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Quote of the day - Editorial - Reports from the Governmental Plenary Meeting - NGO activities - videobyte
Quote of the day
China: "Civil society is very important for the Durban review process".
NGO rep "Sure, that's why you don't have one, right".
There we go again
Today the first Prepcom for the 'Durban review conference 2009' has started here in Geneva. It's a real time warp. Same place (Palais de Nations), same rooms, some of the same faces. On top of that, it is today exactly 6 years ago that the WCAR in Durban began.
A 20-member governmental committee ('The Bureau') was elected which will prepare 'Durban Review'. Libya is the chair, cozily supported by some other interesting members.
If you want to review Durban, you will have to know that the World Conference Against Racism (WCAR) became a racist conference. For those who want to try to understand how it was and how it came about, have a look at the ICARE special reports made in Durban and before during the 'PrepComs' in Geneva.
Both the WCAR NGO Forum and the Governmental conference suffered from hate-mongering, extreme politization, so much that subjects like slavery and reparations, Dalits, Roma & Sinti and last but not least antisemitism did either not make it into the official UN Declaration, or were deleted, misrepresented or underexposed in the NGO Declaration, a declaration of which the adoption was a sham and which became the first NGO document in the history of the UN that could not be recommended to the Governments, since it contained hate and discrimination.
Many a dream was shattered at the WCAR. Alliances, friendships and coalitions fell apart. Most people wont even believe some of things that happened in Durban.
After the WCAR and 9/11, a lot of governments wanted to forget about Durban. UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson moved on to another job and the new High Commissioner, Sergio de Mello, was killed when during a temporary mission in Iraq, the UN compound in Baghdad was blown up. Assistant-High Commissioner Bertie Ramcharan took over for a while until Louise Arbour, the present HCHR, was installed.
In the post-Durban months the so-called Anti Discrimination Unit was created at the Office of the High Commissioner, but since other WCAR-involved UN dignitaries and staff like Bertie Ramcharan, Laurie Wiseberg, Birgit van Hout and Robert Husband moved to other positions or jobs outside the UN, precious little institutional memory on Durban was left. For years, the 'new unit' led a quite dormant existence. The 'D-word' still had a bad connotation at the UN and nobody was eager to jump on any 'Durban plus' bandwagon. When the UN Human Rights Council, a replacement of the infamous Human Rights Commission was installed, all of a sudden the status quo shifted. Durban follow-up became a real possibility again.
Only two weeks ago we spoke with a Dutch diplomat who really wanted nothing of 'Durban plus'. He's not the only one. The U.S., having walked out during the WCAR is not likely to send high level (if any) delegates, the EU, who played an important part during the last days of the Governmental part of the WCAR is not very enthusiast but if you listen to their rhetoric here in Geneva, by Portugal on behalf of the EU, it sounds like the WCAR was the best thing that ever happened. What's more, everybody is very happy with the Libyan chair (Najat Al-Hajjaji), everybody is tickled pink being part of a bureau that's filled to the brim with countries that have a lousy record when it comes to Human Rights. Libya, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Cuba…
Some NGOs think Durban follow-up should be ignored, as it is "fruit from the poisoned tree". Others think we should participate "and do it right" this time. The latter seems like a good idea. Let's just get it right this time. We could all start by trying to show some mutual solidarity and respect when dealing with our issues and use Human Rights, forge alliances and build coalitions with those who are in favor of Human Rights and anti-discrimination advocacy without violence, without accusing other groups of victims of being racist. Foremost it is important to look at what the states did with the National Action Plans, one of the much-lauded outcomes of Durban. Let's see if they did anything and hold them accountable, that is what our task as NGOs is anyway.
ICARE will be reporting, like we did 6 years ago, when there was a real need for unbiased on-the-ground news. Somehow I have a feeling that will be the case this time too. There we go again.
Ronald Eissens for ICARE News.
Prepcom, morning of day one.
Some of the decisions that were made:
NGOs that can participate in the preparatory process of the Durban Review Conference will be
1. NGOs with ECOSOC status
2. NGOs that were accredited for the WCAR
The secretariat will send to member states an updated list of NGOs who were accredited to the WCAR. Those NGOs will be invited to fully participate in the preparatory process, unless member states have objections. Member states have until September 7 to object (in UN language: unless there are observations of member states)
If a government raises questions, concerning the accreditation of a NGO, the preparatory committee will take the final decision weather the NGO can or can't participate.
3. NGOs new to the process.
NGOs interested in the process for the first time and wanting to participate can send their application the secretariat. The secretariat shall post the relevant forms on the office of the high commissioner for Human Rights website.
The rest of the day was mainly filled by statements of countries. Egypt on behalf of the African Union concluded that not a lot of countries had created a National Action Plan. Furthermore they mentioned the Middle-East conflict and religious hatred which in their opinion was fueled by 9/11, the matter of the Danish cartoons and 'unfair globalization'. They also called for money to be found to organize national and regional D-review meetings, and for NGO participation. The latter was echoed by a number of other countries, like
Pakistan on behalf of the OIC (we need the widest possible NGO participation). Pakistan also mentioned 'new and sinister forms of racism' and 'an existing smear campaign against Durban review', not making clear what the meaning of that was, but we can guess. Pakistan also mentioned that in their view there was a growing acceptance of Islamophobia by intellectuals.
Iran talked about 'Islamophobia and racism against semitic peoples, misusing the language-contruct Semitism.
Cuba glorified Durban as a milestone and spoke against the 'so-called war against terror' as one of the causes of contemporary racism. Brazil said that civil society consultation was important and therefore they wanted equal input into the D-review process by States and e.g. minority groups. Indonesia said they aligned with the OIC statement and they wanted no re-negotiation but were in favor of new strategies. Portugal on behalf of the EU said they understood the focus on the Durban Program of Action but warned against re-opening of negotiations. Instead they were in favor of using the existing mechanisms for follow-up. Furthermore, they said the review could only be successful if a broad consensus was reached, they appealed for this 'on all levels and moments'. 'Durban review should be something that unites and not divides, we need unity and not politization' Portugal also made a plea for 'a transparent and clear evaluation by stakeholders'.
