To many, the 2001 UN World Conference Against Racism (WCAR) in Durban, South Africa was the best thing that ever happened. To many others, it became the symbol of the ruin of civil society, since the WCAR NGO Forum became an antisemitic hate fest. Lots of other important subjects were driven into the shadows by a relentless campaign to make the Israel-palestine conflict the only worthy issue at the NGO forum.
Both the WCAR NGO Forum and the Governmental conference suffered from hate-mongering and extreme politicisation. At the Governmental part, subjects like Dalits and Roma did not make it into the official UN Declaration. Antisemitism was deleted or misrepresented in the NGO Declaration, a declaration of which the adoption was a sham and which became the first NGO document in the history of the UN that could not be recommended to the Governments, since it contained hate and discrimination. Many a dream was shattered at the WCAR. Alliances, friendships and coalitions fell apart. Most people wont even believe some of things that happened in Durban.
Now, almost 9 years later, the UN decided to review the original conference to see what has been done with the outcomes. Since 2001, many problems have grown worse; racism, ethnic conflicts, genocide, oppression, antisemitism, hate against Roma and Sinti, hate against Muslims, often exacerbated by post 9/11 fears that lead to equating Muslims to terrorists. The Dalits still have very little rights. Hate Crime. Violence against Gays and Lesbians, Human Rights defenders. Incitement to racial hatred and violence on the Internet. It is a long list.
Some hope that the Durban Review conference can at least push States into doing part of what was laid down in the DDPoA. Others fear that Durban Review will become another Durban, marred and hijacked by single-issues, intolerant language, antisemitism and exclusion of certain victim groups, and go to great lengths to get as many as possible to boycott the review conference.
The 56 members of the Organisation of The Islamic Conference (OIC) want to push for laws against blasphemy or defamation of religion, since in their opinion that is 'a contemporary form of discrimination and islamophobia'. Never mind that blasphemy is not a Human Rights or discrimination issue.
Some countries (Canada) have decided already to boycott Durban or are considering this (Israel), since they think the problems in Durban will only be a repeat of 2001. Some NGOs think so too and will not go. Others have concerns but want to fight for a productive conference without hate and intolerance. In order to achieve this they have created a 'Statement of core principles for WCAR follow-up', that has up to now been signed by 91 NGOs amongst which a number of International Human Rights organizations.
What are the issues during this PrepCom? Well, the draft provisional agenda and draft work program do not shed a lot of light on that. We know for sure that the venue will be determined. South Africa's president Mbeki has, in his state of the nation address to a joint session of parliament in February this year, said that South Africa would host the conference (again), but there are still many uncertainties surrounding this and it is unclear if South Africa will indeed formalize this offer during the PrepCom.
Furthermore: the dates of the review conference, the outcomes of the questionnaire on combating racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance (basically what has been done with the outcomes of Durban) which was sent to the member states, the organization of work, reports of (regional) preparatory meetings (if any), review of reports by special rapporteurs and human rights bodies and mechanisms, draft outcome document of the Durban Review conference and organization of the work for the D-review conference.
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Quote of the day - Editorial - Reports from the Governmental Plenary Meeting
Quotes of the day
'Really, even talking about death is more cheerful than the UN'
'This is an intergovernmental meeting, so they like to convience each other'
'Many organizations dealing with antisemtism we are happy about, but this one...'
'Cackle cackle cackle...but no eggs!'
The first day of the substantive PrepCom for the Durban Review can be best described as a wasted day. After a slow start, The Libyan chair Ms. Najat Al-Hajjaji opened the meeting at 10.30 am and for a while, it all went smoothly. But then, at 11.30am the dreaded moment arrived. NGO accreditation. That is, accreditation of NGOs who do not have ECOSOC status and who were not accredited for Durban, but who are 'new'. NGOs that have the audacity to try to accredit themselves to the Durban Review process and against whom states can object. Now only 7 (seven) 'new' NGOs asked for accreditation and one of those, wait for it…is a Canadian Jewish NGO that has 'Israel' in its name. The Canadian Council for Israel and Jewish Advocacy . As somebody in the corridor muttered, 'that name is already a provocation'. Iran had made a written objection to the secretariat of the PrepCom, but could not make clear to the meeting why exactly. Well, everybody knew why, and it was totally out of character for Iran to beat around the bush and only say that 'this organisation has on its website negative information about the Durban Review and they support Israel, these are illegal activities'. Quite laughable and a far cry from the usual demonising rants about 'the Zionist entity'. Looking at the website of CIJA I see they also have an interview titled ''Iran - its extremist regime versus its civil society' online. Oops. I have to give credit to the chair, she almost rolled her eyes and tried to clear this matter as soon as possible but it was not to be. The OIC countries were out for blood, and one by one they proceeded to raise more objections. Some procedural and invalid (this NGO was not in Durban and has no ECOSOC status) others just plain silly (This is not an NGO, it is a commercial enterprise, a corporation!). Slovenia, speaking on behalf of the EU tried to steer the discussion into a more productive direction, as did Belgium and other EU member states. The OIC countries, with Iran, Egypt and the representative of Palestine in the lead, did not want to give an inch. The Palestinian representative was screaming so loud that it almost drowned out the soft-spoken female interpreter. What a start. Most NGOs (about 20 present on this first day) were smirking about the by now bizarre debate. This circus went on the rest of the day. Half an hour before the end, a 10 minute break for consultations was announced, and in the middle of the plenary room the EU countries went into a comical huddle, hanging over chairs and desks. You will find a full report on today further on in this issue. Oh yes, to add insult to injury; India is at it again. They raised questions about 40 (!) NGOs already accredited to the WCAR. The Russian Federation, always eager beavers when it comes to making trouble for Civil Society, gloatingly suggested that maybe ALL NGOs on the list of 'already accredited to the WCAR' should be questioned again. For now nobody is backing this happy little plan.
It seems, well there is a rumor, that tomorrow we're gonna talk about real issues! I really hope so, or else it's gonna be a loooong two weeks.
Ronald Eissens for ICARE News.
A documentation table for ECOSOC status NGOs only? Interesting.
Prepcom, Durban Review Conference - The first substantive session
In proper UN fashion, the first substantive session of the Review Conference opened slightly belated, in a familiar room well-filled with delegates, including many ambassadors. The Libyan chair Najat Al-Hajjaji opened with some preliminary remarks, and stressed the contemporary nature of racism as a UN topic. Before giving the floor to the High Commissioner for Human Rights, she called upon states to convene regional meetings before September of this year- at this time the Group of Latin American Countries (GRULAC) are the only one with a planned meeting.
Taking over the floor, Louise Arbour (departing High Commissioner) addressed the need of a common approach to reach the goal of equality, and the functionality of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action (DDPA) in this respect. Louise Arbour emphasized that the future Review Conference will have the task of assessing the implementation of commitments undertaken at Durban in 2001: a direct measurement of its success. After calling upon states to build on the progress that was made in August 2007, the High Commissioner underlined that the Review Conference is to be a platform for all stakeholders, including civil society. Following suit, country groups (African Group, Organisation Islamic Conference (OIC), European Union (EU) and GRULAC) made opening statements, all reinforcing their commitment from their own perspectives.
After a speedy adoption of the Agenda, Al-Hajjaji continued with the Organisation of Work, and stumbled upon the accreditation of NGO's, a topic that would last until the end of the day. The accreditation process runs through the Secretariat for the Durban Review Conference, which checks the NGO's credentials (competence and relevance to the Conference). Based upon this information the Secretariat makes recommendations to the PrepCom. Through consensus, 33 Indian-based NGO's were not accredited for participation in this first substantive session of the Conference, following the recommendation of the Secretariat. Next was a decision on the accreditation of a Canadian-based organisation, the 'Canadian Council for Israel and Jewish Advocacy'. Objections to the accreditation of this organisation had been made by Iran (which claims amongst other things that the NGO's activities are incompatible with the Conference). Iran repeated this position in the meeting, to be followed by the Palestine delegate, speaking on behalf of the Arab group of countries. As the EU stated its wish to accredit the organisation, stressing the relevance of its activities for the Conference, as well as the fact that the Secretariat had confirmed the credentials, the OIC aligned itself with Iran, claiming no accreditation was possible until clarity had been obtained as to the activities of said NGO. Realising the determination of the member states, chairwoman Al-Hajjaji proposed that information would be gathered by the Secretariat, sent to Iran (the objecting state) and that matters would be furthered discussed at the following meeting scheduled for October. This attempt did not end the debate, as the Palestinian delegate repeated its aforementioned position, and saw no reason to hasten decision-making, upon which the EU enforced its position once more.
Replenished after the lunch break, Egypt made its first of many requests for information from the Secretariat, addressing the need for full documentation on the organisation in question. This opened the door to a flood of questions for the Secretariat, relating to the nature of the organisation (is it an NGO?), the background of the organisation (it doesn't have ECOSOC status, nor was it at the original Durban Conference in 2001) and the activities the organisation deploys.
In another outspoken attempt to save consensus, Al-Hajjaji proposed that the Secretariat request information from the NGO, which was to comply within 48 hours, after which decision-making would be possible. Unfortunately, this attempt did not go over well, as delegates protested heavily: claiming that 48 hours was too short a time to come to any decision on the matter. The Palestinian delegate also interjected fiercely, outraged at the proposal, and claiming Israeli funding for the NGO, as well as accusing the organisation of illegal activities.
As the debate carried on, going back and forth and bordering tediousness, the EU stood alone: Canada officially does not participate in the Durban Review Conference, and could therefore not take the floor and 'defend' the NGO based in their country and the US is not active in the preparatory process of the Durban Review Conference. Especially active in the debate were Egypt, Pakistan and South Africa- repeating their positions numerous times. Russia interestingly jumped in to discuss formal decision-decision making regarding the accreditation process, stressing relevance and the need for information as well as the importance of sticking to the Rules of Procedure. Belgium interjected a few times, emphasizing the necessity that the merits of the NGO were not at stake.
Argentina, Brazil, Mexico and Uruguay came with a proposal to amend the Chairwoman's 2nd proposition: a request for information to the NGO to be sent out by the Secretariat, followed by decision-making next Monday. After haggling some more, agreement could be found on this proposition and in the last minutes of the meeting, the subject was finally closed: for now.
