Internet Centre Anti Racism Europe
|3rd PrepCom & Durban Review Conference 2009|
ApriL 15 to April 24
Wednesday, April 15 - Thursday, April16 - Friday, april 17 - Sunday, April 19 - monday, april 20 - tuesday, april 21 - wednesday, april 22, thursday, april 23 - friday, april 24
IN THIS ISSUE
QUOTES OF THE DAY - THE LAST EDITORIAL - THE OUTCOME DOCUMENT - NGO BRIEFING - SEXUAL ORIENTATION SIDE EVENT - TITBITS - PHOTOS
Quotes of the day:
‘The Islamic Republic of China has the floor...' (Mr. Amos Wako, President of the conference)
THE LAST EDITORIAL
DRC, the morning after
A document...that reviewed a document
Of course the side-events were interesting; the voices of the victims were sometimes heartbreaking. But nothing shown, and nothing said will make a mark on the DRC outcome document. NGOs at this conference were a nice showpiece for the UN, that's all. Some do understand that and are rightfully angry about it. Mr. Salama tried to assure us that this conference ‘was not the end, but only the beginning'. Where did we hear that before? In 2001 at the adoption of the DDPA. Now here we are, 8 years later, at the end of a process that basically created a document...that reviewed a document. Nothing tangible got reviewed. No show and tell, no name and shame. Mr. Salama attributed NGO-anger over this to ‘the politics of Human Rights'. I grant him, NGOs are not free of that at all, but then the UN-organisation itself is not exactly a paragon of impartiality, a pertinent example of that we got during yesterdays' UN press conference, where an official remarked that the UN did not want to go into talking about specific ‘genocide-conflicts' like Congo, Gaza and Darfur. Strange, for the UN does not even recognize the ongoing genocide in Darfur and the OIC countries in the DRC certainly did not want to talk about it, which is shameful. Even worse, when you don't want to recognize the Darfur genocide, and then launch a false claim that the Human rights situation in Gaza in fact is genocide, then you have made partiality into your Standard Operating Procedure. Still, it is not like the UN organization did not do a good job. Despite these ‘internal politics', they did. They prevented a lot of dissemination of hate by confiscating material. The UN police and security forces always stayed calm and friendly, even in the thick of ‘battle'. They pulled the accreditation of a few NGOs that tried to incite hatred. And they pulled the accreditation of the UEJF, for clowning around. A pity, but inevitable. Let's just say that the absolute need for clowning outweighed the punishment. Ridicule is a powerful weapon in the fight against tyrants and hate mongers. I am actually surprised that the UN has not yet appointed a special rapporteur on that; have wig & red nose, will travel. The UN has promised ‘further consequences' to the UEJF. Somehow I doubt it. As it says engraved on a wall on a square in Amsterdam, ‘Homo Sapiens non urinat in ventum'.
ICARE PROUDLY PRESENTS THE, well, this...eh...this document. Read it. It is called:
NGO meeting, 9:30 - 10:00 am. room XII
Mr. Ibrahim Salama, coordinator of the office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights, told us that he was not unhappy with the outcome document because it lays down the human rights agenda. Nevertheless, he said, many ideas are missing in the document and as an example he mentioned the Observatory suggested by Mrs. Pillay. Mr. Salama emphasized that he thinks that the office of the High Commissioner should be much more evidence based. ‘Lets see how we can implement the document and stretch it, but for that we need your feedback. Unpacking the DDPA and the new outcome document is needed, but we cannot do that without you.'
Salama recognized that this week many NGO's showed up that were not familiar with the process and the Office needs to do something about their communication with non- ECOSOC NGO's. He insisted on the fact that from now on they will have to approach the NGO's actively and not wait for their questions and input passively.
Yesterday only 25 speakers have been able to speak. However, Salama said that the remaining 100 people on the list will speak today. Besides, the Office of the High Commissioner intends to compile a parallel document consisting out of NGO contributions, he therefore appealed to the NGO's in the room to send them their analyses and the gaps identified.
Sexual orientation side-event.
We are a small team so we could not visit all side-events or report on all of them. We had to make choiches. On Thursday, we went to the side event "Celebrating intersectionality: Understanding race and multiple forms of discrimination within the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action", organized by EGALE from Canada. Why this convoluted title? Since the DDPA does not contain anything on sexual orientation, ‘multiple forms of discrimination' was used to make it possible to even do the event on UN-premises. Well, that's not so bad. Some of the countries that do not want LGBT in any UN document hang gays back home, nothing personal too, just to be able to proudly announce that their country has no homosexuals. Other more gay-benign states like the USA call it sexual preference (pronounce as sexual perv-erence' while pulling a face) and of course the good-old Vatican is never at a loss for words when it comes to denouncing those that try to destroy healthy family values by having the audacity to love each other. The old joke is that those who want to tell us how and with whom we can have sex are man in skirts, alternatively sporting impressive beards. But as per usual, I digress. The side event had as piece the resistance a speech and a poem by Lindiwe Nkutha. Lindiwe is a South-African writer, poet, filmmaker, feminist, activist for LGBT and Lesbian rights, and by far one of the most impressive people I've ever seen. Physically a small person, a giant in stature. Please read her poem, the unmaking of a dream. After all the grueling nothingness, hate and dysfunctional debates at the UN, she brings clarity and passion to a debate, and I like to imagine myself in a place where Lindiwe comes to a gathering to share her thoughts and poetry; and then we dance and sing.
At the end of today a rumor started that Ahmadinejad would come back to close the conference. Hah, are you kidding? He would not dare. Besides, the rumor is clowns are seen staking-out Geneva airport, so all is under control.
Bernice Dubois, UN-expert, NGO regular and one-time representative of the Kingdom of Tonga, urges us to go with a fine comb through section 5 of the outcome document. According to her, this section that deals with DDPA implementation has all kinds of legal implications that might now be so good for a number of issues. Ok, anybody who has the time, go at it!
And then the one that most missed (not us of course): Mr. Ibrahim Salama said during the last NGO briefing that the Office of the High Commissioner intends to compile a parallel document consisting out of NGO contributions. Well sneaky, as long as it doesn't say 'NGO Declaration' it is an excellent idea!
BACK BY POPULAR DEMAND: THE STATS
ICARE DRC Reporting used:
For now, silence returns to the Palais des Nations...
One more day...
Today the NGOs started their speeches, but since the countries were still doing their last speeches, it only started at 4.30m. Of the list of 120 NGOs (5 dropped out, only 20 got to take the floor, which due to points of order made by Iran (by default on any Jewish NGO that spoke) took much longer than expected. Iran, isolated and scorned by most of the conference by now, is trying to set a record in the number of protests they make, even attacking the President of the conference for forgetting to say ‘Islamic Republic of Iran' instead of ‘Iran'.
3 NGOs lost their accreditation; one French/Jewish for bringing clown power to the conference (disruptive!), 2 Iranian ones for bringing hate to the conference (nasty stickers, pens and t-shirts).
NGO Meeting, 9:30 - 10:00 am. in room XII
There will be ongoing meetings today from 10.00 am till 18.00 pm. Since the list of the general statement is still quite long it is expected that 60 NGO's (am badges) will be able to speak from one o'clock onwards. The remaining 60 NGO's (pm badges) will speak tomorrow morning and if necessary their might be an additional meeting organized during lunchtime.
Secondary badges will be distributed from the liaison office, if you come there please bring 25 copies of your statement. These copies will be given to the interpreters and will also be used to put on the intranet. Those organisations that do not want their statement on the net have to write that down on their statement. There is no possibility anymore to sign up to the list, if you still want to have your voice heard see if you can find a colleague NGO that is willing to incorporate some of your language or that has a statement that you can join. But remember speaking time will not be more than three minutes and there is still a chance that it will be reduced to two minutes.
Those who take the floor are asked to come on time and also to give room to the next speakers afterwards by moving from the ground floor to the fifth floor. A list of speakers will be available outside the liaison office as well as in the Assembly Hall at the left side of the podium. Outside the Assembly Hall there will be a table for the distribution of the statements. For more information contact the Liaison office.
