Internet Centre Anti Racism Europe

Informal Consultations Working Group for the Durban Review Conference

Geneva, February 16 to 19 & February 26, 2009

HAVE A LOOK AT  The latest Negotiation Document as per Thursday February 20, 2009,  6pm




Monday, February 16 - Tuesday, February 17 - Wednesday, February 18 - Thursday, February 19
Thursday, February 26 (one-day continuation of informals)



Quotes of the day - Editorial - Reports from the Plenary

Quotes of the day

"I hate to be the cause of unhappiness in the room, because it would not be the first time" (US delegate)

"Rights based approach we are familiar with, although we do not really know what it means" (Chair)


Half a day full of surprises

The work began today at 3 pm. Everybody was taking his or her place when we heard a buzz. Is it a bird, is it a plane? No! It's the US delegation to the UN! Apparently, the new American administration found the whole Durban Review Conference important enough to send a delegation to participate in a constructive way to the negotiations. And though this delegation has strong reservations on some parts of the text (the singling out of Israel, religious defamation and the restriction to the freedom of speech), it is ready to "work to allow the process to move to the right direction to participate to the conference in April".

Apart from that surprise, the day went on pretty much the same way as usual. The work on the paragraphs is long and laborious, the formulation of (almost) every sentence beeing examined to fit every delegation's wishes, with as result that no paragraph has been formally adopted at the end of the day.

But the atmosphere is good, the delegations do their work in a constructive manner and really try to work in a spirit of concensus. Even a subject like defamation of religion hasn't led to the clashes we have seen the last time. If this goes on like that, we could be in for a surprise.

And talking about surprises, here's a couple more for you: the afternoon session began (almost) in time and, last but not least, it ended 15 minutes late, without any delegation protesting. An other was the fact that everybody was talking in English. Apparently, the interpreters were absent: on holidays? On strike? We'll try to find out...

César Heukeshoven

Reports from the Plenary

un_for_a_better_world_pUnited Nations for a better world. When it comes to combating racism, xenophobia and other forms of discrimination, some do not believe in that anymore. Others (some of whom we thought would never regain a bit of trust in the Durban Review Conference) actually attend the informal sessions that are taking place right now right here in Geneva.

The chair surprised us in his opening speech by saying that two more countries decided to step in. Which is in his words: “a positive sign and gives credit to our work, it is a reflection of our constructive work.” After his speech the United States asked for the floor. The US!!?? Yes, the United States are in Geneva. I’ll quote:

“Thank you, we are pleased to be here and we are looking forward to cooperate with you. The US has not participated in the proceedings previously, we are here to explore to move beyond differences and to focus on xenophobia and racism that persist in our world. You are well aware of the reservations the US have, which is on defaming religion, payment of reparations for slavery. We believe it is important to make a positive contribution, we want a successful conference, we will work with you this week and if positive, the US will participate during conference in April.” (You hear them quietly thinking yeswecan!yeswecan!yeswecan!)

And as if nothing happened (we were still stunned) the chair moved over to the order of the day. Where were we? During the last intersessional a proposal was accepted to work in section 1 and section 5 simultaneously. Some catching up needed to be done in section 5, so they started with paragraph 156 on reparations for slavery. There was no consensus on language (surprise surprise), some wanted parts of it deleted, some wanted to keep it as it is and others came up with … language. And you know what they do with that kind of para’s, they put them on ice. The same happened with the following paragraphs under the header of ‘racial profiling and counter-terrorism’.

After that we came to one of the (even) more controversial parts of the document, namely on defamation of religion and the freedom of expression. Off course these paragraphs (159-162) were also put on ice, but the chair gave the delegates quite some time to share their opinions. Most of the positions are well known, EU-countries want the deletion of the paragraphs and the OIC want to keep the language as it is. But, now there is also the United States. They offered a ‘third way’, not the deletion of the whole paragraph on defamation of religion but up to the part where it gets nasty (something similar was suggested for the paragraph on freedom of expression). What remains is a summary of what this whole conference is about, which is already stated somewhere at the beginning of the document and would therefore mean the deletion of paragraph 159 anyhow, but the way the United States acted here is quite exemplary for how it acted the rest of the afternoon.

The last clusters of paragraphs discussed under section 5 were on Africans and people of African descent, people of Asian descent and indigenous people (163-166). De common denominator in these discussions was whether it is acceptable to single out specific groups of people under section 5 or whether it would be better to explore a more general approach in order to prevent a hierarchy amongst groups. The chair concluded that there are specific groups that need to be taken into account, while Australia and the EU in particular sticked to their opinion that the clusters need some serious restructuring.

