Internet Centre Anti Racism Europe

Reporting DRC - Intersessional, PrepCom & Durban Review Conference 2009

Intersessional, April 6 to 9, 2009


CALENDAR

Monday, April 6 - Tuesday, April 7 - Wednesday, April 8 - Thursday, April 9

MONDAY, APRIL 6


Quotes of the day

Alas, I’m not Harry Potter or another magician’ (Chair)

‘We’re going to try to make the conference as successful as Durban in 2001’ (Oops)

‘There’s a big elephant in the room but it’s a friendly one, an African elephant’.


Editorial

Owww Mr. Boychenko you are such a magician!

tentsDay one of the last intersessional Working Group meeting for the Durban Review Conference (or Intersessional WG for the DRC) saw magicians, elephants in the room and other Disney-esque characters. Exiting the accreditation/security bunker in the morning, to the right we saw two big white tents. Which right away flashed me back to the Durban WCAR NGO Forum, but hey, those tents are for accreditation when the actual DRC starts. The UN expects around a 1000 NGO delegates and they think the security bunker does not have the capacity to hold a number like that.

Back to the meeting, which started fairly on time, 10.15am. The High Commissioner, Ms. Navanethem Pillay, held an opening speech in which she stated that the progress had been remarkable, the latest negotiation document (The Rolling Text) was welcomed by her, she had received many encouraging statements about it from many groups and delegations, lots of goodwill, et cetera. She stressed that ‘procrastination and expediency is not an option' (which somehow reminded me of the Borg in Star Trek: you will be assimilated). Her full speech can be read here, scanned for your convenience by your intrepid ICARE news team. One of her last sentences was somewhat exaggerated: ‘...the way forward in the anti-racism agenda depends on the outcome of the Durban Review Conference'.

The rest of the morning meeting was pretty laid back, with some undertones. The Chair, Mr. Boychenko first asserted that the ‘Rolling Text' needed to be adopted as the basis for the working document. Syria immediately piped up saying that this would in no way negate their right to come back to the older texts, including the January 23 one. Sudan wants a reconfirmation of the DDPA, ‘no more no less' and Pakistan said on behalf of the OIC that they had shown the utmost restrained and expected the same from their discussion partners.

All this veiled ‘you better behave' language. What a ritual. Next the Chair tried to pull a fast one by firing of a whole lot of Para numbers and suggested that those could be ‘adopted ‘ad ref' (in one go) by the meeting. This did not succeed. Here's a scan with those paragraphs.

Notable was the relative quiet of the EU delegations in the morning. Strategy? Inertia? Luckily it got somewhat better in the afternoon. Also notable was Iran, which came in late since they, and a few other delegations were held for 45 minutes at the security bunker because their accreditation papers got lost. The Iranian delegate complained about that but lauded Boychenko for the new working document. Iran turned all flowery, calling the chair a Magician but at the same time said that all ‘their paragraphs' were dropped from the text. They made the gracious offer to come with a written contribution to correct this problem. Boychenko wisely ignored this. Later in the day delegates talked about all kinds of elephants (see report from the plenary) and on the NGO side an interesting situation presented itself. See further. Tomorrow we will start only at 11am (practically that will make it 11.30) because of private meetings probably. The Intersessional ends Thursday afternoon at 6pm. Friday there will be no meetings since it is the Christian holiday good Friday. More tomorrow. As Yoda said to Luke Skywalker, ‘Abusus non tollit usum'

Ronald Eissens



Representing the Civil Society Community?

cloudsovergenevaFrom the beginning of the DRC process on, the UN decided they would not facilitate a separate NGO track due to the, let's put it mildly, difficulties with the NGO forum in Durban. Throughout the preparatory process of the DRC it was rather hard to deliver NGO input during PrepComs or intersessionals. But it was worked out so every day a time slot was reserved for NGOs and they could register to speak on a first come, first serve basis. When NGOs spoke on behalf of a group of NGOs, each NGO had to present their badge at the registration desk to be counted as ‘supporting the statement'. So far, so good.  In the message from the Chair below, it says that 2 to 4 NGOs will be given the opportunity to speak and ‘represent Civil Society' with a general statement, most probably on Tuesday. On Wednesday and Thursday we'll go back to the system as it has been during the preparatory process.

Message from the Chair of the Bureau of Preparatory Committee
"At its meeting on 1 April 2009, the Bureau of the Preparatory Committee for the Durban Review Conference decided that 2 to 4 representatives of NGOs (representing the civil society community) could be given the floor for general statements at the end
of the general segment and before the Conference begins its general debate on agenda item 9 (" Issues arising from the objectives of the Conference"). The Bureau decided further that 16 April 2009 would be the deadline for NGOs to come up with their proposals with regard to those few organisations that would take the floor on their behalf. The Bureau will meet before the Review Conference to consider again the matter ."

