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I CARE - Special Report - Durban Review PrepCom 2 (Substantive). Geneva, October 6 to 17, 2008

ICARE Live Reports from the 2nd substantive UN Preparatory Committee for the Durban Review Conference 2009, in Palais des Nations, Geneva, Switzerland, from October 6 to 17, 2008.

Draft agenda and other documents can be found here , the objectives of the Review conference here. the special reports on the August 2007 organizational PrepCom in Geneva are here.


NEWSFLASH: DRAFT OUTCOME DOCUMENT HAS ARRIVED TODAY (Sunday, October 12)

It was published today as 5 separate word documents for the 5 Objectives.

Click to download:

Section/Objective 1

Section/Objective 2

Section/Objective 3

Section/Objective 4

Section/Objective 5

Or download it as one complete word document (87 pages, almost 10mb)

The PrepCom decided that there would be no reference made to the origin of the paragraphs, so you can't see from which of the regional documents language was used or which country or region asked for insertion of paragraphs.


CALENDAR

Monday, October 6 - Tuesday, October 7 - Wednesday, October 8 - Thursday, October 9 - Friday, October 10 - Sunday, October 12 - Monday, October 13 - Tuesday, October 14 - Wednesday, October 15 - Thursday, October 16 - Friday, October 17 - weekend edition


Monday, October 6

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Quotes of the day - Editorial - Reports from the Plenary


Quotes of the day

"you can speak to government delegations, but outside please, we wouldn't want you to lobby inside"

"this is the first time the bureau is talking to NGOs in this way, don't worry, we're on your side, even if you can't be there"

"I do so agree, Friday is extremely late, let's do it on Thursday"


Editorial

Consensus or deathderij

After coming in from the rain, we were just in time to see the High Commissioner for Human Rights give her address. The whole debate about the accreditation of the International Dalit Solidarity Network (IDSN) was a lot of same old, same old. Although to see Pakistan agree with the European Union for the sake of hampering India was definitely a first. Anyway, like at the previous PrepCom it was decided to hold of on the accreditation matter for 48 hours to 'get consensus' Puhlease didn't we do this dance last time around! Ten days of PrepCom substantive issues, zero hours - procedural prattle 12 hours, overall progress zero points( to keep it in Eurovision song contest terms). I find it difficult to figure out if this consensus thing is about trying to look like everybody agrees, contrary to the Durban conference, or if it's about gaining time to not have to speak about substantive issues, so no fighting is shown in public.

During the meeting of the bureau and the NGOs Ms. Najat Al-Hajjaji once again emphasized how smoothly and in perfect harmony the countries are preparing the Durban Review Conference, by consensus. The bureau has grave concerns about the small amount of NGOs that have shown up so far to participate, although there is hardly any funding available to help especially small organizations from outside (western) Europe to come to meetings. This is primarily blamed on those who want to boycott the DRC. (Canada being the only state so far to have a full boycott in place, the US and Israel are still on the fence) I'm wondering why all those countries who claim that 'NGO participation is of the utmost importance', are not contributing to the NGO fund. The other possibility for NGOs to contribute is by making a written submission and sending it to the bureau. Unfortunately the location of the questionnaire keeps on changing and also it takes quite an effort to find the address to send it to. The questionnaire can be found here (pdf, English) http://www2.ohchr.org/english/issues/racism/DurbanReview/docs/questionnaire1st.pdf

The place to send it to, as well as any other written contribution is, we think:

Anti-Discrimination Unit
Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights
48 Guiseppe Motta
CH 1202 Geneva, Switzerland
Tel: +41 22 928 9208
Fax: +41 22 928 90 50
E-mail: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

What else do we have to look forward to?
Have a look at the Written contribution submitted by the Organization of the Islamic Conference:
http://www2.ohchr.org/english/issues/racism/DurbanReview/session2-documentation.htm "As the existing national laws and courts have failed to address the issue, internationally binding normative standards need to be devised that can provide adequate guarantees against defamation of religions and religious intolerance."
Rather than expressing concern about the terrible discrimination a lot of Muslims suffer and what to do about it, they would like to discuss defamation of religions. I'd say "please people get over it" More about this in the coming days, stay tuned.
Furthermore I'm wondering if we'll get to the substantive part of this second substantive PrepCom, have a look at how they have re-arranged the format of the PrepCom.

Suzette Bronkhorst for I CARE

 


Reports from the Plenary

We jumped in when the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navanethem Pillay commenced her speech to the opening of the Durban 2nd Preparatory Committee, followed by an extensive debate amongst the Member States lasting until the end of the morning session. The discussion was about whether a decision should be made about the accreditation of the International Dalith Solidarity Network (IDSN). It started of with the argument of India that the IDSN should not be accredited because of “obvious reasons” (i.e. caste discrimination is not a case of racial discrimination and it is not mentioned in the DDPA). Then France on behalf of the EU and Pakistan took the floor, standing hand in hand in defense of the accreditation of IDSN. They, amongst others, argued that caste discrimination is a form of descent based discrimination which falls within article 1 of the International Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD). Algeria, apparently aware that consensus on the issue was far from near, decided to propose postponing the decision until Friday the ninth of October. This brought up a whole new procedural discussion eventually resulting in an agreement to postpone the decision for 48 hours. As for now, the Preparatory Committee will decide on Wednesday about the faith of the IDSN.

0482

Attending NGO’s were invited to meet up with the Chair of the Preparatory Committee and the Bureau to discuss the process during lunchtime. A couple of NGO’s stressed the need for Member States to raise the attractiveness (substantially and financially) for NGO’s to contribute to the Durban Review process. For a number of NGO’s it is impossible to attend the meetings due to financial shortcomings; others have or may loose interest because of the lack of substantive discussions in the process. In response, the Bureau expressed its concern about the decreasing amount of financial means and spoke about its search for ways in which they can encourage governments to allot funds. It was noted that the entrance of Switzerland to the Schengen zone could extent the process of gaining visa for NGO’s from outside of Europe. Besides that, the Bureau recommended NGO’s to deliver there statements in advance and elaborated on the success of the preparatory NGO forum in participating in the Latin American Regional Conference. In the end the Chair in office announced that during the next two weeks more of these NGO – Prepcomm meetings will take place, when however remains unknown. At least two more meetings can be expected before Friday the 17th.

A few decisions were adopted in the afternoon session. An important one to note concerns NGO speaking time, the more NGO’s gathered around one statement, the more speaking time will be allotted: up to two ngo's 3 minutes speaking time; 3-5 ngo's 4 minutes; 6-10 ngo's 5 minutes and joint statements of more than 10 ngo's 6 minutes. Member States will have 5 to make their statement and observers 3 minutes. More will follow tomorrow…

ICARE Team Geneva.

 


TUESDAY, October 7

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Quotes of the day - Editorial - Reports from the Plenary - The Great Big Durban Review Lottery

Quotes of the day

“We are not making it easy for you madam chair, but we need more time for this, we need to psychologically satisfy ourselves.”

"We need a computer NOW, they're gonna start negotiating!"

"No madam President, tomorrow we won't begin the work at 13 hours, but at 15 hours. At 13 hours we lunch"

 


Editorial

 

Coming in from the cold

Coming in from the cold (Warsaw), arriving in Geneva after one and a half week of OSCE Human Dimensions Implementation meeting the usual somewhat dysfunctional atmosphere in the Palais des Nations hits hard. I don't particularly like Warsaw, the weather, surroundings and food in Geneva are so much better, but at the OSCE you can actually accomplish things, while at the UN it is extremely slow going - if you're going anywhere at all. One of our new staffers who has never seen the goings on at the Palais of Wisdom was disgusted after one day already.

Some of the same familiar NGO faces greet us. Not many, though. Some 30 (tops) are present, of which half are Geneva based (International) ones. Of course money always plays a role, most organizations do not have the budget to fly all the way to Geneva, plus, some are celebrating religious holidays in the first and second week Even so, it is pitiful. Well, at least we are here to report for those who can't attend, although that's also used by some as an excuse: "Aah, ICARE will report on it, we don't have to go!". Remember, dear friends, if we want this review to mean something, you have to be there. Hopefully more people will arrive during the week or next week. Hey, a familiar diplomatic face! Christian Strohal, former Director of ODIHR, famous for flying jumps, handling the Russian Federation and other contortionist acts, present here in his new position as Austrian Ambassador to the UN in Geneva. Maybe he can whip his colleagues into shape?

Ronald Eissens

 


It is 5 minutes to ten, well at least we are here... Ten past ten...wonder where everyone is....

 


Reports from the Plenary

The morning session finally opened at 10.45 am with a general debate on the following agenda items:

- 3. Reports of preparatory meetings and activities at the international level, regional and national levels.

