Sunday September 1st, fifth day


"This is the woman who told me we are acting like six year olds. Off the record, I agree"




***TODAY***TODAY***TODAY***

List of the articles today:· list-item ·
NGO Forum · Durban reflection · Events of the day: Saturday 1 and Sunday 2 September ·



Durban reflection



Yesterday's closing ceremony could not have been more symbolic for this conference. A candle was to be lit that should have lit other, smaller candles held by children. But it was too windy, and the candle was blown out a couple of times. So, some of the children had candles that were not burning. Then the organizing committee spoke words in which the many mistakes were mentioned once again. Finally Fidel Castro was given the floor. For 2,5 hours he spoke, but in the end many had already left. He had used too much rhetoric's.

Looking back on the NGO Forum, probably the most striking thing was the high unclearity on procedures and time tables that could not be met. And of course the misery that a number of delegates went trough as they were housed in shabby hotels or places very far away from the conference. It was difficult to get a general overview of what was going on. It was difficult to find out what the actual developments were. And it was difficult to find out who was responsible for what. Several press meetings were used to explain organizational matters, personal problems from people that interfered with the organization etc. In between, the Palestinian and Jewish caucuses made themselves heard at every possible occasion, overshadowing other serious issues and taking away much of the media attention. In that respect, being very loud sometimes pays of.

On the other hand. During the Forum there were many excellent meetings and workshops. Important progress was made on a great number of issues, and for many this conference will inspire them for years to come.

In contrast to the, sometimes, heavy -oral- fighting in the Forum Arena was the easy way of Durban and the Durban people. Wherever you go, you're treated friendly in a relaxed atmosphere. People do not loose patience and are of good will. In this respect the decision to organize an anti racism conference in South Africa was a well choosen one.

Ralph du Long




NGO Forum, Kingsmead stadium

The plenary on the NGO Draft and the Program of Action on 1 September, was announced to start first at nine in the morning, then at 9:30 AM or at 10 AM. There was a lot of confusion, people running around asking if anybody knew when and where. Finally it became clear that the drafters had worked until 4 at night to finish the English version and that copying had already started. A while later the English version was spread around in four parts, A to D. It was announced that the plenary meeting would be postponed until 5.50 PM, this to give the translators the time to finalize the Spanish and French versions.

Walking around in the Kingsmead stadium you could see frantic meetings of caucuses and NGOs scattered over several tents, browsing to the available Draft parts, trying to decide if points of view and agreements on voting had to be changed or adjusted.

In the afternoon the (Cultural) closing took place with a very long speech by Fidel Castro and also some words from Mary Robinson. The majority of NGO delegates went to this and were handed little Cuban flags to wave with. Only a small number of people stayed outside, at the caucuses and info tents; many of them did not agree with the fact that Fidel Castro, a dictator closed the NGO Forum. Mary Robinson expressed her hope that Castro would also take into account more the Human Rights situation in Cuba, but this did not have the approval of the crowd.

Because Castro wouldn't stop talking, finally at 18:30 the meeting started. Some 400 people showed up (mostly caucus representatives), the rest just went to their hotels or to the concert with Miriam Makeba that was scheduled for the evening. The ISC and Sangoco had brought in an independent chairman, a South African Professor of Law, to ensure a good and unbiased process. This chairman started the meeting on a light tone, making jokes and trying to ease the already tense atmosphere. Unfortunately he only succeeded for a very short time.

The ISC explained the Procedure for the meeting. The first indication of annoyance started when the ISC asked for a Spanish translator. It was unclear if one was found but 15 minutes later shouting broke out from a part of the audience, 'SPANISH!! SPANISH!!' . The Chair told them to calm down and waited because there was a technical problem with the sound system.