Almost nobody spoke about all the other forms of racism. Middle-East and Islamophobia was all the bureau-members seemed interested in. Although Islamophobia is a very real and pressing problem, the attention on the Middle-East conflict was (again) quite lopsided and reminiscent of the WCAR. In fact, they all glossed-over Durban as a great moment in time and only Portugal on behalf of the EU made some token and weak remarks against that.
On the NGO side??
There are not many NGOs present here. Since this first PrepCom (really an organizational meeting), which mainly deals with modalities and procedures was not announced very well, and the first planned dates were cancelled at the last moment, we see mainly ECOSOC-status NGOs that have a permanent office in Geneva, and 3 of 4 others, some 35 representatives in total.
There were a few NGOs that did speeches; Larry Olomoofe of the European Roma Rights Center (ERRC) spoke about the fact that in the post-Durban era there was the danger of forgetting about other forms of racism. He reminded the states that when talking about Durban review and Islamophobia, however pernicious that problem is, we should also take into account the plight of others and talked about the discrimination Romani people suffer in Europe on a daily basis.
Claude Cahn of COHRE (Centre on Housing Rights and Evictions) did a great speech which you can see here.
There is no real NGO track - not sure if there should be. Review conferences mainly are about reviewing the governmental documents. We have our work cut out for us.
Larry Olomoofe (ERRC) talks about what Durban meant for the Roma
Quote of the day - Editorial - Report from the Governmental Plenary Meetings - NGO activities - Videobyte
Quote of the day
Chair (Najat Al-Hajjaji, Libya): 'I really don't understand why you bring that up here, it is not UN-procedure to involve NGOs!'.
Durban review core principles
This morning a statement was brought out on behalf of a number of NGOs who don't want the Durban review suffering from the same problems as the Durban WCAR did. Here it is in HTML-format:
STATEMENT OF CORE PRINCIPLES FOR WCAR FOLLOW UP
In 2001, more than three
thousand people participated in the Non-Governmental Forum of the United
Nations third World Conference against Racism, Discrimination, Xenophobia and
Related Intolerance (WCAR) to chart a course for future generations to
eradicate racism, discrimination and intolerance. Participants pledged to
adhere to established international human rights standards
and operate with transparency and respect for democratic discourse.
Many civil society representatives were disappointed, when
the NGO process, which raised the profile of important contemporary racism
problems and the historic wounds of slavery and discrimination, was discredited.
UN High Commissioner for Human
Rights Mary Robinson spoke out against what she called the “hateful,
even racist” antisemitic atmosphere that plagued the NGO forum. She refused to commend it to governments for their
consideration. Leading international human rights organizations called
some of the human rights language in the declaration inaccurate, inappropriate
and even counterproductive. They regretted that progress on vital issues such
as discrimination against Roma and caste discrimination was thereby
diminished. Observers were shocked by violations of procedure in the
preparatory and drafting processes, the racist treatment including
violence, exclusion, and intimidation
against Jewish participants, and the misuse of human rights terminology in the
document related to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
With a few notable exceptions, the vast majority
of groups was silent or refused to speak out. In the years since, many have
reflected that the result was a regrettable vacuum of moral leadership.
The organizations below pledge to reject hatred and incitement in all its forms,
including antisemitism, to learn from the shortcomings of the 2001 WCAR,
and to work together in a spirit of mutual respect.
- We are united in our deep commitment to the
goals of the WCAR to chart a course
for future generations to eradicate racism, discrimination and intolerance
in all its forms.
- Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and
Related Intolerance afflict peoples in many Member States. We are
committed to the important mission of NGOs to monitor and hold accountable
those responsible for policy failures and for lack of implementation of
measures to prevent and punish such acts.
- However, the global effort to eradicate racism
cannot be advanced by branding whole peoples with a stigma of ultimate
evil, fomenting hateful stereotyping in the name of human rights.
- The UN and its human
rights fora must not serve as a vehicle for any form of racism, including
antisemitism, and must bar incitement to hatred against any group in the
guise of criticism of a particular government. We pledge to prevent this
from happening again.
- We pledge to uphold language and behavior
that unites rather than divides.
As NGOs we commit to use
language in accordance with international human rights standards
and conduct ourselves with civility and with respect for human rights
Up to now signed by:
Jacob Blaustein Institute
for the advancement of human rights
International League for
Human Rights First
Anti Defamation League
European Jewish Congress
LICRA - Ligue
Internationale Contre le Racisme et l’Antisemitisme
The Lawyers' Committee
for Civil Rights Under Law (USA)
Research-Action on Race Relations - CRARR
Citizens’ Watch (Russia)
Simon Wiesenthal Centre
NGOs that want to support and endorse this statement,
please send your endorsement to firstname.lastname@example.org
The day went gruesomely slow here, filled with much yada yada about procedures. Even less NGOs than yesterday showed. Some new ones though. Nothing exciting happened. Well, there was the statement above. Walking the corridors of power (hah!) I found myself in the intrepid (nomen est omen) Serpent bar (No, not Serpentine, it's SERPENT, as I keep on telling people) looking at the floor, thinking what to write, noticing all of a sudden the carpet - or what is left of it. You have to understand that the Serpent bar is the place where everyone who has meetings in the Palais des Nations hangs out, both country delegations and NGOs. It's the best place to pick up on the latest gossip and rumours. Which country is doing it with whom. Who is planning the most stupid statement ever. Who's hot and who's not. Six years ago, during the Prepcoms for the Durban WCAR, we wrote our best articles with information obtained in the Serpent bar.