ICARE Newsteam, Geneva
No real news on that, except that all signs are pointing in the direction of Geneva. Funny enough the Chair of the meeting submitted a document called A/CONF.211/PC.2/4/Add.1, Proposals of the Bureau of the Preparatory Committee and proposals of the Chairperson of the Preparatory Committee for consideration and action by the Preparatory Committee. The second point of that document goes as follows.
Draft decision proposed by the Chairperson - Modalities of the Durban Review Conference.
2. Recalling its decision PC.1/6 (b) of 29 August 2007 on the issue of the venue of the Durban Review Conference, the Preparatory Committee decides that, in case no formal proposal for hosting the Conference is received by the end of its first substantive session, the venue of the Durban Review Conference will be Geneva or New York.
Now, that is surprising. On the other hand, she probably also knows that South African president Mbeki, who offered to host the Durban Review Conference (again) in Durban, has not exactly confirmed this when he was asked recently during his visit to the UN in New York. His answer came down to something like 'well, South Africa thinks the Durban review conference is important, wherever it takes place'. So it seems he's backing out gracefully - or trying to. Others are more certain and word in the corridors is that 'it's going to be Geneva for sure'. All this seems to be an attempt to keep the USA and the EU aboard, who have reservations about having the conference outside UN grounds. Well, we'll know before the end of this PrepCom.
EU delegations in a huddle
A very patient man...
Mr. Jose Dougan-Beaca, the Coordinator Anti-Discrimination of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights really had to work hard today to explain to several delegations who had which responsibilities concerning accreditation of NGOs without ECOSOC status and those that weren't accredited for the WCAR.
During the organizational PrepCom in August 2007, it was decided NGOs that haven't been involved in the WCAR and have no ECOSOC status can participate in the whole Durban review process, provided they fill out a questionnaire about their activities, mission and funding. The secretariat, of which Mr. Dougan-Beaca is the coordinator, checks if the NGO fulfills the requirements, and if that is the case, the secretariat recommends that the preparatory committee accredits them.
In the whole discussion surrounding the accreditation of a single NGO, the Canadian Council for Israel and Jewish Advocacy, Jose Dougan-Beaca had to jump into action at least six times:
First several countries were wondering how on earth it was possible that name of the Canadian NGO was put forward for accreditation. Dougan-Beaca: "The NGO in question met all criteria therefore the secretariat put their name forward for accreditation".
Egypt pointed out that although they did have the documents pertaining to the accreditation process (Decisions made during the organizational PrepCom August 2007), the esteemed colleagues of other countries didn't have them. They were not made available, why not? Patiently Dougan-Beaca explained that since those were 'old' documents, anyone could go to the documentation center and ask for them, and they would be produced on the spot. Also he gave a short rundown of the accreditation process. Egypt thought it was bad form that delegates had to ask for the documents, why weren't they included in the first place?
When Pakistan, 15 minutes later, asked how the accreditation process worked Mr. Dougan-Beaca restated that the secretariat just looked if NGOs fulfilled the requirements and that it was up to the PrepCom to accredit.
The athosphere in the room turned somewhat prickly, and once again Jose Dougan was interrogated. First he apologized for his 'direct' answer previously. ('direct' meaning short) and proceeded to tell that the secretariat didn't decide who would be accredited, they just looked at the requirements. Basically he repeated the answer, this time however the 10 minute version of it.
At this point we stopped taking notes on every time the coordinator of the secretariat had to explain the basic rules of procedure or was, in a way, reprimanded for following those rules.
One more complaint was noteworthy: India was dissatisfied with the fact that, according to them the International Dalit Solidarity Network from Denmark was put in the documents only with their acronym IDSN. Not true, but Jose Dougan-Beaca is a far to civilized and patient man to point this out.
Suzette Bronkhorst for ICARE
The work at the main entrance was somehow symbolic for what went on inside...
This morning a small number of NGOs braved the rain and were queing in front of the security bunker to get a badge. All in all, there were some 20 present today, while for this prepcom 30 NGOs sent a letter to the secretariat saying that they would sent representatives - between 1 and 8 per NGO, we hear- so we estimate that we will see maybe a 100 NGO reps tops during these two weeks. Which is pretty meager compared to the PrepComs for the WCAR in 2001. Several reasons for that, but more about that later. Hey, there will be an NGO activity tomorrow! CONGO (The Conference of NGOs with ECOSOC status) is organizing an 'informational meeting'.
Quotes of the day - Editorial - Reports from the Governmental Plenary Meeting - video byte - NGO information meeting
Quotes of the day
'But madam chair, my question is much longer than my statement'
'Chair: oh! You were so fast, I didn't even see you were negotiating!'
The Good, the stupid and the brain-dead
Today's meeting dealt with the review of reports, studies and other documentation for the Preparatory Committee and the Durban Review Conference and contributions of human rights bodies and mechanisms, like the Intergovernmental Working Group on the effective implementation of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action, the Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent,
the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, the Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance and the Ad Hoc Committee on the elaboration of complementary international standards.A whole mouth full. Interesting and valuable contributions, mostly. Of course also annoying, contentious, counterproductive or plain stupid and hateful ones. After all, we're all human and biased, and our elected officials (if you are from a country with such a thing as elections) or self appointed leaders share some of our values, qualities and defects. It is inevitable.
Good stuff was brought to us by The Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent, which made 17 recommendations to the PrepCom, emphasizing the racial discrimination African Descendants suffer from in the judicial system, as well as in employment.
Stupid stuff was freely given to us by the Algerian Ambassador, talking about Sastika's and Saswika's. 'When they paint a Sastika on a tomb, we all know what that means'. Well, no, I don't. What's a Sastika? Somewhat later, it became clear from the context that he actually meant Swastika. Allright then.
Brain dead stuff came again from the Algerian Ambassador, Mr. Idriss Jazaïry, going for gold today. Idriss Jazaïry doubles as the Chair of the Ad Hoc Committee on the elaboration of complementary international standards, and in this capacity he asked the room: 'should we accept to review antisemitism or racial discrimination when it targets the Jews but not the Arabs who are also Semites and, by extension, the whole Muslim community which is exposed to this racial discrimination also referred to as Islamophobia?'
Right, anti-arabism is really antisemtism. The old Canard. You can call it plain stupid, but Mr. Idriss Jazaïry is a smart man, who likes to show off his Oxford education. That means he knows what he is saying is wrong. He's deliberately mixing forms of discrimination that are unique and already terrible by itself, in order to trivialize and co-opt the one form. Hate against Muslims is a real big problem, as is antisemitism. There is no valid reason to hijack the latter, except for a political one.
Again, it was a long day but at least it brought some interesting content, and some more NGOs! A group of African descendants joined the PrepCom; some familiar faces there (hello Glenda!) some more Dalits reps (Hi, Umarkand) and the Euopean Union of Jewish Students (Hi Lili!) but it is still only 30 representatives. Good thing is, we are all very well behaved. Lunacy and extremism comes out of the plenary this time. If we all work hard, do our advocacy and lean on governments to at least do a part of what is in the Durban Declaration and Plan of Action, we can still make the Durban Review a success.
Ronald Eissens for ICARE News.
Video-byte - Interview with Glenda Loebell-Ryan, about the African Descendants issues.
In the plenary
The second day of the First substantive session of the PrepCom continued with the Agenda-item 'Organization of Work', focusing on the establishment of the intersessional open-ended intergovernmental working group. Egypt proposed amendments to the drafting of 'Draft decision 2' of the Organization of Work document (A/CONF.211/PC.2/4). Draft decision 2 relates to the dates this intersessional working group will meet, as well as to its purposes. In a combined effort by Egypt, Belgium and India, taking into account some remarks added by Liechtenstein, a speedy consensus was reached on the amendment. Draft decision 2 of the abovementioned document now includes a reference to the PrepCom decision PC/1/15, the flexibility of the working group to agree to meet at a date that has not been set, and, most importantly perhaps, that the working group shall review contributions and commence negotiations on the draft outcome document.
Having closed this discussion point, Chairwoman Najat Al-Hajjaji discussed the time limits for speakers according to the UN norms (NGO's have 3 minutes), which were immediately adopted by consensus. These decisions completed Item 3 (except for the Canadian NGO, to be discussed next Monday).
Remaining countries made opening statements, mostly aligning with their Regional Groups- which already spoke yesterday. Interestingly, Turkey stated that politicisation of the discussion was to be avoided, and that the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action (DDPA) was not to be reopened. As may have been expected, Syria referred to the changing world since 9/11, the increase in religious hatred and the need to deal with occupation and colonisation. Mexico announced that the GRULAC meeting (discussed in yesterday's report) will take place on 17-19 July. Three NGO's also made opening statements. Anne Bayefsky from The Institute for Human Rights and Holocaust referred to the Canadian NGO issue , which resulted in a reply from the Egyptian mission. Egypt declared to recognise the need for NGO's fighting antisemitism, but reaffirmed the stance taken yesterday: the NGO in question is not accredited and they feel it fights the very purpose of the Durban Conference. Secondly, the European Network Against Racism, referring to different types of racism deserving attention , as well as the current food crisis, made its statement.
In the afternoon meeting Reports of preparatory working groups were dealt with at length. The Intergovernmental Working Group on the Effective Implementation of the DDPA concluded that the only viable way to go is classic: sticking to the text of the DDPA. The Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent made 17 recommendations to the PrepCom in her Report, and emphasized the racial discrimination this group endures in the judicial system, as well as in employment. Thirdly, the Committee on the Elimination on all forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD) took the floor. The CERD rated the achievement made since Durban as 'insufficient', stating that only 15 ratifications of the Convention on the Elimination on all forms of Racial Discrimination had been made since 2001, totalling 173 ratifications to date. CERD called upon member states to continue ratifying, to lift reservations to the Convention and to hand in their Reports to the Committee in a timely manner. Doudou Diène, Special Rapporteur on Contemporary forms of Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and related intolerance, declared the necessity to relate racism to human rights, and to not confine the problem to a 'north-south discussion'. Diène warned against political platforms in societies leading to racism, as well as the increase of discrimination he perceived over the last years. Lastly, the Chair of the Ad Hoc Committee on Complementary International Standards took the floor. The Chair notified the PrepCom that the Ad Hoc Committee had not been able to reach a conclusion on whether the gaps in the existing standards are procedural or substantive in nature. Therefore, the Committee will reconvene in the fall to reach a decision. A Member of the Committee on Migrant Workers had come to the meeting, and intervened to call upon states to ratify the Convention on the Protection of Migrant Workers.
