No rocks were thrown, no tear gas canisters exploded. Compared to recent conferences in Seattle, Quebec, and Genoa, the World Conference against Racism, held from Aug. 31 to Sept. 7 in Durban, South Africa, was a sedate affair. The reason is obvious. It was sponsored by the UN, which doesn’t yet have the same image of supporting unrestrained corporate globalization as the World Bank, WTO and, FTAA. Thus, activist groups felt they had a toehold inside the conference.
Nevertheless, verbal outbursts and devious efforts to manipulate the wording of the final Declaration and Platform for Action sometimes made this third global conference on race feel as rancorous as recent corporate gatherings. In addition, South African grassroots organizations, given a megaphone to the world with the help of a newly formed South African Independent Media Center, surrounded the conference site with marches and demonstrations. Starry eyed divestment activists quickly learned that the nine-year-old ANC government has a long way to go in fulfilling the utopian goals of its Freedom Charter.