Tuesday, September 4

'We left but we are staying.'

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

List of the articles today***Editorial:"We have to build the spirit of this conference!"***Happenings of the day- Accusations about the decalaration-Mary Robinson will not accept***US delegation left. What do the NGOs say about this?***Race and Poverty***Cars and discrimination***Contributions by others***


Editorial

"We have to build the spirit of this conference!"

The President of the Conference, Ms. Zuma declared today that the final document has to be a product of tolerance, a result of compromise; we lose something, we gain something... This is the rule of the game! The negotiations are not easy, since the issues that are tackled here are the most sensitive. But this is the role of the United Nations conferences - to try to reach a common point, a general consensus. Apparently this is not an easy process for everybody, and some participants are stepping back (see the US and Israel delegations). Nevertheless, there has been a progress so far, and the two governmental working groups are doing their job: clearing up and condensing the text of the Declaration and the Plan of Action. More than that, in order to ensure the finalisation of the document, in the last two days there will be no plenary sessions; all the delegates will concentrate just on the two working groups ("Declaration" and "Plan of Action").

The important thing, according to Mary Robinson, the UN High Commissioner for HR, is that the young people and the civil society, for the first time in an impressive presence, are here and they raise the attention of the governmental officials: "it is our future you are discussing here and deciding upon!" In this sense, Durban has a historical mission. They have to use this wonderful opportunity to bring up their issues. Voices that couldn't be heard until now can express themselves. Silence has been broken. Despite of this, Mary Robison mentioned that she would not support the NGO Declaration, because although there are good points in it, the language is sometimes very hard and she doesn't agree with it. But this shows the difficult process of shaping the document. And you, our readers, have been informed how it went so far. On the other hand, the governmental process is not so much affected by the 'turbulences'; it is significantly back on the course, but still a lot of work is to be done. And the work has to be done: "If we don't succeed in this conference, we'll fail towards millions of victims of discrimination that wait for the result of the conference" considers its Secretary General, Mary Robinson. She expects a balanced final Declaration, with some reference to all racial and discriminatory situations in the world, but without sharp and inappropriate language.

Anca Sirbu



The series of demonstrations continues at Durban Exhibition Centre

Today, Brazilian organisations

A great number of Brazilian organisations, among those Casa de Cultura da Mulher Negra (Black Women's Cultural Centre), organised today a demonstration in order to raise awareness towards the racist issues in Brazil. They demand from the Brazilian Government to implement such a policy that the black population can have access to education, to professional training, reparation, public policy, etc. "We need effective measures to be taken, and equal basis for education to our children."

Participants in this demonstration were: women groups, trade unions, black people organisation, all grass-root organisations. As referring to the contacts with their official governmental delegation, they said that there were already some favourable speeches, but they need concrete measures to be put in practice. With this demonstration they want to achieve worldwide visibility of the problems they are being confronted with in Brazil - all the world will see the racial problems, and this march will help to urge the government to take some positive action.

Happenings of the day

Accusations
This morning started with a rather strange NGO briefing. One member of the International Steering Committee (ISC) stated that some people had intimidated the drafting committee the night before by going into the drafters office and telling them to change things in the Declaration. There was some commotion and people wanted to know what had happened, if people had dared to change a draft that had been adopted already.

Another ISC member stated that this was not the case and that this was actually a conspiracy by "the same people who are against the people who are sitting behind me" (members of the Palestininian Caucus and ISC). Meanwhile two seemingly different Declarations were being distributed, one by the drafting committee and one by the ISC. The chairwoman of the drafting commitee angrily stated that she was "totally disgusted by the remark that this is all an anti-Palestininan conspiracy"

Later that day the drafting committee and the ISC looked at the two documents and concluded that only the introductory remark had been changed and that the paragraph on Antisemitism had not been changed, like it was demanded to the drafters. The whole situation was discussed again later in an ISC meeting and it was decided that the 'new' introductory remark should stay like it is and that in the Declaration itself only sub-editing may be done, like changing any numbering that is not right. Meanwhile Mary Robinson had postponed the presentation of the Declaration and at noon she announced that she did not agree with the language in the document which she thinks is too hard. She will not reccomend the Declaration to the governments and it is at the moment unclear if there will be an official presentation after all. The ISC gave a press conference at 2 PM the afternoon stating that the Declaration contained language from all victims and that it was understandable that this was sometimes contradictory.

Caucuses and NGOs
These are still talking about the Declaration. A growing number of NGOs (mostly European and Eastern European) are either denouncing the draft or making statements on the language but at the same time stressing the good points.