Following the presentations an 'interactive dialogue' with member states was to occur, which means that member states pose questions to the Experts on their Reports. The EU inquired after some concrete issues regarding the denial of the existence of racial discrimination that occurs in some nations, and asked for examples of operational elements of the DDPA that are not yet functional. New Zealand and Switzerland questioned the CERD specifically on trends in discrimination against women, and the Netherlands addressed the issue of so-called 'double' or 'combined' discrimination. Many OIC countries (amongst which Egypt, Pakistan, Iran, and Algeria) referred to Islamophobia and the defamation of religion. India and Nepal felt the need to state that discrimination in the Caste-system, whilst it may occur nationally, can by no means be classified as racism. Lastly, the Indigenous World Association (NGO) requested amongst other things that civil society be granted a more active participation in the meetings.
Only in the final minutes of the meeting did the Experts get the chance to respond to the questions posed by delegates. Generally, the Experts reinforced their earlier statements: the Chair of the Working Group on People of African Descent stressed that primary responsibility lies with the states; these must combat racism at the root. CERD stated that their position is that freedom of expression may be restricted in order to control discrimination. The Committee also called for increased cooperation between the Committee on Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) and CERD. The Chair of the Intergovernmental Working Group on the Effective Implementation the DDPA named the way Australia dealt with the Aborigines recently as a good example of handling long-lasting racism. Furthermore, he stressed the need to tackle Islamophobia and Christianophobia. The Special Rapporteur on Racism e.a. (Diène) agreed with CERD that all countries can use the option to limit freedom of expression, so as to not use it as an excuse for racism. Furthermore, he called upon states to ratify and implement legislation on discrimination. Lastly, he touched upon the border between incitement to religious hate (within the Durban context) and defamation (bordering on another discussion). The Chair of the Ad Hoc Committee on Complementary International Standards relayed an example on antisemitism, referring to the graffiti of Swastikas on Arab graves in France: these should be considered acts of antisemitism too according to the Chair.
ICARE Newsteam, Geneva
Our Geneva office
NGO info meeting
At 2 pm we went to the NGO meeting organized by CONGO, The Conference of NGOs. There were 29 people there. Speakers included Jose Dougan-Beaca from the OHCHR secretariat, Umarkant from the National Campaign of Dalit Human Rights in India, Georgina Stevens from IMADR, Mr. Jibril Abdelbaghi, director of the Darfur Relief and Documentation Centre in Geneva and Philippe Dam, secretary of CONGO, who chaired the meeting.
The meeting was marred a bit by the fact that CONGO had not taken care of translation - which angered the French-speakers, a number of them from the group of African descendants. Luckily Bernice Dubois, representative of MAPP and an old hand at the UN who speaks fluent English and French, kindly offered to help out, climbed into a translation booth and started work.
At the start of the meeting Renate Blum, former president of CONGO, stated that we had now definately left Durban behind in a sense that on the NGO side the participation in another large UN event, the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) in 2003/2004 went smoothly. CONGO had facilitated the NGO participation and 'everybody learned from this'. She furthermore stated that this time around, at the Durban Review, NGOs needed to organize better or run the risk of making no impact. She said that there was no longer a bureau for Civil Society and that this was a pity since a bureau like that could connect with the governmental bureau, and working together this would enhance the impact.
Jann Lonn, member of the CONGO sub-committee on the follow-up to the 2001 Durban Conference asked why there were almost no documents on the UN extranet. Since the Extranet is the place with documentation of all that takes place, it is vital. People need the info to be able to take part in meetings. Philippe Dam wanted to know if the Intersessional meeting was going to be live-streamed on the web, as this PrepCom is.
Jose Dougan-Beaca took the floor, saying that he will discuss the webcasting possibilities with colleagues. He said that the PrepComs will have some facilities in the same way as the Human Rights Commission has, but he does not know how that will work out for the interesessional, due to political and financial implications.
Edith Ballantyne, member of the CONGO sub-committee on the follow-up to the 2001 Durban Conference, reacting on Renate Blum, said that their should be support for a civil society bureau, that an NGO forum is necessary and that she regretted the lack of initiative. She also said that a NGO forum was probably dependant on the venue.
Ronald Barnes from the Indigenous Peoples Nations Coalitions said that the NGOs as stakeholders seem to be disconnected from the process. What are NGOs going to do? He also said that the continunce of the North-South fight will hamper the process. The process must be changed.
Renate Blum: for Durban we had a steering committee of NGOs. This time, you don't have it for a very specific reason - we are still trying to not fall into the same abyss as with the WCAR.
Umarkant - What do we do with the governments that did not answer the questionairre, governments that say 'we have no racism in our country, so we did not create a National Action Plan - what to do with this?
Jose Dougan-Beaca: on the questionnaire, there's the free will of states to answer or not. They have the liberty to not respond. All we can do is encourage. Is there a disconnection between NGOs and governments in this process? Yes, since the process went very slow. The issue of NGO forum- every major UN conference has a review.We cannot give priority to an NGO Forum. We must also support the regional meetings.
The 2001 funding supported the participation of many NGOs. This time it is not possible anymore, we cannot facilitate the way we did in 2001.
On a more concrete point: how are NGOs going to participate. You could have preparatory NGO meetings at any level, as you are part of the process. We are now working within the rules of the UN. As to how many people we expect at the review
We are not expecting or encouraging a huge crowd - since this is a review, since we are not going to talk about new issues, we expect some of the old participants to attend and we don't advertise to get more participants. An NGO Forum is is not in the nature of this kind of conference, but it is also a matter of capacity. Here in the Palais des Nations we could seat 300 NGO participants in one of the main rooms. We must be careful how to fill them. On the other hand, we still don't have a venue for 2009, so we do not really know what the capacity of the venue will be.
Dougan-Beaca said again that the review will solely be on the Durban Declaration and Plan of Action. 'Why am I stressing this? Since there is consensus on that one. Not on any other document. This is all there is to be discussed'.
Mr. Chibo Onyeji, vice-president of ENAR, made a heartfelt plea to consider the (huge) UN facilities in Vienna as a venue for the Durban Review. Jose Dougan-Beaca said that a number of NGOs have pleaded with the Chair of the PrepCom to not have the conference in New York, since this would create all kinds of access problems for certain NGOs. He mentioned that the Chair favors Geneva as a venue because of the facilities.
Umarkant from the National Campaign of Dalit Human Rights in India took the floor and said that there are Dalits in other countries too; Japan, Africa, Latin America and also working descent and caste discrimination is not a small problem in one country alone.
Art.29 of ICERD deals with this kind of discrimination and the CERD has asked all member states to see ICERD in the broadest possible way. India says that of course caste discrimination is not covered by ICERD. We have not received accreditation for this PrepCom while we were accredited to the WCAR. Caste-base discrimination is hidden apartheid, it is not visible to the world, but we created visibility in Durban. India takes a high moral stand: we don't practice discrimination. But in 2006 India's prime minister said caste-based discrimination only can be compared to apartheid.
Georgina Stevens from IMADR spoke next. She said that although countries and regions were slow in organizing regional meetings, that should not hold us from organizing our own events. We should try not to be slowed down by the lack of response from states. We must coordinate, create a united front and be strong as NGOs to facilitate our own participation, the members states and the secretariat cannot do so.
Mr. Jibril Abdelbaghi, director of the Darfur Relief and Documentation Centre in Geneva said that in 2001, just after Durban there was the horrible 9/11 tragedy and because of that we all forgot about a lot of things. We all share the same fight and vision. We all must reflect on what happened and how we can work together like before Durban. We need another meeting to talk more about this.
After this Philippe Dam closed the meeting and announced that CONGO would organize another NGO information meeting next week.
Quotes of the day - Editorial - Report from the Governmental Plenary - What's a review?
Quotes of the day
'If we filled out the questionnaire? That's what I want to know too, but my government says they are busy'
'We know that some governments find us NGOs bothersome - that is how it goes. But you don't want them to start resenting you. That is not productive'
'Madam Chair, it is a custom to recognize the Chair as a Chair!'
Today was a slow news day with some interesting moments. For the blow by blow report, scroll down to 'in the plenary'. There was a strong joint statement by a group of NGOs from the African Diaspora , ENAR, the European Network Against Racism, pleaded for an increase in minority rights in Europe, and there was other stuff as well. It was very much a mixed bag.
Somehow the fact that the Chair, Mrs. Al-Hajjaji, could not be present during the afternoon session and the all of a sudden nice weather did not contribute to any eagerness to make it a long day. The Belgian delegate who acted as her stand-in Chairperson had great trouble getting delegations to take the floor and since half of them never came back from the lunch break, he decided to call it a day at 5.30pm, which caused a flurry of diplomats and NGO reps, exiting the building as overexcited schoolboys and girls. Hey, isn't that the leader of the [xxxxxx] delegation with the girl from that international [xxxxx] NGO in his sports car? Indeed it is. That's the second day they leave together in that manner. Probably a case of intensive consultations. See, love transcends all and it is so good we're not paparazzi.
Ronald Eissens for ICARE News.
In the plenary
The third day of the substantive session here in Geneva was not a very busy one. The meeting opened to continue with Item 5 of the Agenda: states and NGO's had the opportunity to share activities at the national, regional and international level. Several countries took the floor to relate national success stories, after which also two NGO's spoke. First, the Stichting National Monument of the Netherlands spoke on behalf of 8 other NGO's from the African diaspora , declaring support for the Review process, and calling upon all states to participate. They stated the need to promote the issue of solidarity amongst victims of racism. Secondly, the Institute for Human Rights and the Holocaust took the floor, and in its statement spoke of anti-Zionism as the contemporary form of antisemitism, focusing on Israel. Chairwoman Najat Al-Hajjaji soon stopped the NGO, declaring that this topic was not in line with the issue on the table: Item 5. The NGO continued, and was once again requested to stick to the topic at hand by the Chair.