Around 5 pm the informal intersessional working group reached the subtitle where they stopped in section 1 during the meeting in January. So they moved back to that section and started with paragraphs 44-46 on the fight against illegal migration and the smuggling of migrants. Besides that there was some real linguistic exercise, there is not much to tell. At a quarter pas six the chair ended the meeting with the words: "no other requests for the floor? Yes, we failed to agree on this paragraph (46). I am happy that we are working without looking at our watches. Let's be sharp tomorrow morning, one NGO wants to comment on the discussion and will be given time to do so tomorrow."



Quotes of the day - Editorial - Reports from the Plenary

Quotes of the day

I request the American and Swedish delegates to stop laughing; if they don't want to work with us in the drafting process the cafetaria is open! (Chair)

Pakistan your microphone refuses to help you, while combating your microphone …  Iran? (Chair)


What happened to the computers? 17_feb_foto_resized

The last time we were here, in January, technicians were installing brand new computers on the table at the entrance of the Serpent Bar: modern machines, with big flat screens and a huge cubic meter of a colour laser printer. Yesterday, the table was full of dark suits working at the PCs.

And today, when we came in, nothing... All the PCs had disappeared! What happened to them? Were they declared UN incompatible? Were they stolen? Were they actually illegal internally displaced domestic immigrants cleverly disguised as computers? I suppose we'll never know, it'll remain one of the many UN mysteries...

In the mean time, the negotiations are going on in their usual way. Although today some progress was made and 10 paragraphs were adopted. But apparently it's all a question of perspective. We were here last October, and compared to the snail pace of the work then, it now seems to us almost quick and dynamic. But we talked to a member of a delegation, and he complained bitterly about the low tempo of the negotiations. It's all in the eye of the beholder.

Ah, and we've solved one of yesterday's mysteries. Everybody is talking English for the following reason: in October last year, when it had become clear that more time was needed to prepare the document they will have to work on in April, it was decided that an in between work session had to be organized. The budget was voted for it, with a provision for the interpreters. This in between session took place in January, but then the work was still unfinished. And now they have to work on, but as no budget has been voted for it, without interpreters. With sometimes funny results, like this delegate complaining about the expression fuel slavery: "I'm confused, it seems like something which flares up. Could someone explain?"

César Heukeshoven

Reports from the Plenary

What has been said and done today? In short: they discussed 7 clusters of paragraphs, of which 10 paragraphs are adopted, the rest is put on ice but also quite some new paragraphs are introduced. By now 53% of the document is discussed and two days are left….I’m not saying anything.

Ok lets look at it big step by big step. They started of with the cluster Migrants, refugees, asylum seekers, IDPs, stateless persons. Liechtenstein was right by saying that Internally Displaced Persons (IDP’s) were not mentioned anywhere but in the subtitle (which will be removed) under section 1 and must be included in one of the paragraphs under the cluster. Not everyone agreed on the substance, so it was put on ice. Moving to section 5 (the action oriented part) Liechtenstein again caused confusion by saying that the vulnerability of domestic migrants also must be reflected in the document. No one really knew what was meant by domestic migrants and opposed the idea, but this did not stop Liechtenstein from saying “I think there is a possibility to come to an agreement here, we will try to come up with some language. Most people only think about regular and irregular not domestic migrants.” I do not know to whom he was listening, but maybe I just did not hear it because the US and Swedish delegate were laughing so loudly…

Concerning the action oriented part the EU countries (under the lead of the Czech Republic) made it very clear that ‘racial, ethnic, national, cultural, religious and linguistic groups or minorities and indigenous peoples’ are not their vocabulary when it comes to migrants and need to be removed (although in the afternoon it appeared that they do have an extensive vocabulary when it comes to multiple discrimination). In this cluster paragraph 172 was adopted with some small amendments. This was the first paragraph that was adopted, the US delegate started to sweat a bit, hesitated for a while and then raised his finger: “Mr. Chair I do not want to come back on the paragraph that was just adopted, but uh, as you said yesterday “nothing is agreed upon until everything is agreed upon” right? Then the Chair said, no worries US, you can go back to Washington and discuss it there first. (Okay this is not really how it went – oh no it wasn’t?? – but it sure looked that way).