Kindly respond to:
This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
Fax: +41 (0) 22 928 90 50


As I read it, this means that any NGO, accredited to the Durban Review Conference, that can get a larger group of NGOs to speak on their behalf. There you go! This is an excellent opportunity for previously unheard voices to emphasize their issues in a general statement.
You have until April 16 to put forward the name of the NGO that will speak and which part of civil society (which other NGOs) it represents.
Either by email This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or by fax: +41 (0) 22 928 90 50

Suzette
I Care Newsteam


Report FROM THE PLENARY

elephant_in_the_roomThe mandate of the informal intersessional working group is to continue and to complete the negotiations for the real conference. My first thought was ‘yeah right!' what else could I think? That's just the way it goes. They plan a meeting and the next thing they do is plan another meeting because of a lack of time (or political will, whatever you prefer) to finish their work. But at this stage, there is no time left. The actual review conference will take place in no more than two weeks, meaning they have six days left to come to some sort of agreement on the text.

 

To that end Boychenko and Co. put a lot of effort into improving the latest version of the outcome document. They managed to reduce the text to 141 paragraphs and, more importantly, they skipped (most of) the controversial language. Not to everyone's satisfaction of course. One person quite fond of this so called ‘Rolling text' was Ms. Navanethem Pillay, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.

Pillay welcomed all delegates in the room at the start of this morning's session. She expressed her hope that the new document would constitute a major turning point, a breakthrough, in the preparations for the Conference. One of the reasons why she was so pleased with the text is because it takes into account her proposal for the establishment of an observatory on racism within the OHCHR (para 123). The purpose of such an observatory body is to generate information and analyses in order to ‘devise effective technical cooperation and capacity building programmes in the field of racism.' Well, what can be very much welcomed by one can be experienced as a big friendly African elephant by many others. (more on the elephant in the room later)

The morning session was characterized by Boychenko's attempt to structure this week negotiations in accordance with the letter he had sent to all delegations on Friday the 3rd of April. In this letter the delegates were informed that the Chair intended to proceed with the adoption ad referendum in a formal setting of the provisions adopted ad referendum during the informals. In practice this meant the adoption of a package consisting out of 36 paragraphs. Most delegations were in quite a positive and cooperative mood, but not thát cooperative. Some, like South-Africa, brought up that adopting the list is adopting an artificial package of paragraphs splitting up issues that actually belong together.

A bit annoyed by the fact that the delegates were not willing to follow his plan, the Chair asked if there were at least no objections to considering the rolling text as the basis for further negotiations. With some ‘No of course we do not object, BUT ... the machine got started. Next, as announced in the letter, the Chair wanted to structure this morning with detailed statements from delegations on topics that he identified as topics on which views and position diverge: follow-up mechanisms and Ad Hoc Committee, Incitement and Freedom of expression, past tragedies, OHCHR including observatory and other issues. The Chair must have assessed the (pretended) willingness of the delegations quite wrong, because this attempt failed as well. We do not want to rush this of course!

What followed were statements made by different regions, declaring which para's they had problems with and sometimes explaining why or which one they would like to see deleted. Old difficulties surfaced again such as para 10 on negative stereotyping of religions and para 64 on the Holocaust. Syria added to the "discussions" that it ‘will never be party to any redundant activity or event that is intended to address the agony of victims in countries with institutionalized racism, we will never accept an apartheid regime, and we will never accept intimidation and threats of boycott. Walking out of the conference is no longer acceptable!" And Iran made clear that there are quite some things missing in the text and that it aligns itself with Syria. The one topic almost every regional group is unsatisfied with is follow-up mechanisms; especially paragraph 123 constituted a problem, such a big problem that they called it the ‘elephant in the room' and left it to be discussed in the afternoon.

It was quite remarkable that after a long list of complaints every delegate felt the need to assure the others that they are fully determined to bring the document to a successful end. How then, with so many disagreements and thís limited amount of time? The words of the Chair are quite illustrative here: ‘I am not Harry Potter or any other magician! We all know what consensus text means, I hope we will be equally happy at the end of the day.'

At the end of the morning session there was about 45 minutes given to the NGO's to speak. Amongst them were Civicus, Organisation for Indigenous People (thank you for asking the chair's letter to the delegations red.), the Canadian HIV/Aids Network and last but not least the Arabic Human Rights Commission. It was quite a remarkable contribution indeed. The man complained about the fact that the suffering of the Palestinian people was taken out of the paragraphs 64 and 65. According to him it would be difficult for NGO's in the Arab world to defend this document if there would be nothing on (without stigmatizing) the suffering of the Palestinians aggravated by the situation of occupation. And that was that for the morning session.

So in the afternoon they had quite some things to deal with, especially mechanisms and the observatory were and still are a huge obstacle. Or as to say in the eloquent words of the distinguished delegates: there is a big, African, friendly elephant in the room.