The discussion on Item 5 ends at this point, as the meeting continues to Item 6 of the Agenda: Objective 1 of this PrepCom, namely "to review the progress and assess the implementation of the DDPA […]". The African Group declares the need to concentrate on implementation of the DDPA, and raises several questions regarding the current status of implementation, main obstacles, and practical solutions. Argentina takes the floor, to stress the wish for consensus in the Review Process. Russia addresses several internal issues, as the delegate discusses problems like the revival of nationalism, the denial of the Holocaust by Neo-Nazis and the resulting distortion of history. The EU takes a strong stand, declaring that the Durban Follow-up can only be successful if a broad review takes place, without specific focus on certain geographical areas. Furthermore, the EU emphasized the need to avoid being tainted like the NGO forum was at the Durban Conference in 2001 through the antisemitism that took place there. On top of this, the EU refers to the inclusion of sexual orientation, states that new international conventions suffice (no need for more) and that the CERD is a cornerstone for battling racism. Several countries (amongst which the OIC and South Africa) discussed freedom of expression as a means and platform leading to religious hatred. Interestingly, Sudan took the floor to call upon states to pay attention to contemporary forms of racism, which are especially harmful to women and children. Lastly, NGO's have the opportunity to speak, and once again the Institute for Human Rights and the Holocaust takes the floor. The NGO now responded to issues that had been addressed by Algeria yesterday: their stance that antisemitism was applicable to the desecration of Arab graves in France, and (only) applicable to Arabs as Semitic people. Once again, the Chair intervened for and Algerian point of order: the country declares that their statement has been distorted. The Chair instructs the Institute for Human Rights and the Holocaust to continue, and declares that all NGO's are welcome but that their statements must relate to the topic at hand. The NGO continues its statement, declaring to have remained within the bounds of the topic, and utters frustration at being the only one to be interrupted by the Chair. Just as the statement reaches its end, the Chair intervenes for another point of order from Algeria: they state that the NGO was not complete in its reading, and reads out their original statement as proof. Egypt also requests a point of order, to point out discrepancies in the NGO's statements. Lastly, the European Network Against Racism has the opportunity to take the floor, which pleads for an increase in minority rights in Europe.
The afternoon session of the meeting was fairly short today, with the Belgian delegate serving as 'stand-in' Chairperson: Al-Hajjaji was not available. The meeting started out with a Chinese statement regarding the importance of education and strengthening diversity in the fight against racism. Two NGO's take the floor- the Association of World Citizens (calling for a database to be set up by NGO's to compare jurisprudence from different countries) and a statement by MRAP, the French Movement Against Racism and For Friendship among People, who recommended the PrepCom to make a compilation of all existing national human rights commitments and institutions. Alas, equating Israel with apartheid wasted a key point of their contribution.
Moving from Objective 1 to Objective 2: "to assess the effectiveness of existing Durban follow-up mechanisms and other relevant UN mechanisms in order to enhance them", the African Group immediately stresses the "enhancement" part. The EU counters this statement, declaring that proliferation already exists among anti-racism instruments, and that enhancement and proliferation are counterproductive. A question goes out by the EU to the Secretariat, regarding the possibility to compile all UN mandates on the matter, to assess the overlap. Argentina, Chile and Mexico address the importance of effective mechanisms, not referring to the creation of new ones. Lastly, the African Canadian Legal Clinic (representing 7 other NGO's) takes the floor to call upon Canada to participate in the Durban Review process, as it feels the withdrawal was without consultation with Canadian civil society, and sends the wrong message regarding the importance of the international human rights process.
Just as the Chair wishes to close the meeting, India makes a statement regarding the NGO accreditation (see previous reports). On Monday, 33 NGO's had not been granted accreditation, but India is now referring to an NGO that was not amongst these 33: the International Dalit Solidarity Network. India once again declares that they were never given enough time to respond/object to this NGO's request for accreditation, as the Secretariat never provided proper information. India requests explanations from the Secretariat regarding the use of acronyms for this NGO, as well as tardiness in information. Sri Lanka and Bhutan align themselves with India in this discussion. The Chair concludes the third day of the Substantive session by proposing that the Secretariat respond to these questions on Monday, when the issue regarding the Canadian NGO accreditation will also be further examined. The 3 countries agree to this proposition, and the meeting can be closed, in time for the delegates to catch the first sunshine all week.
ICARE Newsteam, Geneva
What's a review?
In August 2007, during its organizational session, the Preparatory Committee for the Conference set forth the objectives of the Durban Review Conference as follows:
To review progress and assess implementation of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action by all stakeholders at the national, regional and international levels, including assessing contemporary manifestations of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, through an inclusive, transparent and collaborative process and identify concrete measures and initiatives for combating and eliminating all manifestations of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance in order to foster the implementation of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action;
To assess the effectiveness of the existing Durban follow-up mechanisms and other relevant United Nations mechanisms dealing with the issue of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance in order to enhance them;
To promote the universal ratification and implementation of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination and proper consideration of the recommendations of the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination;
To identify and share good practices achieved in the fight against racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance.
To facilitate the Durban Review Process, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights drafted a questionnaire, which was disseminated to all 192 member states. The questionnaire consists of 6 core questions drafted on the basis of the objectives of the Durban Review Conference :
Question 1: Can you assess the implementation of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action in your country?
Question 2: Can you assess contemporary manifestations of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance as well as initiatives in this regard with a view to eliminating them in your country?
Question 3: Please identify concrete measures and initiatives for combating and eliminating all manifestations of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance in order to foster the effective implementation of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action.
Question 4: How would your Government assess the effectiveness of the existing Durban follow-up mechanism and other relevant United Nations mechanisms dealing with the issue of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance in order to enhance them?
Question 5: What are the steps taken by your Government to ratify and/or implement the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination and give proper consideration of the recommendations of the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination?
Question 6: Please identify and share good practices achieved in the fight against racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance in your country.
In short, what, if any has been the general impact of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action (DDPA) in your country, can you identify the level and scope of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerances in your country today and what are you, as government doing about it?
Out of 192-member states so far only 39 bothered to answer and you have to give them credit for that. The answers roughly range from "we have no racism issues" to page after page of measures taken to eliminate any and all forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance.
Some quotes from the answers to question 2. 'Can you assess contemporary manifestations of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance as well as initiatives in this regard with a view to eliminating them in your country?'
Bulgaria has always maintained that all forms of discrimination are equally unacceptable and all forms of discrimination must be addressed by the international community.
Racism and xenophobia are social problems quite well known in Burkina Faso.. Foreigners living in Burkina Faso are well integrated and face no hostility on the part of the local population. The national society is composed of over 60 ethnic groups with a variety of languages and cultures. However, there exists among certain societies practices that may be considered discriminatory. There are for example prohibitions of intermarriages between certain ethnic groups and castes, which have historical roots.
There is an increase in racist violence and xenophobia in many parts of the world as well as of defamation of religion, the rejection of diversity and Islamophobia or incitement against Islam. Comment is made on the situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, which constitutes a violation of a wide range of civil and political rights.
Although the Prohibition of Incitement to Hatred Act is robust, there is currently no criminal law provision which defines racist offences.
Manifestations of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance have been decreasing in the last years and are very rare in general.
Society in Qatar is diverse and there are many migrant workers and no xenophobia and intolerance has been observed.
There have been isolated public manifestations in the context of certain sporting events. Intolerance and discriminatory manifestations towards members of the Roma minority still exist.
In the Russian federation there are no political parties, whose platforms are based on ideas for racial superiority and the political process in the country is in accordance with the respect of the principle for non discrimination and fight against racism in political, social-economical and cultural spheres.
To date there are no racist actions known in the country. Senegal embodies tolerance and has an old tradition of harmonious co-existence of cultures and dialogue of religions.
Racist abuses occur in Sweden on a regular basis in spite of the efforts made. Hate crimes including Islamophobia, anti-semitism and xenophobia continue to be identified in police reports.
Syria states that it does not suffer from the problem of racial discrimination. Measures have been undertaken by Syria to prevent discrimination. Citizens and residents enjoy human rights equally. There are no hate crimes.
Now, what about the 153 countries that didn't fill out the questionnaire? When are they going to reply? Or will they only reply during PrepComs and/or the actual Review Conference. In that case I don't think 3 to 5 days will suffice. If countries, as they claim, are serious about eradicating the scourge of racism, first they need to recognize that every country in the world has problems and secondly they need to start working on it, seriously.
We are gathering data for our scorecards .
What did the UN member states do with the outcomes of the 2001 Durban WCAR? Did they create National Action Plans (NAPs) or anything else WCAR related? if you know that a country has (done) activities which are not included here, please let us know by e-mail: email@example.com
Suzette Bronkhorst for ICARE News
Our daily diversion: watching the construction work at the main entrance
Quotes of the day - Editorial - Report from the Governmental Plenary
Quotes of the day
No quotes. None. Since most were out to lunch, taking a nap or hanging out in town, how can we gather any?
The morning meeting began as per usual half an hour late, at 10:30am and work started, but after 1 hour and 47 minutes (at 12:17) it was decided to hold some consultations and to break right away - only to resume at 4pm. Yes, the weather today is excellent again but of course that has nothing to do with it. When we all reconvened at 4 and started at 4.20, most of the room stayed empty. Of the 192 member states, only about 30 took the trouble to come back from this extended lunch break. At a certain point there were more NGO representatives in the room than delegates. After only 33 minutes, the Chair -again a stand-in, Ms. Najat Al-Hajjaji was absent, like yesterday afternoon- closed the meeting since the few countries left had no more remarks to make.
In total, 2 hours and 20 minutes were spent working by the PrepCom today. I did not know if I had to laugh or cry. Our tax Euros, Dollars and all the other currencies at work.
Several delegates overheard in the corridors and outside the building: 'This was quite a symbolic meeting only'. 'What the [beep] are we doing here anyway and what the [beep] will we do next week'. 'It seems we covered most of it but nobody wants to talk about substance really'. That last remark is close to the bone I think. There is a subtext of unwillingness, of not really wanting to deal with Durban Review. Interesting how all delegations, especially the OIC and African Group, constantly stress how important the Durban review is - but then don't bother to show up when it gets later in the week and the weather gets better, don't reply on the questionnaire and just try to avoid substance as much as possible, favoring procedural debates and silly discussions about the accreditation of NGOs.
Ronald Eissens for ICARE News.
