February 25, 2009

Fighting Racism

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Each day millions of people experience some form of discrimination solely because of their skin color. Last week, the U.S. took direct action against racism by announcing its decision to become part of the Durban Review. While negotiations are still underway, the U.S. will likely assist with reducing racism in countries all over the world. This is a major step toward eliminating racial discrimination, but will simply showing support be enough to stop such a wide-spread practice of many cultures?

In 1996, the UN General Assembly passed a resolution that formulated the Dunbar Review, mandating a yearly assessment of the Dunbar Declaration and Programme. The declaration was implemented in 2001 at the World Conference Against Racism and continues to be a major force in fighting racial prejudice. With four powerful objectives, the act exemplifies the necessary actions needed for ending intolerance. First, the Dunbar Review monitors the progress of all stakeholders and identifies areas of racial intolerance so solutions can be developed. Secondly, mechanisms of countries and the UN are monitored to assess effectiveness for diminishing intolerance. Third, the review promotes implementation of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, which works to effectively end all forms of racial inequity. Lastly, the review identifies practices that will fight racism and other forms of unjust intolerance.

After years of failing to engage in this progressive initiative, the US is taking an active role in defending human rights and ending global racism. According to Kenneth Roth of the Human Rights Watch, “the US cannot provide the leadership necessary to promote and protect human rights by sitting on the sidelines” Without the support of major countries like the United States, the initiative will be greatly weakened and its true purpose will be diminished. The Obama Administration has the potential to enact real change to the objectives of the program and succeed where other countries have failed. Many human rights activists anticipate further U.S. involvement in the protection of human rights now that the U.S. has joined an initiative of previous isolation.
While the preceding administration had minimal involvement in protecting human rights, the U.S. may have needed to take such a position because of the violence erupting in the Middle East. However, even during times of conflict protecting the basic human rights of all people should be of focal concern, especially when considering the potential dangers involved in violating human rights. As change gradually seeps into the U.S., countries around the world will take notice and view our policies as a role model for democracy. The election of an African American for president represents a monumental accomplishment in the fight against intolerance and will escalate further change in the coming years. Still, should the U.S. become actively involved in the racism battle or is this something that should only concern countries that are severely plagued by racial discrimination?