Announcement: Caucus of European NGO's has a side-event today from 2:00 to 3:00 pm in Room XII.
Side Event: From Durban to Geneva, The Lost Issues of Asia
The moderator of the event, Jerald Joseph opened by welcoming everybody and expressing his concern that the victims of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance are completely absent from the DRC document. Also a lot of the issues that are of concern in Asia didn't make it into the DDPA. After this Albert Steven performed the song 'Hail Dr. Ambedkar' Dr Ambedkar was a great Dalit leader and the chief architect of the Indian Constitution. Born into a poor Untouchable family, Ambedkar spent his whole life fighting against social discrimination, the system of Chaturvarna the Hindu categorization of human society into four varnas and the Indian caste system . After the opening 6 speakers took the floor to tell about the plight several groups have in different parts of Asia.
Mr. Vijay Parmar, National Campaign for Dalit Human Rights (India)
Ms. Nimalka Fernando, International Movement Against All Forms of Racism and Discrimination (Sri Lanka)
Ms. Bernice Aquino See, Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (Indigenous Peoples in Asia)
Mr. Anwar Arkani, Rohingya Community in Canada (Burma)
The Rohingya have a darker skin than other people in Burma and are considered ugly, they are not allowed to call themselves Rohingya they are referred to as Bengali but more commonly the derogative term 'kala' As in the US until the late sixties, Rohingya have to travel in the back of the bus (if they are allowed to travel, they require special passes to travel, like during apartheid in South Africa) , have to sit in the back of the class and are in general excluded from main stream society. These days Rohingya do not have a possibility to go to university, when they still could go pig bones were thrown into the Rohingya dormitories, making it impossible for this Muslim community to stay there. Today Rohingya are not allowed to get married, not allowed to go to college, not allowed to practise their religion. As much of their property is confiscated it is very hard to impossible to earn a living. Because of the passes law it's easier to flee the country than it is to get to another village.
Ms. Kyungsook Lee, Joint Committee with Migrants in Korea
Mr. Ngwang Choepel, Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization (Tibet)
After the presentations it was time for a lively debate. Two highlights had to be
Ms. Fernando replied (unfortunately the governmental delegate had left by this time) that you could bring a tiger in your delegation to represent the Tamils but he would still be in a cage.
2. A Chinese guy perfectly proved the points made by Ngwang Choepel. He started by telling us about the trip he made to Tibet, where he only met perfectly happy people who really are part of the Chinese harmonieus society. As far as freedom of speech goes no problem there. These days with the Internet being available to everybody you can say what you want and see whatever you want also.
All in all a great meeting, very well organized and I learned a lot about the lost issues in Asia indeed.
European Caucus Meeting, 14:00 - 15:00 room XII
Voices of the victims
‘Voices' provides a platform for individuals from diverse geographical and cultural backgrounds to share their experiences and gives a human face to issues addressed by the DRC. You can listen to them daily from 1.15 till 2.45 in the Permanent Exhibition Gallery outside room 20.
Datu Cosma Lambayon
Datu is a tribal leader of the Matigsalug Manobo tribe of Kitaotao in the Philippines. He heads an organization of indigenous peoples elders who lobbied for the Indigenous Peoples Rights Acts.
Datu told how he got discriminated when he was a young boy at school and how he was marginalized and treated like a second class citizen. When he grew older, he and his community were faced with the occupation of their ancestral domains as pasture lands of big businessmen and logging concessions. They filed complaints but the authorities did not respond because the Matigsalug Manobo were perceived as second class citizens. Instead the authorities filed cases against the tribal leaders claiming that they were terrorists and criminals. The tribal leaders were jailed several times without having access to legal counsel to defend them in the court of justice.
In 1975 the leaders of the tribe (of which he is one) staged a protest demanding the government to, amongst others, return all the lands to the Matigsalug Manobo Tribe as their ancestral domains amongst others and they succeeded. In 1987 they, together with other NGO;s for Indigenous people, went even further and lobbied with the Congress & Senate for provisions in the 1987 Constitution that recognize, promote and protect the rights of indigenous peoples. Several of such provisions were incorporated in the constitution. In 2007 the Matigsalug Manobo tribe booked an enormous success when their ancestral domains were recognized by the government. Ever since, migrants settlers within and outside their ancestral domains including government agencies started to respect them as citizens just like them. Datu encourages everyone to continue the struggle in asserting the rights of indigenous peoples.
Quotes of the day
‘I will come back to give you more quotes of the day!' (Yuri Boychenko to the editor of our French edition)
‘As far as I'm concerned the side events should be the event!' (Austrian Ambassador Christian Strohal)
‘Most of the time I can only listen to myself, I am happy to be able to listen to you today'(High Commissioner for Human Rights Navanethem Pillay)
‘Sound, but no vision, just like the United Nations' (NGO delegate complaining about the connections in Room 17)
Gearing-up for the post-mortem...
The third day of this conference feels like the last day. The document is adopted, the governments are using the last part of the high level segment for statements, which this morning was a string of condemnations of Ahmadinejad's foul speech of last Monday, mainly coming from Argentina, Ukraine, the UK, France, Sweden and Spain, while Austria, Lithuania and the Holy See also heavily criticised. The NGO briefing brought us angry NGOs who say that since the document is already adopted, they feel like tourists here. Some even demanded the re-opening of the negotiations (!). Well, it's not like we've not been saying it for one and a half years: if you want to exert influence on the language of a UN document, the preparatory process is where you should go, not the final conference!
While some were unhappy, not so the NGO Liason June Ray, who did her name credit by assuring the room in her usual sunny way that ‘this would not be the end, there will be more in the future'.
People ask us all the time if this conference is like Durban. No, it's not. It is absolutely incomparable. Foremost size-wise. Only 314 accredited NGOs here with 1073 NGO delegates, which is nothing like Durban, but also atmosphere-wise. It is mostly a well-behaved affair with only a few incidents. Stickers and some flyers were confiscated by the UN Police. A small number of side-events were cancelled because of content not in line with the DDPA and/or abusive language. A few NGO delegates and one journalist had their accreditation revoked. Kudos to the UN people at the Palais the Nations for doing a great job, special kudos to the UN Police and security forces for keeping everybody on the straight and narrow and handling it all with utmost care and friendliness.
Tomorrow we will see a pretty unusual day at the UN, for several reasons. Number one, no lunch break! The meeting in the main plenary hall will start at ten and continue without interruption until six. Why? Because there are now 125 NGOs on the speakers' list and the UN has decided to give all of them 3 minutes. Well, do the math. Taking into account all lost minutes and interruptions, they will be at it for 7 hours solid. Arrggghhhh!
The titbits of the day
Other news: one Mr. Colville, UN officianado, wants to pull the accreditation of the Jewish youth that did the playful actions against Ahmadinejad on Monday, and who gave a repeat performance yesterday in the lobby of the new building in front of the bar and meeting rooms, wearing clown outfits and shouting ‘Masquerade! Masquerade!' Clown power, huh.
Dudes in bad suits
Best from Geneva, which is in Switzerland, and is not called Duban I or II, and if you get out the map you will find it is actually not even close to Kwazulu-Natal in South Africa! What a surprise!
NGO meeting, 9:30 Room 12
This morning the speakers list for observers already counted 113 NGO's and three international organisation and even more were expected to sign up before its closing at 1 o'clock pm. Since there was no time left to speak for NGO's this afternoon, it will be a busy day tomorrow. The bureau fortunately decided that would not come back to their former proposal of 2 to 4 NGO's who could speak on behalf of civil society during the high level segment. It will just be individual NGO's speaking on their own behalf during the general debate.
As we expected yesterday, quite some NGO's expressed their concerns and doubts about the document being already adopted and the reasons for their stay. June Ray emphasized that these five days of conference are not only about the States, but that it is also the opportunity for NGO's to show what efforts their respective countries have undertaken since 200: ‘What is being said in the plenary by the representatives of States is only one part of the story'. She added that they take not of all complaints and comments made during these NGO meetings and assured that it will reach the proper destinations. Also written comments are welcomed, e-mail addresses will be made available on the notice board.