(Note to the readers of that time: the Mystery Lady is still walking around here!) Back to the carpet. It is so worn that you can actually see the concrete floor through it. My guesstimate is that it has been there since the seventies, which sort-of is in line with the furniture. Billions of dollars or Euros are pumped into the UN-Moloch each year, but not a cent allocated towards carpet. Makes me wonder about the salaries of UN employees. You might say that I spend some of the day reviewing the carpet, when I'm wasn't outside having a cigarette since the UN has gone zero-tolerance on smokers. Hundreds of thousands have walked over this carpet without noticing its state. You see the analogy I'm trying to force here? Anyway, I hope tomorrow will bring more news. Click on the small picture to enjoy the full effect of the Serpent-bar carpet (non-interactive!). Next episode: the copy machine graveyard (for real!).
Such a slooow newsday
No news is good news. That's what they say. Not in every case this is true. Today we saw the great divide which reared it's ugly head before in the Human Rights Councel: what are the objectives of the review conference? Portugal, on behalf of the EU (27 countries) plus Turkey, Croatia, Macedonia, Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Serbia, Iceland, Ukraine, Moldova, Armenia and Georgia, stated their position: "The objective is to review the implementation of the Durban Plan of Action (DPA)". So no re-opening, in any way, of what was agreed upon in Durban.(translation: "do not try and insert what was DISagreed on in Durban"). plus, no addressing of issues outside the context of the implementation of the DPA. The African group, represented by Egypt, does not agree with this, they do want to reopen the discussion. In some way they have a point as far as it is about contemporary Islamophobia. A lot has changed since the WCAR in 2001. However discrimination of Muslims is mentioned in the governmental document, so there should be room to insert the present situation, without getting into a whole new set of topics, or cover old topics that just didn't get into the document last time around. Both groups are holding their position, so nothing much changed compared to the PrepComs in 2000/2001.
After all the glowing remarks yesterday about the tremendous WCAR and the important role of NGOs, the gloves came off today and a suggestion to have NGOs involved at the planning stages of the review conference led to a lot of dismay, including from the Libyan chair, who repeated over and over 'that it wasn't according to UN procedures' and 'how can you possibly suggest such a thing'
Quote of the day - Editorial - Report from the Governmental Plenary Meeting - NGO activities
Quote of the day
'Madam chair, I won't need as much time as the EU!'
New York, anyone?
Todays session saw a discussion about the venue for the Durban review conference. Not that a decision is gonna be made on it now, but since all delegates are jumping up and down about this issue it was partly covered. The EU proposed New York, which the OIC countries did not like but did not want to play too obvious, so they suggested Geneva, or, 'any other city'. The African countries followed and at the end of the day the poker play of the EU seemed to pay off - lots of delegates against New York, and UN-Geneva being named as the alternative venue to New York -as long as no other country offers to host it.
'Fun and games' with the UN-police
This morning saw a hilarious and at the same time devastating moment. The UN police, you know, those mostly nice people in their blue uniforms, went into the plenary and started to check badges of NGOs, and question them. "Which NGO do you represent?" well, look at my badge. Everyone was mystified, especially since they then proceeded to confiscate from NGO delegates a statement that was circulated. They just grabbed it out of your hands! Only in the afternoon we learned what was behind all this. It is funny but very sad. CONGO, The Conference of NGOs and Interfaith International are organizing a meeting tomorrow. The invite and agenda for that was placed on the official documents table in the plenary room and it was also handed-out to the NGOs sitting inside. This is something that happens all the time. This time though, a country complained about the use of the documents table by NGOs. Who was that country? Morocco. Why? Because on the invite there is a speech listed with the subject: 'What is the impact of the religions on the manifestation of intolerance, xenophobia and racism?'. So, what could be the problem with that? Well, the Moroccan delagate is of the opinion that this must be an anti-Islamic speech. Why? Well, she just thinks so. We talked to her in the afternoon and explained to her that Interfaith International is a religious, eucemenical NGO, not a religion-bashing organisation. She was adamant about it. She told us it must be against Islam, a speech with a title like that. In a sense it was quite hilarious too, but what I do not find funny is that the UN censors NGOs because a delegate of a country thinks that her religious rights are infringed upon or that her religion is being slandered. All on the basis of a harmless title of a speech. What a lunacy. Sitting in these august halls, you can hear country delegates saying the most horrible things about minorities, or other countries. I don't see the UN police then come to confiscate their papers or try to stop them from speaking! Yech!
That's it for today's editorial. Not much more to tell - the food in the downstairs restaurant is still horrible (and the assembly restaurant is all of a sudden closed), the peacocks still scare people with their abrasive cries, and still no greenhouse in the glass tunnel between the old building and the 'new' wing. Greetz from UN-la la land.
At 10 this morning the plenary covered more modalities like dates for the PrepComs, the level of participation, who's going to chair the Durban review conference, funding and...the venue. Portugal on behalf of the EU said they were in favor of the first half of 2009 for the conference, they want a 'quality preparatory process', a focussed review event of no longer than 3 days, on a high level, to be precise the GA (General Assembly) level. They want no new conference format since that will bring the risk of new negotiations and they proposed New York as venue. Furthermore, they stated that they were only for paying for a meeting on UN-grounds. See here for their full statement.
Egypt,on behalf of the African Group of states had a few quick points. They want High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour as chair of the Durban review conference, said the venue issue is still open and should remain like that for now and said that they were flexible on the venue, inside or outside New York. They want the Durban review conference to be on the same level as the Durban WCAR itself, they want money allocated towards regional preparatory conferences and civil society involvement, since both are in their view instrumental to the success of the review. Furthermore, they want the funding issue to be decided during this prepcom.