At first no one really wanted to burn their fingers on the matter, Boychenko had to threaten with his hammer to get people to speak. It appeared that the main problems of the follow-up mechanisms are that they do not function properly, that there is a lack of interaction between interagency groups and intergovernmental bodies, a low level of expertise and a lack of leadership within some expert groups. In order to enhance the quality of the work of the Durban follow-up mechanisms, the chair (and the Human Rights Commissioner) pleads for an overall architecture to cover all mechanisms. Something like an observatory that could gather and analyse information, that could ensure the constant flow of information.

Not all delegations were convinced that the intersessional working group on the Durban Review Conference was the right place to discuss such matter in depth. They will probably come up with general directives that leave the door open for more detailed ideas. We'll see that tomorrow.

Despite the elephant the following paragraphs were adopted*: 127/128/129/133/135/136/137/138/140

*Warning: remember that nothing is agreed until everything is agreed!



TuesDAY, APRIL 7

Quotes of the day

‘Oh boy what a drama this day is'

‘Welcome to the conference that nobody really wanted'

‘Only if you believe in miracles will there be a document ready on Thursday for next week's PrepCom'


Editorial

In search of lost UN time

peacockassTomorrow is international Roma day (see OSCE statement), but no Roma at the intersessional. For that matter, very little NGOs here. This morning I counted 22 NGO delegates. Now isn't that strange. All those who are making noise about the Durban Review Conference seem to think that it is really enough to show up only at the conference itself. Well, not so. This week, the intersessional, this is where it happens, baby! Any stuff you still want to lobby on, any language you still want to feed to country delegations, better do it this week. Next week during the PrepCom and the week after during the DRC everybody will be way to busy to listen to NGOs, plus there will be an almost-final document with very little space for adding. Of course we do understand that some just don't have the resources to fly up here for a few days of Intersessional...

This morning's meeting was supposed to start at 11am but, no surprise there, it only started at 11.45am. If you would use the total sum and value of all the lost time generated by UN meetings not starting on time, you could do a lot of interesting things. Like holding a conference. Or maybe giving money to those who really need it. Solve a conflict, stop a genocide, plug a leak. Just little ideas. Let's put a commission to work on this; A la recherche du temps perdu ONU.

The Chair, Mr. Boychenko opened the meeting at 11.45 with much gusto, saying that ‘today we have to make some speed, since yesterday only 8 paragraphs were adopted and of those only two without amendments! So it is possible!' His turbo-charged mode did not really meet the delegates' mood, which was somewhat too relaxed. In the end, the morning session only adopted 2 paras and Boychenko was getting a bit desperate. Main procrastinating culprits were Syria, Cuba, South Africa and Nigeria, fidgeting over every technicality. Speaking to a UN official during the lunch break, I hear that the expectation that the Intersessional finalizes a document on Thursday ready for the PrepCom is very low; ‘Well, only if you believe in miracles'.

The afternoon meeting was scheduled to start at 3.30 because of a bureau meeting, but at 4.05 delegates were still huddling in groups in the room. Something seemed to be going on. Finally at 4.20pm the meeting at last started with Boychenko hammering his gavel. ‘Let us continue!'

The short meeting saw an enormous amount of obstruction, again mainly by OIC countries like Iran, Pakistan and Syria but also by Algeria. Especially Iran was on its worst by firing of long convoluted amendments, trying to re-insert parts of old paras and basically blowing hot air into the room. It is unclear what the OIC countries are trying to achieve. They must know that there really is no going back to the old stuff, so maybe they just decided that they want to be obnoxious until the EU walks. Of that, there is right now little risk. the EU says - off record- that e.g. the reaffirmation of the DDPA (Para 1) is absolutely no red line. Even if parts of the EU walk, we expect France to stay. French foreign minister Bernard Kouchner today said that ‘the current draft outcome document for the Durban II conference "goes in the right direction", and that ‘a final version of the DRC outcome document was expected "within two days.' I don't know what he has been smoking, but he didn't smoke it here at the Palais des Nations.

clockbThe meeting ended at 6pm with only 5 additional paras adopted. When everybody tried to storm out of the room they were called back by Boychenko, and when everybody sat again, he informed the room that....tomorrow's meeting will only start at 3pm, due to a private meeting of the OIC countries between 9 and 10 am and consultations by the Bureau. In other words, the Bureau is going to try to massage some countries into cooperation so a final document ‘ready for the PrepCom' can be generated Thursday at 6pm. Well, one and a half day of meetings to go, to be precise 9 hours of meeting time (make that 7 for the inevitable late starts of meetings) and still 91 of the 141 para's to discuss. 91 Paras to adopt in 7 hours. No way this is going to work.