Ok, the cluster on migrants was closed, they moved back to section 1 paragraph 49 on Roma, Gypsies, Sinti and Travellers. 49 was adopted in its original form, unfortunately in section 5 there was no language yet and even more sad was that the delegates, to quote the Chair, "had no wise ideas on this" and then moved on to the cluster Ethnic, linguistic and religious minorities. Paragraph 53 was the big upheaval here, talking about defamation of religion and the association of Islam in particular with terrorism and violence. It was no surprise to see the OIC countries supported by South-Africa on the one side and the EU countries and other so called Western countries on the other. The whole para was put between brackets. Before lunchtime they made it to finish another cluster Trafficking.

In the afternoon they set forth on the same pace, finishing three more clusters:  Contemporary forms of slavery, Multiple discrimination and Women, gender, children. 7 out of the 10 paragraphs were adopted under these clusters, paragraph: 58 (original), 66 (amended), three new paragraphs instead of 174, 176 and 177 (amended). The biggest fun was under the second cluster on Multiple discrimination. Remember the EU who did not have an extensive vocabulary on migrants, well they do have a long list of categories when talking about multiple discrimination. The Czech Republic suggested adding to paragraph 61: sex, race, colour, ethnic or social origin, gender features, religion, belief, language, political or other opinion, membership of a national minority, birth, property, disability, age and sexual orientation. Like during the morning session it came as no surprise, that the plenary was divided on this matter between countries supporting the OIC and countries supporting the EU. Then the Dutch delegate made a Shalabi move by saying: “Just to remind you of what you said Mr. Chair, we are looking at what we can improve in the DDPA and as Iran said in January human rights are a growing body of norms. The argument that some of the elements are not found in DDPA is not strictly in line with these other remarks.”

The chair did not want to go into that discussion and said that they would better the text later. But under paragraph 61 Pakistan hit back by giving his explanation of multiple discrimination: “When it is expressed against migrants it takes the form of religious-ethnic or religious-racial tones, when it is expressed in the form of defamation of religions, it takes cover behind the freedom of expression and when it is expressed in the form of profiling, it hides behind the war against terrorism.” The Pakistani delegate added to that: “I am interested how this improvement comes in from this side.” South Africa tried to ‘help’ Pakistan by saying that the EU proposal is unacceptable because it was decided they would not renegotiate the DDPA. The UK soon asked for the floor and said:  “We will just wait and see then what the reaction will be when we come to defamation of religion.” BAM!

Under the cluster Women, gender, children three new paragraphs were adopted. The Czech delegation frustrated the adoption of some other paragraphs because they apparently did not have a EU mandate for that. Besides that, quite a remarkable comment was made by the Iranians who wanted to replace gender equality with gender justice (??) in paragraph 178. Since no one really understood or wanted to know what was meant by that, the paragraph was put on ice. And that was that.

At the end of the day, 20 minutes were reserved for NGO’s to speak, but more about that later.



Quotes of the day - Editorial - video interview with Felice Gaer -  Reports from the Plenary

Quotes of the day

Why are we trying to complicate our lifes? Switzerland, you want to complicate it even more?

When reading this paragraph I am becoming depressed. Shall we just close the discussion and move on immediately?

Okay, so there is only one race that discriminates itself ... that is not logic.

Mexico where are you, you are migrating?


A day of contrasts

Today was a day of contrasting moods. The Chair was exchanging jokes with the delegates like he had not done the days before, but we could also hear him moan and sigh with his head in his hands during some interventions. The delegates were working at their usual pace, but the number of paragraphs covered today (26) was way lower than yesterday's (41). The light in the plenary was its usual dark brownish and yellow, while outside it was bright and crispy with a blue sky reflected in the lake.

And then there was the Chair's gloomy conclusion: only 60% of the text dealt with with only one day left to finish the work, and only 22 or 23 paragraphs adopted these last days. 72 new paragraphs were proposed, increasing the size of the text instead of diminishing it as was intended, and that at the cost of $ 2500 a page.

What's to tell further? The US delegation was surprisingly silent, certainly compared to the first day, when they intervened regularly. Today we heard them only once. A number of NGOs intervened today also, their contribution going from very good to execrable.I must say that they are not helped by the delegates, who show the respect they have for the NGOs by talking loudly while standing up, all in all treating the moment like a welcome break. So you'll excuse me if I don't feel like being funny or telling a joke today.