Next to that, some NGO's complained about side events being excluded for example because it was only about the Palestinians. Well, June Ray said, ‘we tried to make the program as inclusive as possible but they had to be in accordance with the criteria. Two of the most essential criteria were that the events had to be theme-based and in accordance with the DDPA. The organizers of those side-events that did not live up to all criteria were given the chance to re-conceptualize their event: Through addressing theme issues one could draw on experiences while avoiding giving the impression that some people deserve more rights than others.'
Some organizational matters; Depending on the number of speakers and the time limit the speaking time could be reduced to two minutes (which counts for all observers). NGO's are asked to hand over in advance 25 copies of their statements to the NGO liaison officers in room 3026. All the updated information will be put on the notice board outside the office, which is close to room XX on the third floor in the E-building.
Meeting between the High Commissioner and NGO's in room XVIII 14:00 pm.
Mrs. Pillay started off by giving a positive summary of the Conference up to now and emphasized the importance of the final document in the struggle against racial discrimination. She indicated that she was asked (by whom we do not know) to walk out of the Conference, but of course she could not do that since she is a UN civil servant. Talking about the States that did leave the Conference she expressed her regrets, but also said that those states fully participated in the process and by that in fact approved the final document. Mrs. Pillay encouraged NGO's to use the document in the future to lobby and to pressure governments to implement what was decided here. She ended by positively summarizing the DDPA and listing the types of discrimination that could now be efficiently fought against. However, this list did not include caste discrimination, gender identity and preference.
After that the NGO questions followed which were of variable quality. Apparently some NGO's still have not realized that their role in the process has come to an end. Others came back to the incident that marked the intervention of Mr. Ahmadinejad to ask about the consequences or on the fact that some side events were censured. Besides that, there were also NGO's that expressed their dissatisfaction with the absence of a reference in the document to trade unions and the difficulties encountered by African NGO's to participate in the process.
The most remarkable intervention came from Maluza Wasiluadio Mavula the President of the African Caucus, he complained in very strong terms about the complete absence of the victims in the outcome document and added that he absolutely did not share any feelings of satisfaction, whereupon a laud and long applause followed. Mrs Pillay concluded by saying that she would probably be retired by the time the next conference takes place, but that this is just the beginning and that the struggle must go on.
voices of the victims
‘Voices' provides a platform for individuals from diverse geographical and cultural backgrounds to share their experiences and gives a human face to issues addressed by the DRC. You can listen to them daily from 1.15 till 2.45 in the Permanent Exhibition Gallery outside room 20.
Mariama is a dark skinned Tuareg woman from Niger. Like her mother and grandmother, she grew up as a slave to lighter skunned Tuaregs. She was freed in 2001 and lives today with her family. During her first months of freedom she was invited to the Durban Conference in South Africa, there she discovered the outside world and experienced the life of a free woman. Today she was in Geneva.
Mariama was born in 1984 in a family of slaves, her destiny had in fact been decided for decades and actually she had no other choice but to inherit the statute of slave from her mother. The Touareg community is hierarchical and distinguishes between groups according to their skin colour. Mariama's master belonged to the white Touareg (who are the ‘ruling' minority) and was also the master of her mother and grandmother. As his slave she had to do all the domestic work and other chores as he desired. Mariama was treated differently from other girls of her age, she slept in different places and was regularly beaten and insulted. On one day her master told her mother that he had sold her as a ‘slave wife' for a man in Nigeria.
Mariama was forced to have sexual relations with her new master and got insulted and beaten by the children of this master. She was seventeen when she was finally freed from her slave condition with thanks to the Timidria association, an organization that helps women in situations like that of Mariama.. She concluded her story by saying that in Niger significant progress has been made in the fight against contemporary forms of slavery and discriminatory practices, but that it is important that civil society continues its awareness-raising actions and educational measures.
Organizer: Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination
Speakers: several members of the CERD
CERD itself is one of the pillars of human rights protection within the UN system, since its inception it has discussed national implementation and is making proposals. Todays' event was to assess the early warning and early action procedures that are increasingly used for example by indigenous people. The second main question was ‘How to improve the cooperation between CERD and NGO's. One third of the members of the CERD were represented in the panel, each of them elaborated on a specific topic after which there was room for questions.
There were five speakers in total, but just to give you an impression of this event and due to the length of these speeches I will restrict myself to three of the (in my opinion) most interesting ones.
Mister I. Diaconu emphasized that the International Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Racism and Discrimination (ICERD) also applies to non-citizens such as migrants, refugees, tourists, foreigners etc. In this respect article 5 of ICERD is of significant importance because it lists all rights for everyone in a non-exhaustive way. In relation to the outcome document adopted yesterday, Mr Diaconu made clear that all victims are included in that document and that section 3 (that deals with the Committee) states that the Conference takes note of the interpretations given by the CERD, which automatically includes the recommendations of the CERD on non-citizens.
The next speaker was Mr. P. Thornberry who elaborated on discrimination on grounds of ‘descent' and the special recommendation made by CERD. He explained that the recommendation is linked to the generalities in the DDPA, in other words that ‘descent' not solely refers to race but that it also includes social stratification such as caste and other inherited forms of social status. This could also be included under art 29 which deals with multiple forms of discrimination. Up to now CERD has maintained a consistent line in addressing these issues by making recommendations to the State Parties concerned wherever they found well documented cases of this type of discrimination and according to Mr. Thornberry they will continue to do so.
The last speech I would like to share with you came from Mr. J.F. Cali Tzay on the early warning system and the emergency procedure. The early warning system has as its main goal to prevent that existing problems turn into a conflict. The emergency procedure is the second step, developed to cope with existing problems that ask for immediate attention. This procedure was established to address specifically the situation of the most vulnerable groups, since it is them that are not able to fully enjoy their rights (such as filing a complaint and going to court). He stressed the importance of the role of NGO's within both of the CERD procedures. The CERD heavily relies on the input from NGO's in order to be able to take action.
With regards to the follow-up the CERD welcomes very much the input from NGO's. So whoever feels the urge to do so, submit your comments and reports about shortcomings in your country to the CERD!
Tuesday, April 21
The document is adopted!! What happened? We don't know, they just adopted the damn thing this afternoon! It is really unbelievable. As NGO's we would not have been able to influence the document this week anyhow, but this really ridicules our presence here. What are we still doing here? Ok, formally the delegates can still make objections on Friday (Libya will probably do so), but does that make any difference? NO, not a bit! Because if there is disagreement, then what? There is no time to re-negotiate on the paragraphs, on Friday the Conference will be over, finished, schlüss, finito, terminada.
So what are we still here for? Tomorrow at one the speakers list for NGO's will be closed. Then they will have all Wednesday afternoon and Thursday to finalise the list (currently there are already 90 (!) on the list and that will only become more). I hope the members of the Secretariat bring their earplugs because now the document is adopted there will not be many nice words. I also wonder how the Civil Society Unit is going to explain this to us tomorrow morning during the NGO meeting. They will probably tell us that there is still much to do, like going to the side events, listen to the ‘Voices of the Victims' and making your voice heard in the plenary (not that anyone will listen). It is like Salama said yesterday, ‘Put your hopes elsewhere.'
Just a general remark to begin with, all side events (44 in total) were supposed to be open to whoever wants to attend. But it was my own experience and those of others that there are some organisations that are trying to keep certain meetings closed to a particular group of people. So do not be surprised when standing in front of closed doors simply because ‘you are not on a list'. These kind of things are not supposed to happen, but why am I not surprised? Anyhow, you will find a summary of a couple of events that took place today below.Caucusing meeting hosted by Nord Sud on language concerning ‘occupation' in the outcome document of the DRC. XXI 13:00.
Speakers: Mr. Ramsey Clark, 2008 UN HR award winner & leading human rights lawyer and Professor Curtis Doebbler, Professor of Law at the An Najah National University & human rights lawyer.