- 4. Review of reports, studies and other documentation for the Prepcom and the Durban Review conference and contributions of human rights bodies and mechanisms.

 

- 5. Report of the intercessional open-ended intergovernmental working group to follow up the work of the Prepcom.

The chair called it a general debate, but in fact it was nothing more than a sequence of monologues by three NGO's, whose representatives argued the importance of two specific topics that should be taken up by the Prepcom: first a historical perspective on racism resulting from slave trade and the fact that this practice still exists today, second the importance of mentioning the rights of indigenous people such as the right to self determination and the necessity of national action plans on this issue. The Canadian HIV legal network added to that, that civil society is crucial in ending racism and racial discrimination and that the implementation of the commitments can only be assessed in today's reality; People in the West should acknowledge racism in their own backyard, such as right wing politicians who use hate speech against Muslims to gain more votes. At the same time the EU contribution to the Durban Review Conference circulated. It is quite a lengthy document (15 pages) that covers the above mentioned topics as well.

Next on the agenda was the procedure for consultations and negotiations to draft the outcome document. The Chair did not explain well how she wanted the plenary to operate for drafting the outcome document during the next two weeks. Did she want to vote on dividing the plenary into 5 groups in correspondence with the five segments of the outcome document? Or, will the plenary discuss the five segments subsequently? And, who was supposed to chair these meetings since the Chair in office declared she wouldn't and failed to identify someone in return. Her suggestion was that each regional group (Eastern Europe / Western States / Asia / Africa /Latin America and the Caribbean) should appoint a facilitator that would chair the meeting on one of the five segments. Anyhow, after she finished her last sentence on the procedural matter, it became immediately clear that I was not the only one that did not understand the suggested plan.

There was confusion on all sides, resulting in a bulk of questions, proposals and suggestions that on their turn led to questions about the questions, suggestions for variants on the proposals and so on. Fortunately, after the French intervention on behalf of the EU the plan became a bit clearer. The plenary was not to be split up; the Prepcom would remain in the same room and every regional group (5 in total) had to appoint a facilitator (resulting in 5 facilitators) who would co-ordinate and organise the drafting of the outcome document per segment. Now that was clear, it remained vague how these facilitators had to be appointed. The Chair used the word ‘by lot' (whoops), on which Nigeria responded: "We are not making it easy for you madam chair, but we need more time for this, we need to psychologically satisfy ourselves." Right...

Eventually the Chair convinced the regional groups that they should appoint a facilitator, so that the substantial debate could start in the afternoon. The meeting was suspended for half an hour after which the facilitators had to be announced and the 5 objectives allotted to them. One out of the five groups, the African group, was able to distinguish a facilitator. The others said they needed more time, started to press for appointing just one facilitator and / or wanted the Bureau to tell the Prepcom what to do. In response, the Chair answered that those who wanted one facilitator should find one and present him or her at the start of the afternoon session. Furthermore, it was decided that the Bureau would come together during lunch to discuss the format in detail. At the same time the Chair insisted on resuming the meeting at three o ‘clock sharp to start with a substantive discussion on one of the segments, since at least the African group was able to appoint a facilitator. We will wait and see.

Afternoon session

Waiting we did, the session was re-opened by the Chair at 4 o'clock sharp with an oral presentation of the things discussed by the Bureau during lunchtime. With regard to the appointment of facilitators, the Chair announced that the four regional groups will have the opportunity until tomorrow 1 o'clock, to hand over the names of the ‘experts' whom will take up the role of facilitator. This was concurrently the main reason why most of the Member States opposed starting the substantive discussion this afternoon. No one liked the idea of starting it without knowing who the other facilitators would be and what topics they would handle. So, the only option left was suspending the start of the substantive discussion until tomorrow 3 o' clock.

A second difficult point for the Prepcom was a plan suggested by the Chair to commence the negotiations. The idea was that a small group (including the facilitators) would sit down, study the three main documents and group similar points of view on the five objectives. This should make it easier for the Prepcom to draft an outcome document. The three documents referred to are the ones that resulted from the Brazilian meeting / the Abuja meeting and the document of the EU. Till the end of the day there was no agreement on whether this plan was a good thing or a bad thing, most Member States objected though.

Another point touched upon, and important to NGO's, is NGO participation during the drafting of the outcome document. Up till now there are no objections from the Prepcom to the following procedure: The Prepcom is an intergovernmental body, NGO's are allowed to be present at the plenary sessions since these are open and public. However, NGO's may not participate or take the floor during the discussions. If you want to take the floor you can ask for it at the beginning or at the end of a negotiation session. Another remaining possibility is to submit written contributions.

I left the room at the end of the day when the delegates started repeating there discussion and asking the same questions over and over again. At that moment a famous quote popped up in my mind. Louis van Gaal, a well-known Dutch soccer trainer, once said to a bunch of journalists who kept on asking him the same questions "Is it because I am so smart or because you are so stupid?" Unfortunately I am sure that in this room it is not so much a lack of brains, but a lack of will.

ICARE Team Geneva.


The Great Big Durban Review Lottery!

huddlesToday, the bureau, the secretariat and the High Commissioner were looking for one person to chair all five DDPA subtopics, preferably a permanent ambassador to the UN in Geneva. They did not succeed in finding ANYBODY willing. Cutting up the DDPA in the 5 subtopics and covering them in the coming days, all under one chairperson, resulting in a first draft outcome document on Friday is maybe not a bad idea, but then somebody has to step up. Why Mrs. Najat Al-Hajjaji, Chair of the PrepCom, does not do the job herself is totally unclear. As a next attempt to go forward she proposed to find 5 different chairs/faciltators, one from each UN region, but most regions did not agree with that either. They stressed they wanted ONE (not to be found) chair.
No consensus could be reached by yet another try by Mrs. Al-Hajjaji to get regions to select a topic they wanted to take. Nobody offered. The chair, at her wits end, told the meeting that fate then should decide by putting the regions and topics in a hat and match them. The Countries were aghast: "Madam Chair, the Durban Review Conference is too important to make into a lottery!"

In the end, after much bickering, Najat Al-Hajjaji suspended the meeting to give countries the chance to consult in the corridors. The African group proposed 3 names for facilitating the topics and since the Africans are at least ready and willing to start, an attempt will be made tomorrow to do just that. Alas, since tomorrow we will only start at noon (for reasons unknown) and the debate about the accreditation of a number of NGOs is number one on the agenda, it seems very likely that the work on content will only begin in the late afternoon, or on Wednesday. Our tax dollars and Euros and other currencies at work, right? What's all this about? Unwillingness to start on content? The regions want to stall just because they can? Trolling? It's unclear. Just another day in the Palais des Nations.



wedneSDAY, October 8

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Quotes of the day - Editorial - Reports from the Plenary - Bits and Bytes - The new 'Tongan' delegate - What are the NGOs doing? - Joke of the day

 



 


Quotes of the day

"Madam Chair, it is never a mistake when one gives the floor to Pakistan"

"Mr.facilitator, when one cooks the food for too long, it turns bad"

"You do realize they call you slick, right? Slick Shalaby."


Editorial

 

Not much to say except that finally work has started on the content of the outcome document this afternoon. Kudos for the Nigerian facilitator Mr. Ositadinma Anaedu (on behalf of the African group), who whipped the delegates into shape, displaying lots of humour and push. To quote: "everybody loves their own voice of course, but unless you can give me some real language on this, lets move on!" How refreshing. All signs are that the African group has decided to show the world that they have a real interest in making the DRC successful.

Bizarre moment of the day: A UN policeman asking me to ‘be discrete while making photos'. Sure we will. We don't want ICARE to become x-rated because of all the compromising positions in the plenary.

It was not all a bed of roses today. The Tibetan NGO that had applied for accreditation will have to wait for 14 days for a decision on that, which means the PrepCom will no longer be in session and the Bureau is not allowed to make a decision on it. More about this nasty catch-22 tomorrow.

The plenary starts tomorrow at 10 -on time, so they say- and the delegates will go for the ultimate attempt to be able to show a first draft on Friday. Word in the corridor is that they willnever make it. Well, let's see, anything seems possible now that Anaedu is holding the whip.

Ronald Eissens

 


REPORTS FROM THE PLENARY

Today's session started at 12:40. The four regional groups were given all morning to figure out who would be their lucky one and surprise surprise they all have found a facilitator!