Ronald Eissens



Report FROM THE PLENARY

After many complaints (and of course our great example) the Secretariat provided the document in more than just two languages this morning. They have translated the rolling text not just into French, but also into the other four official UN languages (Spanish, Chinese, Arabic and Russian). That was a good start of the day (at a quarter to twelve); however the remainder of the morning session was not so bright...

rolling_text

‘Your silence always frightens me', the Chair said when he opened the floor for discussions on section 1a. They did not come much further than paragraph 12 (excluding para 10), whining about exact wordings and other quite minor issues. Miraculously even the delegates themselves admitted at certain points that some of their comments were not of that great importance and took it back. Another remarkable thing was that some delegations declared that they could not accept certain wordings, while they had not prepared any alternative language (and this happened many times)! And we all know what that means; the paragraphs are put on hold until some undefined moment later in time.

Since the negotiations on section 1a did not work out at all and the Chair wanted to end the morning session with a bit of sunshine he moved to yesterday's section and they adopted the para's 130 and 139 in a slightly amended form.

What is clear is that the current mode of proceeding is really obstructing the process, all changes made need to be re-discussed again within the regional groups (hopefully they have the opportunity to do this during lunch). This means that more time is needed for renegotiations on the same paragraphs.

The Chair appealed many times to the delegates not to complicate the process and to be as restrictive as possible, at a certain point he even got a bit angry saying: ‘do not complicate things, we are not making fun here, we have two days to go! I have to report to the prepcom and if you want in the report how unproductive you have been that is fine with me!' Ouchhh, I wonder whether this remark will make any difference during the afternoon session which will start half an hour later (15:30) because of a Bureau meeting.

Eventually they started even one and a half hour later, for reasons unknown to us. But it was most certainly not because they were working hard on coming up with solutions after lunch, because the afternoon session was simply more of the same. They returned to section 1A for a while but after Iran started talking about inserting defamation of religions again under paragraph 10 and adding things like ‘the abuse of freedom of speech', Boychenko figured it would be better to move on to 1B.

 

huddles2However, the machine got stuck there too. This time on whether there should be a merger of the para's 14/15 or not, if this would mean that important elements would be lost or not and whether ‘victims of contemporary forms of discrimination' should be inserted. Same story concerning the para under discussion in section 1C (20), the para's 24/25 in 1D and paragraph 26 in 1E. Concerning the paragraphs for negotiation in section 2 (the ones outside the scope of the package) they booked a small success by adopting para's 27 and 28 on the follow-up mechanisms in general and the crucial role played by the Special Rapporteur. Paragraph 30 on the support for the mandate of the Special Advisor of the Secretary General, was adopted as well without much trouble. By that time it was about half past five.

 

Twenty minutes before the closure of the meeting Boychenko made a smart move by requesting the delegations to approve in a formal setting the paragraphs that were adopted informally today and the day before. And so they did. Quite a few delegations interpreted this as the end of today's session and run out of the room, although they knew that the last fifteen minutes were reserved for NGO's to speak. Amongst the apeakers were representatives of the Organisation for Indigenous people, the NGO for cooperation and development for the people of the African Great Lakes, SIRAK and the Arab Commission for Human Rights.

 

Paragraphs ‘formally' adopted: 27/28/31/127/128/129/130/133/135/137/138/139/140


Tidbits

Syria all of a sudden announced that they would give a sum of money to the Durban trustfund, to cover the expenses of the conference. They did not say how much, but Mr. Boychenko called it ‘the best news of the day'

The Working document in French, Spanish and Russian! Scanned by your tireless ICARE Newsteam Laughing


For those who like to creep-out on Durbanesque tents, here's another picture. Enjoy!

moretents


WEDNESDAY, APRIL 8

 

QUOTES OF THE DAY

'When I request comments it does not mean you should make comments' (Chair)

'You're sooo out there, what are you doing in here!'

'Sir, even us government delegates do not always listen to each other during discussions' (Chair)


EDITORIAL

The interpretation of dreams

alma-tadema_unconscious_rivals_1893_1024-768After a leisurely romantic evening together on the shores of Lake Geneva the Iranian ambassador hugged his U.S. colleague and vowed to never ever again....BEEP BEEP BEEP BEEP...huh? Oh, it's the alarm clock! Wow, what a dream. Boychenko was also in there somewhere, plus the perky lady of the Israeli mission who was hanging around the plenary yesterday trying to be inconspicuous (smirk), and a whole bunch of pro and contra DRC activists, wearing pink banana-shaped hats (?), alternatively shouting something that sounded like ‘Stop the Raelllian occupation of Llasa' or ‘Open your eyes, we're watching the UN!' It all took place in a big white tent, with the OIC countries, Syrian delegate in the lead (the one that looks so much like Syrian president Assad), tossing a scared looking Yuri Boychenko in the air, shouting ‘adopted! adopted!' while the Czech republic delegate Veronika Stromšíková danced around this jolly group, screaming RED LINES, RED LINES! Nobody hears her, and at the edges of the action Nigeria and South Africa are scowling, holding placards in the air: 2001 DDPA OR BUST.