César Heukeshoven














Lonely Chair inside                                                                                               Beautiful weather outside


Reports from the Plenary

They managed again to discuss 9+1 clusters, but today's topics included far less paragraphs than the days before (about 26 compared to 41). Most of the para's were left to be reconsidered at a later stage and about 13 (amended) para's were adopted. It might make you think that the clusters discussed today must have been very controversial. Well except for the one on sexual orientation, they were not (at least not initially). The clusters being discussed were: Migrant women, HIV/AIDS, Sexual orientation, Persons with disabilities, General provisions on measures, Monitoring data collection, Tackling discrimination in (access to) education / employment / health, National action plans, (Human rights) education/training or sensitizing professionals /awareness raising / communication and Intercultural dialogue /interreligious dialogue.

We started of with paragraph 67 on migrant women, nothing special there except that it is being moved to the cluster on migrants and will be looked into at a later stage. The para was followed by one on HIV/AIDS. South Africa made a proposal that was more directed at improving access to medication and the prevention and treatment of HIV/AIDS and other diseases, than on the discrimination that is being faced by people who are living with or are affected by HIV/AIDS. An important reason for Germany to make a reservation, others wanted the proposal of South-Africa to be moved to section 5. In short no consensus, no adoption.

Knowing very well what he could expect the chair tried to move on quickly after he opened the floor for paragraph 69, the one on sexual orientation. The moment the EU tried to convince others that the conference is not only about racism but also about related forms of intolerance and sexual orientation is one of those, the chair concluded that there is a conceptual clash and that it is better to leave it open for now. He looked deeply into his paper and started reading the title of chapter C, he looked up, there was silence, he blinked ten times and then said: "This waiving of plates means WHAT?" I don't have to tell you what happened next. They finally ended up with two paragraphs in brackets, one in section 1 and one in section 5.

After that New Zealand came up with a whole new cluster on persons with disabilities. There were no objections, but there were reservations though, so the next chapter under discussion was general provisions on measures. Paragraphs 70 and 71 were amended, merged into one and adopted. They moved to the same cluster in section 5 and to make this document even more complicated two whole new clusters (next to one on Persons with disabilities) were introduced. The EU wanted one on antisemitism and because of that (yes, sometimes they are just like kids) Iran wanted islamophobia to be language here, neither from the EU nor from Iran. I hope for them that they will come up with something before the end of this informal because when they don't, the process will have to be prolonged. Another week of informals?

Back to section 1, Monitoring, data collection. If you thought this cluster would be an easy one, you were wrong. There were two big obstacles here, the first one being ‘disaggregated data' (unacceptable for Switzerland) and the second one was the reference to racial discourse in section 5 under the same cluster (no option whatsoever for the EU). It was really tiring to listen to this endless discussion on whether the term ‘race' should or should not be used at all. Culminating in this terrible, not convincing, but funny comment of Nigeria that it is not logical at all to speak about one race because this would mean this race is discriminating itself! That quite ended the discussion. Finally one paragraph (72) was adopted, including some cosmetic amendments made by Iran and the Czech Republic.

Right before lunchtime one more cluster was handled and lead to some positive results. Under Tackling discrimination in (access to) education, employment, health in section one, paragraph 74 and 75 were adopted in an amended form. Brazil provided language under section five in the form of three new paragraphs. South Africa delivered an additional one. According to the delegates the paragraphs were quite loaded and more time was needed to look into that in depth (besides it was already ten past one: lunchtime!).

During lunch a couple of delegates were requested by the Chair to sit together to see if they could find solutions for some of the paragraphs under discussions. For example, there was no language under the section National action plans. Lunchtime had proven before to be fruitful for coming up with new language. The new and adopted paragraph proposed by Norway and Brazil reads as follows: "Identifies progress in the formulation of national plans to eradicate racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance and reaffirms the importance for States to develop and implement national action plans to combat racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance in consultation with relevant stakeholders including human rights institutions and civil society".

If you think you'd rather read some more interesting para's than this one, well I'm sorry. This is about how the afternoon session was. It went on slowly with delegates stumbling over words such as multi-racial, anti-sexist, democratic processes and cultural identity. Most of the remarks just made the para or the negotiations more complicated and caused postponement. This also happened to a proposal for a new para made by the Czech delegation on behalf of the EU under section 5 (cluster human rights education) on remembrance of the Holocaust. Iran could not accept that because "it is not right under that cluster".

