Tuesday, August 28, First Day

" people should mix more, we are mixed up too".


List of the articles today:***Editorial***Many faces of a world conference***European caucus***Media briefing, 28/08/01***Thematical commission 6 - Slavery and slave trade***Quotes of the day***


The NGO Forum opened with Panels (on Colonialism), Thematical Commissions and Roundtables. The issues were interesting enough but somehow it seemed that the Israeli-Palestinian question was raised at the same time in several workshops. The way it was done was not quite along the hopeful statements of President Mbeki and Mary Robinson earlier that day.

Of course there will be disputes and of course it is impossible to find a solution for a very complicated situation at an NGO Forum, in fact at any NGO Forum. But NGO's often find ways to build bridges and figure out a joint way to address serious problems. But the tone that was used here, and the way people were addressed -from either side- was not too pleasant. There seemed no search for common ground but only the highlighting of differences -at times at the sharpest way possible-, this will not do this issue any good. Moreover; it may be that the many, many other themes that are as important, are overshadowed by this one, or better: by the way it is being discussed. I sincerely hope that all who are concerned just do what this conference should be about: treat each other with respect.

Ralph du Long

Many faces of a world conference

The 27th of August; a day of accreditation , trying to find information, the relief of being registered and then the relaxation in the pleasant form of music and culture. This was the first day in Durban, at the NGO Forum. On Monday already many people were there, using the opportunity to meet other people without the hazards of trying to follow all the workshops, thematical sessions and side-events.

For one group though it was already hard work. At the Youth Summit young people discussed most of the themes that will be addressed at the NGO Forum and the WCAR. 'We see this as an event but more work needs to be done afterwards. People in our community, black and white should integrate more'. Trevor Senzo Msanara works on Racism and Aids awareness in the local Durban communities. He gives a picture of hope that good things will come out the Youth Summit. Chadia Azarual, is a member of the Dutch Youth. She states: 'much has already been decided upon, and our influence to change it is not too big'. She hopes that respect will win from racism. Many people already there on Monday, many more came on Tuesday the 28th, at the official opening of the NGO Forum. The many faces of this conference were reflected in the presence of musicians and politicians, dancers and speakers, and of course in the presence of thousands of people from all over the world. The president of SANGOCO, Mercia Andrews, asked attention for the linkage between the many forms of suppression in past and present, and the rights of all people to be free from that. UN High Commissioner Mary Robinson, reminded the NGO's that influence can be taken upon the WCAR if the NGO's succeed in producing a joint declaration. In her opening statement she made it clear that this conference is not about the rights of a few but about the rights of many, and that these voices should be heard too. Given the difficult road that has led to Durban she asked the Forum: 'Some people called me an optimist, am I ? Show me I am not at the end of your Forum'. President Thabo Mbeki of South Africa challenged the NGO's in his way. He stated; 'the central question that you, the delegates and participants, will have to answer in the clearest way possible is- what is to be done ! ' And: 'the responsibility rests with us to ensure that mobilize the peoples of the world to act together in unity and solidarity to defeat and bury the demon racism. Billions across our common globe depend on you to produce this result and thus affirm, in practice, that every human being, regardless of race, colour, origin or gender is entitled to human dignity'. With these messages, and dance and music the NGO Forum was opened.

European caucus

The issue today in the European Caucus was regarding the NGO Declaration and Program of Action for the WCAR, handed out to the media representatives in the info-pack. This is a continuation of the idea raised in the International NGO Caucus and was meant to bring a clarification. Apparently a serious mistake was made. The draft document, included in the info-pack, was not exactly what the ISC expected to be. They noticed that the result of their 3rd prep meeting held in Geneva was not included, and the document presented to the media was a bit confusing for the people involved in its preparation. Therefore, the European NGOs proposed that an official petition would signalise the media on the facts. They questioned the process of drafting the document and even the fact that it was not mentioned that the document is still a draft. There was a confirmation from the ISC that SANGOCO received by e-mail the draft document issued in the 3rd prep meeting in Geneva. Therefore it should have been included in the documents that were handed out to the participants. The error causing this to be otherwise was regretted. European NGOs' voices were heard that "we should be more co-operative with each other", and "we should share the information we have, although it is not complete". Maria Miguel Sierra (ENAR), involved in the drafting process in the European Preparatory Conference and in the preparatory meetings in Geneva, said that there is a real lack of information. It is difficult to follow the process of drafting. At the moment that there is no clear information - who is deciding, what is decided, etc. International Non-Governmental Organisations can initiate a process to express their concern to the ICS about what is happening. What we can do? Her answer was: "We have to make sure that the commissions are leaded in the right way, report correctly, and the right information is included in the final document!" Let's hope that it will work! In order to ensure this, it was decided that an official petition would be worked out and the European Caucus would meet everyday at 10.00 hours, to give feedback on this process and to discuss the situation.

Media briefing, 28/08/01, after-noon.

Representatives of the organizing committee stated that at a conference like this would not meet everybody's expectations. It was underlined that it is important for the moment to manage to have a final document: a 10 years plan of action. An observation has been made that the panel discussion bringing issues like: the conflict in Palestine, Cast discrimination, etc. showed that the people are not as united as they could have been. Their concern was how to discuss common platforms in a world that is so divided? So, it was stated that the role of the NGO's is to share experiences and to gain a global solidarity. At the questions from the media representatives, attention was given to the indigenous people issue, mentioning that the organising committee did a lot of efforts (even from previous prep-meetings) to include it in this topic in the final document. Referring to the just finished Youth Summit, it was mentioned that 800 young people participated (on only 500 places available), and the general characteristic was: enthusiasm, motivation and lively debates, which concluded in the key remark: "Stop speaking to young people, start listening to young people!" Referring to the technical issues on the NGO Forum - the complete list of the NGOs inscribed (country, name of NGO and name of the delegates) will be made available after the conference together with the final document. The documents/speeches will be translated and circulated as soon as possible.

Thematical commission 6 - Slavery and slave trade -

This meeting got the interest of a great number of people. Since the subject is considered a 'top' issue of the discussions in WCAR, as expected, the meeting had a very animated atmosphere. Meaning not only vivid reactions from the public (applauses, encouragements, shouting slogans) but also a big cue for interventions and spontaneous comments made. The content was rich, and we can give you some examples of the ideas circulated:

  • 'Imperialism still continues' said a speaker from Tanzania;
  • 'Slavery started for economy reasons and still exists - than, what is the reason for us being present here?!';
  • A solution to get out of the situation: 'to empower the networking on the African continent, so it will become a united continent';
  • African people should continue documenting their own history and speaking out about their problems;
  • 'Slavery and slave trade is a crime against humanity' - was agreed by everyone 'and this should never repeat in any way'!

On one fact we can be sure: that the input for the final document was definitely consistent! The exact minutes of the meeting can be found on 29 August here on ICARE!

Quotes of the day:

" we should stop talking to the youth and we should start listening to the youth"

" people should mix more, we are mixed up too".

"This is the Lady from the phone company in charge of racism"

"I hope here all my dreams will come true "

Contributions by others:

None today

That's it for today!

best regards,
ICARE Newsteam Durban.

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