whole world in incarceration rates. China, which is four times more populous than the US, is a distant second with 1.6 million people in prison. The US pulling out of the Durban process is simply unacceptable."

Ms. El-Amin, who plans to attend Durban III, was one of several human rights activists who participated in a special White House conference call briefing on Thursday, June 2. During the briefing, White House official Samantha Powers explained that the US delegation to the UN would withdraw from Durban III and cited "Israel" when asked why, drawing several statements of disappointment by other participants before the White House abruptly terminated the call.

Greens, including 2008 Green Party presidential nominee Cynthia McKinney, have participated in the first World Conference against Racism in 2001 and the second meeting ("Durban Review Conference") in Geneva in 2009, both of which the US shunned. On August 8, 2001, the Green Party issued a strongly worded resolution on the withdrawal (


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