The winners are (drums please):

  • Objective one, of the Asian group: Ambassador Dr. Jayatilleka of the Permanent Mission of Sri Lanka to the United Nations Office in Geneva
  • Objective two, of the Group of Latin American and Caribbean Countries (Grulac): Embassy Secretary Sebastian Rosales of the Permanent Mission of Argentina to the United Nations Office in Geneva
  • Objective three, of the Western European and Other Countries (WEOC): First secretary Mr. Ali Onaner of the Permanent Mission of Turkey to the United Nations Office in Geneva
  • Objective four, of the Eastern European Group: Mr. Youri Boïchenko member of the Russian delegation
  • Objective five, of the African Group: A member of the Nigerian delegatio, Mr. Ositadimna Anaedu.

Right before the end of this short session (as Nigeria mentioned yesterday, we are supposed to have lunch at one), the African group announced that it would like to swop objectives with the Asian Group. No one really made a problem out of that. So we can expect Nigeria to start with the substantive discussion on objective 1, but (yes there is a but) not before two other agenda items are settled. The plan is to re-open the plenary session at three (sharp) and discuss the issue of the accreditation of 7 NGO's (the IDSN for example - have a look at the Monday report -) until 15:30. After that, half an hour will be devoted (on the instigation of the Russian Federation) to synchronise the views of the five facilitators on how they intend to work on the five objectives. The Prepcom really surprised me this morning; see if they can do that again!

Afternoon session

 

Oh goodie, they really started the drafting process of the outcome document. But before they came to that point, two other agenda items had to be settled. Regarding the NGO's it was decided (after ample consultations between

France

and

India

) to grant accreditation to the IDSN in order to participate in the preparatory process to the Durban Review Conference. Suprising because of the negative position India had about the accreditation of this NGO since last

PrepCom. Concerning the other 6 NGO's, 5 were granted accreditation. A decision on the Brazilian Association of Gays, Lesbians, Bisexuals, Transvestites and Transsexuals was suspended on request of

Iran

(what a surprise) for further information. In the words of the delegate of

France

"The information requested is not necessarily factual, but has to do with the views of the state in question". Anyhow, they moved on to the next topic to be discussed: the modalities for negotiation on drafting the outcome document. It took the Prepcom a while to come to terms, but in the end there was some sort of agreement on how to proceed. First of all, the African group announced they successfully swopped objectives with the Asian group. Next to that, South Africa said that in their mind, the outcome document will consist of two parts: a declaratory part and an action- oriented part

. Secondly, the Secretariat assists in technical and language matters and thirdly, for each objective three hours is reserved to be discussed by the Prepcom.

Some national delegations stressed the importance of a document on which the negotiations could be based; particular reference was made to the Armenian document. Others suggested letting the Secretariat compile a basic document out of the regional documents and start from there. Despite these differences, the overall spirit was that the Prepcom had to start its drafting and negotiating process right now. And so they did. An hour before closing the Nigerian facilitator opened the substantive session on the first objective: ‘Sources, causes, forms and contemporary manifestations of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance'. Member States provided the Secretariat with the first paragraphs from existing basic documents (as those of the regional groups) and comments they deemed important under objective number 1. After the Prepcom has resumed its negotiations tomorrow morning, we will provide you with more and detailed information on the developments in the drafting process.

 


Bits and bytes


We almost overlooked a paragraph in the speech of High Commissioner Navanethem Pillay for Human Rights, a speech that had just started when we came in on Monday morning. She said:

"I wish to conclude with a few of my own observations as a newcomer to this process, which has been marked by controversy and division. Seven years ago at the 2001 World Conference against Racism, the virulent anti-Semitic behaviour of a few non-governmental organizations on the sidelines of the Durban Conference overshadowed the critically important work of the Conference. Measures were taken to address this betrayal of the core principles of the Durban Conference, and the NGO document was not forwarded to the Conference. The legacy of this Conference is and should be the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action, a framework adopted by consensus that has given us a comprehensive plan of action to combat racism in all its manifestations. The Declaration expresses deep concern over the increase in anti-Semitism around the world and alarm over increasing prejudice related to religious beliefs, including Islamophobia."

Ok, it is not very strong and it really looks like lip service, but it is something at least.

Notable today: India, after ‘a talk with France' accepting the accreditation of the International Dalit Solidarity Network, totally reversing their position since of the last PrepCom. One wonders what France had to ‘pay' for that. In the meantime, a (black?) helicopter has been zooming the building all afternoon. The plot thickens...



JOKE OF THE DAY (by popular demand)

This one does the rounds with NGOs and delegates alike:
A guy applies for a job at the UN. So they ask him to come in for an interview and
Amongst other things inquire about his health. Says the guy "Well, I'm pretty healthy, you know, only thing is, I stepped on a landmine in Angola, and it blew my balls off, but I can function perfectly"
Says the personnel officer "Ok, you are hired. You can start on Monday. Working hours are from 8am to 5pm, but you can start at 10am every day."
Says the guy: "but how come I start working at 10 while you all start at 8?"
Says the personnel officer "well, you know, here at the UN we first scratch our balls each day for two hours."

 


A new ‘Tongan' delegate

This morning we found a new representative of the Kingdom of Tonga in the Tongan-seat. In fact this perky individual is really an NGO representative, Bernice Dubois, éminence grise of the French and European Women's and Human Rights movement. Bernice, who can tell you in great detail what happened at most UN World Conferences since 1948 and who can still sing the official UN hymn that everyone forgot about, keeps the seat warm for the Tongan delegate who is doing other things right now. Ever though about where the .to-extension in ICARE.TO comes from? Right, it's the official top-level domain name of the Kingdom of Tonga, also known as the 'Friendly Islands, which did very well selling this top level domain name to a smart entrepreneur, but not doing so well otherwise; because of global warming, the Tongan islands are slowly sinking into the pacific ocean.
Back to Bernice Dubois. She has a mind like a steel trap. If you want to know anything about the history and workings of the UN, talk to her. She is feared, respected or hated by both delegates and NGOs, not necessarily in that order. In short, she rocks. Have a look at her intervention of last Monday. (Realvideo, 3 minutes)

 

What are the NGOs doing ?

Since Monday morning there have been 10 interventions by NGOs. Here are the video files:

Monday
Touro Institute on Human Rights, the Holocaust and Hudson Institute, International Association of Jewish Lawyers and Jurists (IAJLJ) (joint statement) [English] 2 minutes
B'nai B'rith International (BBI) [English] 1 minute
IMDAR, Lutherian World Federation, Forum-Asia, APWLD (joint statement) [English] 4 minutes
United Nations Watch [English] 3 minutes
Afro-Swedish National Association [English] 3 minutes
The Movement for Abolition of Prostitution and Pornography (MAPP) [English] 3 minutes
Canadian Arab federation, African Canadian Legal Clinic (joint statement) [English][English/French] 3 minutes

Tuesday
International Youth & Student Movement for the United Nations (ISMUN) [English] 7 minutes
Foundation for Aboriginal and Islander Research Action (FAIRA) in a joint statement
[English] 3 minutes
Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network [English] 3 minutes
International Youth & Student Movement for the United Nations (ISMUN) [English] 7 minutes
Foundation for Aboriginal and Islander Research Action (FAIRA) in a joint statement
[English] 3 minutes
Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network [English] 3 minutes



thursday, october 9

***ARTICLES***ARTICLES***ARTICLES***

Quotes of the day - Editorial - Report from the Plenary - What are the NGOs doing - videobytes - What about TCHRD? - The objectives - the regional documents

 


Quotes of the day

"EU Member States try to show they looove NGO's so much. I love NGO's too, thank you."

"Yes yes, here's the address of my hotel and maybe you and me can go for a little walk now?"

"Microphone please, nothing heared! Microphone please! Nothing heared!"(Translator)


Editorial

SHOW ME YOUR KNIFE!

This morning started with heightened security -for reasons unknown- and the first taste of it we got when we entered the security bunker and our stuff was scanned. The UN policewoman handed me my bags when they came out of the scanner. Then her colleague at the screen said something and she turned around and barked at me "SHOW ME YOUR KNIFE!"
"Excuse me?" I said. I felt like I was in a bad movie and should rip out a big bowie knife, like Crocodile Dundee. ‘Here's my knife!'. She repeated even more heated "SHOW ME YOUR KNIFE!" I could not help myself. I started to giggle. "I don't have a knife, really not". I felt in my jacket pockets and there it was. A small nail clipper. That must be it. I showed it to her. "NO" she barked. Then all of a sudden I was told it was ok and I could walk on. So I got my stuff and tried to go to the exit but the UN policemen at the screen intercepted me: "Monsieur, you have to take this serious, security is no laughing matter!" Well, excuse me for laughing. I don't mind the security, but if it is comical, hey, I laugh. Especially since they do not really check. They should have gone through my stuff just to make sure there was nothing there. "Show me you nuke!" I was tempted to say. But security is no laughing matter, remember!