Turkey made a plea for the revitalization of the fund for the Durban WCAR and agreed with holding the Durban review during the first six months of 2009. they support Loauise Arbour as chair, and are flexible on the venue issue. Iran is against New York as a venue, wants it in any place in the world (except for New York, mind you) and reminded Portugal/EU that Durban Review is a review conference, not a special session that should fall under the auspicies of the General Assembly. They want D-review to have the same number of days as any other review conference. Brazil said that the venue should be Geneva, or New York or any other city. Cuba agreed with Egypt and Iran. Senegal agreed with Egypt/the African group. Syria says it approved with Louise Arbour as Chair, and stressed that the level of participation should be like Durban. They are not in favor of a review as a special session of the GA, in their view that would make for endless and sterile discussions. Pakistan on behalf of the OIC said it was not happy with New York as a proposed venue. A number of other countries also had doubts about New York but most of the states saw Geneva as a good alternative, unless another country should offer to host the conference. A speaker for the Tupac Amaru, not a rapper but a (former) Peruvean liberation organization that only incidentaly blew up, kidnapped or killed people once in a while, you know, nothing personal, was present as an NGO and stated that they stronly objected to New York, since the victims of racism will have trouble obtaining visas and the facilities for NGOs in New York are not sufficient.
It is true that in the post 9/11 era it is more difficult for anybody Arab, looking Arab, Muslim or those perceived as such to enter the USA. Yes, NGOs will probably have more of a hassle if the conference is held in New York. It is funny though that we did not hear moral indignation when some NGOs could not get visas for the Teheran Regional conference or when China, as per usual, tries to block Tibetan NGOs. Or when any other non-western country does things like that.
A speaker on behalf of UNESCO presented their excellent International Coalition of Cities against Racism and suggested to invite the project to the review conference.
After this, some voting took place. Conference itself: first half of 2009. High Level conference? Yes, adopted. Dates for the Prepcoms? Adopted. Chair of the conference HC Louise Arbour? Adopted. Venue? Will be decided at a later stage.
From noon until 3pm, informal negotiations took place, mainly between the EU, African States and OIC. This resulted in a so called non-paper, which contains all the contentious issues under negotiation. At 5.30pm the plenary reconvened. Immdediatly Portugal on behalf of the EU took the floor to make their position clear. Have a look at their statement here.
As everybody wanted to finish the long day, only a few countries gave statements:
Brazil on behalf of GRULAC: it is important to hold regional conferences in 2008, like it was done before the Durban WCAR. Regional meetings play a relevant role in the process. We have the honor of offering to host such a Regional conference. Egypt: my intervention will be much shorter than the EU. On behalf of the African group I want to make a plea for adequate financing and technical assistance. Pakistan on behalf of the OIC: Our intervention will be even shorter than Egypts', we support regional meetings .
The Chair then closed the meeting, stating that tomorrow will be dedicated to covering the rest of the agenda, so final voting could take place on Friday.
Thought for the day - Plenary meeting - NGO activities - Videobyte
Thought for the day
The passing away of Atsuko Tanaka. People are not gone unless they are forgotten.
Don't forget her, don't forget her spirit.
The morning was filled with an endless number of speakers. The governments are still pretty much deadlocked on the objectives of Durban Review as well as on location, finances, level and participation. Tomorrow is voting day, but we expect this to start later than 10 in the morning, since while we are writing this at 10pm, informal negotiations are still going on in the Palais des Nations. In short, more news tomorrow!
Up till now this had been pretty much zero, most NGOs who were involved in the Durban Preparatory process aren't here or only sent one delegate. Today in the afternoon the NGO Interfaith International organized, together with the NGO Committee Against Racism and Racial Discrimination of CONGO (The Conference of NGOs) a meeting under the title 'The engagement of NGOs to effectively implement the Durban Program of Action. Some of the questions to be answered are: 'What are the results obtained in the combat Against Racism Six years after Durban?' and ' Actions taken to effectively implement the Durban Plan of Action at National, Regional and International levels'. Some 35 persons were present.
The meeting took a moment to reflect on the death of Atsuko Tanaka-Fox of IMADR. Many will remember her from the Durban Preparatory process - she was well known, a pillar of the Geneva NGO community. Certainly ICARE knew her since she and her team supplied us with a tireless stream of reports on all the plenary sessions during the WCAR Prepcoms. Her funeral will be in Geneva next week Wednesday. A minute of silence was observed to pay our respects.
The chair, Charles Graves, announced the first speaker, Mr. George Papadatos, Minister counselor of the permanent mission of Greece to the UN. He basically said that NGO participation is becoming increasingly better since fewer countries have objections against NGOs. In short, NGO behavior is improving (!) according to the countries. That is of course a pretty much double-edged sword, since what the countries see as good behavior is not necessarily what is in the interest of NGOs.
The next speaker was Dr. Krishna Ahoojapatel of the NGO committee on the status of women, talking about the impact of religions on manifestations of intolerace, xenophobia and racial discrimination. Yes, the speech of which the title found such disapproval in the eyes of the Moroccan delegation, as being 'probably an anti-Islamic speech'
She talked about slave trade and compensation and reparation, she said that some form of fund for Africa should be created. In Durban two countries were not present, two important counties - she did not want to name them 'since you know who they are'. There is a tremendous propaganda machinery - trying to make us forget Durban and 9/11 also blacked-out Durban. Discrimination has increased all over. Why? It has of course something to do with global politics but also with religion. There are 7 big religions in this world. In the name of religion so many wars, so many conflicts, and of course colonization have been committed.. I'm not talking about religious ritualism. No religions are in favor of killing people of committing suicide, you will not find that in the Koran, you will find that nowhere. We are living under all kinds of mythology about that. Since 9/11 right wing politics got more headway. Durban was important historically, but also showed how religion conquers and exploits other countries. The Middle East - we know only 20% of the territory is left of what's Palestine - is that in the name of religion? I don't know - but Palestinians live under occupation, suffer from checkpoints, displacement, poverty, etc. Now Syria and Iran are under threat. In Greece right now you have the fires - but the religious fires of hatred are also burning around the world, people hating other people since their religion is different. Tolerance is the main pillar of society. How is it that 6 years after Durban, we are hating religions - it happens to Islam, or like when in the past a religion was targeted in the 30ties and 40ties.