In the plenary
Thursday April 24th, the fourth day of the First Substantive Session proved to be a short day for plenary meetings. In the morning meeting, member states finished their statements regarding Objective 2 ("to assess the effectiveness of existing Durban follow-up mechanisms and other relevant UN mechanisms in order to enhance them"). Firstly, the Algerian delegate took the floor, and stressed the importance of national initiatives, so as to not make the DDPA a 'dead letter'. Syria declared the existing international mechanisms to be insufficient, due to emerging new forms of racism. The country also called upon all to make a distinction between individual racism, and state racism; the existence of which they feel is denied in some democratic countries. Furthermore, Syria addressed the persistent denial of the right to self-determination in the Middle East. Lastly, China took the floor to propose that the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) increase their support for existing mechanisms.
After state declarations, the NGO's were given the floor. The Institute for Human Rights and the Holocaust took the floor, in a response to the points made by the Egyptian delegate yesterday (see yesterdays report on the plenary session). Also, the NGO pointed out flaws in the system of the UN Human Rights Council (HRC). The result of this statement was a repetition of the day before: Chairwoman Najat Hajjaji intervened, and requested the Institute for Human Rights and the Holocaust to remain close to the Item on the Agenda. The NGO stated why it felt this discussion: the flaws in the HRC as a relevant UN mechanism, was relevant to the topic, and continued her statement regarding the denial of the right to self-determination of the Jewish people, but was interrupted again for a point of order by Syria. The Syrian delegate declared the statement to be outside the topic, and the Chair instructed to once again to stick to the Agenda Item. The Institute for Human Rights and the Holocaust finished its statement, after which the Egyptian delegate took the floor for another point of order: the NGO was outside the Agenda Item, and also incorrect in her statements. Algeria seconded this point of order made by Egypt. Interestingly, the Chair then called upon all to confine themselves to the relevant topic, and to not add to existing tension. Now, the Movement Against Racism and For Friendship Among People took the floor, and like yesterday, called upon the PrepCom to compile all available national action plans against racism for reference. Lastly, the floor was taken by Mr. Umarkand, speaking on behalf of the Asian Forum For Human Rights And Development, The Lutheran World Federation, the International Movement Against Discrimination And All Forms Of Racism and Pax Romana, calling for recognition of Caste-based discrimination as racism, declaring that many UN bodies and the Special Rapporteur on Racism Doudou Diène had already recognized it as such. This statement concluded Objective 2.
The afternoon meeting was brief and concerned Objective 3: the consideration of the International Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD) and the recommendations of its Committee (CERD). The African Group expressed its regret that the ratification of ICERD was not yet universal, and stressed the importance of ICERD in combination with the DDPA. The EU declared that all its member states are party to ICERD, and that universality is pivotal. Secondly, the EU addressed a concern of CERD, namely that some states do not give broad interpretation to article 1 of the Convention (definition of racial discrimination), leading to the minimizing of racial discrimination. Turkey encouraged all states to hand in their Reports to CERD on time, and to act upon the recommendations of the Committee. Brazil and Senegal did the same, also calling upon states to withdraw reservations. The Algerian delegate took the floor and referred to the origins of the principle of anti-discrimination: customary international law. Also, Algeria declared that international law gave states the right to have reservations regarding international conventions. Calling for withdrawal was therefore incorrect: Algeria argued that the use of revising of modification of existing reservations would be more pragmatic.
Quotes of the day - Editorial - VIdeo-byte: interview with Doudou Diène - Report from the Governmental Plenary
Quotes of the day
'Are you having a consulation with a good bottle of wine?' 'No, with raw fish, actually'
'We are not aware of a Durban II conference'
The art of Rumor
The last day of the first week of the Durban Review first substantive PrepCom was again a short one. The plenary started at 10.30 and the chair informed us that due to a bureau meeting and informal consultations they would end at 1pm, depending also on the number of speakers. A lot of information does the rounds outside of the official meetings, some like to call that 'diplomatic sources', we just call it what it is: the grapevine. That old worn Geneva grapevine had to work hard yesterday. There was the rumor that 'South Africa Drops Bid to Host UN's Durban II Racism Conference, Now Expected for Spring 2009 in Europe'. This unconfirmed story ('according to diplomatic sources') was published as a press release. Other unconfirmed rumors: The African Group is now suggesting UNESCO Paris as the venue, the 2nd substantive PrepCom scheduled for October will be moved to January 2009 and the Review Conference itself to summer 2009.
Let's stick to the facts. Number one, it is called the Durban Review Conference. The misnomer 'Durban II' suggests that it will be a full-blown conference, which is not the case, and it also suggests that it will be the same or even worse as the original WCAR in 2001. Right now it really does not look that way. Bad behavior by a number of States is no worse than during the WCAR or your average Human Rights Council meeting. The 30-some NGOs present are mostly very well behaved.
Fact is that South Africa never formally offered the venue during this PrepCom. South Africa's president Mbeki has offered in his state of the nation address to a joint session of SA-parliament in February this year, but all signs say that they won't offer formally now, for a number of reasons.
Rumor (not fact) has it that the EU and President Sarkozy of France have leaned hard on the South Africans, 'for jumping the gun and crossing a red line'. Fact is also that the Libyan Chair of the PrepCom, Ms. Najat Al-Hajjaji, has presented a draft resolution on the Venue which states that when no-one has offered to host before the end of this PrepCom, the venue will be either Geneva or New York. Ms. Najat Al-Hajjaji also has let it be known to the NGOs, by way of Mr. Jose Dougan-Beaca, head of the secretariat, that she is in favor of Geneva, amongst other reasons because of the facilities at the Palais des Nations.
Yes, I know, this is all way to complicated for Newspapers et cetera to understand and explain. After all, the weather was nice, facts are boring and headlines about 'Durban II' simply sell more or fit more into what you think is going on.
Coming Monday morning there will be more 'fun and games'; first thing on the agenda is the debate on the accreditation of the International Dalit Solidarity Network (IDSN) and the Canadian Council for Israel and Jewish Advocacy (CIJA). Now those two would have seemed natural partners to do something together. Mutual solidarity builds bridges, but sometimes it is not to be. I guess we all have to work harder at it.
Again bad reporting was done by the Israeli newspaper Haaretz today in the article 'Iran said trying to ban Canada Jewish group from anti-racism meet' . The article itself has so many mistakes that I'm wondering what they were smoking: 'The World Conference Against Racism is set to take place in 2009'. Ummm, no, the WCAR was 7 years ago, in Durban, South Africa, 2001. In 2009 the UN will hold a review of the outcome documents of the 2001 WCAR, which is not called Durban II, but the Durban Review Conference. Another whopper: 'In a bid to prevent a similar controversy at the 2009 conference, NGOs will only be granted observer status'. Sheesh! NGOs always have observer status-only at UN conferences! Plus, the 'controversy', a.k.a. the antisemitic hatefest, took mainly place at the NGO Forum. If you want to write about Durban and the UN Moloch, at least get your basic facts right!
So we're waiting for the PrepCom to make a decision on venue next week during the last day - which might be Wednesday, since Thursday the UN is officially closed for the Christian holiday of Ascension and Looking at what happened this week, we think it unlikely that the delegates will want to come back for just one day.
Bad news for ICARE is that Emilie Kuijt, who did all the meticulous reporting on the Plenary sessions you read during the last week, has left to do other work back home, so next week the Plenary reporting will be ummm different :-)
A highlight of yesterday was the video interview we did with Mr.Doudou Diène, UN Special Rapporteur on Contemporary forms of Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and related intolerance, about the Durban Review conference, the accreditation of CIJA, the rumor that he will be successor of High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour and other issues. Have a look. Now we're off to lac Leman (a.k.a.Lake Geneva), to soak in some much needed sunshine & fresh air. Back on Monday!
Ronald Eissens for ICARE News.
Interview with Mr. Doudou Diène, Special Rapporteur on Contemporary forms of Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and related intolerance for the UNited Nations, about what he thinks is important for the Durban Review conference, the accreditation of the Canadian Jewish NGO CIJA, religious defamation, the rumor that he will be the next UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and other issues.
In the plenary
The first week of the Substantive Session ended with the conclusion of Item 6 of the Agenda; more specifically Objective 4 regarding the identifying and sharing of good practices achieved in the fight against racism. Many countries took the floor, and shared views on the matter. African countries decided to speak through their regional group, the African Group. They declared that not many good practices had developed over the years, or that they were invisible. The African Group however did compliment the establishment of national truth committees, as well as the issuing of formal apologies (like Australia recently did to the Aboriginals). Lastly, the African Group discussed the development of law against incitement to religious hatred as a good practice.
Other countries chose to individually address their own good practices. Many (Germany, Switzerland, Slovenia, Belgium, UK, Iran, Argentina, Norway) emphasized the establishment of national independent monitoring bodies, as well as good cooperation with NGO's (Mexico, Slovenia). Furthermore, France explicitly addressed the issue of harsher punishments for crimes related to racism, and the UK shared that they are currently reviewing all laws relating to the matter. Both Slovenia and the Czech Republic discussed the Roma, stating awareness of their national issues, and declaring to work hard on the education and prevention of racism of the population. Germany also stressed the large-scale implementation of EU legislation, as well as OSCE activities and conferences that have been held in Europe over the past years, one of which on antisemitism. Brazil and Norway both mentioned affirmative action programs as part of their national practices. Rather strangely, Nigeria took the floor to declare that the Caste-system did not have any place in their society, answering a perceived 'attack' from an NGO on the matter. It remains unclear where this perception came from, as the NGO's speaking on the matter yesterday did not mention Nigeria. Lastly, the Syrian delegate announced that Syria does not suffer from racism issues, only to state a little later that they were developing a 5 year action plan to face the challenges that lay ahead. Also, Syria stressed their importance in the assistance to Iraqi refugees.
Before the NGO's took the floor, the Commission of the Council of Europe spoke out on the importance of gender equality and the good work of European countries, as well as the Human Rights Institute in Vienna. The first NGO to take the floor was the European Roma Rights Center, announcing good practices from Bulgaria and Hungary: these countries are the only two to outlaw the segregation of Roma children in schools, in countries where such segregation is accepted. Secondly, Youth Against Racism called for the establishment of a Youth Committee for the UN, so that participation could be at a higher level and called upon the PrepCom to faciliate a Youth Forum at the Durban Review Conference 2009. Lastly, the Institute for Human Rights and the Holocaust took the floor, to discuss the Questionnaires (to be filled out by states for the Review Conference) filled out by Syria, Iran, Senegal and Algeria. The NGO stated that these nations had denied racism existing in their countries, and warned for the outcome of the Review Conference if states continued with this attitude. Before closure of the meeting, Egypt came with a point of order, to correct the Institute for Human Rights and the Holocaust in its use of the name 'Durban 2'. 'We are not aware of a Durban II conference, it is called the Durban Review Conference, and I invite everybody to addess it by its proper name. Secondly, Durbanophobia does not seem to be consistent with the objectives of the Durban Review Conference'.