The last 40 minutes were reserved for NGO's and as César said most of the delegates saw this moment as an excellent opportunity for a break. Unfortunately for them, many NGO's on the list were not there and they had to resume their negotiations already after 20 minutes. We will report on the NGO contributions tomorrow, we're trying to collect as many statements as possible so that we can make a sort of summary out of that. Anyhow, during those last twenty minutes a merger of para 79 and 80 was adopted as well as para 191 in its original form.

I like to conclude this report with some words of the Chair at the end of today's session: "Up till now we read through about 60% of the document (60% of 250 paragraphs). What I found the most disturbing dynamic is that in the course of 2 days and a half, delegations have proposed 72 new paragraphs, if we go on like this, my task to reducing the compilation would be (in our terminology) eradicated, nullified and many other nice words we have for that. In addition, the secretariat wants to remind you that one piece of paper costs 2500 dollars meaning 25.000 dollars for ten pieces of paper, I wish you a good evening."



Quotes of the day - Editorial - Video interview with Yuri Boychenko - NGO contributions - NGO briefing on the DRC with the Chair of the ISWG and the OHCHR Coordinator - Reports from the Plenary

Quotes of the day

We have the bad habit to come too late and to talk too much, let’s try to be quicker today.

UK can you help us? You refuse to help us?

Any objections to delete human rights?


A complicated world...

So, that was the last day of this informal consultation working group meeting. What's to conclude?

Well, a lot of work has been done and the document is almost completely discussed, with only four and a half pages remaining. The Chair's hope is that they will be able to finish the work in half a day next week.

But even if they succeed, there will still be a lot of work left to do. A lot of paragraphs on contentious subjects have been put on ice for later (or between brackets, as they so euphemisticly say). How are they going to solve that problem? I guess that that's the one million dollar question ... We'll see in April.

A NGO briefing with the Chair of the ISWG and the OHCHR Coordinator was held to discuss NGO participation next April. Side events will be organized, a voices of victims tribune will be held, rooms for caucusses will be available, but, as the experience in Durban taught the UN a lesson, the side events will be scrutinized to prevent any form of hatred or discrimination.

Some things remain the same. Take for example the lines of divide: the EU is against a paragraph on defamation of religion, as it infringes on the freedom of expression, but they are for laws sanctioning racist speech. Which in turn is opposed by the United States, as it also infringes on the freedom of speech. The United States are for affirmative action, but the EU is against it, as some of its states have laws prohibiting it. The OIC is for the protection of religions, even in favour of naming Christianity, Judaism and Islam in the same line, but against any mentioning of gender preference. The USA would accept a paragraph on anti-religious hatred, if the religions are not named. We live in a complicated world ...

César Heukeshoven


NGO Contributions

A number of NGOs has made an intervention on the 18th. Here is a summary of their interventions

African Women's Movement in Europe "Sophiedela", Foundation Monument Dutch Slavery Past, Panafstrag Europe NL, TIYE International, Afro Swedish National Association, Espacio Afroamericano, Culture of Afroindigenous Solidarity, African Commission on Health Promoters and Human Rights:
The DDPA addressed an essential issue: anti-black racism. Western countries are undermining this by distorting it away from its core issues of combatting  global racism and racial discrimination.The DDPA acknowledges "the transatlantic slave trade among the major sources of and manifestations of racism", the fact that colonialism has led to racial discrimination and expresses a commitment to the elimination of all forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related forms of intolerance faced by Africans and People of African Descent. The DDPA also calls states to take appropriate steps to address and tackle these problems and assure accountability.Actions to ensure full participation of civil society must be taken; a critical analyses of the implementation and the states'  effectiveness must be undertaken and an active promotion of the inclusion of "Afrophobia" must be supported.

Indigenous Peoples and Nations Coalition (IPNC), International Council for Human Rights (ICHR), Indian Council of South America (CISA):
I protest against the proposal by the United Kingdom to place a blanket qualification for the rights of all Indigenous Peoples. This is an attempt to deny the collective rights of all indigenous peoples.The history of the rights of Indigenous Peoples are internationally recognized. The UN has adopted resolutions and standards on the rights of peoples that allow for them to comment or reserve their rights.
That's why I make use of this right to protest against the exclusion of the universal expression and application of the historical rights of Indigenous Peoples in a manner that limits their status in any paragraph.We support states that maintain paragraph 156. The language of paragraph 166 must be universal in scope. Any blanket reduction of our rights is discriminating and unacceptable.