Professor Kapet de Bana, President of the Encyclopedia Africaine and Societe Savante, International Coordinator of the World Council of the African Diaspora (Paris) spoke about the 'Evolution of the situation in France and NGO activities to re-activate memories of racism'
He talked about slavery as a crime against humanity- what shall we do in order to not to repeat this crime? We need to work on the disappearance of segregation, racism, and discrimination. Who has introduced slavery, racism, and apartheid? Who is responsible?
That is what we are here for, at the Palais des Nations. Since Durban, actually after 500 years the memory, culture and religion of the African continent are recognized. We would like to bring that to the attention of people. In Durban we were able to say to humanity what we wanted to say - we are here to tell the UN what the people want to do - this is a fight on the field of ethics.
Renate Bloem, President of the Conference of NGOs with ECOSOC Consultative Status (CONGO) talked about 'the present day challenges for the combat against racism'.
She reminisced about Durban as a milestone in history, and talked about 9/11. "We don't want to talk about clash of civilizations. We want to be positive now".
She mentioned 4 and 5 October, a planned meeting at the UN New York -an interfaith dialogue on religion and peace, with civil society cooperation. She said that some parties have developed language that is almost hate speech or leads to hate speech. Quoting Tutu: I am what you are. As long as we don't understand that we will only continue hatred and discrimination. Will this new conference be held under responsibility of the General Assembly? Hopefully a country will come forward and host it, ormaybe it will be held here in Geneva under responsibility of the Human Rights Council.
Up till now, what was adopted here is a strong package for NGO participation - all those who were in Durban can participate, and new NGOs too.
This prompted a question from Malka Marcovich, representative of the commission on Religious Extremism against Women. She asked why there was no mention of the 'wonderful atmosphere' in Durban, why there had been no stance against violence against women, and emphasized that politicians too should fight for it that all the voices could be heard.
Charles Graves replied that there were many counter- currents at the NGO forum in Durban and that many of the indigenous peoples could not control the counter-currents, it was impossible to stop the counter currents.
Let's this time not make a charge of what could happen in the future. This is a small meeting at an organizational session. We cannot guarantee any conflict not to come up - bu we would rather having conflicts verbally, talking amongst ourselves, not as a thing that goes into the community - we can not predict what happens in the future. Maybe a meeting of the minds will follow, maybe informally in the Serpent bar.
If differences of opinion develop, when people are at odds, it is important to resolve issues internally, and not in public.
Renate Bloem said she wanted to recognize that Durban was painful - for the African people it was a beginning, but for NGOs it was painful. The international NGO structure was taken over by local organizers, and the forum was done in a spirit that is not the spirit of an NGO forum. Congo has distanced itself from this. Durban was a very painful experience - but we cannot stay there after six years, we need to go forward!
Malka Marcovich: yes but we can prevent a repeat of those problems! Renate Bloem: yes we can.
Margaret Parsons took the floor and said that this UN-meeting was very badly announced plus it was supposed to have been held at the end of June, was cancelled too late so people got on a plane, lost money. She said that she wanted CONGO to take leadership, to inform NGOs.
Both myself and Margaret Parsons criticized the Anti Discrimination Unit (ADU) for the late invite and the cancellation at the last moment. I explained that the ADU was using a mailing list from six years ago, never updated, and that not a lot of people were left on this list. He had pointed this out to the ADU, without result. Dr. Krishna Ahoojapatel found it to be a serious matter, this low profile, NGOs should not be ignored. She said that the low profile of some governments should not become the low profile of all, and that 'low profile' was a very mild word for what's happening with the campaign against Durban follow-up.
Mr. Abdelbaghi took the floor and said that there are different views on the Durban NGO forum, mixed views. For him it was a great event, but the resistance against Durban is continuing today. 'We want all to be involved: all victims groups should be included. But we have to find a way to go forward. This week lacks NGOs. This was on purpose: a serious attempt to sabotage Durban Review.
Charles Graves said that the CONGO subcommittee for Durban follow up exists, he wanted to know if he could name the members, so maybe NGOs can mail them and maybe they can help with facilitation. The chair of it is Jann Lonn, his e-mail address is email@example.com. Also Edith Ballantyne is a member.
Attack on ICARE
Jann Lonn, Representative of ISMUN (International Student Movement for the United Nations) and member of the sub-committee on the follow-up to the 2001 Durban Conference spoke next.
He said that he was concerned about 'the campaign to discredit the WCAR', which was surely present in Durban and certainly intensified afterwards.
"We have hardly ever seen a greater attempt to discredit a World Conference, to distort facts, and make its outcomes harder to be implemented. The documents out of Durban are the least known of all World Conferences, because of the discrediting campaign. I'm concerned about what I see on websites and certain newspapers about Durban review. Things like 'stop Durban 2' and 'Libya and Iran are planning to do Durban again', published by so-called watch groups, all of them based on distortion. And one of the organizations that is doing this is in fact present here, ICARE, the Internet Centre Anti Racism Europe! They write, and I quote: 'If you want to review Durban, you will have to know that the World Conference Against Racism (WCAR) became a racist conference'. This on ICARE, that sends news to thousands of NGOs in Europe. It is the duty of all NGOs to spread the word that there will be a follow-up conference, that Durban was a positive thing and that it is great to have a Durban review conference!"
Jann Lonn delivered this rhetoric like Durban was the best thing that ever happened. Those of us who were in Durban know that it was flawed - there were good things but there were also very ugly and unacceptable things. Antisemitic things. Since it happened under UN- responsibility and you cannot really divorce the governmental conference from the NGO forum, it was in effect a racist conference.