At the plenary today the UN Police was all over, in the room, outside the room checking bags (show me your M16!) and checking if NGOs were really only sitting on NGO seats (show me your bum!). They finally got wise to Bernice Dubois not really being the representative of the Kingdom of Tonga (just because she made the mistake of sitting at the TOGO seat today) and poor Ronald Barnes of the Indigenous Peoples and Nations Coalition (IPNC) who thought he would be able to speak in the morning already, was sitting at the International Organisations table when he was asked to move. Which he wouldn't, which ended in a shouting match between him and two policemen and a police lieutenant ("subject does not want to leave seat, get the lieutenant!"). In the end, he stayed in his seat. He faced more serious opposition in his life. Later on, if was asked at the entrance to the plenary if my badge was the same one as the one I wore in the morning. I was so tempted....

Today was mainly filled with working on subjects number one and two;
1: To review of progress and assessment of implementation of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action by all stakeholders at the national, regional and international levels, including assessing contemporary manifestations of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance.
2: Assessment of the effectiveness of the existing Durban follow-up mechanisms and other relevant United Nations mechanisms in order to enhance them.
See the report on the plenary sessions and ‘What are the NGOs doing'. Tomorrow the delegates will attempt to finish subject 2 and 3: Promotion of the universal ratification and implementation of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination and proper consideration of the recommendations of the CERD.

Up to now there were no real fights, although if you look at some of the bad stuff (especially in the OIC and Asia documents) it will be unavoidable next week after Monday, when they read the first draft of the working document.
The weather was great here today, sunny and warm, a perfect Geneva autumn and we all were pretty miffed we had to spend the day working inside. Today at the end of the session there were a number of NGO contributions, somewhat late because of another comical mistake. Everybody had understood that the Chair meant that NGOs could only deliver contributions after the whole working document draft would have been finished (on Monday) while she meant ‘at the end of each subject'. Several countries protested that the NGOs should be able to give contributions every day. The plenary needed a break and some pretty convoluted discussion AND an explanation by the chair AND a written statement to clarify all of this and finally NGO contributions could start during the last hour of the meeting.

Still not many NGOs here - some 20 today - and we hear that in total 60 NGOs have requested accreditation, so maybe the others will show up next week. Last PrepCom 160 NGOs asked for accreditation, of which not even half showed up in the end.
Some are clamoring again for an NGO forum - especially for MONEY for an NGO forum. Seems to me that those should rather put their energy in trying to get funding for NGOs who have no money to travel to Geneva in April next year. Moreover, this is a Review, we NGOs need to work on reviewing the DDPA, what's the use of an NGO forum? Like the last one was such a success. The so-called adopted outcome document was so foul that the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights at the time, Mary Robinson, refused to present it to the States, remember?
Good work can be done here, if we concentrate on it and stop putting energy in useless exercises.

Ronald Eissens


Report from the Plenary

The Nigerian facilitator delivered great work this morning. Objective 1 was closed twenty minutes before the deadline, which was at twelve o'clock. There was some confusion though amongst the Member States about the timing of NGO contributions. The facilitator (and some other delegations) had understood out of earlier discussions that NGO's would have time to speak after the first and second reading. But there was not much agreement on this amongst the Member States. Even the Chair, who was having her rest at that moment, had to come to the plenary to clear the sky. Eventually the plenary agreed (as before) that NGO's and other observers will be given a possibility to make oral statements with regard to the drafting process after each reading of each section of the draft outcome document is completed.

With the start of the afternoon session, the floor was given to the following observer and NGO's: Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (observer); Working group of people of African Descent; Indigenous peoples and Nations Coalition; Foundation for Aboriginal and Islander Research; Human Rights First and the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights Education Fund; Canadian Arab Federation; Movement against racism and friendship amongst peoples; Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network; Interfaith International MBORORO Al-Hakim Foundation and the Afro-Swedish National Association. The AfroSwedish organisation was also the last speaker of the NGO round on objective 1. Fortunately the remaining NGO's on the list had the opportunity to make written contributions that will be taken into account by the Secretariat.

At the end of the day I suddenly realised that despite all the positive developments and progress made this morning, I had no clue whatsoever where this progress is heading to. It looks like the Prepcom is working towards drafting a whole new document with plans for actions etcetera. But, wasn't the Durban Review meant to REVIEW if the Member States have made progress in their fight against racism and whether they have complied with the provisions decided on in 2001? When are they going to make time for that?

 


VIDEO BYTE

Interview with Tad Stankhe of Human Rights First, about his impressions and difficult language in some of the regional documents. See his intervention later today here and here as a text file.




Interview with Mr. Ngawang Choephel of the Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy, about the accreditation of his NGO that has been postponed for 14 days, when there will be no PrepCom and no mechanism to grant accreditatin. A nasty Catch-22. In the meantime the secretariat is working on a solution to this. See the next article.




So what about The Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy (TCHRD)?

On Wednesday during the decision taking on the accreditation of NGOs the most curious thing happened.
The secretariat always prepares a note on NGO accreditation. On Wednesday it said "On 7 October 2008 the secretariat received further information from the NGO the Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy. This information was forwarded to Member States on 7 October 2008. Governments have 14 days to review the information."

14 days would make it 21 October, after the PrepCom has concluded. The PrepCom is the only body that can decide on accreditation of NGOs, so in effect TCHRD is out. Another point is that in reality TCHRD has sent their 'further information' on 18 April 2008. They checked and were given confirmation that the secretariat had received the information. So what happened? It's a mystery, the information didn't go to the person at the secretariat in charge of NGO accreditation. He went looking for it and did, in the end, find it, on 7 October. By giving the member states 14 days to 'review the information' they are saying "you're out". Anyway what's there to review in the further information, TCHRD was accredited for the original conference in Durban in 2001, they stil do the same work, so there can't be new information that needs further examination. Except of course that the summer Olympics took place in China this year, and there were some difficulties with the Olympic Torch going around the world. Can't blame this particular organization for it though, can you? As the big nation that China is, could you be that petty? Could you feel that threatened by one small NGO? I guess so.

Suzette for the ICARE news team Geneva


What are the NGOs doing?

When it was finally clear that the NGOs COULD do interventions today, there were 14 contributions, some NGOs went twice. Here's a listing of Real video reports courtesy of the UN webcast department.

 

Indigenous Peoples and Nations Coalition [English] 4 minutes

Foundation for Aboriginal and Islander Research Action (FAIRA) [English] 3 minutes

Human Rights First (HRF) in a joint statement with LCCR [English] 3 minutes

 

Canadian Arab Federation (CAF) [English] [French] 5 minutes

Movement Against Racism and for Friendship between Peoples (MRAP)
[English] [French] 4 minutes.

Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network [English] 6 minutes

Interfaith International, Mbororo, Al-Hakim Foundation [English] [French] 2 minutes

Badil Resource Center or Palestinian Residency and Refugee Rights [English] 2 minutes

Afro-Swedish National Association [English] 5 minutes

Red de Mujeres Afrocaribenas, Afrolatinoamericanas y de la Diaspora [English] [Spanish] 3 minutes

Afro-Swedish National Association [English] 3 minutes

Indigenous Peoples and Nations Coalition [English] 2 minutes

Coordination des Peuples Autochtones en Afrique [English] [French] 1 minute

Movement Against Racism and for Friendship between Peoples (MRAP) [English] [French] 1 minute

Up to now there are no other NGO activities.


The objectives

Here's for all those confused already. These are the objectives the countries use right now to create the first working document draft, making use of the documents that came out of the regional meetings and from regions that had no meetings but produced a document (EU).

Objective 1: To review of progress and assessment of implementation of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action by all stakeholders at the national, regional and international levels, including assessing contemporary manifestations of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance.

Objective 2: Assessment of the effectiveness of the existing Durban follow-up mechanisms and other relevant United Nations mechanisms in order to enhance them.

Objective 3 : Promotion of the universal ratification and implementation of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination and proper consideration of the recommendations of the CERD.

Objective 4 : Identification and sharing of best practices achieved at the national, regional and international levels in the fight against racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance.

5. Identification of further concrete measures and initiatives at all levels for combating and eliminating all manifestations of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, in order to foster the implementation of the DDPA and to address challenges and impediments thereto, including in the light of developments since the adoption of the DDPA in 2001


The Regional Documents

The EU Document

"CONTRIBUTION OF ASIAN REGION TO THE DURBAN REVIEW CONFERENCE"

Outcome document of the Regional Conference for Latin America and the Caribbean Preparatory to the Durban Review Conference

Outcome Docuemnt of the Regional African PrepCom

written contribution of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC)


FRIDAY, october 10

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Quotes of the Day - Editorial - Report from the Plenary


prepcom086

Quotes of the day

‘Are you the deputy-facilitator or the second-facilitator? Anyhow, I'm always happy to see you in the chair!'