Chairwoman Najat Hajjaji closed the meeting, announcing that all 4 Objectives had been discussed, that as agreed upon already at the start of the session this afternoon there would not be a plenary. The afternoon was to be used for a bureau meeting and informal consultations. Monday a start could be made with the draft Outcome Document. However, Before drafting the matter of NGO accreditation (IDSN, CIJA) will have to be dealt with. The last announcement of the day was the proposition that the Armenian Ambassador will chair the Intersessional Intergovernmental Working Group. When this Working Group convenes at the end of May, it will confirm the Ambassadors formal election.
Quotes of the day - Editorial - VIdeo-byte: interview with Ambassador Omer Orhun - Notes from the Plenary - NGO Meeting
Quotes of the day
'Nobody is saying nothing!'
'There's a subterranean conspiracy to prevent a NGO forum'
'Well, that's a real strong statement!'
Goodmorning! Hope everybody had a good weekend while we were hanging here in Geneva, walking along the lake and getting bored out of our skulls, being barred for two days from the temple of wisdom, a.k.a. the Palais des Nations. Today was a strange day. Lot's of things happening but not necessarily inside the plenary room. There was an NGO meeting organized by Interfaith International and lots of informal meetings held by the governments. Then there was the statement made to the plenary on behalf of 94 NGOs, delivered by Mr. Ted Stahnke of Human Rights First. This Statement of Core Principles for WCAR follow-up , an initiative of the Jacob Blaustein Institute for the Advancement of Human Rights and Magenta Foundation certainly attracted a lot of attention. Since the morning was pretty slow and tame and there were only 6 speakers from the governments, the content of the statement, which basically calls for a Hate-free Durban Review, made heads turn. Literally. If you have ever been to a UN-meeting you will understand that this is not something that happens everyday. When Mr. Stahnke finished, the one journalist in the room was all over him and Mr. Doudou Diène, UN special rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism et cetera even sprinted over from his seat to ask for a copy; 'Well, that's a real strong Statement!'. Indeed it is. You can watch it here on video..
Informals Informals informals. Today was the big informal session day. We spent about 1 1/2 hour in the plenary room and for the rest of the time delegations were out negotiating. We were even allowed to sit in with part of that, for 2 hours at the end of the day. A so-called informal session, which means NGOs are welcome, as opposed to an informal-informal session, which means 'confidential and closed'. Still with us here? :-)
So why so many informals and negotiations? Simple. Today we started to work on agenda item 7, the draft outcome document of the Durban Review conference. Well, we started working on a format or framework, which is not exactly the same as talking about content but rather talking about what content should be in the framework, so if and when that is decided, we can talk about such content. You want an aspirin already?
Some bits and bytes: tomorrow there's a NGO meeting on Combating Anti-black racism globally;from Slavery to the Durban Review Conference. More bits: a group of NGOs has requested a meeting with High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour and with the Bureau to ask for support for a NGO Forum at the Review Conference. The grapevine: nobody really expects this PrepCom to work on Friday. We'll see.
Ronald Eissens for ICARE News.
Interview with Ambassador Ömer Orhun, personal representative to the OSCE Chair in Office on combating Intolerance and discrimination against Muslims, about his candidacy for the Position of UN Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of Racism, Racial discrimination,Xenophobia and related intolerance
Notes from the plenary
The morning meeting, starting at 11.30 as per usual, took only 50 minutes. Right at the start the Chair told us that agenda point 3, the long awaited debate on the accreditation of 2 NGOs against which objections were raised, would again be postponed. By now, two NGOs have been added to the 'objectionable' list (more about that later). The Chair said that the bureau had an intensive meeting this morning, especially about CIJA, but since Iran is still not satisfied and wants CIJA to answer even more questions, the whole debate will be postponed with 48 hours until Wednesday, noon. The chair , Ms. Najat Al-Hajjaji, then gave the floor to the Vice-Chairman of the PrepCom, Mr. Zohrab Mnatsakanian, Ambassador of Armenia, and told us he would chair the PrepCom for the rest of the week. Mr.Mnatsakanian opened item 7, Draft outcome document of the Durban Review and said in his introduction that the best the Prepcom could do in the few remaining days was to agree on a framework, a structure and to draft during the next 3 weeks so there would be a useful document at the start of the Intersessional.A few replies to this from delegations: Mr. Omar Shalaby of Egypt speaking on behalf of the African Group, wanted to know what progress had been on the implementation of the Durban Declaration and Plan of Action (DDPA). Mr. Anton Novak from Slovenia, speaking on behalf of the European Union said that the PrepCom should not attempt to reopen the DDPA but should focus only on implementation of the DDPA. After only 6 speakers, two NGO speakers took the floor and the meeting was adjourned for informal consulations. Later in the afternoon we all assembled in room 24 for an informal session where NGOs were also welcome. The negotiations first seemed simple, but soon it became clear there's a difference of opinion, mainly between the EU and the African group, about what should be in the framework. We were able to lay our hands on the wish-lists of both the African group and the EU. Have a look here (African group)and here (EU). Item 2 on the list of the African group, 'Assessment of contemporary manifestations of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance' seems to be the issue on which the two groups disagree. Tomorrow the day will not start with a plenary but again with an informal session in room 24.
ICARE Newsteam, Geneva
During the long informal consultations and lunchbreak Interfaith International held an NGO meeting about the possibilities for a NGO forum at the Durban Review conference. There were some 25 people present. Dr. Patel of WILPF said that in her opinion there had to be an NGO Forum because of the increase in Racism and stated that the media also increasingly compared the slavetrade to other historical slaveries, e.g. by the Roman Empire and that trivialized the trans-atlantic slavetrade. She also said there was a subterranean conspiracy to prevent a NGO forum. Shimon Samuels of the SWC asked her by whom, but did not get a clear answer. Other NGO reps said that the USA and the EU were against the Durban Review conference and that they do not even want to speak about the Durban WCAR. It was also stated that an NGO forum is necessary because of new forms of racism. Mr. Jose Dougan-Beaca of the secretariat stated (as he did during the CONGO meeting last week) that there were no resources for a NGO forum, that fot the WCAR the office of the HIGH Commissioner had 50 people dealing with Durban and just a few right now. Also he said that the 750.000 dollar which is left from the WCAR is kept aside for other purposes, like regional preparatory meetings. Shimon Samuels of the SWC at this point gave a statement and later made that into a press release which you can find here. Margaret Parsons of the African Canadian Legal Clinic stated that the Durban WCAR had been a watershed and it put the subject of slave trade and reparations firmly on the map. Another NGO rep. said that all the boycott statements and threats should make the NGOs consider to create a declaration before the end of this PrepCom, to advocate a NGO Forum. Another contributer said that talking about new forms of racism, the post 9/11 anti-terrorism measures are often an excuse to hide policies that exacerbate racism. Jan Lonn from the Swedish Centre Against Racism complained that there was no money, no info and wanted to know what was happening with the xtranet pages were usually info and documenst relevant for NGOs are posted. He also said that no-one from Africa was here at the PrepCom since there was no money to facilitate this. Mr. Abdelbaghi said that the opposition against the Durban Review Conference sounded more like opposition against antiracism. His opinion is that this is a criminal act, and he said that NGOs should stand up to that. Mr. Dougan-Beaca again explained the possibilities and workings of the review. In a reaction to this, several people said that they wanted to speak with High Commissioner Louise Arbour and/or the bureau. Those who wanted a declaration decided that it would be drafted and read in the plenary wednesday at the latest, but possibly tomorrow. There was also some criticism on Louise Arbour, some compared her to former High Commissioner Mary Robinson. Jose Dougan-Beaca replied on this saying that it was not a question of Robinson or Arbour, but of different circumstances, meaning facilities, money and the structure of a review conference.
ICARE Newsteam, Geneva
The last layer is tiles - and now they started on the other side...
Quotes of the day - Editorial - Notes from the Plenary
Quotes of the day
'We have to restructure how we visualize our review, that would be something like the department of Agriculture bolstered with modern weapon systems…'
'...the rest of your comments - if I understand them correctly - I must say I find it a bit difficult to vector them into what we are doing here. Thank you'
'Our minds will receive the necessary clarity during the substantive talks'
Sources here (yes, the good old sources) say that the venue will be one of those cities, with Geneva heavily favored but Bangkok or Vienna a possible compromise and New York a total dud. The Paris UNESCO story still does the rounds but seems to be very unlikely. Tomorrow the decision will be made. Yes, tomorrow ALL draft decisions will be turned into decisions. Since an agreement was reached this morning on a framework for the substance (in other words, 'Draft decision on the structure of the draft outcome document of the Durban Review Conference'), everybody is rearing to finish the work in one day and go home tomorrow evening or Thursday morning. On the agenda will be item 8, 'Organization of the work of the Durban Review Conference and other matters', the draft decision on the venue, the accreditation matter under item 3 that has been postponed twice and lastly Item 9, the adoption of the report of this PrepCom. It is very unlikely that there will be sessions on Friday. Well, that suits us fine, after eleven days in UN la-la-land we really want to go home. So that's what we will do, be in tune with the diplomats for a change and fly home tomorrow night. For the reporting this means we will try to upload the key decisions tomorrow night and do full reporting from home on Thursday.
Today was again a very short day, with the informal meeting in room 24 only starting at noon and ending at 1.10pm. We did not make it to the NGO meeting on Combating Anti-black racism globally (with some luck we will be able to get a report from a colleague tomorrow) since we had to talk to some of our sources, who tell us that the second substantive PrepCom (during which the real content is to be negotiated), originally planned for October 6 to 17, will be moved to January 2009 because it partly overlaps with a 3rd committee meeting (Social, Humanitarian & Cultural) of the General Assembly in New York. The Durban Review Conference itself will be held in summer 2009. All this to be decided tomorrow, in a plenary meeting expected to take all day, starting at 10am (for real). Fasten your seatbelts!