When everybody had calmed down somewhat (all through the meeting there was noise in various stages of loudness) a speaker asked for the recognition of a Sikh caucus and demanded the right to vote. This created a lot of noise and the chairman created a precedent by voting over this. The Sikh caucus was allowed as an official caucus with voting rights, they were asked to go to the Secretariat office to get the paperwork done in 15 minutes. Immediately after this 50 or 60 people went to the corner of the tent and were frantically trying to create new caucuses also. They had to come up with caucus names and purposes on the spot, which led to amusing situations. Not everybody was happy with the idea of creating a long list of new caucuses to influence the voting process and the ISC stated that the rule was that groups who created caucuses no longer than 2 days ago could be accepted. This was a totally new rule for those who had been in the preparation process. The chair asked the people if they would allow any new caucuses to go out for the official papers and wait for them, but this was voted down with a big majority, so finally the official part of the meeting could begin. The chairman immediately asked for a 30-minute break to cool down but since the purpose of that was very obvious (giving people time to get caucus papers after all) people laughed in his face and shouted down this proposal.

Voting over amendments and paragraphs finally started but it went slow, with lots of confusion, shouting and screaming, insults and people breaking out in tears. Paragraph 14 of the draft was voted out, ('We are concerned with the prevalence of antizionism and attempts to delegitimize the State of Israel through wildly inaccurate charges of genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity, ethnic cleansing and apartheid', etc.) after which the Jewish caucus left, shouting 'Shame! Shame!' There was a proposal for adding a paragraph to the preamble, saying ' this document represents the voices of all victims etc.' This one did not make it. A proposal was made to incorporate an amendment listing 10 African countries that were also guilty of slavetrade. This created some controversy but was adopted. Overall, it was very chaotic and sketchy. Clear is that all other paragraphs and amendments were adopted, including 160 - 168, the so-called anti-Israel and Anti-Zionism paragraphs.

The later it got, the more stressed and angry people became. There was some shouting and calling names at the spokesperson of the European Caucus, who left in tears. The meeting only came to a conclusion at 01:00. There was no final voting over the draft itself, it was stated that since there had been voting over all the paragraphs and amendments the draft had been adopted. So this Draft and PoA will be handed to Mary Robinson.

Making a few phone calls in the middle of the night made it clear that a number of caucuses already stated that although they have adopted the draft as such, they would disclaim certain paragraphs, which incite to hatred or racism, probably through a press release. "Totally out of control" said a caucus spokesperson later that night and added "I'm completely disgusted by the whole process and the lack of democracy".



EVENTS OF THE DAY

1 September

DURBAN EXHIBITION CENTER (DEC)

NGO Briefing highlights

Accreditation for the WCAR and access to the ICC will continue for NGOs throughout the conference with access to the Durban Exhibition Center (DEC). Up to now just over 1000 NGOs have been accredited. The total amount of passes to the ICC remains almost 1500. To gain access to the two governmental drafting rooms another badge is needed. These were given only to the Caucuses (40 officially recognized). Laurie Wisenberg, the NGO liaison officer, warned NGOs who have media accredited members in their delegation. If they come with their media card they should not show the NGO - ICC access card, as those than are taken away from them.

A question was asked about compensation for NGOs who are both NGO and Media accredited but only got a media pass. It was explained that a choice had been given for either media or NGO accreditation. Once accredited as NGO, no switch can be made to media.

The situation of yesterday, where NGO representatives had to hang around for up to 4 hours in the little UN Liaison office - driving themselves and the people working on their accreditation crazy - has been improved. From today on this will be done in a small tent next to the other accreditation tent, so there will be breathing space.

ICC

On the Governmental side, day two saw ministers and heads of state declaring their intentions. If it wasn't so sad it would be funny that the most striking position that all States had in common was that they spoke of racism in the world with the exception of their own country, where, of course, no racism or discrimination took place.

The delegation of India is working very hard to get any reference to Cast discrimination out of the document again. At the third PrepCom they became very angry because a paragraph mentions Cast as a source of racism. General consensus is, they'll succeed.

Yasser Arafat took the floor for about 20 minutes. He told that ever since the Oslo agreement, the Palestinians did everything in their power to comply with all the items in that agreement. Even though Israeli government used whatever little thing that wasn't complied with yet, did nothing at all themselves. He emphasized that not only Palestinians are victims of the Zionist Israeli government. Muslims and Catholics were suffering from the state racism because access to their holy places was made impossible by Israel. Arafat ended his speech by explaining that Israel's disproportionate retaliation to the throwing of stones by Palestinians, is not aimed at killing leaders of the Intifada, but is in fact a deliberate attempt to destroy the entire infrastructure of the Palestinian territories.