In my reply to him I said:
"We have always been fair and accurate in our reporting - we reported on the whole WCAR preparatory process and Durban itself and we have been reporting on all forms of racism since 1999. We also reported on the problems in Durban. Some do not like that, but facts are facts. The NGO Forum in Durban turned into an Antisemitic hatefest. In that sense, Durban was racist".
Since he wanted to reply to that again but the chair would not let him, he started to scream and repeat accusations. Which prompted me to state:
"Sure good things came also out of Durban - but all of us there allowed racism to be committed during an antiracist Forum. I find that to be pretty devastating - or, as I said after Durban: when anti-racists or Human Rights advocates engage in, or allow racism, they are no longer antiracists or Human Rights advocates. You can't have it both ways. Why don't you ask Mary Robinson why she did not want to recommend the NGO Declaration and Plan of Action to the Governments? You know why - it contained hateful and non-Human rights language and if you want to throw in our face that we want to discredit the Durban review then you are actually displaying some of the rhetoric that plagued Durban.
I know you have in front of you a copy of the so-called Hitler handbill, which was spread during the WCAR. Why don't you hold it up for all to see, you know what it says: 'What if I had won? The good things: there would be no Israel and no Palestinian blood shed. The bad things: I would not have allowed this car to be made" (The new Beetle). "The rest is your guess"
Now you want to sit here saying there was no antisemitism at the WCAR. By the way, it is my duty as a Human Rights advocate and antiracist to work on Human Rights and to fight all kinds of racism. What you say what my duty should be is of no concern to me.
I just hope we can do it better next time around, for all of us, during the Durban Review conference and that is a sentiment that is shared I think by most here.
Some of those in the room agreed with Jan Lonn, some with me. The chair, Charles Graves, stated that ICARE did a lot of good work and admitted that antisemitism had been a problem at the WCAR.
Next Mr. Ronald Barnes, representing Mr. Wilton Littlechild, regional chief of the First Nations Assembly (AFN, Canada) gave an analysis of the situation of indigenous peoples and minorities worldwide.
Suzette Bronkhorst of the Internet Center Anti Racism Europe talked about the situation with the National Action Plans and gave an overview of the situation concerning racism and discrimination in Europe.
Lastly, Mrs. Margaret Parsons, Executive Director of the African Canadian Legal Clinic(Toronto) spoke about the efforts of African descendants to eradicate racism in Canada.
Tomorrow at 1.30 pm CONGO will hold a NGO briefing/Debriefing.
Interview with Umakant , representative of the National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights, about what Durban Review means for the Dalits.
Quotes of the day - Editorial - Report from the Governmental Plenary - Decision List - NGO Briefing - Changes at the Palais
Quotes of the day
"If government delegates would have to run NGOs, they would not last for a day"
Chair: "of course, the secretariat will do it forthwith, or very soon!"
Syria: "Madam Chair, we have been here all day in coffee shops et cetera without knowing what's going on".
Duking it out over Document L2
What a strange day this last day was - an atmosphere of confusion ruled the plenary - are we agreeing on things and on what? Where is this or that informal session and which region is talking to whom? What's going on? Will we reach consensus before they kick us out of the building? The first signs that it is not going all too well is when your contacts in the delegations all of a sudden stop talking to you…
All day delegates were running back and forth between the plenary room and the other meetings rooms where 'the regions' (African Countries Group, the EU, the OIC, South-Asia, Caribbean/South America) either were having their own meetings or having informal negotiations with each other. Document L2, with all the draft decisions up to now in it was the working document which the regions used to fight over, aiming at consensus - which is always hard to do. For us NGOs that want to work on Durban review a number of those Draft Decisions are pretty important; they determine how and in which way we will be able to participate. But since nothing is about content really, only about modalities, the plenary discussions were extremely boring. However, the last session of the day was at times quite hilarious, as you will be able to read in the report on that.
The first real content-Prepcom will take place in Geneva from April 21 to May 2, 2008. We have a chance here to review Durban - to strengthen what was already in the governmental Durban documents, to evaluate the work what the countries have done or not (mostly not) like the much-talked about National Acton Plans. We can even do better this time, show mutual respect and solidarity, give attention to important issues that did not get the attention they deserved in Durban, like Dalits, Roma, GLBT, and not let ourselves be derailed this time by whatever single-issue agendas or hateful rhetoric and behavior. As per usual, ICARE will do its best to bring you information on the process by reporting, giving attention to special issues and by providing dates on meetings and agendas.
Last Plenary session
[Note: since we had to leave at 5.45 pm and the session was not over yet, the final outcomes are listed shortly at the end of this report. Scroll down there if you don't want to read all this! After almost a full day of informal meetings, the final plenary started only at 4pm - well, officially. In reality it only started at 4.30pm]
Start of the meeting
The chair informed all that the meeting would end at 6pm. She said that a number of regions were still in informal consultation meetings and she would give the facilitators of those the floor as soon as they arrived in the plenary. She stressed that 'we are getting very close to a consensus'. A consensus on the Draft Decisions as laid down in document A/CONF.211/PC.1/L.2., L2 for short. She told the room that she would give 15 minutes of speaking time for each draft decision and 15 minutes to each facilitator or Informal meetings. She gave the Ambassador of Armenia, facilitator of the informal meeting on Draft Decision 11 (Objectives of the Durban Review Conference) the floor.
Ambassador of Armenia: "A text has been accepted as a basis for consensus, it is huge in compromise, but this text needs to be acceptable. We want no new discussion and no re-opening of the drafting on it.
[Note: the original DD11 states that the objectives will be to work on the basis of, and with full respect for the Durban Declaration and PoA, an that there will be no renegotiation of the existing agreements contained therein. The African Group and the OIC do not agree on that.]
Syria: madam Chair, I don't have the text! [Note: Nobody has it]
Chair: Thank you, we will distribute the text in due time. We are now moving to Draft Decision 2 on the Rules of Procedure.