Some strong coffee brought me back to reality. It was just the long morning of a short working day here in Geneva, since the plenary would start at 3pm. Of course when we got to the Palais des Nations the meeting only started at 3.35pm, with the Chair, Mr. Boychenko rehearsing for a career as stand-up comedian: "I hope that we will be able to move even faster than yesterday afternoon!" Next he asked the delegates to only focus on those paras that were really of concern and not to concentrate on individual words or phrases, unless these had a real semantic value. Sounds good, right? Wrong. Nigeria seemed to take this as an open offer to start a long-winded contribution on paras 36 and 38, concentrating on...lots of individual words and phrases without real semantic value. And so it went for a while, until Boychenko really got out his whip, which resulted in a staggering 25 adopted paragraphs. Well, still 66 to go tomorrow and since all the contentious paragraphs are in the remaining 66, they'll never make it. I don't even have to bet on that. Moment of the day: the Iranian delegate giggled. Long and gleeful. A pretty scary sound, somewhat like this. Tomorrow is the last day of the Intersessional Working Group meeting and word came down from the relevant authority that we will start at 10am. Hold on to your lugnuts.

Ronald Eissens


Report FROM THE PLENARY

Today was only half a day of reporting for us, but a full day of working for the delegates who started early this morning with private meetings. Maybe these meetings influenced the progress made today during the public session because they adopted far more paragraphs (we counted 25) than in the two days before. On the other hand there was quite a lot nitpicking on minor details as well, so it was a day of contradictions.

 

Let's start at the beginning. It was almost a quarter to four when the Chair opened the floor for discussions on the para's 36/37/38 on the ratification of ICERD by the Member States. The para's were not welcomed by many and the Chair moved on quite quickly, especially after Palestine raised its flag calling for the deletion of all three. Under the subsection ‘reporting' the Chair was luckier, para's 39/41/42 got easily adopted. The parts where the process really got stuck again and cost a lot of time was on migration issues (para's 72-77 ). Several delegations proposed very distinct language, which were impossible to combine. Also para's 83 and 84 on multiple forms of discrimination appeared to be difficult. Should para 83 state discrimination on multiple grounds or multiple forms of discrimination? In 84, should ‘women and girls' be specifically mentioned or not?

 

All this was certainly not made easier by Iran for example. Who, in my opinion, is pretending to be flexible while they are at the same time frustrating the process by making proposals and taking them back again at a later stage (just like they did yesterday). At times also the Czech Republic on behalf of the EU is keeping up the process; they seem to be on a short leash when it comes to changes proposed by others that do not correspond with their own proposals. Every time this is the case the Czechs announce that they have to bring it back to their own group first before deciding on anything, and that mostly doesn't happen during the sessions itself but afterwards...

 

At times you could feel that the Chair was having difficulties with how things are going. He is really trying to push forward, but then there is that unavoidable wall of words and comma's again. Many delegations keep on complimenting the Chair with his excellent work etc., but Boychenko himself says that at this point he doesn't really know what he should be congratulated with.

 

Again the last 15 minutes were given to the NGO's, amongst them were i.e. the Indigenous World Association and the Arab Commission for Human Rights. The representative of the latter organisation complained about the fact that delegates start talking out loud (or walk away, although Boychenko asked the delegations today to remain seated) whenever the floor is given to NGO's. On which the Chair replied: ‘Many are still listening, and it also happens that when delegates are speaking we neither listening to each other.' I don't know if that answer is a good thing or a bad thing, I guess both.

 

Paragraphs adopted today: 39/41/42/46/47/48/49/52/53/54/58/68/69/71/72/73/77/79/80/81/84/85/87/88/90

TIDBITS

Asking a low-flying Italian delegate in the corridors if Italy is really boycotting the DRC she first said that she was just observing now, and then claimed not to be a member of the Italian delegation. Probably she has seceded. Or something. But, still observing, so all is well.

Here's a question that drives me to distraction. The peacocks on the grounds of the Palais des Nations often emulate the behaviour of those having meetings inside the building, and make sounds to match. But who takes care of them? Do they have their own caretakers and a Vet? E-mail us at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it , first one who knows the answer gets a free subscriptions to 10 UN-meetings of choice.