‘...and thank you secretariat, for clarifying whatever you where clarifying'

(Madam Chair) ‘I can stay here until 9 pm if we need to, but I'm more worried about you'

(Syria) ‘It is not my personal inclination to be addicted to taking the floor'


Editorial

‘The declaratory part and the Action part'

Today lots of headway was all of a sudden made with Objectives 4 and 3 (in that order) and later in the afternoon Objective 5. The material from the Region Papers was worked into the draft document. The secretariat will work on it during the weekend and will try to get it online at the extranet site Monday will be the first reading and the first real negotiations about language. The draft document will not be referenced, in other words, you will not be able to see what paragraphs are taken from which region document. Egypt did not want that, which led to an interesting exchange between Egypt (against inclusion of References) and the UK (for inclusion of references) and Syria. The latter was, surprisingly, for the inclusion of references because it is proud of its own contributions in the Asian Region document (and its country contributions verbally in the plenary, which the Chair blocked by saying that those should really be done on paper). In the end it was decided not to include references, which is less bad than everybody thinks. If you look closely, you can identify what comes from which document and moreover, we are all able to distinguish between good and bad stuff, right? Because that's what it's all about.

flakjacketA question that some of you sent us by e-mail is: are they now working on a new Declaration and Plan of Action instead of an outcome of the review? Well, this is a matter of a delegate -the South African Ms. Glaudine J. Mtshali - making a contribution that can be understood wrong. On Wednesday she said: 'It is my understanding that the outcome document will consist of a declaratory part and an action- oriented part.' In the same contribution she stressed that the 5 objectives which were decided upon by the two preceding PrepComs, are based on the DDPA and are not open for re-negotiation. Have a look at the video (5 minutes).

So, as we understand it, it was either just a way of phrasing - or strategy. It is clear that there will be an outcome document which reviews the original DDPA, not a new Declaration and Plan of Action. But since it is the UN, anything can happen.

 

Monday the first fights will be fought over language, we think. Well, if you look at the stuff in both the Asian and the OIC Regional Documents it is unavoidable. Which also means that Monday will be a very short day. First of all it was decided at the end of today that Monday the plenary will only start at 3pm, to give everybody the chance to read the first draft document, secondly, fights over language means lots of suspensions and regional consultations. My bet is that we will effectively spend no longer than 60 minutes in the plenary on Monday.

Today we had 22 NGOs in the room, Monday hopefully more will arrive. Have a great weekend and do think about us.Laughing

Ronald Eissens


Reports from the Plenary

Today’s session started with objective 4 'Identification and sharing of best practices’ (2 was closed yesterday and objective 3 was moved to the afternoon session for some organisational reasons). What followed was a repetition of yesterday's exercise: member states calling out paragraphs of existing documents that they want to come back in the outcome document. Except for the delegate of Pakistan who had an expedient observation namely that, it is important not to look exclusively at best practices but to pay attention to 'bad practices' as well. Next to that, He brought up the fact that no matter how good or bad a practice might be, it is difficult to generalise this subjective stand for different regions let alone the world. In the words of the delegate: "different practices by different countries are based on different experiences". Besides, a certain practice can be successful in a certain country, but may hopelessly fail in another because of for example differences in social, cultural or historical circumstances. This view was fully supported by the CERD who commented that it is difficult to describe practices in terms of ‘bad’ or ‘good’ because of national differences. Out of the 'discussion' (which lasted no longer than two hours!) on objective 4 it can be expected that an annex with 'best practices' will be attached to the outcome document. Amongst the Member States, interfaith and interethnic dialogue where by far the most popular tools in combating racism.

prepcom012

The early closing (12:00) of objective 4 made it possible for the Prepcom to start with objective 3.On which the Chair promised that, if the Prepcom would begin the discussion on objective 3 she would let them go home an hour early. At the end of the day, things worked out a bit different. The Prepcom finished the subject within 15 minutes! NGOs followed and concluded objective 3 at 1 o'clock. Amazing! The Prepcom must have thought, the sooner we close this the sooner our weekend start. Well, that was not what the Chair was thinking...

At three (okay I'll be honest with you 15:30) the Prepcom was back in the plenary. Before lunch it was decided that it would be better to begin on objective 5 'Indicating of further concrete measures and initiatives' because it is comprised of some difficult topics. Not difficult enough I would say, at 17:00 this subject was closed as well! These rapid developments can be quite well explained with the words of the facilitator of the Asian group (the Ambassador of Sri Lanka followed by his councillor) who said: "We are not in the mood for negotiations at this moment". He said this in reply to the statement of the NGO UN-Watch, that commented on certain paragraphs inserted to the first reading of the outcome document by Syria and Iran. To be more specific the paragraphs 68 and 69 of the Asia document, which contain words that were carefully kept out of the DDPA in 2001. Read it and you will know why:

68. Express deep regret the practices of racial discrimination against the Palestinians as well as other inhabitants of the Arab occupied territories which have an impact on all aspects of their daily existence such as to prevent the enjoyment of fundamental rights, express our deep concern about this situation and renew the call for the cessation of all the practices of racial discrimination to which the Palestinians and the other inhabitants of the Arab territories occupied by Israel are subjected;

69. Reiterate that the Palestinian people continue to be denied the fundamental right of self determination and urge member States to look at the situation of Palestinian people during the Durban Review Conference and implement the provisions of DDPA with a view to bring lasting peace in the Middle East;


In the end the Prepcom wasted 45 minutes on talking about how the document for the first reading would look like, how it would be sent to the Member States (Iran had really bad experiences with the UN mailing system), why the document could not be faxed, when they were supposed to read it, that extra time was needed to prepare themselves for the first reading etcetera. To spare you all this trouble: the next session will start Monday the twelfth of October at three o’clock, it was so decided.



SUNDAY, october 12

NEWSFLASH: DRAFT OUTCOME DOCUMENT HAS ARRIVED TODAY

It was published today as 5 seperate word documents for the 5 Objectives.

Click to download:

Section/Objective 1

Section/Objective 2

Section/Objective 3

Section/Objective 4

Section/Objective 5

Or download it as one complete word document (87 pages, almost 10mb)

The PrepCom decided that there would be no reference made to the origin of the paragraphs, so you can't see from which of the regional documents language was used or which country or region asked for insertion of paragraphs.


MONDAY, OCTOBER 13

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Quotes of the Day - Editorial - Report from the Plenary


Quotes of the day

(Chair) ‘I want to believe you’

‘If you engage in clustering, that’s a good start’


EDITORIAL

Extensive clustering and intellectual reading

p5Today the real work has started: negotiating the language of the Durban Review Conference outcome document. At 3:30pm everybody was sitting ready in the plenary. During the first hour the modalities of how to proceed with the work were once again debated. Didn't they work that out last Friday? Apparently not...

The terms 'simple' and 'intellectual' reading all of a sudden flew by. I think simple reading has to do with re-clustering or moving paragraphs as is. The intellectual reading means merging and/or changing wording of paragraphs. Then there were the terms ‘simple negotiations' and ‘core negotiations' to deal with. At a certain point Mr. Ositadinma Anaedu, delegate from Nigeria and facilitator of objective 1 which was up for the second reading this afternoon, rushed back to his regular seat in the plenary to speak on behalf of Nigeria: "There have been many PrepComs on many subjects in the UN and we never had this simple and intellectual reading or simple and core negotiations, some negotiations are more difficult than others, but you just keep moving forward" he exclaimed. I Couldn't agree more! The clock is ticking and after today there's just four 6-hour days left to work on the document. Or are we going to have a third PrepCom? Listening to the opening remarks of Ms. Najat Al-Hajjaji, chairperson of the PrepCom, this might very well be the case. While reporting on the Bureau meeting of this morning she said: "We will try doing it this way (working on the document - SuZ) and if we see in the next 5 days that this methodology is not productive we'll have to proceed in another way". Well, after 5 days this PrepCom will be over, so if the document is not ready, they'll have to organize another PrepCom. If this is the case, the proposal for that will come at the very last moment, since it is feared that if this decision will be proposed earlier, any progress on the document will immediately go out the window. Anyway, the looks of the outcome document is of one that reviews anything; it's just a hodgepodge of paragraphs from the original DDPA, mixed with Para's from regional documents, usually old rejected Para's from the Durban conference, slightly reworded.

On another note: we had some comments by e-mail.. To sum it up: the critic deemed our quotes of the day to be ‘sceptical and not professional'. Well, the quotes of the day are all for real, it's what we record people saying here at the PrepCom. The same goes for the 'unsavoury' joke in last Thursday's edition, told to us by an UN delegate. Just by the way: if you want to see what every person exactly says in the plenary meetings, watch the UN web cast. They also archive the whole thing so you can watch whenever convenient.