Ronald Eissens for ICARE News.
Notes from the plenary
We were supposed to start at 11am in room 24 but when we got there only NGOs were sitting and waiting. At 11.15 some of the governmental delegates arrived and at 11:50 the chair walked in, apologized and announced that because of negotiations it would take another 10 minutes before the meeting could be started. Finally we did at 12:07. The Chair apologized again but said that there was very good news; there had been 2 very good drafts from 2 delegations, Belgium on behalf of the EU and Egypt on behalf of the African Group. The leaders of these groups had been the main negotiators on the 'Draft decision on the structure of the draft outcome document of the Durban Review Conference' (Item 7 on the agenda of the PrepCom). The chair thanked the delegations and mentioned that he was confident that the draft was a defendable text. He looked forward to flexibility and cooperation. He said that all the necessary requisites were present and that it now was time to put aside this part of our work.
This was all surprising, since yesterday's gridlock on point 2 'contemporary measures' seemed to be a firm one.
The Chair went on saying that the document reflects best the rationality, the necessary flexibility to allow for framing the process into a structure and at the same time there's an agreement on flexibility, which will certainly be needed when delegations get down to the actual hard work.
The Chair gives the floor to Egypt. Mr. Shalaby on behalf of the African group said there had been not much to add and he appreciated all the effort. He stressed that all groups and delegations are part of this intensive process. The gaps between the European group and the African group had not been wide, and we have consensus between the delegates of the several regions. He said the document was in line with the previous outcomes of world conferences; both declaratory and action-oriented. Belgium on behalf of the EU said that the story was very much as outlined by Egypt. We will only make slight adjustments and come back with that.
After this the Chair opened the floor for more comments and reflections. Bangladesh took the floor and wanted to know how the structure will fit in the format, if all parts would be concluded. Chair: we gave some thoughts to that. In the chapeau (preface) it says what the document consists of. We talk about further actions and initiatives, the way this will be reflected in action oriented and declaratory part. It's premature to say what will be in declaratory or in action-oriented parts, presumptuous even to say that before we talk about the substance. Our mind will receive the necessarily clarity during the substantive talks.
Egypt: some things are applicable both to declaratory and action-oriented parts. An example would be point 4 of the document, 'best practices'. It is both declaratory (we need best practices) and in the action-oriented part we explain how to work with them and use them. So in our view that would be applicable to both. By the way - Belgium needs to take the document to the EU group, I'm in the same position, I also have to consult this with the African group and we might also have some more substance or changes.
Philippines: we express our thanks to all involved in drafting. A comment on point 4, best practices: it 's not only 'identification' we need also to put in 'sharing'. Belgium reacting on the Philippines: yes good idea.
Chair: at this stage we can get this far - let's try and work it out. Proposal Philippines: I have no problems with it, it really is ok. Switzerland: thanks for your efforts it was a very transparent and fluent process. Identification really means sharing but we can support the change.
Chair: no more comments? yes? Madam, you have the floor.
Speaker: 'Sorry I'm an NGO. When you speak about stakeholders in point 1 I guess you mean also NGOs?
Chair: yes indeed, it includes NGOs, all stakeholders means everyone, you are correct.
Any other delegation? Sir, you have the floor.
'My name is Saeed Fotohinia from Youth Against Racism, a Canadian NGO. My question is, why doesn't the DDPA reflect and make use of Internet and the WIKI-technology, why doesn't the UN develop a 100 dollars laptop? We have to restructure how we visualize our review that would be something like the department of Agriculture bolstered with modern weapon systems…
Chair: Um, I'm trying to vector-in your contribution: the evidence of your presence is, that is…this very open meeting…the structure of the document, it gives the modalities of what you are saying…at least in the formal segments. The way we are trying to work here….the rest of your comments - if I understand them correctly - I must say I find it a bit difficult to vector them into what we are doing here. Thank you.
Chair: so we have this decision on Item 7, the 'Draft decision on the structure of the draft outcome document of the Durban Review Conference'. Ad referendum we have this decision, I will submit it to the Chairperson (the Chair of the PrepCom, Najat Al-Hajjaji),
we will have to formally close session 7 in a formal plenary meeting, we don't need to open formally, but tomorrow item 8 will be opened- we are pedantic about procedure - So we will not close item 7 now but in the morning I will ask the chair to continue item 7, make a statement that we agreed on a draft and then close item 7 SO we can start on item 8. More decisions will be done on wednesday or on Friday. I believe the final decisions will be on Friday. If this is acceptable we will not do a formal session here today.
Egypt: there are more decisions on the table. We will have a meeting with our region. Tomorrow is the day to take action on all draft proposals. I don't think there was anything on the agenda for Friday.
Chair: I apologize, you are right - I don't want to meddle in the business of the groups.
I'm just naming the procedural ways, which are in the rules of procedures. I close the meeting now, the consultations are concluded. No formal plenary, no meeting in the afternoon, we start again tomorrow morning with a plenary meeting at 10am in room 19. Thank you.
ICARE Newsteam, Geneva
Measuring...shaving-off a bit...carefully putting the tiles into place. The analogy with today's negotiations is almost scary.
Quotes of the day - Editorial - Notes from the Plenary
Quotes of the day
'An element of respect and integrity needs to be added to the Prepcom!'
'Youth, in more sense than one, make excellent soldiers, poets and...dead.'
Today was to be the day of decisions - a decision on the venue, on the accreditation of CIJA, on lots of things and yes, we all want to go home! Take those ff-ing decisions will ya!
No such luck. Most decisions were postponed again and we spent a half a morning and half an afternoon in the plenary, finding out the most important issue of all, the venue, will probably be taken on Friday. Or even during the intersessional. Or not at all by the PrepCom, as Doudou Diène thinks ("This is a matter for the bureau, not the PrepCom, since it is about UN facilities now"). Whatever happens, we're flying home tonight, will follow (and report on) the possible Friday decisions sitting in our office, watching the live webcast. Incidentally, in our home country it is the Queen's birthday today (congratz, Majesty!). Being a non-observing republican, I followed my colleague to give birthday wishes to the Dutch delegation. Yes, hypocrisy. Let's say the environment made me do it :-).
What was finally discussed was the CIJA accreditation matter. This was a bit of an anticlimax, as the Brits would say. CIJA had faxed a letter to the secretariat that, since Iran kept on raising more and more crazy and unreasonable questions, they had decided to withdraw the application for accreditation. Now, there's ambivalence about this. Some say they should have gone all the way, let the countries vote about it, make a lot of noise, others think they should have withdrawn earlier, since they had no intention to participate anyway, since CIJA follows the Canadian position to boycott the Durban Review. What is strange and not very practical in my view is that CIJA did not send any NGO to speak on their behalf or do advocacy on their behalf. The Dalits did, and rightly so. Well, at least in the debate that followed the EU and Argentine did the right thing. Many surprising NGO speakers today, including a call for holding an NGO forum at the Durban Review conference, financed by the UN or the member states. Not so smart that the NGO concerned also dissed the secretariat and the High Commissioner in the same speech. I would say, never bite the hand that you might want to shake another time. On the matter of 'dissing', some States have developed this convenient Pavlov reaction to criticism. Criticism is 'being disrespectful to the PrepCom'. Well, if you look at some of their own language and the behavior of their governments, respect is not a word they should use so much. Anyway, enjoy the last 'real' day of reporting!
Ronald Eissens for ICARE News.
Notes from the plenary
Right at the start of the meeting (only at 11.20) the Chair starts with the matter of accreditation, which was postponed for 48 hours on Monday. The secretariat received a letter yesterday from CIJA in which the request for accreditation is withdrawn
The Chair wanted to take note only of this as 'a fact'. First Egypt wanted to know if a formal decision would be taken but then the chair explained that only 'taking note' would be necessary.
The Decision to allow this new NGOs (provisionally) to be accredited was taken:
The decision to provisionally allow these non-ecosoc NGOs to get accreditation was taken:
Centre for Community Economics and Development Consultants Society
Rural Development Centre
National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights
The decision to accredit the following new NGOs was taken:
When the Chair asked if there were any more remarks about Draft Decision 3 (accreditation), Egypt raised a point of order. Ambassador Omar Shalaby wanted a clarification. Again he wanted to know if a formal decision on CIJA would be made to take note of the withdrawal. The Chair stated again that it was not necessary. Shalaby said that there had been no decision on only taking note. A debate developed about this. Shalaby wanted to know what it was the PrepCom was taking note of, he stated that since it was a non-event, why do anything. The Chair said that since the matter of accreditation of CIJA was discussed in the PrepCom twice, and a decision was passed twice, one could hardly call it a non-event. She said that since CIJA sent a withdrawal letter, which was distributed to all, no decision is needed. She said that also 2 questions by Iran were distributed to the plenary and that they took note only. "Is it clear now to the distinguished delegate?"
Egypt answered this in so many words meaning 'yes'. The chair again said that she hoped it was clear.
Argentina took the floor, also on behalf of Brazil, Chili, Colombia, Equator, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Mexico, Peru and Uruguay for a general remark. The Argentinean delegate said that he believed that the Preparatory process for the Durban Review is of decisive importance to understand better the problems with racism today. He said that GRULAC would like to appeal to the PrepCom to ensure tolerant and inclusive behavior and to urge the PrepCom to avoid situations where it is debated if certain voices can be heard.
The EU (Slovenia on behalf of) took the floor and said that there was nothing wrong with CIJA and the answers it had sent previously were satisfactory and added that in their opinion Civil Society should be able to participate fully.
Pakistan on behalf of the OIC stated that right from the beginning they had supported the widest possible Civil Society participation and that Pakistan and the OIC member states worked hard on the Durban review process. Furthermore, the Organizational PrepCom decided on the rules and regulations for NGO accreditation. Countries can object and ask for clarifications. The NGO has not been able to give answers but has withdrawn. Comments made by some (EU) are not in line with other decisions during the Organizational PrepCom. Again, the OIC is in favor of the widest possible participation.
Switzerland took the floor and stated that is supported Mr. Doudou Diène who had said that he recommended an inclusive approach. Switzerland also supports the statement of Argentina.