NGO issues - The beautiful continent of Panganea

panganeaPanganea, for a Racism free world, the glossy pamphlet we find on the table inside the meeting room says. I guess Pangaea is meant, the super continent that existed some 250 million years ago, before the continents drifted apart and we ended up with the world as we know it. There weren't even dinosaurs at that time, let alone humans, so it really was a racism free world. Do the authors of the pamphlet mean to go back to this time? Let's see, it's signed by ‘People United Against Racism' (Which is not United Against Racism, the European Network, and not any NGO at all) and it promotes the ‘Civil Society Forum' of the 2009 DRC. It has a URL, www.genevaforum2009.org but the website offers no info about the organisation or persons behind this initiative. It only gives a vague programme and an address somewhere in Geneva in the ‘basement of Maison des Associations', which is a well-known Geneva NGO meeting place. Wow, how shady. I'm surprised that the UN allows this dissemination of anonymous stuff. Digging somewhat deeper, I find the person and organisation that registered the website. One Jan Lönn of the organisation World Against Racism Network (WARN), with again the address in the basement of the Maison des Associations. Ah, It gets somewhat clearer. Jann Lönn is no stranger to us. He's one of those people who busies himself with telling the world that the Durban NGO Forum was all Hunky dory, there was never any hate or antisemitism in Durban, et cetera. Well, whatever this ambassador of the racism-free continent of Panganea wants, he does not represent Civil Society and he certainly does not represent us. I hope he, his compatriots, and the UN all understand that.


dsc00475

 



THURSDAY, APRIL 9

Quotes of the day

‘I lose my car every day!’ (Syrian delegate, looking bewildered in front of building)

‘Can I implore upon you to lower your flags!’(Chair)

‘You see, I’m always ready to adopt something!’ (Chair)

‘Thank you, your amendment does not help at all’ (Chair)

‘I don’t understand your preoccupation with this paragraph at all’ (Chair)

 


Editorial


Actors on a stage

Today finished with a not quite finished working document although the Chair gave it his best and we ended up with an amazing 75 paragraphs adopted of the 141, which is 53%.

Most of the contentious paragraphs are put on ice and the PrepCom will have to deal with those next week.

Looking at how delegations worked today, we can safely say that most real negotiations were not done in the plenary but in private consultations, which leaves us with a piece of theatre in which everybody fulfils their role according to the message they want to project. The EU: firm in defending democratic rights and freedom, but very flexible. The OIC: unyielding in their support for the real downtrodden and Islam. The African group: World wise victims of racism trying to save the process. GRULAC Group: quiet, strong, not needing anybody but constantly on the fence. The rest of us: ‘hey, we are watching you all!'

Sources tell us things are in fact going very well and are ‘close to a deal'. Will this mean that Europe and the OIC will do some heavy horse-trading? Sitting in the plenary it did not look exactly like that, with Iran firing of amendment after amendment and constantly trying to bring back Religious defamation and blasphemy into any Para suitable, while the European reaction to that was very laid back: ‘We will have to consult about this and come back to it later'. That surely sounds like ‘we are not saying yes or no because we are waiting for the result of the private talks'. Later in the final statements the Czech Republic's Veronika Stromšíková worded it like this: ‘the EU had many proposals but we did not bring them forward because we want progress. Still, we have kept up a constructive spirit'

South Africa, speaking on behalf of the African Group, had many amendments all day, mostly on substance, showing that they're in it for the real stuff, at times going over the top with too much technicalities, on which the Chair would roll his eyes. ‘I don't understand your preoccupation with this paragraph at all'.

peackockassThis morning also the story hit that President Ahmadinejad of Iran would be present (and speaking) at the high-level part of the DRC*. This was confirmed later in the day. Oh goodie.L As far as ‘red lines go, it is clear that the EU is divided. Italy seems to be boycotting, France will never give you one straight answer anyway and probably they will stay even when all the EU walks, and the rest is hemming and hawing over anything incessantly. Said one delegate: ‘our Ministry of foreign affairs changes its mind every hour. One delegation not happy and not pretending to be is the Palestinian Authority. There is nothing about Palestinians in the current working document and nobody is really trying to bring it back, not even the OIC group. On the same note, protesting on Paragraph 1, the re-affirmation of the DDPA, is also a passed station. It has been adopted by the Intersessional and it does not seem that anybody wants to address it again to bring the USA back to the table. The Dutch might still go against the rest of the EU on that, Dutch foreign minister Maxime Verhagen has upheld that re-affirming the DDPA amounts to singling out one country (Israel) which is perfectly true, but since the Dutch and the rest of the EU adopted the DDPA in Durban, it would be weird to try to come back on that 8 years later. For that matter, the DDPA is the basis for the DRC, not re-affirming would amount to scrapping the conference, since there would be nothing left to review.

Still, we don't know for sure what is going on behind the scenes. One scenario is that it will go the same as in Durban, where the EU hold-out on adoption of certain paras and the end-document was adopted with everything there was consensus on, while the rest was out. Or the horse-trading will lead to a consensus document by Friday next week, at the end of the 3rd substantial PrepCom. Although 75 paras are now adopted ad ref, several countries made it very clear that they reserve the right to revisit those when they want to. What's more, only the PrepCom can officially adopt those ad ref paras. One other thing became clear: the real fight is about religious defamation/Blasphemy. Israel/Palestinians is now strictly a side-show.

