In a rare move, Israel, together with the United States, decided to vote against the United Nation’s 2021 budget on Thursday. The decision to vote against the international institution’s annual budget, which usually passes by consensus, came in reaction to the UN’s continued bias against Israel and its intention to allocate funds for an event marking the 20th anniversary of the fated World Conference against Racism, held in Durban, South Africa in 2001.
“Twenty years ago, the Durban conference convened with the worthy goal of combating racism. But, like many UN initiatives, it was promptly high-jacked by organization and member states, that are interested in attacking Israel and delegitimizing its right to exist. They are not interested in human rights,” Israel’s Ambassador to the UN Gilad Erdan told the assembly.
“Today we must all speak out against commemorating the disgrace that was the Durban Conference,” Erdan said. “Israel opposes any measure aimed at allocating a budget for this purpose -- we all know that such funds will not be used to support human rights but to spread even more antisemitism and hate towards Israel.”
Erdan highlighted that all too often UN resources are used for anti-Israel initiatives and activities.
“It is part of a wider anti-Israel bias at the UN,” he said. “I will not stand by when such lies and incitement against Israel and the Jewish people are freely given a platform.”
US Ambassador to the UN Kelly Craft delivered a similar message in her address.
"Far too often the membership of this vital body abandons principle for expediency and integrity for the presumed benefits of consensus. We convince ourselves that accommodation of all viewpoints, including those that run counter to the values outlined in the UN Charter, will eventually yield long-term progress," Ambassador Craft told the assembly.
"Today this body is poised to adopt a budget that reflects such an accommodation that extends a shameful legacy of hate, anti-Semitism, and anti-Israel bias. The United States rejects this effort and called for this vote to make clear that we stand by our principles, stand up for what is right, and never accept consensus for consensus' sake," Craft said.
She added: "As a firm believer in the United Nations, the United States is, and has always been, the largest and most reliable partner of the United Nations. That includes providing 25 percent of all peacekeeping expenditures, and more than $9 billion a year in support of humanitarian operations. That commitment will not change as a result of my vote. The US is determined to properly implement the budget, ensuring efficiency, cost effectiveness and more rationalization.
Craft called out the way in which UN institutions are used to protect the worst human rights abusers. "I just know that we all can do better. Members of this body have ascribed to its founding principles, and too many – far too many – actively undermine those principles in this hall and across the UN system. Human rights abusers are rewarded with protection in the General Assembly and seats on the Human Rights Council. Authoritarian regimes enjoy a cozy embrace and the sort of back-slapping hypocrisy that should sicken us all."
"We need a UN that fulfills its founding purpose of marinating peace and security, the promotion of global cooperation, and the advancement of human rights. Just as the United States played a pivotal role in establishing the UN 75 years ago, its charter and Declaration of Human Rights, we will work hand in hand to put human dignity and decency at the center of our action. This flawed budget makes it glaringly obvious that membership of this institution has ceased to require a moral center, and the United States will not let this pass without registering this uncomfortable truth," she said,
"In specific terms, I turn your attention to this budget’s support for an official event during the 76th General Assembly commemorating the Durban Declaration and Program of Action. For two decades, both Republican and Democratic administrations have urged other Member States to recognize the fatal flaws in the Durban Declaration and join us in its rejection.
"I am reminded of a quote from legendary human rights proponent and Holocaust survivor Congressman Tom Lantos, who was a member of the US delegation to the original Durban conference, and remarked that it "...provided the world with a glimpse into the ‘abyss’ of international hate, discrimination, and indeed, racism."
"Twenty years on, there remains nothing about the Durban Declaration to celebrate or to endorse. It is poisoned by anti-Semitism and anti-Israel bias. It encourages restrictions on the freedom of expression. It exists to divide and discriminate and runs contrary to the laudable goal of combating racism and racial discrimination.
She pointed to the difference between the UN's failed old approaches and the success the US has seen in making peace between Israel and its Arab neighbors this year, "I shouldn’t have to point out the irony here. While this body is eagerly endorsing two decades of dishonesty and division, the Trump administration is bringing nations together and bridging age-old divides between people through the Abraham Accords."
"Having just recently returned from Israel, I can attest that the Abraham Accords offer a real path toward reversing the tide of conflict and misunderstanding. In this instance, as in others, the world is moving forward while the UN is stuck in the past.
"Let me underscore that today's vote is indeed to reinforce the US commitment to a United Nations that functions effectively and in line with its founding principles. Anyone that would suggest otherwise is comfortable with a status quo that undermines the very purpose of this institution.," she said,
"We must strive for a United Nations that lifts humanity in the 21st century. Our constructive protest against inequities in the budget is a necessary part of the journey, a part of a journey that builds a better world and to strive for a United Nations that lifts humanity in the 21st Century," Ambassador Craft concluded.