New Zealand pulls out of UN racism conference

New Zealand won't take part in this week's United Nations conference on racism, which it fears could descend into the same rancor as one in South Africa in 2001, Foreign Minister Murray McCully said Monday. New Zealand joined the US, Germany, Netherlands, Australia, Canada, Israel and Italy in boycotting the conference out of concern that it could be used by Muslim countries to criticize Israel and to limit free speech when it comes to criticizing their religion. McCully said he was not satisfied the wording of the review would prevent the conference from "descending into the same kind of rancorous and unproductive debate that took place in 2001." The review also would need to avoid circumscribing freedom of expression in the contentious area of defamation of religion. "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," he said in a statement. While combating racism and related intolerance is a cause to which New Zealand attaches the highest importance, "the review conference in Geneva is not likely to advance the cause of race relations at the international level," he said in announcing New Zealand won't be represented.