Nord Sud XXI is an organization that strives to ensure the political will behind the struggle against racism and other forms of intolerance in the United Nations. This side event was supposed to be about suggestions for amendments in the text to show how the language should have been according to this organisation. Nord Sud XXI is mainly concerned about the fact that there is no reference to the victims in the text, especially that there is no reference to the suffering of the Palestinians. ‘Two Special Rapporteurs called the segregation a form of ‘apartheid' so why do we not mention it here??', Curtis Doebbler said.
Well, in the end they did not even get to the amendments they wanted to suggest. The people that attended the meeting (around 15 persons) and the keynote speaker Ramsey Clark got into a discussion on the ‘two state or one state solution' for Israel / Palestine and on how viable it would be. Ramsey Clark started of by saying that he enjoyed watching the walk-out of the ‘former colonial powers'. He also quoted Shimon Peres who said in 2001 that ‘The DDPA is an accomplishment of the first order for the Israelian democracy.' He went on by saying that no country is free without having a significant standing military force on its own soil. After ‘answering' some question the meeting ended at two o'clock with Ramsey Clark concluding that one (combined) state would be the best solution, but that it is a difficult goal to reach. (Oh really?...)
Voices of the Victims
‘Voices' provides a platform for individuals from diverse geographical and cultural backgrounds to share their experiences and gives a human face to issues addressed by the DRC. You can listen to them daily from 1.15 till 2.45 in the Permanent Exhibition Gallery outside room 20.
Mrs Gorolová is the spokesperson for the Group of Women harmed by Sterilization in the Czech Republic. They initiated a campaign to gain public recognition of coerced sterilization and compensation for Roma survivors of these practices.
Mrs. Gorolová is Romani from origin and she told the audience about how she got involuntarily sterilised. When Mrs. Gorolová delivered her second child she was sterilized immediately. When she was in labour and unaware of what was going on, a nurse came to her and asked her to sign a form: one form for the names of the baby and another for her sterilization. At that time she had no idea what that meant, she was in great pain and just signed the papers. After she gave birth she received an injection to relieve the pain. The next day the doctors told her she had a son and also that she would never be able to have a child again. They explained nothing. Later in time, the nurse explained it to the mother of Gorolová. She said that previously the method had been to tie the tubes, but that some women had become pregnant despite this.
In the Czech Republic this has happened to many Romani women. On the initiative of several organizations a meeting was held five years ago for women whose health and lives have been affected by sterilization. During these meetings they wrote down their experiences and the facts about how they had been involuntarily sterilized. Now five years later, slowly but surely they are gaining success. Gorolová gave as example that the term ‘informed consent' is now part of the vocabulary of hospitals. But unfortunately the problem of involuntary sterilization and financial compensation for the victims of these crimes continues to be a problem in the Czech Republic up to today.
For more information go to: http://www.vzajemnesouziti.cz/en
Mr Wilkins was the lead plaintiff in Wilkins, et al V. State of Maryland, winning a landmark settlement in a ‘racial profiling' case, inspiring the US Congress and states all over the country.
Everything started in May 1992 when Robert Wilkins, his cousin and two other relatives were going back home after they attended the funeral of their grandfather in Ohio. On the way home they were stopped by the police on the highway because they had exceeded the speed limit with 5 miles an hour. They were asked to get out of the car to let dogs look for drugs in the car. They did not find anything. At the same time the police did not pay any to Wilkins about there rights. Wilkins is a lawyer so he knew his rights and he was pointing this out to the police. To Wilkins this experience was very humiliating; he sadly remembered how two white children in another car stared at them and that he thought ‘those children are learning right now that black people are doing something that is not right, while this is not the case.'
After this happening he decided to sue the state of Maryland. Thanks to a friend-lawyer from ACLU they won the case. Later on they started to do some research on the relationship between the numbers of black people stopped on the road because of alleged drug possession. They discovered that the officials where acting under racial prejudice and that drug possession in Maryland was not higher amongst black than amongst white people. So they reopened the case, sued the police and they won again. This case was a milestone for the United States and an inspiration for the US Congress as well as for the people that are fighting for equal rights.
To read more about this case go to: http://tinyurl.com/d47y6u
Comes from a mixed race family and has suffered from racial discrimination all her life. In 2002, she founded WOZA, a Zimbabwean women's movement, helping women to claim their human rights.
Jenni Williams told the audience about her struggle with integrating and finding her identity in a country where differences between black and white are still alarming. For example, mixed marriages are still not accepted. The mother of Mrs Williams decided to put her on a school for white children (Mrs Williams is of mixed origin and she has quite a white skin) to assure she would get a proper education. But when the school found out she comes from a mixed race family, they kicked her out.
Mrs Williams has experienced severe discrimination in her life, both coming from white and black people. She reminded the audience that Zimbabwe is not a democratic country and that Mugaba's government is not doing anything to fight racial discrimination. She herself was imprisoned several times after participating in demonstrations in favour of the rights of the black population. Mrs Williams said the situation of women in the country is even more difficult. The problem is that, for the women, their primary concern is having enough food and finding a proper education for their children and not the struggle for human rights.
newsflash from the plenary
The total discredit of Durban Review
Iranian President Ahmadinejad holds racist opening speech - EU members walk out.
Just now at the Durban Review Conference in Geneva, Iranian President Ahmadinejad held a speech which portrayed Israel, Europe, the USA and the West as the main perpetrators of racism in this world. Amongst other things he said: "World zionism personifies racism, we must end this barbaric racism (in Israel), after World War 2, Europe send migrants (Jews) to Palestine to establish a racist regime and they helped bring to power the most racist regime in the region (Israel)". It went on and on. At the start of the speech, a number of protestors dressed-up in rainbow-colored clown wigs ran into the room, armed with a red nose, probably to throw at Mr. Ahmadinejad. They were removed from the room by UN security. In the third minute of his rant, all the present members of the European Union walked out in protest. During the rest of speech NGO delegates made noise and some were removed from the room.
The UN could have known this. Ahmadinejad has a history of antisemitic and hateful speeches, is a staunch Holocaust denier and advocated the destruction of another state (Israel). Giving this man a platform on an antiracism conference, while knowing this, sends the message that the UN agrees
A full report follows tonight,
Angela Evenhuis & Ronald Eissens
ICARE News, Geneva
Report from the Plenary
Many NGO representatives must have woken up very early this morning. Arriving at eight before the gates to the white 'registration tents' around 50 people were already there and when the doors opened more and more came in to register and apply for the Assembly Hall badges. At the end of the day 417 NGO's had attended the meeting. We all had the impression that there would be a NGO Meeting this morning (the secretariat informed us about that by e-mail), but once inside the building there was no sign of it all. Who knows, maybe we have more luck with the NGO-meeting planned for tonight.
Well, besides the 'witnessess speaches' this morning session was more or less a series of general statements and concluding on procedural rulings. Despite the special contributions made by for example the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon and the Tanzanian delegate on behalf of Nelson Mandela, there was nothing new under sun. We heard it all before...
Besides that, the Conference reaffirmed the procedural rules decided by the Prepcom last week. For instance, it is decided that the 20 members of the Bureau will function as vice presidents, president of the main conference (Libyan Nejat All-Hajaji), President of the Drafting Committee (Russian Yuri Boychenko) and Special Rapporteur (Cuban Juan Antonio Fernandes). The other countries represented as vice presidents are: Cameroon, Senegal, South Africa, India, Indonesia, Iran, Pakistan, Turkey, Armenia, Croatia, Estonia, Argentina, Brazil, Chili, Belgium, Greece and Norway.This afternoon promises us something: at three o'clock the Iranian President Ahmadinejad will address the Conference. What guts!