Human Rights Watch:
We are disappointed by the almost total lack of references to the issue of caste discrimination. It is still a deeply rooted system of grave human rights violations, still affecting large numbers of people. The Durban Review Conference should tackle this problem and urge governments to act against it. The victims should be recognized as such and the implementation of these recommendations monitored.

Foundation for Aboriginal and Islander research Action:
The Expert Meeting Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples recommends that the DRC should acknowledge that: the right of self determination is universally recognized, should recognize the rights to lands and resources, requests states to implement the declaration, the recommendations by CERD on Indigenous Peoples and the financial support to assist this implementation.
The outcome document ignores these rights, encourages assimilation and insufficiently addresses the racial discrimination against indigenous peoples and the historical denial of their rights and freedoms.

Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network:
as we have not received any document from this NGO, It'll be a short summary: the NGO regrets the fact that the paragraph on HIV/AIDS has been put on ice, and praises the states which have pleaded for the inclusion of the HIV/AIDS related discrimination to the DDPA.

NGO briefing on the DRC with the Chair of the ISWG and the OHCHR Coordinator

The meeting begins with some questions: what are the criteria for participation of NGOs? No criteria, once they are accredited, the NGOs can do what they want; How can the NGOs intervene? During the plenary or by approaching the delegations directly; Could the NGOs have 20 minutes to intervene before and after the lunch break? It's for the plenary to decide that; Can the NGOs choose the date of the ticket financed by the UN? No, the date is decided by the UN, according to the calendar and agenda.

Then, the coordinator of the side events intervenes to summarize the situation: as much space as possible will be reserved for civil society, during the plenary and outside. He recommends to submit proposals for side events, but this can only be done by accredited NGOs. It's not a first come first serve approach, the precise information will be online at the end of the week.

The side events planned until now:

- With the UNESCO: cultural dialogue and dialogue of civilizations;
- Indigenous and minorities unit: an event on the impact of the DDPA on Indigenous People;
- The role of women and the multiple discrimination they suffer;
- Poverty and racial discrimination;
- Best practices in the fight against racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance;
- Minorities, racial profiling and police practices;
- Discrimination of Peoples of African Descent;
- Discrimination, migration and social rights;
- A voices of victims podium where they can speak about their experience;
- There will be space and rooms reserved for displays, exhibitions and caucuses (rooms 17 and 18 with live screen).

The deadline is on the 14th of April. A form will be sent about this. The content of the side events will be scrutinized, to prevent hatred and Durban-like excesses. But there will be no censorship, freedom of expression will be respected.
The criteria of admissibility are clear. To facilitate the getting of visas, contact should be made with the Swiss diplomatic representation in the different countries. A letter will be made available on demand.

Reports from the Plenary

Facts and figures:
Working pace: 5-6 pages per day
Pages left to be discussed: a lot
Number of clusters discussed today: 12

Topics: Political parties and programmes, political participation / Parliaments National institutions, National specialized bodies and mechanisms, Media, Civil society / NGOs, Law enforcement / administration of justice / access to justice / sanctions, International tribunals / ICC, Democracy / elections, Affirmative action / special measures / positive action, OHCHR / UN system / international and regional organizations /international cooperation / technical assistance or cooperation, Regional organizations, International cooperation
Number of paragraphs adopted: 11

Paragraphs adopted: 85 (original), 87(original), 200 (small amendment), 201 (amended), 89 (amended) and 91 (amended), 73 (amended), 82 a/b adopted (83 deleted), 101 (original) adopted, 204 (original), 210 (amended).


The day started with a lot of linguistic exercise; shall we use political parties or political systems, encourage or envisage, urges or support, effective or appropriate and the list goes on. Besides that, there were the usual difficulties with particular concepts. Such as the EU which does not prefer to talk about ‘racial equality’ since they promote the idea of one single human race (more on that in yesterday’s report), or South-Africa on behalf of the African Group who immediately calls for the insertion of religious discrimination whenever someone starts talking about racial discrimination. And now that the US is here, frequent objections are made against any wording that might suggest limitations on free speech.