Are we cynical? If you care to check up on the first substantive PrepCom in April of this year, out of 10 days of meetings, actually only about 15 hours was spent in the plenary. So what was the outcome of that first 'substantive' meeting? The draft structure of the draft outcome document. Why we haven't taken the opportunity to point out the flaws in the document? There is no document to speak of and pointing out the flaws, it's hard to know where to begin; the lack of reviewing anything would be a major flaw I'd say.

Suzette Bronkhorst


clusteringREPORTS FROM THE PLENARY

Today's session opened with a presentation of the Bureau's suggestions on how to proceed. The 4 stage plan was accepted by the Prepcom and consists of the following steps in drafting the outcome document:

  • The Prepcom will start with a simple reading where paragraphs dealing with similar issues shall simply be put in line next to each other.

  • Followed by an intellectual reading, meaning the clustering of paragraphs (dealing with similar issues) around the relevant themes or issues.

  • Then the Prepcom will begin with simple or light negotiations on the comparatively easier or light subjects in different paragraphs.

  • Finally the Prepcom will negotiate on the remaining paragraphs, referred to by the Bureau as the main or core issues or controversial issues.

 

Some countries (like India and South Africa) preferred to start the negotiations right away; others (France and Denmark for example) supported the more pragmatic step by step solution. After having heard the pro's and con's by the Member States, the Chair concluded that the Prepcom will start with clustering the paragraphs under objective 1. Moreover, the Chair shared her doubts on the Precom having a document ready by next Friday. She said she hoped for the best, but if things seem to turn out differently by Thursday she will propose some of the solutions she has in mind.

The remaining one and a half hour was used to ‘cluster’ paragraphs under objective one. So far only proposals have been made, final decisions on the wording of the document are left to a later stage. It was decided that the Secretariat will work on the clustering of paragraphs (after and before the plenary meetings) to speed up the process. The aim is to finish objective 1 tomorrow morning and to start on objective 2 in the afternoon. Objective 3 and 4 will be taken care of on Wednesday and if everything works out well, the Prepcom will negotiate on objective 5 on Thursday. Meaning it is possible, theoretically speaking, that the Prepcom has an outcome document ready on Friday...


tuesDAY, OCTOBER 14

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Quotes of the day - editorial - Reports from the plenary


Quotes of the day

“This Prepcom should be intellectually honest with itself”

"On women only we have so much to do"

"Morocco, you want to take the floor on the women? otherwise we're moving on to trafficking."

"it seems you are fed up; and rightly so"

"I'll be very brief as I'm losing my voice"

Editorial

Come wander with me

"Come wander with me love, come wander with me, away from this sad live..." That's a line from a beautiful song that keeps popping up in my head while sitting here. Escapism, most likely :-). After being here for one and a half week, today's proceedings did not cause any enthusiasm. No real reviewing going on, just rehashing paragraphs from the DDPA -or from even older documents, the 2000 Iran Regional conference for the WCAR, language that was thrown out in 2001 which some try to bring back by way of the current Asian Region document

Not many NGOs here (I counted 23), which is definitely a missed chance, and while they way the PrepCom thematically ‘clustered' and renumbered the Paragraphs of Objective 1 and 2 might be practical, it leads to annoying situations like not knowing where a Para comes from originally or what number it originally had. On top of it, since it all goes so slow, none of the negotiations on the objectives will be finished anytime soon, which also means the speakers list for NGOs is overflowing, since we can only speak when an objective is finished. That may or may not happen before Friday, although the PrepCom has decided that Friday they will ‘try' to create a slot for NGOs to speak. Which will maybe happen. Aaaargggg.

The interesting stuff: the EU is blocking the insertion of a number of Para's on Palestine/Foreign occupation (see the Report from the plenary). The ‘fun' stuff: the words ‘cluster' and ‘clustering' became such buzzwords (the moderator used ‘clustering' eight times in one convoluted sentence) that we are now all making remarks about cluster bombing, cluster busters and even they unspeakable but apt clusterf***. Just another day at the Palais des Nations. Will we be done by Friday? Forget it. A third PrepCom is imminent and word in the corridors is that some want to do that in the form of a few days, one week before the actual Durban Review Conference here in April next year.

Ronald Eissens


REPORTS FROM THE PLENARY

Download the new re-clustered part of objective1 here (pdf).

Download the new re-clustered objective 2 document here (pdf).

There is not much to tell about this morning's session, it was more or less the same as yesterday afternoon except that the paragraphs under discussion were different. However, three issues deserve some attention. First of all, there was a bit of disagreement on the paragraphs related to migrants. For example, Mexico advocated the deletion of the current paragraphs 91 and 92 that urge states (amongst others) to promote and respect human rights for all, including migrants, whether they are legal or not. France, on behalf of the EU, immediately replied, stating that a deletion of these paragraphs is was not acceptable and if other delegates want to do so, the EU wishes the deletion of all paragraphs concerning {Migrants}. Negotiations on this issue will be taken up again at a later stage. So far all comments are taken into account by the Secretariat. The second contested issue was -and still is- related to paragraph 107 under {minorities}, with Pakistan pressing for the insertion of 'defamation of religion' and supported by Egypt, Angola and Iran. On this the EU opted on postponing this issue as well, since the EU has a different stance on that. Then the third issue, which relates to {foreign occupation} and contains controversial paragraphs (108/109/110/111) on Palestinian refugees and on 'racial policies of the occupying powers'. Algeria firmly supports these paragraphs, followed by (amongst others) Syria who wanted a reference inserted to 'other inhabitants of the Arabic occupied territories' as well. France intervened again and made it clear that the above mentioned paragraphs represent a fundamental difficulty and are unacceptable to the EU. Discussion on this issue will be postponed until the plenary gets back to finishing Objective 1 during the coming days, probably on Thursday or Friday. If the EU will ask for a vote or will leave because of this issue is not yet clear. Suprisingly, Morocco took the floor and supported the EU position. We are holding our breath...

The afternoon session was more of the same, except for a critical discussion on NGO participation. What happened was that the Prepcom started discussion on objective 2. Nothing wrong with that, but they had not finished objective 1 yet! The Nigerian delegate explained that, as decided, the Prepcom had only three hours of discussion on each objective, apparently without the need of bringing the chapter to a close and letting NGO's speak. The UK, clearly unhappy with this situation, brought up the fact that the organisation of work had changed and that it would be evenly right to change earlier decisions on NGO participation. Denmark added to this that while governmental representatives might have time to discuss things at any stage, NGO's may not have this possibility. Anyhow, the Chair stuck to the decision that NGO's are only allowed to speak after the second reading of an objective. And so the Prepcom went on with discussing objective 2 at a very very slow pace. In two hours they discussed two and a half pages, leaving 17 and a half untouched. If this is how the Prepcom will proceed, it almost automatically implies that none of the objectives will be closed by coming Friday, which means that none of the NGO's will get speaking time.Well, since Members of the Prepcom looove NGO's so much (or so they claim) I still have good hopes that they will do something about this ridiculous situation. As a delegate said during the OSCE Human Dimension Implementation Meeting in Warsaw two weeks ago (in the context of a really desperate situation): 'always be positive!'

 


p15
Bridge between the old and the new building


WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 15


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QOTES OF THE DAY - EDITORIAL - REPORT FROM THE PLENARY - ALL DOCUMENTS SO FAR - WHAT ARE THE NGOS DOING


Quotes of the day

'And then the Holy See was all over her''

'Madam Chair looks particulary volatile today'