At the start of the afternoon session the atmosphere was quite tense. Everybody was wondering what the president of Iran would say and as you might have read above already, the speech of Ahmadinejad was certainly something. He started off with an introductory note on the history (read his story) of international relations and how the UN got dictated by the coercive powers in the world (= United States which in the end is lead by the Zionist). And off course there was some holocaust denial as well: ‘They (the coercive powers red.) resorted to military aggression to make an entire nation homeless, on the pretext of Jewish sufferings and the ambiguous and dubious question of holocaust' and there ‘they helped to bring to power the most cruel and repressive racists in Palestine.'
Every once in a while Ahmadenijad got interrupted by yelling, red nose throwing, the walkout or (as was the case most of the time) by a loudly clapping audience. To start with the yelling and the red nose throwing; these guys (or girls I could not see) were the ones that came out from the back of the room right after the president started his speech. With a lot of noise they run up to the podium at the front side of the room, one throwing a red nose in the president's direction. Almost there, they were stopped by the UN police and taken out of the Assembly Hall hard handed.
Things were not quiet either at the other side of the UN building where the representatives (without the 2nd badge) of NGO's could follow the Conference through a live video connection. The atmosphere over there became so tense that, although most of the people in that room could not have understood what the man was saying (he spoke Farsi and there was no translation), the police had to come in between to prevent people from fighting.
Soon after this all happened Ahmadinejad started his holocaust denying, racist perpetrator and Zionist conspiracy story about Israel, which was eventually reason enough for the EU delegates to walk out of the room accompanied by the delegations from Morocco, Jordan and even the UN Special Rapporteur on Racism! The Czech Republic (holder of the EU presidency) announced that, due to this speech, they will not return to the Conference at all. In total, representatives of 23 states and organizations left the room in protest of Ahmadinejad's speech. In the webcast you can see that Ban Ki-Moon, Pillay and others are not having fun anymore either. Well, the Chair of the meeting gave mister Ahmadinejad all the time to finish his statement. I will spare you the details. Remarkable was the continuously applauding audience which included some of the official delegations, but it also looked like the Iranian president had brought its own fanclub as well. These people were spread across the room, loudly clapping whenever the president said something awful and they were also gone when Ahmadinejad left the room.
The remainder of the afternoon session
Next speaker on the list was Norway. He said that although the Iranian president has the right to freedom of expression, his speech ran counter to the spirit and dignity of the Conference. The Norwegian delegate strongly regretted that the speech promoted a message of intolerance and that he would not allow it to stop all efforts made: ‘Norway cannot accept any text that questions the freedom of expression' and ‘We will not surrender the floor of the United Nations to extremism' he said. Nevertheless, the delegate affirmed that the current text is acceptable for Norway.
Well, these two statements were the most remarkable ones. After that a number of less interesting speeches followed. I'll just give you short a summary of things said. Quite some countries spoke about the right to self-determination of the Palestinian people. Besides that, it was a common complaint that several countries decided to leave the Conference, arguing that whenever there are difficulties you have to be where the dialogue is. Other countries like Brazil, Mexico, Mozambique and Egypt used their statements to talk about the improvements in their countries since 2001. One of the latest speeches came from the Secretary General of the OIC who recalled their positive role in the process and how defamation of religion affects the identity and self-esteem of the people in the Islamic countries.
NGO meeting, 6.30 pm in room 16
June Ray apologized sincerely for the fact there was no translation in room 17, the room where NGO's can watch the live feed from the Assembly Hall on a big screen. It appeared that the cables in the E-building are too old to facilitate the live feed including all the translations; it would blow up the whole system. The good news is that one translation might be possible. So with a bit of luck there will be English translation tomorrow.
Even more NGO's than last time participated today. I would say about 80 people were in the room and most of them were not that familiar with the DRC process. Asking questions such as: ‘How can we affect the process?' and ‘When and how should we act to influence the language in the outcome document?' Many NGO's were upset (and understandable if you do not know how it works) when Salama gave his summary of the day by saying that he was pleased by the fact that none of the governmental representatives spoke about the substance of the text today, in the sense that they wanted to see something different. This means that the document is as good as closed, illustrated by the fact that the document will go directly to the Main Committee (instead of to the Drafting Committee first).
Salama tried to comfort those who wanted to see the text changed (by re-inserting caste based discrimination for example) by saying ‘We always have multiple grounds of discrimination which can be interpreted widely, an explicit reference is not always necessary. You better put your hopes elsewhere.' With ‘elsewhere' he referred to the treaty and technical bodies that can stretch the interpretation, but ‘this needs long term pressure from i.e. civil society' he said. Besides that he also referred to the observatory which could make a difference by basing its work on examples from the ground. On the other hand he also warned that the parameters cannot be stretched that far because they have to stick to the DDPA. So can the interpretations be stretched or not??
Besides that, frustrations were expressed by NGO's about the commotion in room 17. One person even dared to say that the ‘Zionists in the room' that oppose Ahmadinejad got a different treatment than anyone else would have had, implying that the UN is using double standards. Salama did not find that very amusing, adding that those accredited to the Conference that break the rules will be sanctioned, ranging from temporary to permanent withdrawal of their accreditations.
There will be daily briefings in room 17 starting at 9.30 until 10.00. On Wednesday at 14.00 there is a meeting for NGO's with the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Mrs Pillay. Organisations that would like to pose some questions are requested to hand these over to one of the members of the Civil Society Unit that are residing in room 3062 (third floor). About 44 side events are organized this week. On the third floor you can listen to the ‘Voices of the Victims' daily at 2.30 pm. June Ray also asked not to take pictures or to film in the Assembly Hall because people might be at risk.
By Ronald Eissens for I CARE News
While writing this, the first NGOs participating in the Durban Review Conference (DRC) are descending upon Geneva. To do what? Well, to participate in side-events, and maybe to speak in the plenary hall from Wednesday on. We as an NGO are very much in favour of NGO participation, but those coming to Geneva now are simply too late. The draft outcome document is ready for the Conference, and any influence NGOs had on language, albeit small, took place during the Preparatory Committee and Intersessional Working group meetings since 2007. Not many NGOs showed up during those, on one hand not having the resources, on the other hand being fooled by those who suggested that Civil Society needed its own NGO Forum preceding the conference. This is a review conference, and the place to insert language was in the preparatory process, either in written form or by lobbying country delegations or speaking in the plenary sessions. There is no UN-sanctioned NGO track. The NGOs holding several meetings and forums this weekend are talking to themselves, and to the press. NGOs coming to the conference will be disappointed, since they have a very small role to play.
So why are we here? It's our job, and we are finishing it. We started reporting on the World Conference Against Racism (WCAR) process in 1999. Now, ten years later, we see ourselves at the review of the WCAR, again bringing news from the grounds to the NGO community. The 2001 Durban conference experienced a lot of problems, especially during the NGO Forum, where virulent antisemitism ran rampant, which alienated Jewish NGOs from Civil Society, and NGOs in general from each other. In Durban you had the perpetrators, the not-so innocent bystanders a.k.a. good people doing nothing, and the few individuals or NGOs that spoke out against the hate and made a stand. Ten years after, we note that most things are still the same but others got better. Some of us in the NGO community worked hard for that. This weekend there was NGO activity of the Durban-kind in Geneva, but it was rather insignificant; a few hundred people during a demo and two small forums. Really nothing like it was in Durban. Slowly a little understanding is dawning that if NGOs engage in racism they are no better than...racists. Some still blow the same nasty tune, but in Geneva that sound is weakening.