[Note: the original DD2 states that the PrepCom will take as provisional rules of procedure the adopted Durban WCAR Rules of procedure (A/CONF.189/2)].
Chair: The ambassador of Argentine has the floor - oh, he is not here. We will defer DD2 to later. Let's go to Draft Decision 10 on Sources of funding. Well, I see that the Ambassador of Brazil is still in negotiations, so we will defer discussion on DD10 to later.
[Note: DD10 is a proposal by the Chair herself. In a nutshell is proposes to ask the UN Secretary-General (SG) to provide money for the preparations of the Durban Review conference and to consider to provide money and technical assistance for Regional Preparatory meetings. It also proposes to request the High Commissioner for Human Rights to revitalize the voluntary fund for the Durban Review conference, which should be used to pay for intersessionals, participation of national human rights institutions and NGOs - especially those from developing countries, as well as human rights treaty bodies and thematic special procedures. Furthermore, DD10 proposes to appeal for money to Governments, NGOs, private sector, international organizations, individuals, et cetera. and wants the SG to undertake initiatives to encourage contributions. Plus, it proposes that the High Commissioner 'passes the hat around' by looking at sources and ask UN departments for finances. Lastly, it proposes that the GA appeals for extrabudgetary resources to cover the participation cost of lest developed countries for all meetings in the process].
Chair: we will now move to Draft Decision 8, International, regional and national preparatory initiatives.
[Note: the original DD8 calls upon states to hold meetings or undertake initiatives and to submit the reports of those to the PrepCom.]
Ambassador of the Russian Federation: We agreed on a provisional text. I hope the secretariat will disseminate it.
Chair: of course, the secretariat will do it forthwith, or very soon. We are still waiting for the Ambassador of Brazil. Any requests for the floor on DD8? Well, no requests. Therefore, since we are still waiting for the ambassador of Brazil, it might be worthwhile to breach a subject that I really wanted to talk about at the end of the meetings, after the voting. Draft Decision 15 - it is not in document L2, so I will read it to you. In English, and slowly, so everybody can write it down!
Greece: Eummm, Madam Chair...will it be possible to put it on the screen?
Chair: yes sir that is a very good idea! I will ask the secretariat to do just that - but in the meantime I will read it.
[Note: she reads it slowly - it comes down to that they want the Human Rights Council to invite the Prepcom to send its documents to the General Assembly]
Chair: we're still waiting for the Ambassador of Brazil now. We will have DD15 on the screen and disseminated on paper very very shortly now…
[Note: waiting, no-one wants the floor]
Chair: the ambassadors of Argentine and Brazil are still in consultations, they will brief us later.
Chair: I was just informed that the ambassadors are nearing completion, they will join us in 10 minutes! In the meantime the floor is open to….Senegal! Senegal has the floor!
Senegal: madam Chair, I'm not speaking towards the substance, but on the screen it says 'submits', it should be 'submit', not 'submits'.
The Ambassador of Argentine enters the room: "Madam Chair, on draft Decision 2, rules of procedure, significant amendments were made concerning the role of NGOs and other bodies, but we have practically closed and settled the language. We decided to use the WCAR rules as provisional rules so we can agree on that now, with the provision that all and every rule can be revised until 2009"
Chair: "so the final agreement is that whatever we decide on that now is allowed to be changed later. To clarify, amendments from now on until the Durban Review conference in 2009. Any country can send those to the bureau, the bureau will re-formulate, make a recommendation and send it to the PrepCom for deliberation and decision. On the first day of the Durban Review conference we will then agree upon final rules and regulations".
Chair: "we're still waiting for the Ambassador of Brazil… I have tried to move the end-time to 6.15pm but the UN did not approve this. So we will have to end at 6pm precisely"
Pakistan/OIC: "we need to make decisions now and not have this dragged into the Prepcoms...[Note: at this point the Ambassador of Pakistan's speech became unintelligible]
Chair: "distinguished Ambasador, I do not get what your proposal or comment means"
Pakinstan/OIC: "Madam Chair, I will clarify...[Note: still totally unintelligible]
Chair: "Thank you, this is indeed a good point. Portugal on behalf of the EU has the floor!"
Portugal/EU: "Madam Chair, is it possible to have the amended draft decisions in written form now and then to break for a few minutes so we can confer."
Chair: "We will ask the secretariat to ask the Ambassador of Brazil how much more time he needs so we will know how we will spend the last have hour of this meeting [note: it was 5:30pm by then]
Syria: "Madam Chair, we have been here all day in coffee shops et cetera without knowing what's going on, everybody was in private informal meetings, we did not know what amendments were made and which will be included in the review conference itself. If we leave all this for later decision the review conference will turn into an organizational meeting on Rules of procedures"
Chair: "distinguished delegate, the informal meetings were not behind closed doors and the info was in the Order of the day document and on the screen constantly! I don't think the Durban Review conference will be a waste of time on procedures, I don't think so. The Bureau will facilitate agreements and will not leave things pending."
Chair: "I see the Ambassador of Brazil has entered the room... but before we give him the floor I'm giving the floor to Ghana".
Ghana: "We are disadvantaged, I don't know what we are discussing, we don't have the documents".
Chair: "the secretariat is trying to make copies of the Rules of Procedure document (DD2), but it is 18 pages, which is quite long and as you can imagine quite a lot of work. We will have the document disseminated very soon."
Egypt/African Group: "Madam chair, we're talking about difficult positions and potential agreements, but we need to type them out and have them on paper, and then meet further, we urge you to suspend the meeting. We understand the time constraints but we urge you to suspend, we're dealing with most important issues and it looks like this meeting will go on well after 6pm anyway".
Chair: "I will then suspend, but only for 10 minutes. The meeting is now suspended for 10 minutes"
[Note: by then it was 5:45 pm and we had to leave. Now follows a brief listing of the consensus that was reached on the Draft Decisions, including those decided earlier in the week]
DD1 - Rules of procedure for the PrepComs: will be the General Assembly Rules of Procedure
DD2 - Rules of Procedure for the Durban Review Conference: those of the Durban WCAR but every rule can be amended or changed from now on until the first day of the Durban Review 2009 conference, when the final Rules of procedures will be adopted.