At the end of the day Mr. Boychenko presented the report that will go to the PrepCom. This report will, "reflect the level of agreement on particular paragraphs, including the 75 ad ref adopted paragraphs'. The report was adopted by the room. Next week we'll be back to report on the PrepCom, and the DRC right after that.

 

*We tried to feed delegations that do not like the Holocaust-denying Mr. Ahmadinejad the idea that walking out demonstratively when he speaks is a good idea.

Ronald Eissens

Report from the Plenary

It was an exciting day for everyone involved in the process, the big question was ‘would they be able to finish the document or not?' Well, in their own particular way they succeeded. They discussed all paragraphs in the document adopting as many paragraphs as they could, but they left the so called ‘para's in the package' for negotiations in a later stage. Today we already had some flash forwards on what that would be like: in the afternoon the pending issues were discussed, amongst others paragraph 64 on the Holocaust in which case Syria made clear that if some States want to keep that in they will insist on having ‘apartheid' integrated in the outcome document.

This morning the delegates went through the document on high speed (compared to the days before at least). If there were no comments the para got adopted immediately, and if there was disagreement the chair tried to move on to the next (group of) paragraphs as quickly as possible. There were two issues though that gained some extra attention.

The first one was the discussion between (mainly) Iran and the Czech Republic on behalf of the EU on paragraph 101. This para states that States should establish mechanisms to assess the situation of individuals or groups of individuals on a regular basis. Iran proposed to replace groups of individuals with communities. On which the Czechs replied that communities as such cannot become a victim of racism. This is a recurrent debate not only within the Durban Review process but also within other UN bodies such as the Human Rights Council. Therefore it was surprising that the Chair just let this unending discussion continue. One of the last comments made on this matter was by Cuba who found it worthwhile mentioning that, the word ‘communities' is used in the DDPA 26 times. But of course that did not change anything, so the Chair finally decided to move on.

foto_9_aprilTalking about Cuba, they also tried to get the work of human rights defenders restricted in paragraph 115. Some states supported Cuba's proposal to insert ‘in accordance with national legislation', the last sentence there would then read: ‘allow them (human rights defenders red.) to work freely for the promotion and protection of human rights in accordance with national legislation.' The proposal led to many reactions, either for or against the proposal. Soon the Chair realised there was a stalemate and requested the delegations to refrain from making comments: ‘It would mean not to surrender, but to be flexible'. And they moved on. The working group was very productive this morning; 29 paragraphs got adopted in a formal setting!

The afternoon session was less productive, because the delegates had to look again at the paragraphs in the package to see if they could get to some agreements (which led to nothing but more frustrating moments such as the Syria example I mentioned above). In a way it was funny to see how delegates tried to get rid of undesired information by saying ‘Hey, we do not have to mention that, it was in the DDPA and we refer to the DDPA in paragraph 1 so let's just delete that.' That was for example how Iran tried to get para 64 out of the outcome document and that is also how Cuba attempted to get ‘States need to cooperate fully with international criminal tribunals' deleted from 64. On which the Chair said ‘thank you that is your interpretation, lets move on.'

When they got back to para 10 (yes, the one on freedom of expression and stereotyping of religions) the position of the OIC became more clear. In addition to what Syria mentioned on 64, Pakistan said that the para's in the package should be viewed as a whole. ‘The OIC has certain minimal positions that cannot be changed', he said. Defamation of religion might be one of those, because Iran insisted on inserting that in para 66 but then quickly took it back ‘in light of what Pakistan said.' Was that a mistake or is it strategy?

At the end of the session China woke up and mentioned that they had forgotten to put in an essential word in the already adopted para 90. Nobody had seen that the para as it stands now urges states to strengthen their cooperation in trafficking in persons!

90. Urges States to strengthen bilateral, regional and international cooperation on combating trafficking in persons, especially women and children, and to facilitate the work of the Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons, especially in women and children, and non-governmental organizations that provide assistance to victims; [adopted ad ref. informals]

Next week the Preparatory Committee in its third substantive session will continue and finalize process of negotiations. At the end of today's session the working group adopted the report to the Prepcom which reflects the level of agreement on particular paragraphs. Besides that, the Chair will prepare a revised version of the document and submit it to the Prepcom.

Paragraphs adopted today ad referendum:

41/49/52/82/86/91/92/94/95/98/99/103/104/105/106/107/108/109/110/112/113/114/117/118/119/120/121/124/125/126/140/



NGO contributions

There were some NGO contributions as well of course, next to the ones we heard before (Arab Commission for Human Rights and the Organisation for Indigenous people) there were also the Association of World Education and someone from Brazil who, if I am not mistaken, represented the COC from the Netherlands.