The Durban Review Conference was supposed to Review the Durban Declaration and Program of Action (DDPA), to see what countries had done with all those paragraphs and noble or not so noble policies and language. Show and tell. Of course this did not happen. Instead the countries did another round of writing a document with noble and not so noble language. What happened to this oh so hot (at the time) idea for National Action Plans (NAPs)? How many countries have one? About ten. A few started on a NAP, but gave up. The Netherlands had one, but scrapped it again, new Minister, new ideas. Other European countries used to have one or were working on it, but no longer. And so forth. During the DRC preparatory process this good thing coming out of Durban was never mentioned. On top of that we end up with a document that does not address genocide in Darfur, has nothing on Tibet or the Dalits, has very little on Roma and Sinti, hate crime, et cetera. Luckily not much on religious defamation and blasphemy either, although that was a close call and it took lots of pressure and negotiation to get it out. Slavery and reparations has been effectively relegated to somewhere down the list of issues, Sexual orientation used as small change in the negotiations with the Organisation of the Islamic Conference States and Holocaust denial and antisemitism only just kept in on the margins, because the bad boys and girls at the UN mainly want to bash Israel and the West. As one ambassador said to us: ‘let me explain, this conference is not about racism'. Well, we do know that it's power play between the countries. Or as it is called in the corridors of the UN: ‘the rest against the West', although looking at the preparatory process it is remarkable how the Latin American countries (the GRULAC Group) and also the African Group with South Africa in the lead worked hard to make the document more acceptable. Of course South Africa, host of the 2001 WCAR wants to protect the little that's left of their legacy and certainly doesn't want another failure.
The current draft document, that goes into the conference tomorrow, is ‘not so bad' but the references to re-affirmation of the DDPA (the 2001 Durban Declaration, which implicitly singles out Israel as a racist country) and to ‘Foreign Occupation'(again Israel) was reason for Canada, Israel and the USA not to take part. The USA and Israel have a right to do that, since they never adopted the DDPA in 2001. They walked out. Just today the Netherlands and Australia announced they are pulling out, with Germany and France about to make a decision on that tonight. As I'm writing this, a number of EU Foreign Ministers are on a heated conference call.
As per usual...
No worries we are used to it......
What the hell - onwards to the DRC!
Looking at the latest draft that was adopted today to be brought into the Durban Review Conference on Monday to be adopted (yes, it boggles the mind) we see a document from which most, but not all problems have been removed, to the satisfaction of, well, almost all. Iran still is deluded about the reality of the Holocaust, not wanting to accept Paragraph 65. The Netherlands do not want to accept Para 1 that reaffirms the Durban Declaration and Program of Action, a document that implicitly singles-out one country (Israel) and the Dutch also have Problems with Para 5 referencing ‘Foreign Occupation', being UN-lingo for Israel, since the only occupied territorities the UN recognizes are Gaza and the West bank. Not Tibet, not the Western Sahara, no others areas. Yes, the good-old UN is populated with some very funny people.
This last day was pretty weird, with its short afternoon meeting and especially the NGO contributions. It seemed that everybody wanted to get his or her pound of flesh at the last moment. Well, how useless, you all should have been here months ago when getting language into the document was still an option. The 30 minutes of NGO speeches was a misplaced scream-and whine fest, a camera-op for those that need to show their communities that they are doing something, a waste of time and energy that will be forgotten next week. Well, what the hell - onwards to the DRC!
NGO briefing by the secretariat and Bureau, 2 pm
Twenty members of the Bureau attended today's NGO meeting, which was chaired by Najat Al-Hajajji, Chair of the PrepCom. Besides the members of the Bureau and the Secretariat there were a lot of new faces. About 60 NGO delegates attended this meeting which is much more than the number of people we have seen hanging around in the plenary during the last two weeks. Apparently many NGO's decided to come to Geneva right before the weekend. The Secretariat was able to answer most of the questions, although not all to the satisfaction of the room. The most important information is outlined below
Discussion on the ‘2 to 4 NGOs speaking on behalf of Civil Society' during the High-level segment on Monday/Tuesday.
We asked if there was news on this. Dougan-Beaca, coordinator of the Anti-Discrimation Unit said that they had received only 4 requests, 2 from networks, offering themselves to speak, one from an organization and one from individual who wrote that there had not been time for his own caucus to nominate him as a speaker on their behalf. ‘So, this is not representing the NGO Community!' Since the idea had been that the 2 to 4 NGOs would speak on behalf of civil society or at least parts of groups of Civil Society, the bureau had discussed this and made the decision to not do it at all, forget about the idea and just give the floor to NGO's under agenda item 9 which will start Wednesday afternoon, using the normal procedure. A NGO delegate somewhat agitated implied that this was not true and that he had sent a fax to candidate his group to speak. Somewhat later it became clear that this delegate had sent his fax to Mr. Salama, the wrong person. Which the Chair was not pleased with at all. ‘So you admit you have made a mistake! That it is your fault! Next time, think twice before you start accusing people that they lie!' Other NGOs took the floor as well and tried to convince the Chair that their requests to speak were supported by other NGO's and that they had not just simply nominated themselves. The Chair again gave the floor to Mr. Dougan-Beaca who read the list of NGOs who applied to him: US Human Rights Network, Article 19, CEJI and the Association of Indigenous Peoples.
Sharing of information from the Secretariat to NGO's:
Plenary access Badges:
report from the plenary
Today the work of the Prepcom officially ended. Was there an outcome document? Yes, there was. Is it definite? No its not. At a quarter past six the revised outcome document was ready to be spread amongst the participants, but not ready to be adopted at referendum. What was agreed upon is that the Prepcom sends the draft outcome document (Revision.2) to the Durban Review Conference. As it seems now only para 65 (on the Holocaust) and para 5, (the reference to foreign occupation), and Para 1 (re-affirmation DDPA) remain problematic. And, as far as we know there is consensus on the rest of the text.
The second revised version of the document is here. The report to the Prepcom can be found here soon.
Apart from that, which is obviously what we were al waiting for, there were some other interesting moments during the afternoon session which lasted from 16:25 to 18:15. First of all the Prepcom had to decide on the accreditation of NGO's. The Chair, Najat Al Hajajji, kindly reminded the Prepcom that some States were still in consultation with NGO's and that the ‘14-day rule' had not yet expired. In other words, since the Prepcom still has the time (officially) to think about accrediting certain NGO's the decision will be postponed.
In response, the Czech Republic immediately asked for the floor. Our dear Chair apparently had not informed the delegations about this idea of hers to just forget about the accreditation. Because that is what it de facto comes down to: the exclusion of these NGO's. The Czech Republic appealed to the States concerned to take into account these practical results and allow the Prepcom to decide on the accreditation after all. Unfortunately without result, the Chair moved on just like that. ‘No serious appeals against my ruling? It so decided.'
It were China and Sri Lanka that most benefited from this ruling. Now China did not have to decide on the accreditation of the Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy, and Sri Lanka not on the Tamil centre for Human Rights. Next to these two organisations there are sixteen other potential voices that will not have the chance to be heard...
Third item on the agenda was ‘general statements from regional groups, individual states and observers'. Besides the many thanks, gratitude for the work done by the Bureau, the Secretariat and the Chair, recognition for the sacrifices made by certain groups and the flexibility that they have shown, there were no remarkable statements made by groups or individual states. One returning issue though was the nomination of the Chair for the Conference next week: the Kenyan Minister of Justice. Although the nomination is already a fact, the Czech Republic repeated their concerns since the Minister was accused of corruption recently. According to the Nigerian representative ‘someone is innocent until proved guilty' and they believe the Kenyan Minister will do a wonderful job. And as if that was not enough, the Nigerian delegate thanked the EU that they showed there flexibility in this matter (you can imagine what the faces of the EU delegation looked like).
Summary of the NGO contributions
MRAP (Movement against Racism, Antisemitism and for Peace of the Peoples):
Canadian Labour Congress on behalf of several NGO's:
International Association against Torture and The December 12th movement:
International Committee for the Durban follow-up on Latin America and the Caribbean:
Council for Racial Equality:
Indian Movement Tupac Amaru, World Council for Peace:
Dr. El-Hojouj speaking on behalf of UN watch:
Arab Commission for Human Rights:
Institute on Human Rights and the Holocaust
Organization for Indigenous people:
Humanist and Ethical Union and The Association of World Education:
Coming in at 10am there was a notice on the screen that the plenary meeting will only start at 11.55am. We'll see if that really happens - probably negotiations are at a premium right now.