EDITORIAL

Oh yukkie!p16

Part of this morning was spent by the delegates fighting over NGO speaking time. Sad thing is, all NGOs present could have spoken in all the time they wasted on that. Ok, I have to say it was commendable. With the EU and the African group in the forefront, both trying to show they are real champions of NGO participation, the issues was tackled. Problem was that the old decision that NGOs could speak each time the PrepCom finished an objective was no longer viable. Some of us had been on the speaking list for two days now, simply because no objectives were finished! At least some of the delegates understood our frustration and tried to come up with compromises, like giving the floor to NGOs at the end of the day. The real problem was that the Chair, Najat Al-Hajjaji, stonewalled all the way. She was of the opinion that the previous decision should stand unaltered; NGOs to take the floor when objectives were finished, or at least all NGOs would get one hour (!) to speak on Friday. It was simply not acceptable and EU and African countries went out of there way to make this clear to madam Chair, who was in a strangely inflexible and morose mood. It took a lot of hammering on her wall plus a bureau meeting during lunchtime to get her to accept a compromise and finally, half an hour after lunch at 3.30 pm, the 10 NGOs on the list could speak. Have a look at their contributions in the ‘what are the NGOs doing' section. A mixed bag of interventions, ranging from ill mannered, to great, to nasty. Especially the contribution of the Canadian NGO ‘Independent Jewish Voices', with the added ‘benefit' of it being a Durban Revisionism job. ‘The Durban WCAR was great, hardly antisemitism, all those who say that are those who see anti-Zionism and anti-Israel remarks as antisemitism blah blah. She was not even in Durban and she can't know really about the virulent antisemitism that run rampant at the NGO forum. The craziness. The attacks, the threats, the aggression against anybody Jewish or perceived to be Jewish. I guess denial of facts has its comfy sides. Sleep well at night, not hampered by informing yourself or critical thinking. Have lots of comrades like the representative of the Holocaust denying state of Iran, coming to congratulate when you do an intervention like this. What can I say. Us NGOs are just like humans; good and bad. Just like country delegates, in fact.
In the end not much time was spent in the plenary on negotiations on objectives 3 and 4.
The lunch break brought us another meeting by the small group of NGOs that are still clamouring for an NGO Forum to be held at the DRC Conference in April next year. The flyer proudly announced that theirs was a meeting to ‘talk about THE NGO forum at the Durban Review Conference'. Tomorrow we will publish a report on this meeting of people who still think something like that is viable or even wise; it reminds me of those small remnants of the once proud European Communist parties whose relics still roam the activist fields trying to explain to everybody who will listen that Lenin and Stalin were right, there was never anybody treated badly in communist Russia and the glorious Soviet State will rise again. Oh Yukkie, mum.


ALL DOCUMENTS SO FAR

The Regional Documents

The EU Document

"CONTRIBUTION OF ASIAN REGION TO THE DURBAN REVIEW CONFERENCE"

Outcome document of the Regional Conference for Latin America and the Caribbean Preparatory to the Durban Review Conference

Outcome Docuemnt of the Regional African PrepCom

written contribution of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC)

THE OBJECTIVE DOCUMENTS

Section/Objective 1

Section/Objective 2

Section/Objective 3

Section/Objective 4

Section/Objective 5

Or download it as one complete word document (87 pages, almost 10mb)

THE RE-CLUSTERED OBJECTIVE DOCUMENTS

Download the new re-clustered part of objective1 here (pdf).

Download the new re-clustered objective 2 document here (pdf).

objective1-c-to-d-reclustered (pdf, 6mb)

objective3-reclustered (pdf, 6 mb)

objective4-reclustered (pdf, 10mb)


VIDEOBYTE

Interview with Lea Pilsner from LICRA

REPORTS FROM THE PLENARY

Thanks to France, Germany, the UK, Belgium, the other EU Member States, Argentina, Cuba and Mexico NGOs were able to speak today, after a lot of hassle off course. As during the earlier sessions, the PrepCom just started discussions on a new chapter this morning without finishing objective 2 first. Especially the EU Member States were well aware that this ‘organisation of work' would do no good to the NGO speaking time. France prepared the way by saying that as soon as the Chair would walk in, they would like her to take the floor to raise the issue on the participation of observers and to look for a ‘down to earth' solution.

In the meantime the PrepCom went on discussing the first couple of paragraphs under objective 3 ‘Promotion of the universal ratification and implementation of ICERD'. The main point of difference was on the second part of paragraph 7 that stated: (...) ‘recognizing that this Convention (the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination - ICERD - remains THE legal base for the international community to fight racial discrimination'. Egypt brought up the fact that ICERD is a convention as many others. It might be the principle source for fighting racial discrimination but not the only one. Syria added to this that international human rights law is not based on one particular legal phrase, but develops over time and new concerns and issues need to be addressed. The emergence of new forms of racism asks for new instruments when past instruments appear to be inadequate. Syria could also not restrain itself to mention that it remains the sovereign right of every state to join and leave the Convention whenever a state finds it appropriate to do so. Egypt's point on the second part of paragraph 7 was supported by several members of the PrepCom. Belgium could not understand why there was such fuss about it: ‘the paragraph is copied from the document of the African group of which Egypt and others are a member!' Another intervention interesting enough to mention is the observation of Libya that ICERD is ratified by more states than the UN actually counts (!)

After the Chair came in Germany asked for the floor. The German delegate stated that he understood the rules but that it is of real importance to have a chance to listen to the view of NGO observers. The delegate said he understood the rules but that the PrepCom had to accommodate to the new situation. He urged the Chair to allot a clear amount of time to NGO's before Friday. If this would not happen, he said, he saw no other means then to report this to his government, since the NGO's might be waiting for something that will never happen. Well, the Chair was not very happy to hear that and replied that when the Chair makes a proposal it is NOT because delegations will be sending rapports to their government, but to intervene in important moments. She was quite stubborn I would say, because despite many appeals to find a solution she stuck to the earlier decision that NGO's would have time to speak after the second reading of each chapter. Another option she proposed was that NGO's would be given a whole hour (wow, so very generous of her - not -) on Friday to speak on every objective they liked. This caused consternation amongst the members mentioned above. Mexico responded by saying that this would mean that speaking time for NGO's would be reduced from 225 minutes to only one hour. Cuba, rather confused, asked for the Bureau to discuss the matter during lunchtime. The Chair sort of turned a blind eye, said she believed there was agreement on her proposal and that it was therefore adopted. Despite the fact that there were still some member states raising their flags, she gave the floor back to the facilitator.

As soon as the discussion on objective three was re-opened, the UK asked for the floor. Quite agitated, the delegate said he had his flag up long ago because they were not ready to agree on the proposal and that they supported the Cuban idea (!) to have the Bureau to discuss the matter. In reply the chair said she noted that every time the PrepCom reaches a decision, the UK comes up with a new proposal and that when the Chair makes a proposal the UK comes up with a new request ‘that is not very positive'. (And that is not a very political correct thing for you to say, Madam Chair...). Anyhow, it became clear that a different solution had to be found. The Bureau convened during lunchtime and it was decided that NGO's would be allotted 45 minutes today and tomorrow.

See below for the direct interventions of the NGO's.

After the NGO interventions the PrepCom resumed its work ‘as usual'. The discussions on objective 4 ‘Identification and sharing of best practices' were started by a colleague of Boychenko who could not attend the meeting because of (personal) circumstances.


WHAT ARE THE NGOs DOING

The NGOs finally could do interventions today. As we said, some interventions were great, some were real bad, rude, stupid or plain nasty. Yes, ICARE has opinions. We're independent, that doesn't mean we don't have an opinion, like you all do. But with us you don't have to worry about singling out - we are equal opportunity opinionated.

International Association of Jewish Lawyers (joint statement)

Magenta Foundation (Angela Evenhuis)

Asia Forum for Human Rights (joint statement)

Human Rights Watch

International League against Racism and Anti-Semitism [English][French]

Movement Against Racism and for Friendship between Peoples (MRAP) [English][French]

Point of order

Morocco, Ms. Natalia Zolotova, Facilitator for the Eastern European Group, Algeria,Ms. Natalia Zolotova, Facilitator for the Eastern European Group [English][French/English]

Movement Against Racism and for Friendship between Peoples (MRAP) (continued) [English][French]

Afro-Swedish National Association [English]

Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network[English]

Right of Relpy: Palestine, Mr. Imad Zuhairi [English]

International Movement Against Discrimination And All Forms Of Racism/Independent Jewish Voices, Canada [English]

Indigenous Peoples and Nations Coalition [English]



thursDAY, OCTOBER 16

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Quotes of the day - editorial - Reports from the plenary



Quote of the day

"We know who you are, we know where to find you"


EDITORIAL

‘A betrayal of the core principles of the Durban Conference'

Almost done here and the weather turns as miserable as the position the PrepCom is in by now; most objectives not done, too many contentious issues left open, no clarity yet on if there is to be a third PrepCom and the Chair who walked out one hour before the end and just let the facilitator and the secretariat deal with what to do next. In the end the secretariat just announced that the Bureau would meet tomorrow from 8-10 am to decide on how to proceed and if there would be a meeting, but that he expected all in the plenary at 10am anyway. Have a nice evening! Let's hope that the process can continue without to much delay or damage.

Today saw another meeting organized by 3 members (Edith Ballantyne, Jan Lönn, Charles Graves) of the CONGO* subcommittee on Racism, like yesterday whining about a NGO Forum, just with less people (19). Tomorrow they will do it all over again, pretending that the UN will give them money or facilities, and above all pretending that there will indeed be an NGO Forum at the DRC in April next year, even presenting it as a fact. How sad and what a waste of time and energy.

I really don't understand these NGOs. Why would you, while we are now a stakeholder in the Governmental meetings, while the PrepCom goes out of its way to ensure NGO contributions and participation, want to be sidelined into your own little forum to talk to yourself?