Iran took the floor and said that it fully associated itself with the statement by Pakistan on behalf of the OIC. As a clarification, Iran stated that is supports wide NGO participation, and that they acted in full compliance with the rules of procedure and that they showed flexibility and cooperation. Iran said that it posed two clear questions, what the purpose of CIJA was and why they supported a 'boycott campaign' against the Durban Review Conference. Iran said that instead of giving an answer, CIJA sent a political declaration with unfounded accusations and they call the Durban WCAR antisemitic and anti-Zionist.
Egypt on behalf of the African Group said that it agreed with the Statement by Argentina but they expect NGOs to support the objectives of the Conference. Egypt said that antisemitism is part and parcel of the DDPA and that this PrepCom just this morning accredited a few NGOs that work on antisemitism. It said that the problem is that the fundamental questions were not answered by CIJA; it's principle position on the Durban Review process. It said that one line by CIJA on that would have been sufficient. Egypt said that CIJA decided to exclude itself. Instead of answers, CIJA sent a political and politicized document that is insulting and not factual. The content of the letter already proves the problem, Egypt said. Furthermore Egypt said it hoped that the EU, noting its statement, did not endorse the content of the CIJA letter., since it contains accusations.
Palestine on behalf of the Arabic Group said it commends the participation of NGOs that subscribe to the results of the WCAR, the objectives of the Durban Review Conference and the fight against racism. The Palestinian delegate said he was astonished to hear what the EU said, and aligned himself with the statements of the OIC and Argentina.
After this last statement, the Chair closed the discussion on Item 3.
The adoption of Item 7, the 'Draft decision on the structure of the draft outcome document of the Durban Review Conference' was postponed to the afternoon session on request of the Armenian Ambassador. Item 8: 'Organisation of the work of the Durban Review Conference and other matters' was opened by the Chair. Egypt on behalf of the African group took the floor and said it wants 5 instead of 3 days for the Review conference. Furthermore, the Egyptian delegate said that he had problems with Geneva as a venue, since there are too many meetings at the Palais des Nations during summer, which would minimize the visibility, plus countries would not send high level delegations to Geneva but rather let the permanent missions handle it. Egypt said it did not want to dwell long on this, but that they favored a location that ensured focus and visibility and for that to happened other venues needed to be looked at. Cost efficiency is important but must not take precedence, Egypt said. After all, the money is there, the delegate concluded. Slovenia on behalf of the EU said they favored Geneva, for 3 days instead of 5, and they want the Durban Review conference to be part of a special General Assembly session, like all other review conferences have been in the past.
Chair: the Bureau is currently discussing date, length, venue and we are examining all options. I adjourn this meeting. The Bureau will meet right now in room 23 and we will reconvene the Plenary at 3pm. Thank you.
Chair: "We are resuming the discussion on Item 8. I have a list of NGOs that want to take the floor"
Association Of World Citizens (AWC):
I want the States to please help the NGOs, especially during Regional conferences. States and National Institutions and NGOS should together make files so they can make substantial contributions. We want a dialogue now that NGOs have been integrated into the process. We like NGOs who want to go to the review to be helped. They have a substantial contribution to make. I don't want there to be a difference made between states and NGOS.
The Institute On Human Rights And The Holocaust spoke about CIJA and that it was prevented participation, allegedly for procedural reasons. In sharp contrast there was no objection, against the accreditation of the Palestinian Grassroots Anti-Apartheid Wall Campaign. Furthermore, it was surprising that after the Arabs states had been made Judenrein there was now a burning desire on the part of the Arab states to work on anti-Semitism, and the equation anti-Semitism=anti-arabism comes down to anti-antsemitism. Antisemitism is Jew-hatred coined by a Jew-hater. Furthermore, all serious negotiations of the PrepCom are held behind closed doors, which must be frightening to members of any democratic society.
This intervention raised points of order by South Africa and Algeria. South Africa asked to please call the conference by its proper name: Durban 2 does not exist. The Chair must insist that speakers call it by proper name, if not call them to order. Some of the NGOs applauded this. The Chair agreed and said that some NGOs choose the name Durban 2, which is something that does not exist. Algeria supported the statement by South Africa. It said that NGOs have to accept the rules and procedures and ethics and principles and rules of courtesy.
Youth Against Racism simply repeated its call upon the Prepcom not to neglect youth as included in the DDPA. Youth Declaration of Durban needs to be updated. In order to do that youth need to caucus and ultimately meet at a 2nd International youth conference. He asked the PrepCom to support that. Interrupted by security measures, the victory of military mechanism over peaceful progress, Durban is more than a place just as 9/11 is more than a date. Youth, in more sense than one, make excellent soldiers, poets and dead.
The Aldet Centre - Saint Lucia spoke on behalf of The National Coalitions of Blacks for Reparations in America
and a growing group of 30 NGOs in favor of a NGO Forum to be held at the review conference. Speaker said NGOS and anti-racism movement support the successful preparation of the Durban Review and stated that too little attention is given to the DDPA, so the conference must have maximum support. Speaker said she supported a dynamic cooperation between UN, governments and Civil Society in support of the objectives of the conference. The 2001 NGO forum was important catalyst for many victim groups. Speaker said that there is deep concern about the way the Secretariat handled information and accreditation and about the fact that representatives of the secretariat were actively discouraging an NGO Forum, which is contrary to UN tradition. Speaker said an NGO Forum must receive full support, in particular from the High Commissioner for Human Rights. She said a decision needs to be taken to finance an NGO forum, to take place in the vicinity of the Durban Review Conference venue.
The Simon Wiesenthal Centre (SWC) stated: "We came to the Durban in 2001 to combat racism and found the terms of racial intolerance and discrimination hijacked for a campaign of anti-Semitic agitation. As Jews, we came with a sense of collective responsibility to seek solidarity among all victims of racism and encountered a barrage of hatred and violence unheard of since the Holocaust. Our sister organizations in the anti-racist movement, with few exceptions, were marked by their silence. We became the victims of 'identity theft' as the very terms of Jewish victimology - 'Holocaust' and 'antisemitism' - were distorted and hijacked for political propaganda. Hate must be considered as indivisible…..
At this point the Chair interrupted the speaker because Egypt raised a point of order, said that its had been patient with a previous NGO speaker, and that it had not reacted, not wanting to be seen that it was against freedom of speech, but that an element of respect and integrity needed to be added to the Prepcom. Egypt said that if the speaker had a contribution towards Item 8, he should speak, If not he should not. The Chair, agreeing with Egypt said that she had already in an earlier stage made remarks about respect and such. She asked the Simon Wiesenthal Centre to please speak towards Item 8.
After this, the SWC took the floor again and stated: "With all respect madam Chair, I think it is important to state, that within the framework of item 8, that hate must be considered as indivisible and the common denominator of our work here is solidarity against all its expressions and forms. And as such, we have a concrete proposal, which follows on from the last NGO in its statement. That is: the Durban review conference should look to including as a red line a declaration of solidarity of all the victims of racism, and zero tolerance for hijacking, agitation and hate expressed within the antiracism movement against towards all or any of its constituents. Any NGO that incites to conspiracy theories, identity thefts such as those already mentioned or for example redefinition of 'apartheid' should considered to be in contradiction to this solidarity. What we are suggesting Madam Chair, for example very strangely, this morning , such an NGO received the endorsement of this PrepCom. We call upon antiracist organizations in this hall, or representatives of states or NGOs, to join us in expressing concern at this threat to the Durban Review Conference"
After this, at 4.55pm, the Chair announces that the PrepCcom will reconvene on Friday, May 2, to make the last decisions. After this, Draft Decision 5, 'The participation of observers' is adopted without a vote. The Chair said that the other draft decisions have no consensus yet. Consultations will be held and Friday morning, since tomorrow is a holiday, labor day, we will reconvene at Friday 10am. Before adjourning this meeting we just like to inform the members of the bureau we will hold a meeting at Friday morning 8.30 am.
This morning the PrepCom had a session of 15 minutes in the plenary. The Chair remarked at the start that the PrepCom needed to go back to Item 3 for a moment (provisional NGO accreditation) since a NGO has to be added. It was it was incorrectly not included in the list. (Note: since she gave the name of the NGO verbatim and it was not understandable, we will find out later). Involved member states had no objection to the correction. Decisions made this morning: Under item 8 there were several DDs (Draft Decisions) left. DD4: information strategy on the review conference (document PC2/4). A very short debate followed about the languages the Review conference documents have to be available in - after this DD4 is adopted by consensus.
The chair announced that the Draft Decision on modalities which was introduced by the chair is herewith withdrawn by the chair. This is the one on the venue being Geneva or New York when no-one has offered before the end of the PrepCom. The Chair also announced that the dates for substantive PrepCom 2, which had been decided upon by the organisational PrepCom in August 2007 for 6 - 17 October 2008 will stay that way. This means no new decision on that is needed. She said that the venue and dates for the Durban Review conference will be decided upon in the Plenary session of this afternoon, at 4 pm. She said that the bureau will start a meeting right now to negotiate about the venue en dates for the Review conference and on the duration, plus on the duration of substantive prepcom 2.
Nigeria took the floor on behalf of the African Group and announced that the Nigerain Government is willing to host a Regional conference for Africa. Dates and other modalities to be arranged in consultation with the Bureau.
Remark by the Chair: the group of NGOs that have written a letter to request a meeting with the Bureau, I can tell them that they will have this meeting today at 2.30, they will meet with the bureau and the chair.After this the plenary was adjourned, to start again again at 4pm. In reality, it started at 4.30pm. The chair stated right away that no consensus on the venue had been reached, and that the PrepCom had ran out of time on this. As reasons for the non-consensus legal, technical and procedural issues were given by her. She said that the PrepCom has not ended, but is only adjourned for 24 days, to be resumed on the 26th of May, which will be during the intersessional meeting. Since last Thursday the PrepCom did not work, there are still finances left for one more day. On the 26th the venue and dates of the Durban Review Conference will (supposedly) be decided, the report of the PrepCom (Item 9) will be adopted and other issues like modalities for the two Regionals (Brazil and Nigeria) will be covered. After this the Chair adjourned the meeting…
ICARE likes to thank all who send friendly notes, encouragement or (moderate :-) ) criticism. We thank the gossips, rumormongers and other lowlifes who made work at the Geneva PrepCom less dreary, we thank Emily Kuijt for her excellent work, Bernice Dubois for her knowledge, wit and anecdotes, Alex for letting us leech, Stacy for free psychotherapy by phone and countless others (In Geneva and in the Real World) for support and their trust!