ICC Building
Today the amount of visitors reached 5000 in the ICC, the place where the governmental conference is held. So from about 13.00 p.m. people from NGOs had to stand in line for about 30 minutes before they could enter the building. Each time 10 people came out, 10 others could come in. Although nobody liked the situation there was nothing to be done but wait in line (single file please). Delegations are some jittery about the US leaving. Rumors fly by all the time about states that have left the conference. Two hours later you bump into a delegate who supposedly left, only to find they know nothing about it.

There was an incident in the Program of Action (PoA) drafting room concerning leaving, if not the WCAR, at least the drafting work on the PoA. It was all about paragraph 201: Urges States to take measures to alleviate inequalities that still persist because of the shameful legacy of slavery.
First the representative for the European Union (15 member states) objected to the fact this paragraph was being dealt with in the PoA room, because it referred to the past, for which there is a separate smaller sub-commission negotiating 'problem' paragraphs. A group of states, among them Barbados, argued that it mostly revered to the present day discrimination because people suffer today. Of course the real reason for the EU to say it should be moved to the sub-commission is the fact they feel, if this paragraph gets in you could derive reparations (of the financial kind) from it. However this was not said. Debate went back and forth for a while, and than the chair made an error, by declaring the para adopted with general consensus minus 1 (country). The EU representative, and of course the representatives of each individual member state of the EU got real angry at this. The chair had to suspend negotiations for a while, during which time the EU had to confer if they would walk or not. They decided to stay.

A funny incident occurred at the entrance of the ICC building. US congress member Tom Lantos presented his pass and was told that since the US delegation walked, his accreditation was no longer valid. No amount of talking, screaming or arguing got him into the building.



US delegation left. What do the NGOs say about this?

All around the ICC [International Convention Centre] and DEC [Durban Exhibition Centre], on the walls of the meeting rooms, a message is posted:

"Did the US leave the WCAR because it is unwilling to even discuss the problem of racial oppression of African Americans and their need for restoration justice and reparations?

Did the US use the Israeli- Palestinian situation as a cover?"

Some NGOs express their opinion about the attitude of US delegation:

* "They reacted really extreme and we don’t agree with this. The attitude that they should have was ‘reservation’ and not "withdrawal". Not the Palestinians are the extremist group here..." (Women organisation from US)

* "We are not surprised; their attitude was expected. They don’t want to talk about the reparations, about Zionism. When we’ll be back in US, we are going to tell the people what happened here, but we are young and we don’t know how much they will listen to our opinion..." (Young Ambassadors of the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty)

* "I am member of an US NGO, and I had a meeting with the US official delegation. For them the reparation and Zionism is a non-issue. We tried to approach the subject of reparation, but they avoided making an appointment with us to discuss on this issue. The Palestinian problem is not the real topic of this withdrawal."

* "The US delegation should have stayed till the end of the conference. If they don’t want to talk about reparation, it means that they don’t want to pay the reparations. But anyway they should have stayed and talk about this." (Malik, representative of NGO from Mali)

* "The black anti-racist movement from the US will not be happy with this – they will bring up the issue of reparations. The US Government thinks that they are powerful and will get the support from their allies, but this is not the way to behave at a world conference. (Eduardo, AFIRMA, Brazil)

Race and poverty

Ms Susie Hartigan is research fellow at the Institute on race & poverty Minneapolis. The institute does research, education and advocacy on these this issue.

Race and poverty, how are they connected?

We work on domestic issues in the USA. There is a strong intersect in race and poverty. People of colour are likely to be more poor than whites. They are also more likely to live in areas of concentrated poverty. In cities where the majority of people is poor, whites move out from the city into the suburbs. Consequently resources are taken out.

We try to increase what we call the opportunity structures in the inner cities and areas where poor people and people of colour are concentrated.

Are there examples where whites did not move out of the inner cities?

We divide cities in rich cities and poor cities and intermediate type of cities. On the one side of the spectrum you will find cities where whites want to live in the inner-city. In these rich cities, for example San Francisco, people of colour are pushed out of the inner-city, because there is no more affordable housing in the city.

On the opposite of the spectrum: Detroit. It lost one million people in population in the past years. Whites left the inner-city. They took the opportunities with them: the business, the wealth, the tax income to fund the schools. Leaving people of colour limited opportunities as far as good schools, good jobs etc.

Your institute is trying to change this.

What we find in most metropolitan areas, that governements are very fragmented. Each of the suburbs has its own government, with its own system. Some areas may have hundreds type of governments. We advocate a more regional form of governance so that suburbs are treated more as one suburb. Thus the taxes of a richer part would be shared and distributed equally throughout the region. Schools should be regional organized too. In some areas there are only white students, in other only African American. A regional system would make desegregation possible.

How successful is it?

It is an uphill battle. Fragmentation is the rule. Only a few cities are the exception like Portland, Oregon. It has a regional government agency and it works. But many other have a nominal agency that is not very powerful.