Apart from the State speeches also it was decided, the working method of Geneva (have the most contentious paragraphs discussed in a smaller group) will also be adopted here. Due to the delicate nature of those negotiations nobody will be allowed attend them.

Events of the day Sunday

2 September

Today the drafters are busy with incorporating all the amendments and adopted changes into the Final Declaration. It seems unclear if it will go to Mary Robinson today since there are a zillion amendments to incorporate. The caucus tents in the Kingsmead stadium will stay until Monday afternoon, to give caucuses and NGOs the opportunity to have a meeting place. The info market with the stands on the other side of the stadium has been closed already.

What are the caucuses doing?

-The European Caucus met today and decided that they would make a statement in which the main points would be that the are supporting the adopted draft as such, denounce the procedure which led to this draft, respect the right of victims to fight for their rights, but that they cannot agree with language that is racist or inciting hatred. The caucus will decide tomorrow.

-The Jewish caucus gave a press statement today saying that "to let wildly inaccurate charges sit in the declaration unanswered will give free vent to virulent antisemitism" and "10 minutes after it was voted that each victim group would be allowed to express their victimization in their own way, a key paragraph on antisemitism was deleted. It was mob rule, there was no opportunity for Jewish delegates to respond, it was clearly a kangaroo court"

-The East-European caucus, which was only formed 2 days ago, is right now writing their own declaration, denouncing the process of adoption of the document and stating that none of the decisions taken during the Warsaw preparatory conference found their way into the draft.

A number of NGOs are debating if they will come with their own statement. The general mood is hung-over.

Part of the Dutch NGO group is working on a petition that denounces the anti-Semite cartoons and other comparable incidents during the Forum, but are not supported by part of the NGO group. Dutch minister of Integration and Urban Policy Roger van Boxtel also spoke out sharply against the cartoons.


"WE THINK THE PARTICIPATION OF CIVIL SOCIETY IS OF THE UTMOST IMPORTANCE"

Together with the NGO Forum the exhibition area for NGOs opposite the Kingmead stadium ended. NGOs therefore have no longer the possibility to display and/or distribute their materials. In the DEC (Durban Exhibition Center) posters from NGOs are removed and there is no place for publications.

As for the ICC building, it's hard enough to get in, leave alone trying to hang posters or hand something out. The limited access combined with the impossibility to distribute materials makes people wonder how serious the UN and Governments really are when they emphasis the importance of Civil Society participation in the WCAR.

The most serious obstacle for NGOs to do their work is the arrangement in the ICC building.

There are 5 categories of participants:

  • Ministers + heads of states who are constantly surrounded by security people to keep everyone on shouting distance.
  • Civil servants + other state officials
  • Media
  • NGOs with some access to the ICC building
  • NGOs with access to the DEC

Access to the ICC building doesn't really give you an opportunity to lobby. All the governmental delegations have a separate entrance which brings them to the ground floor of the Assembly Hall. In one corner of the upper part of the Assembly Hall, separated by gates and way out of reach of the governmental delegates, is where the NGOs can sit to follow the proceedings. The rest of the seats are reserved for the media, who have practically unlimited access everywhere. This includes a sufficient amount of computers in the media center in the DEC. The media center in the DEC can only be entered with a press accreditation. An NGO is not even allowed to bring a press release or statement in.

The set up in the ICC is such that, if you want to talk to someone in a governmental delegation you just have to stand in the corridor. There is a chance to talk to the person you want to talk (if and when he/she walks by) . Finally it's very nice to follow the proceedings in the ICC building on the big screen in the DEC, but only if you speak all the languages, since no translation is provided. Again most NGOs have serious doubts about the true will to have them play an (important) part in this conference.

Videobite of the day:

Interview with Regina Waynes Joseph, Attorney at law

click here to play the RealVideo file.


Quotes of the day:

"This is the woman who told me we are acting like six year olds. Off the record, I agree"


Contributions by others:



None today

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That's it for today!

best regards,
ICARE Newsteam Durban.

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