Quotes of the day
‘This is not about racism, you know' (Diplomat in the corridors)
We want the deletion of ‘human rights defenders'. They are unknown agents that were never defined. Let's just refer to NGO's and Civil Society at least we know what they are.' (Iran)
‘The world is in a financial crisis, I do hope our process here is not also in crisis'(Boychenko)
The tree is bare since there are no leaves left' (Syrian delegate)
‘When I invite my friends I like to cook, so when we finish the conference I like you to come to smell and taste and put a smile on your face'(Yuri Boychenko, Chair)
An arena full of gladiators, but the glory is hard to find
There is a lot of posturing going on. While sources say it does not go bad at all, and the Chair, Mr. Yuri Boychenko is all of a sudden the paragon of optimism, in this afternoons' meeting, which started at 3.20pm and took only an hour, the countries, in what Boychenko called ‘informal mode', listed the paragraphs they still have problems with. It is like this: South Africa on behalf of the African group said that Para 1 is their main point. They want everybody to support Para 1, if not, they ‘do not even see the need to talk about Para 2'. Syria, after Iran had already whined in a major way over the fact that all their contributions were gone from the document, ranted some more about all the EU proposals which had been accepted while none of the OIC material had stayed in. The Syrian delegate really had it in for the EU. "and still they are negotiating! I am not impressed by veiled threats of walkout! I will not shed a tear if groups who say that go! This bargaining, this diplomatic harassment! We will never accept Paras 2,53, 64 and 65 and the current formula, never! We will not accept discrimination between victims! This document, the tree is bare since the leaves are gone!"
The EU said that their fundamental problems are with Para 11 on Religions (on the use of ‘persons associated with them') and Para 7, where they want ‘as well as foreign occupation' removed. In the morning session, which started only at 12.30 because of negotiations and ended 45 minutes later at 1.15 pm, Pakistan on behalf of the OIC had already said that ‘the cards are on the table and there will no longer be any compromise', but Algeria countered this in the afternoon by saying that they were still optimistic, since ‘any consensus process is a matter of compromise, so everybody will be a bit unhappy, it is after all the spirit of the document that is important'. The Netherlands, speaking after the EU, reiterated the EU position, said they found the current working document not to be an improvement and added the two Paras they have specifically problems with: 7 and 11. They said to have no confidence in a successful outcome document by tomorrow 6pm and called upon all states to seriously try to reach consensus. Liechtenstein said that Para 11 was unacceptable to them.
Australia told the room that they would never accept any attempts to deny the Holocaust and they firmly supported Para 65. Sudan squirmed about Para 64 on genocide and international criminal tribunals, saying that since the International Criminal Court did not exist when the DDPA was adopted, that Para did not belong in the document. Yeah, right.
In short, the stalemate is a EU- OIC stalemate. But what do we know? Things can be very deceptive in UN lala-land. Maybe there will be a deal tonight. Or tomorrow.
Again, there are many rumours; Netherlands, Italy and Denmark will walk out tomorrow, there is almost a deal, there is no breakthrough at all, the USA is coming back/not coming back, Obama is coming, et cetera. Mr. Boychenko closed the plenary at 4pm and told us that it was not clear when it would reconvene tomorrow; ‘The secretariat will let you know'. Oh boy. As Suzette described today: ‘An arena full of gladiators, but the glory is hard to find'
report from the plenarySorry to disappoint you, but there were no breakthroughs whatsoever this morning. In fact there is good reason to question whether there will be one at all before the end of tomorrow's session.
Starting at half past twelve Boychenko gave the floor to the delegates in order to identify the most difficult paragraphs. Mexico announced that they are quite at ease with the document as it stands now and that they would not take the floor again. Unfortunately, they were the only ones having that position.
South-Africa on behalf of the African Group for example, introduced a whole list of para's that they want to see changed and they also proposed a new para 65 which reads as follows: ‘Reaffirming that genocide is the most serious manifestation of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related forms of intolerance and urges states to combat denial, revisionism and trivialisation of genocide committed against the Tutsi's in Rwanda.'
Then there was Armenia who made clear that they insist on adding in paragraph 64 ‘calls upon states to reject and combat any denial of genocide'. Of course Turkey could not remain silent on that and accused Armenia of breaking consensus. Well, who can be held responsible for that is a matter of perspective I would say.
To the OIC the latest text dilutes their positions seriously and warned that they have certain minimal positions that they will not deviate from, like the deletion of para 65 on the Holocaust. In the words of Iran ‘the balance is diminishing!' Next to that, as a member of the OIC, they very much supported the position of Pakistan on para 65 repeating that they do not want to see any hierarchy or selectivity in the text. And of course they began again about inserting the prohibition of insulting religions. Another funny (actually said) thing was Iran's request for the deletion of ‘human rights defenders' in para 24 for the reason that ‘They are unknown agents that were never defined. Let's just refer to NGO's and Civil Society at least we know what they are.'
At one o'clock there were many requests for the floor, but we'll have to wait till three o'clock to see what the others have to say.
Well, the afternoon session took less than an hour. The atmosphere was tense. In the view of many delegations the current text is not an improvement at all and that not only concerns states from the OIC. The EU and the Netherlands in particular expressed their concerns: ‘The text does not make us confident that we will have an outcome document by tomorrow, and when this is not the case we really do not know what further steps we should take.' To the EU as a whole, para's 7/11 and 16 are the most difficult ones and need to be revised.
Algeria said that it refused to be pessimistic after what they heard this afternoon, but that was before Syria took the floor. According to them the current text has no taste, no colour and no smell. They were annoyed by the fact that many of their proposals were ignored and deleted and that most of the EU proposals are in. Syria also found it necessary to note that they would not shed a tear if anyone would walk out of the conference ‘this form of intimidation is of no value to us all' he said. On which Boychenko replied: ‘When I invite my friends I like to cook, so when we finished the conference I like you to come to smell and taste.'
So at the end of the day we were left with mixed feelings, wondering whether there is some light at the end of the tunnel. We only have one day to go and if we have to believe the Syrian delegate ‘The tree is bare, there are no leaves left.'
Overview of the difficult paragraphs per state or region:
1: This para needs to be fully agreed upon before moving to para 2
7/10/12: These issues need further discussion
16: Proposal to delete because it is linked to 61/65 (hierarchy amongst victims)
34: Delete last part
61-64: Proposal to relocate these para's to section 5 because of the international character
63: Proposal to include 'all' before States
64: Proposal to insert at the end of the para a reference to para 82 of the DDPA
84: Reintroduce 'women and girls'
123: Delete in third line from the bottom 'intergovermental level'
133: Delete the last insertion (on the ICCPR)
137: 'Inviting the Human Rights Commissionar' should be replaced with inviting the 'Human Rights Council' + 'Anti-Discrimination Unit' should be 'Anti-Racism Unit'
Proposal for new para 65: 'Reaffirming that genocide is the most serious manifestation of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related forms of intolerance and urges states to combat denial, revisionism and trivialisation of genocide committed against the Tutsi's in Rwanda.'