We see something called suburban sprawl. A metropolitan area spreads over a large area so that is not one area anymore. People move further away from the inner city. In order to reach a job, you need a car, but is too expensive. Children are in daycare in the city, schools are in the city and it does not combine with a job far away. So the larger an area, the more isolated people become.

Does globalisation effect this process?

It effects people of colour in the USA but also in other countries. What concerns us is the rise and the importance of the multinational corporations and the lessening of power of states. The state is traditionally the provider of the social safety net, such as welfare programs, programs that help poor people. The multinationals generally do not care for social safety, their interest is profit. Corporations are very powerful, that will not go away. We encourage them to share some of the wealth they are accumulating.

But on the other hand there is the danger of being to dependent on multinationals, where is the balance ?

This is true. I think we haven’t yet gotten to the point that multinationals have given so much that we got dependent on them. I suppose that is a possible danger but not at this moment.




Cars and discrimination

At the DEC (Durban Exhibition Center), the NGO headquarters you might say, several organizations present themselves. One of them is a combination of six companies, that have their headquarters in six different countries and continents.

Among these is the Swedish Volvo Car Corporation. Ms Kaarina Dubee, director of Corporate Diversity at Volvo, explains Volvo’s presence.

Why is Volvo here ?

‘Volvo is one of the companies that supports Kofi Annans initiative ‘ The United Nations Global Compact’. This initiative reaches beyond Governments and NGO’s. IT wants to involve companies around issues in human rights, labour standards. Mr Annan believes the world is not what it used to be. Trying to work only through governments is obviously not enough. It is needed to involve all sectors. Volvo believes this as well. If we work in partnerships, in some cases we can be more effective that when we work individually .’

Mary Robinson asked companies to be present and pass information to delegates. When they go home, both Governments and NGOs need to implement the programs of action. They should consider to involve local business too.’

Why does Volvo believe this too ?

For us it is obvious. In Sweden we are not a large company but an important one. We have been working with anti discrimination programs in our company for some years but this was not successful. It is an business issue as well. If we could work with Governments, NGOs, trade unions and local communications as well we believe we could be more successful and have more impact.

So this is the reason, it is good for our business and good for our community.

Why is this good for your business ?

If you are an discriminating company you do not use the full potential of good employers. The better you get at valuing diversity, the better you will be able at valuing people.

We try to achieve a culture change.

Is Corporate Social Responsibility a Volvo issue.

We have a corporate Citizenship. It is becoming more important for the company to become more aligned with investors, employers, customers and the community.

How does this stakeholder principle show in South Africa, where we are now?

We are a very small market here, employing only 25 people. So this is not the place where we are focusing right now. In Sweden most people work, so we begin at home. Cleaning your own house first, you can say.

How transparent are you.

We are trying to become more and more transparent. This year we published our first Citizen Corporate ship report. In there you will find issues like environment, social issues and diversity. We say very openly that we are not very satisfied with what we reached so far. We are right now developing a strategy for change. Our management will be accountable for the change.

Does Volvo have a statement on issues like the development of far right parties in Sweden, your home base ?

You mean neo Nazi’s ? We are right now in the process of identifying the issues. As far as I know Volvo has not made a statement on that, but I think we should.

Is Volvo’s presence here a statement ?

We are not representing the whole business sector, we are making a statement for our own companies. But I am sure that we speak on behalf of many companies. Our statement is; don’t forget to involve business when you are fighting discrimination.

Many will say no, but the ones that say yes, will prove to be very valuable. Volvo is stimulating this process in Sweden.

This will be one of the pilots that come out of this conference. We are aiming to have a number of pilots around the world. Our colleagues from other companies are doing the same in their countries.




Tidbits

Other reactions to USA and Israel withdrawal

Canada

Canadian Secretary of State ms Hedy Fry declared that Canada regrets the withdrawal of the USA and Israel. Whether Canada stays or leaves will be reviewed on a day-to-day basis. Earlier the Canadians stated that some of the language in the documents is not acceptable. Referring to the Middle East

Jesse Jackson

Present at the WCAR

USA should be leading not walking away

Mr Jackson condemned the USA withdrawal. He thought it ‘childish’ to walk away instead of finding solutions for real problems. According to Mr Jackson President Bush must be more engaged in reconciliation. He should bring Arafat and Sharon to the negotiation table. ‘If something is wrong, you talk it out’.

Mr Jackson pointed out that progress can only be achieved through engagement, not by walking out. He asked what will happen now with the great issues of our time.






QUOTES OF THE DAY:

‘I am not really a card kind of person’ (UN official on status of different passes)

'We left but we are staying.'


Contributions by others

That's it for today!

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ICARE Newsteam Durban.

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