However, the US delegate was awfully silent when paragraph 200 came under consideration. The para states: “Urges States to take necessary measures to denounce, actively discourage and prohibit the transmission of racist and xenophobic messages through all communications media, including new communications technologies such as the Internet.” Several amendments were made and at the end of the discussion, the Czech Republic expressed its reservations about the para. Maybe that was a reason for the US not to respond, but still…

Anyhow, one of the most interesting clusters this morning was Law enforcement, administration of justice, access to justice and sanctions. It was in fact about the division of powers between the judiciary and the legislative power. In this case the Czech Republic rightfully brought up in relation to para 88 that it is not up to them to talk about punishment and proposed to replace that language with ‘and when required to bring to justice’. After that Bangladesh (clearly not an expert on the subject) suggested to insert ‘specific laws for police officers and law enforcement officials’ on which the Chair reacted: “If we create something for specific groups we violate the neutrality of the court, special legislation for police officers is something we just can not do.” In the end 2 out the 5 para’s under this cluster were adopted in an amended form.

Right after lunchtime the delegates were unable to agree on almost anything so they went through quite some para’s on “high” speed. Besides, there was not much time left and the Chair was well aware of that. Whenever a delegate made its reservations on a paragraph they immediately moved to the next. Worth mentioning here is the reservations made by the US on paragraph 93/94 that express full support for international criminal tribunals and the concern over the lack of willingness of certain States to cooperate with these tribunals. Needless to say that further negotiations on this would just be a waste of time.

Cuba made a funny move in relation to paragraph 96 within the cluster Democracy, elections, which reads as follows: “Notes progress made by some States in the field of democracy, the rule of law, transparent, responsible, accountable and participatory governance, including through electoral support such as assistance and election observation missions in line with best international practice, but notes also that challenges remain in parts of the world;” In the opinion of the Cuban delegate there are so many ways to improve democracy (sovereignty/self-determination) that it would be better to just delete the whole paragraph or just to stop after democracy. Yeah right! No one agreed on that off course (in case you got worried).

Remarkable was the discussion on paragraph 100 “Welcomes the important initiatives to combat anti-Semitism, hate crimes, racism, xenophobia and discrimination as well as intolerance and discrimination against Muslims.” Iran was the first to have a say on this and proposed the following: “reiterates the urgency of combating hate crimes, racism, xenophobia, discrimination and intolerance against Muslims, Jews and Christians.” The Czech Republic immediately made clear they were not in the position to support the alternative and others wanted to stop after ‘intolerance’. Switzerland offered ‘religious groups’, while Algeria proposed to insert ‘christianophobia, islamophobia and antisemitism’. Saudi-Arabia and Palestine however wanted the whole para in brackets. A complicated world indeed.

There was more sensitive stuff in para 155. We never heard them speak before, but this time Turkey had something to say. As if this para was the only reason for their presence. 155 was namely about genocide, stating: “Urges States to combat impunity for crimes of genocide.” Nothing more nothing less but too much for Turkey.

This was almost at the end of the day and it was obvious for everyone that they would have to come back next week to finish the last 4 and a half pages. Everyone is wondering whether the United States will stay in the process. The US made clear that they wanted to reserve the right to amend para’s in a later stage (this was in relation to paragraph 156). The chair answered by saying that this would be possible but that it would depend off course if they would be there “We hope you will be here, you will be here”. We will have to wait I guess till April 2009.

See you in April!

Your ICARE team Geneva


Angela Evenhuis & César Heukeshoven

A last word

I would like to apologize about the quality of the video interview of Mrs Gaer, it doesn't do justice to her or the American delegation. Another thing, when on Wednesday I wrote about the NGOs interventions that they went from good to execrable, it's clear that this was more a reflection of my mood that day, than of the reality of their interventions. Once I had read them, I realized that this was exaggerated. It should read "going from good to mildly irritating".

César Heukeshoven

THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 26 - One day continuation of the informal sessions.
Quotes of the day - Editorial - Reports from the Plenary

Quotes of the day

You surely don’t mean to say that you do no believe in a successful outcome?

I’m supposed to get married in July and I didn’t do a thing for it yet, just because of this bloody DRC