The Association of World Education pleaded that para 10 of the draft outcome is deeply flawed because it only singles out Jews, Christians, Muslims, Christianophobia, Islamophobia and Antisemitism while no mention is made of discrimination towards non-believers. It was stated that the human rights of non-believers and freethinkers are simply denied. In the opinion of this organisation all are entitled to be protected from discrimination and suggested that the specification in para 10 is deleted or expanded with apostates and freethinkers. He also wondered why anti-Arabism is mentioned and anti-Westernism is not? Similarly he proposed to either delete anti-Arabism or expand the para with anti-Westernism.

The Brazilian on behalf of COC Netherlands shared his indignation on the removal of the para's 70 and 78 bis from the February document. These para's appealed to the States to promote tolerance and to raise public awareness about discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity. He therefore proposed that these para's would be retained.



NGO briefing, April 9, 2009

Today at 2pm there was a NGO briefing by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Right,s with Mr. Ibrahim Salama, OHCHR Coordinator of the Durban Review Conference, June Ray, head of the Civil Society section and others. It was mainly a technical meeting in which NGOs asked questions and got answers.

Q. How about registration for the conference, will those who come already next week for the PrepCom get one badge, so will be accredited for PrepCom and DRC, so they don't have to register twice?

A. Yes

Q. How about access to the plenary hall during the conference, I understand there will be access badges to the plenary, When will registration for those badges open, and when will the NGO speakers list for the DRC open?

A. We are still looking into this, we will maybe provide one access badge per NGO, a new one everyday (like in Durban) so if that happens NGOs will have to register for access badges every day.

Suggestion from the room: ‘Why not give every NGO one badge for the whole conference and let us sort out who uses it'

ngobriefA. We are still thinking about this and we will also discuss it. As for room for NGOs, there are 400 seats reserved for NGO delegates upstairs on the balcony of the plenary hall (the old General assembly hall on the 5th floor of the old building, Batiment A), and 60 seats downstairs, so that has been taken care of.

Q. In the Guidance Note for Organizers of Side Events During the Durban Review Conference, it says: ‘the distribution of background material is only allowed in the room where the event takes place and not outside. All material distributed must bear the stamp of the organization sponsoring the event. Offensive materials shall not be permitted' and in E-bulletin number 1 of February 18 this year, it says on the subject of NGO statements:

Language that is deemed abusive or offensive will not be accepted and any NGO using such language may be excluded from sessions'. Bearing the problems in Durban in mind, it would be good to know where to complain when something like this happens. Who is the person, or the persons, to notify when e.g. racism or other hateful language is disseminated, and is the office of the High Commissioner prepared and ready to deal with situations like this?

A. Thank you for this important question. We will follow the usual rules & procedures and we expect full respect for those from everybody. It is important to recall the requirements for behavior. There will be a written briefing note, which we will hand out on registration and at other moments thereafter, and also at the daily briefing we will clearly define the rules of procedures on this very important issue. Additionally, there will be a person from our office responsible for, and present at every side event.

Q. How many NGOs have registered for the DRC up to now?

A. Around 250 NGOs, but we're still processing.

Q. The Voices of the Victims event? How will this go?

A. It was very moving in Durban, moderated by Gay Mcdougal, who will come back and do it again this time. It will be held in the exhibition hall space on the 3rd floor.

Q. What are the possibilities for written statements by NGOs?

A. This will be in the e-bulletin of today

Q. About funding for the conference, some countries have donated, is there a list of who and how much?

A. This information was available some time ago but we will update it and provide it.

Remarks by June Ray, head of the Civil Society Unit:

‘We had planned to hold daily NGO briefings at 8.30 in the morning for 30 minutes. I understand NGOs will also be having other morning meetings or briefings themselves, so we would like to have suggestions from NGOs how we should handle it, what time would be best'.

Q. How about the webcast live feed, will this be in all languages, since when you log in on the web you can either get it in English translation or in the original language.

A. There will be a live feed in room 17 on a big screen, and there you will have translation in all languages via your ear set. As for a webcast in all languages, we looked at it but it is not possible, well I think it is technically maybe possible but also it is very costly to do it.

Before Mr. Salama closed the meeting, he said that there would be a NGO briefing with the High Commissioner in the middle of next week (during the PrepCom)



TIDBITS

Word in the corridors has it that the private consultations are going really well and a lot of progress has been made on negotiating difficult para's. Of course this doesn't get reflected in the progress being made in public.

It is still unknown who will be the president of the conference. After the Swiss foreign affairs minister Micheline Calmy-Rey respectfully declined, the justice minister of Kenia who was going to do it, resigned from government. No new names are floating around.

 

p2

The renovations taking place around the building have unsettled this particular peacock's stomping grounds so much he's checking inside the building to find an alternative place to hang out. We suggest the plenary room, a natural habitat.

 

emergency-exit

Walking around the building we've noticed that all emergency exits are locked with chains. Apparently to prevent any delegate escaping from the proceedings.


'See' you next week at the PrepCom!

Your ICARE team in Geneva.