16: delete after 'necessary' and add 'protection and corresponding adequate treatment'
20: add after cultural awareness: affirmitive and positive actions when recruiting both in the public and the private sector + create exemplary workplaces free of discrimination
71: Add after control 'including the access and the right of ownership of ancestry inhabited lands'
81: Delete linguistic and add 'other minority identities'
62: Add 'in accordance with para 50 and 99 of the DDPA'
64: Add 'Calls upon states to reject and combat any denial of genocide'
11: Include before stereotyping 'stigmatization'
61-65: Supportive of the general approach of the African Group and ask for the deletion of para 65
133/137: Support the proposal made by Sudan
64: Submitted a written proposal to the Secretariat + proposal Armenia is breaking consensus
13: End para after World Summit outcome
64: Include at the end 'Where relevant in conformity with their international obligations'
137: Support African Group
6: Reintroduce 'cultural diversity'
9: Suggestion to include 'human rights law'
11/67: Insert 'stigmatization'
24: Delete 'human rights defenders'
65: Delete para
53/57/120 of the former version of the working document should be reintroduced
137: Agrees with African Group
123: Delete the latter part of the para, it is too prescriptive
137: Instead of inviting the Human Rights Council 'Invites the high Commissioner to present proposals for the elaboration of the work of the Observatory to the Human Rights Council'
7: Delete 'foreign occupation'
11: Include 'persons on grounds of their belief' after negative stereotyping
16: Reintroduce 'no hierarchy of victims'
32: Include 'contemporary forms'
46: Amend the second part of the para after financing with the language of the latest UNGA resolution 963) on racial discrimination
59: Delete comma after 'violent'
61: 'Slave trades' instead of 'Slave trade'
66: Reformulation of the latter part
68: Start the sentence with 'Reaffirms'
89: Put phrase 'contemporary forms of slave trade' after victims
101: Concerning profiling, language should be in accordance with resolution 7/7
123: substitute 'increase' with 'improve' and add 'streamlining' after synchronization + put required before structuring
124: Move it back to section 2
133: Delete latter part of the para that refers to the Ad Hoc Committee
137: Delete enhance
11: They want the old language back (former para 10) especially concerning the first part
124: Add the end 'and stresses the value of consensus in this regard
64/65: Firmly opposed to any changes
53: Proposal to go back to the old language (former para 55) , the 'exercise' of the freedom of expression
137: Have to think about the language again, but propose to delete the reference to the bservatory
64: Include 82 of the DDPA
26: Shorten the para by deleting the words between 'judiciary' and 'whether'
53-57: Both para's say the same, that is unnecessary
137: Support proposal of India
2/53/64/65: these para's are unacceptable, we will never accept them
16: Include 'the prevention and humanitarian assistance in response to natural and human made disasters'
72: Proposal to insert 72b: 'Urges states and relief agencies to develop concrete measures such as developing and implementing guidelines to eliminate all forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance especially against minorities and indigenous people.'
34: The Committee only looks at racial discrimination
124: Proposal to add proposals made by the CERD + proposal to establish a UN decade for persons of African descent from 2010 to 2020
Roaming the palais last week I noticed a whole load of boxes and booklets and a guy moving them around. The guy is Gil Honegger from Mandat International, an organization that provides information, documentation, support and accommodation for international conferences and meetings in Geneva. Gil was preparing the NGO welcome desk for the DRC. Have a look at it now, it's all ready to roll and functioning already for the NGOs that have started to arrive.
Ok, what's going on here? All of a sudden lots of digging around the Palais des Nations. An archeological expedition to find the original 2001 DDPA? Or a smart preparation for the burial of the current DRC process? Yes, we are way too cynical, we should have learned a noble trade. Like digging holes or selling cigarettes illegally at the Palais des Nations, since the bookshop no longer has those. A UN resolution of a few months ago banned the sale of all tobacco on UN-premises. Spotted: delegates bumming cigarettes from each onther outside gate 40. A smart entrepeneur knows what to bring to Geneva next week...
Preparatory meeting for the Civil Society Forum at the Durban Review Conference - report by Mirek Prokeš
Today, the organizers of the Civil Society Forum (CSF), lead by Jan Lönn from Sweden, convened a meeting of interested NGOs, in order to present the programme of CSF and answer questions arising from the public (almost 50 representatives of NGOs).
The CSF will be held around the Plain de Plainpalais (not in any of the UN premises). It will be opened with a plenary session held tomorrow, Friday the 17th of April in the Auditorium Arditi, Av. du Mail 1, from 7:00 pm to 9:00 pm. Among the invited speakers are Malaak Shabazz, daughter of Malcolm X, Anne-Marie Lizin, Belgian Senator, Prof. Doudou Diene, former UN Special Rapporteur on Racism, Chibo Oneyi, Vice-President of ENAR.
The plenary session will continue on Saturday from 9:30 am to 11:30 pm, followed by the following foreseen working groups (titles are shortened):
At 3:00 pm, an international demonstration against racism will start at Place Neuve, convened by Swiss organizations.
After the demo, the working groups will continue their work and the Youth Forum will start at 7:00 pm at the Auditorium Arditi, followed with music and dance since 8 pm.
The working groups will meet again on Sunday from 9:30 am until 12:30 pm. The final event will be the Concluding Session, starting at 2:30 pm with reports from the working groups and ending with the foreseen adoption of the Geneva 2009 Declaration against Racism.
P.S. by Ronald Eissens: click here for the flyer with the programme . Is stays pretty odd that the organizers of this Civil Society Forum want to stay so anonymous.
Quotes of the day
'Mister Yuri, you have the floor' (Najat al-Hajajji, Chair PrepCom)
'I see they stopped the meeting for me?' (NGO Delegate arriving 5 minutes after closing)
EDITORIALHi & Bye at the UN
Coming in this morning quite early since we had to pick up our badges in the new accreditation tent, we saw on the electronic notice board in the building that all groups of countries, except for the EU, would have private meetings most of the day. That should have forewarned us already for what was about to happen. Sitting in the plenary exactly at 10am, noticing how busy it was, almost a 50 NGOs there and more country delegates than ever, huddling in groups and talking, there was a mood of expectancy hanging over the room. Just before, a UN official had already told me that ‘today would probably bring a breakthrough'. What would that mean? A deal over the ‘difficult' paragraphs between the groups? Probably.
At 10.30 the PrepCom Chair, Najat al-Hajjaji opened the meeting, welcomed everybody and hold a flowery thank-you speech, reserving her greatest praise for the Chair of the Interseeional WG meetings, Yuri Boychenko. After this the High Commissioner for Human Right, Mrs. Pillay, held a short speech ( click here ) after which Mrs. Hajjaji presented a number of proposals by the bureau which mainly dealt with the order of work and newly accredited NGOs ( click here for a list ). The bureau proposals and the NGO accreditation was all adopted, no objections. She than had Yuri Boychenko say a few words about last weeks' intersessional Working Group Report, announced almost as an aside (!) that a decision has been made that Mr. Boychenko would also chair this last PrepCom (which in my view is wise, he is a much better and smoother chair then she is), told us all that the new edited working document was sent this morning to all delegations (it was promised to be online last Friday at 7pm, but hey...) and....closed the meeting for the day. It will resume tomorrow at 10am.
Which prompted Suzette to loudly exclaim HUH!??! Which was pretty loud, so loud even that all the room turned around
We were in there for 25 minutes in total, which is also a new record I think. A few UN staffers were handing out photocopies of the new working document, alas, not enough. Of course Suzette immediately stormed to the source (the secretariat people at the copier) and laid her hands on the new document. [In the meantime an an electronic version came available]
So that's it for to day. Of course rumours are flying, but nothing is confirmed. We simply do not know. Some say there will be a consensus document tomorrow. Or not. Just another day at the UN. See below for some more details on the meeting.
Report from the Plenary
It was busy busy in the room: cameras being installed, NGO's coming in, paperwork flying around and diplomats shaking each others hands. It raised our expectations (especially after we heard from a little birdie that there might be a breakthrough today), but unfortunately this morning's session did not live up to these expectations at all. In fact, it was the shortest meeting ever and without much substance.
Half past 10 the Libyan Chair Najat Al-Hajjaji opened the Prepcom by thanking in particular the Armenian ambassador and Boychenko for their work and by expressing here hope that they will have an outcome document by the start of the Conference next week. Then after a range of beautiful words from the High Commissioner Ms. Navanethem Pillay ( click here ) the Prepcom continued by deciding on some procedural arrangements.
It was decided that:
Next to that Najat Al Hajjaji announced that time will be reserved for general statements in the afternoon of Friday the 17th (concerning statements by regional or other groups and individuals - if this counts for NGO's as well remains unclear -). And that was that!
They will have closed sessions all day long. So if there are any serious breakthroughs today we will not know before tomorrow morning 10 o'clock, because that is when the Prepcom resumes its third substantive session.
The return of....
Wow, look who's there! Ambassador Christian Strohal, former director of The Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights of the OSCE, now Austrian Ambassador to the UN Geneva. We wonder if Strohal, much loved by friend and foe, already misses the OSCE. Good to see a familiar & NGO-friendly face in here!