DD3 - NGO participation & consultation at the PrepComs and Review Conference: All NGOs accredited to the WCAR will be automatically accredited, ECOSOC status NGOs idem ditto, 'new' NGOs have to apply for accreditation to the secretariat. An updated WCAR accredited NGOs list was disseminated to the countries and they have 14 days to object to NGOs. If they do, the PrepCom will make the final decision on the accreditation.
DD4 - Dates of the Prepcoms: Geneva from April 21 to May 2, 2008 and Geneva, 6 to 17 October 2008.
DD5 - Dates of the Durban Review Conference: In the first half of 2009. Final decision on dates will be made by the PrepComs.
DD6 - Level of participation: Highest possible
DD7 - Reports, studies and other documentation for the PrepCom and the Durban Review conference:
a. UN Specialized agencies, UN Special Rapporteurs on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance and on freedom of religion or belief , NGOs, Governmental bodies, CERD, all the WCAR Follow-up mechanisms, all the States
b. A questionnaire on what has been done on combating racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance (basically what has been done with the outcomes of Durban). The questionnaire will be sent directly after this organizational meeting to all the stakeholders listed above, drafted/supervised by the bureau, and input goes directly to the PrepCom.
c. The creation of a new Intergovernemental working group, as it where a working group to report on all the other existing Durban Follow-up mechanisms (Ad Hoc Committee of the Human Rights Council on the Elaboration of Complementary Standards - Intergovernmental Working Group on the Durban Declaration and PoA - the 5 Eminent Experts group - Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent).
DD8 - International, regional and national preparatory initiatives: Decided to call upon states and regional organizations to hold those. See also under funding, DD10.
DD9 - Secretary-General of the Durban Review Conference: High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour (unanimously adopted).
DD10 - Sources of funding: UN should provide resources for the PrepComs and preparatory process out of the normal budget. When the venue for the review Conference is agreed upon there will be new deliberations on the funding of that.
DD11 - Objectives of the Durban Review Conference:
The original DD11 states that the objectives will be to work on the basis of, and with full respect for the Durban Declaration and PoA, an that there will be no renegotiation of the existing agreements contained therein, in other words, no talk about issues that did not make it into the Declaration and PoA. It also said: 'including futher actions initiatives and practical solutions for combating all the contemporary scourges of racism' In the final this has been changed to: 'include assessing contemporary manifestations of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance'. This creates a backdoor to bring back things that did not make it into the Durban Declaration and PoA in 2001 and for new things.
DD12 - Venue of PrepComs and Durban Review Conference: Prepcoms venue will be Geneva, D-review venue will be decided at a later date by the PrepCom.
DD13 - Provisional agenda for first substantive PrepCom: adopted, on the agenda are items like the provisional agenda for the Durban Review conference, organization of work, reports of (regional) preparatory meetings (if any), review of reports by special rapporteurs and human rights bodies and mechanisms, draft outcome document of the Durban Review conference and organization of the work for the D-review conference.
DD14 - Organization of the work for the prepcoms and the formulation of a concrete plan for the preparatory process: flexible timetable. Possible Regional meetings between June and September 2008
CONGO NGO briefing/Debriefing
Some 20 persons were present. CONGO President Renate Bloem gives an overview of the week. Sandra Aragon of the Anti Discrimination Unit of the High Commissioner for Human Rights office tells us that the organizational meeting this week has been working on a main document that combines the draft decisions. Some some contributions of mechanisms like CERD will be included. Suzette Bronkhorst (ICARE) says that the main struggle is on either reviewing the document or looking at issues. Marie Chen (Africab Canadian Law Clinic) poses a question to Sandra Aragon: There is the matter of distribution or the dissemination of info. This was an organizational session but still no info was coming out of the High Commissioners Office - the last time the meeting was cancelled and NGOs were informed too late. There is a lack of info and no will to spread info, it seems. What can NGOs expect from your office -how do we move forward.
Sandra Aragon: now that there is funding, we will revitalize the WCAR mailing list -
A number of people remind her that most NGOs who were on that list six years ago are no longer, e-mail addresses changed, et cetera.
The meeting did not get beyond some Q&A and some philosophy on NGO participation and role.
Changes at the Palais
For those who have not seen the inside of the Palais des Nations since the 2001 Prepcoms, some things have changed, some for the better, some for worse. Smoking is no longer allowed anywhere in the building. You have to go outside, there's an ashtray standing in front of Porte 40 on the first floor. Some enterprising ICARE-person (guess!) dragged a chair there, which is now becoming a permanent fixture. Next we need a coffee machine. At the corner of the lobby and the Serpent bar downstairs a sort-of Cyber Café has been created, a big table with 12 computers and a laser printer (with paper!). That's a big improvement. Another new great fixture is the free Wireless access point in and around the plenary rooms. You can even pick it up when you're sitting in the Serpent bar. It's called DMZ, which shows that the United Nations SysOp at the Palais des Nations has a sense of humor. DMZ is a military acronym that stands for 'DeMiltarized Zone' and in computer terms it means that the network is shut-off from the Intranet in a number of ways. So, no hacking into confidential UN files while using the DMZ access point :-).
Of course the biggest change of all is the new 'Security Bunker' at the Pregny gate, 14 Avenue de la Paix. You no longer go to Villa les Feuillantines to do the paperwork and pick up your badge. You go straight to the new security center to do that, where you and your stuff will also be scanned (the usual airport procedure) before you get access to the terrain. A pity, I liked the somewhat decrepit Villa with its informal atmosphere and friendly UN Police. Those days are gone.
See you at the first PrepCom in April 2008!
ICARE News team, Geneva.