Grooving it with funmaster Boychenko

boychenkoComing in exactly on time this morning after a very early flight to Geneva my mood did not improve when the security bunker at the Palais de Nations decided that ‘I did not have accreditation' and spend 45 minutes finding my paperwork. Storming into the plenary at 10.50am I found out that not a lot had happened yet. That's the advantage of those diplomats never ever starting on time. Us grunts just get fired when we come in late. What can I say. It's not a fair world.
Slipping on my earpiece I found out I was at least  on time for a bout of anti-Americanism coming from the chair of the meeting, Mr. Yuri Boychenko. Boychenko is considered by most to be a cultured and well-mannered individual, but sometimes he drops the mask. To the United States delegation; "I don't understand the U.S. delegation, you are against para 216, but this paragraph has nothing to do with Israel!". His idea of a joke. Nobody laughed. He had more up his sleeve this morning. Sounding like the duplicitous cat from the movie ‘Babe, he said; "'but United Kingdom, you surely don't mean to say that you do no believe in a successful outcome?"
The United States were more outspoken at least. To stay in feline analogies, during the last stretch of last week's informals they behaved a bit like a nest of sleepy kittens: ‘Miuw! We don't want to be here, it is not cosy, but mum says we have to!' And although they were hardly soaring like eagles today, they stood up against paras like 216 & 217 (on Defamation of Religions and Freedom of Speech). What a difference with the European Union. Ms.Veronika Stromsikova of the Czech republic who speaks on behalf of the EU is becoming more and more the energizer bunny of the DRC process. She's sharp, as hard as nails and did in total 22 interventions

An interesting moment came when the Chair proposed to delete Para 222, which says: In order to combat impunity for crimes of genocide, recommends the Human Rights Council to address the issue of genocide, as recognized by the United Nations.
After some debate (South Africa wants to retain the para, the USA came with an amendment, Turkey, Liechtenstein and the EU supported the amendment) Rwanda took the floor and a very sweet and somewhat hesitant voice sounded; ‘we want to see this paragraph because of the attempts at denial of genocide. We don't see why it should be deleted, it has new elements'. Boychenko almost tripped over his own feet to assure the room that his proposal to delete was before amendments were proposed.

So in only 2 ½ hours the delegates turbo-ed through the remaining 4 ½ pages of the document, finishing at 1.05pm, all eager to call it a day. At the last moment, South Africa killed the ‘school's out' mood by introducing two new Paras on globalisation and poverty. On this a short debate ensued. The USA was not in favour, nor were Argentina, the EU and the UK, main objection being that in their opinion globalisation was rather a force for good then for bad. South Africa countered by saying that it was disconcerting that now ‘already DDPA language was rejected', since there is stuff on globalisation in the DDPA (Para 11, 12 & 105 DD, Para 97, 152 & 208 PA).

Before the Chair closed the meeting at 1.25pm, he philosophised about the way forward. He congratulated everybody with finishing the first reading of the working document. After several questions about a new draft incorporating the work of today, he said he was not comfortable with ‘putting it out there on the internet' but he promised to upload it on the UN extranet by tomorrow (Friday). He also stated that since the HRC meeting (which takes 4 weeks) would start on Monday, he hoped everybody would be flexible and would have DRC meetings in between during that period. Even so, he fears that another few days of informal sessions would be needed somewhere end-of-March or beginning of April. Furthermore, he hinted that since the document is again growing out of proportion, he was considering to do another round of technical editing to shorten it. It begins to look like the month of April will be totally, utterly wasted on the DRC process. We all will have to camp out near lake Geneva. What joy.

Bits and bytes

Last week 97 new paragraphs were added, today another 3 new ones, which brings us on the crazy number of 100 new paras and a total of 350 paras in the working document as per today, and we did not even count the ‘alternative' Paragraphs (64). It is beginning to shape up like the last time around, the WCAR process itself, when 3 PrepComs were not enough to create a document ready for final negotiation.
One thing is sure, there is still ample time for us NGOs to lobby our governments if we want to insert new language or get rid of bad language or amend it. Go to work! It is important to do this now, or else, if the EU, or parts of the EU, the USA and possibly others walk out we will end up with a bad document that gets adopted by those remaining. At the same time, the moment is nearing that all of us, governments and NGOs, will have to decide to stay or go. There is just too much unacceptable stuff in the working document, and looking at the positions of the delegations, it is highly unlikely that we will see progress.

Ronald Eissens

Reports from the Plenary

Update: just got word about what happened just before I came into the Plenary Thursday morning. Taking the floor during the discussion on Para 216, the U.S. delegation made the following statement:

The U.S. requests the deletion of paragraph 216. This is one of the three areas of particular concern to the U.S. As we have stated before, the U.S. firmly believes that this document should in no way single out Israel, a specific region, or a specific conflict. It is also unacceptable to us to place restrictions on freedom of expression or call for payment of reparations for slavery. We believe this paragraph, and others in this document, would not meet this criteria and would place unacceptable restrictions on freedom of expression.

Now Boychenko's remark becomes clearer, although it is still not funny at all.


More later....