It would be advisable if they would just try to get money together to facilitate NGOs from e.g. Africa or Asia to be able to attend the DRC. Instead they play Stalinist games and talk about grandiose schemes in which they elect a Co-ordinating Committee from within the meeting. Many had their concerns about due process and the level of democracy and inclusion, but this was all waved away by the Chair. Even when they are spending UN money (the secretariat gave them a meeting room), I would not mind so much if it were just a civilized and transparent meeting. But no, a Durbanesque atmosphere was created. One of the participants, Shimon Samuels of the Simon Wiesenthal Centre was threatened by an unknown NGO representative: ‘We know who you are, we know how to find you, even in Paris!"

Nor the other organizers, nor the chair of the meeting, Charles Graves of Interfaith International, did anything to stop this or to put the perpetrator out of the room. Just Durban NGO Forum business as usual. We really hope the UN will reconsider giving facilities to people who, in the words of the new High Commissioner for Human Rights, ‘betray the core principles of the Durban Conference.

Ronald Eissens

*CONGO= The Conference of NGOs in Consultative status with the UN

REPORTS FROM THE PLENARY

Contrary to the days before the Prepcom resumed yesterday's session on objective 4, because of the time they had lost on discussing NGO participation. It was even more surprising that the Prepcom actually concluded the chapter, well sort of: negotiations on several paragraphs are postponed and they still have much work to do on the proposed annex consisting of ‘best practices'. According to Romania the questionnaires (that the Member States were supposed to fill in and sent back to the Secretariat - for more info have a look at http://www.icare.to/durbanreview/scorecards.html) contain good examples of ‘best practices'. Unfortunately not every Member State has lived up to this commitment and for those who did; one should keep in mind that it might be so that some countries have not been very 'realistic'.

At 11:00 Sri Lanka took over the facilitator's chair for opening discussions on chapter 5 ‘Identification of further concrete measures and initiatives at all levels'. The chapter contains some controversial paragraphs. For example paragraph 93 under the header of ‘foreign occupation' on the racial discriminatory policy of Israel. However, it was clear from the start that the Prepcom would not come that far. There was a lengthy discussion on the first part of the document, which contained some general introductory paragraphs. The mentioning of ‘human beings belonging to a single species' and reference to ‘sexual orientation' were reason for concern to some states. Egypt, Iran, Botswana, Syria and Libya (amongst others) asked for the deletion of ‘sexual orientation' from every paragraph that contained it. EU Member States opposed this off course, a good thing that they will hopefully keep on doing in the future.

Speaking about GLBT issues, at the start of the afternoon session it was decided that the Brazilian Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transvestite and Transsexual Association would be granted accreditation to the Durban Review Conference. The Association is only allowed though, to raise issues mentioned in the DDPA. Moreover, the decision is solely a draft decision. Indonesia made clear, as did Nigeria, Iran and Egypt, that they only agreed for the sake of consensus. In other words, there is a chance that the decision will be rejected in the end.

The second major issue, the mentioning of human beings as belonging to a single species, was mainly a concern to Egypt, Cuba and Angola. The rationale behind their statements was that when humans being are not depicted as a race (instead of species - too 'Darwinesque' in the words of the Egyptian delegate) one cannot speak about racial discrimination. The CERD explained that the term race is not in use anymore, at least not in a political or scientific context, it only exists in the perception of human individuals by way of understanding / categorising the world surrounding them. Some people argue that the reason why the above mentioned states reject the use of ‘species' instead of race, is because using ‘race' makes it possible to refuse including ‘other' grounds for discrimination such as sexual orientation. There are off course many other grounds that Member States like to keep outside the scope of the outcome document. A bunch of these grounds are mentioned in paragraph 26, one of the paragraphs that attracted a lot of criticism.

Near the end of the session, it was time for NGO's to take the floor. However, the promised hour earlier today was reduced to 45 minutes. At 18:00 the facilitator had to round up, there was no time left for the remaining 9 NGO's to speak. There will probably be no time for them tomorrow either, what the Prepcom will discussed is not yet clear. One thing they do have to decide on is when and how the Prepcom will finalise the outcome document.

The links to the NGO interventions will be added below later on.


NGO STATEMENTS of TODAY

Can be found here




FRIDAY, OCTOBER 17 - LAST DAY

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Editorial - Newsflash - Report from the plenary - The people that really work at the UN


NEWSFLASH

Latest newsflash: this morning at 10 the 9 NGOs who were not able to speak yesterday got the opportunity to do so. After this, the meetings was closed at 11am to be resumed at 3pm. This morning the Bureau met from 8 to 10am and right now everybody was in private consultations to find a way to continue the process in the most efficient manner. When the meeting resumed at 3.30 pm, The Burea had the following proposals:

-intersessional from 19-23 January 2009
-intersessional on 6-9 april 2009 or any other date agreed by the working group
-A third PrepCom meeting max 3 days, 15-17 april 2009 (during the week before the DRC)

This proposal was ADOPTED.

Another proposal by the bureau was to hold a Panel discussion at the DRC following the high-level segment of the review confence with the participation of four world renowned personalities and a moderator to be identified by the HCHR. The PrepCom further decides that any costs for the panel discussion will be financed from extra budgetary resources.

When we left they were still talking about this, and the High Comissioner was waiting to hold her closing speech.

The final reports of today will be uploaded ultimately tomorrow evening. We will be travelling back home in a few hours and will put things online when we can. Sunday we will also come out with a special weekend edition, to mop-up anything we've left.

best wishes,

Your ICARE team in Geneva.


Reports from the plenary

This mornings session was opened by the facilitator from Sri Lanka. He announced that the Bureau was still in a meeting (leaving the plenary half empty) and that the remaining 9 NGO's on the list would get the floor. 7 out of the 9 speakers were still around and delivered their statements (the link to the interventions can be found here). They were finished at eleven but the Bureau was nowhere to be found. The facilitator told us that the meeting in the plenary was suspended and that we would reconvene at noon.

Four hours later (16:00), the Bureau came back in. The Chair took her seat and at the same time a document on the continuation of the preparatory process and a draft report on the second substantive meeting were circulated. After 45 minutes of deliberation the Prepcom decided on the following (in short):

  1. To convene a third substantive meeting of the Prepcom for three days from 15 to 17 April 2009 in Geneva
  2. Establish an open ended intergovernmental working group to finalize the process of negotiations.
  3. The working group will meet for a total up to 10 working days. the first session is held from 19 to 23 January 2009 and the second session on 6 to 9 april 2009.

The second proposal (to organise a panel discussion with renowned personalities) was rejected due to a lack of consensus.

In the remaining hour no exciting decisions were made. The draft report of the Prepcom on the 2nd substantive session (drafted by Mr. Resfel Pino Álvarez from Cuba) was adopted without a vote. The text is a sort of a summary of who has spoken and when, what has been said is not mentioned. There is also an annex attached that includes every (draft) decision made, an updated version of the document can (probably) be found soon on the UN website.  The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (Ms. Navanethem Pillay) thanked the Prepcom for the productive discussions and expressed her determination to assist in the Durban Review process as well as the commitment of her staff to  contribute to the process when helpful. In the end (after 18:00!! ) some last statements were made including one by the delegate of France on behalf of the European Union, saying:

"All observers should have been given more time to comment in this session of the Prepcom, the modalities of their participation should not have been controversial, we all know that the contributions of experts and civil society are invaluable to our work. It is also important that the working papers are provided to them throughout the process of negotiations.For those same reasons it is regrettable that accreditation of ngo's has led to certain political difficulties and solutions had to be be found. UN rules should be applied as regards the freedom of expression of ngo's."

Thank you very much France for these remarks and I hereby declare the Reports from the Plenary on the Second Substantive session of the Prepcom of the Durban Review Conference to be closed.


The people that really work at the UN

The friendly lady that works at the counter of the Serpent bar looked somewhat sad today. I remember her from 2000 when we came to the very first PrepCom, always friendly, always at her post. Patricia is one of the around 3000 people that work at the UN Palais de Nations. As bar staff, security, gardeners, cleaners, secretaries and so on. The people that keep the UN going and who are treated, a lot of the time, like they are part of the furniture.  Patricia looked sad because somebody snarled at her and when she commented on that she got screamed at.

Perhaps the Palais staff should go on strike for a day. Just so the 'Important People' will notice how incredibly more difficult it is to function without getting your documents printed and stapled in the correct order, on time, drink coffee or have a bite to eat, or having to clean up after themselves. I think that all the people who come here to discuss human rights in a civilized manner should start by treating our fellow human beings in the building in a manner that doesn't make them feel like they are "the switch on the coffee machine" which is how some of the people that work at the UN feel at present.

Suzette Bronkhorst