Wednesday September 5th, eight day


'This conference is not the end of a process, but it is not the beginning of the process, as well '

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'Human rights are not negotiable, they are universal'



 


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

List of the articles today:
Editorial · Events: NGO's and Governmental · Gays · The Media · Youth and Race


Editorial

No respect

Three days left. There is slow progress and there are many rumors on every possible item. The strangest was that Mary Robinson had left because she was too disappointed to continue working. This of course was not true.

It is a fact though that the atmosphere at the conference is one in which it could have happened. On an hourly base it is to be reviewed who has threatened to leave for what reason. The US delegation has left but is still represented by the Consul General Craig Kuehl. Thus our quote of the day yesterday: 'we left but we stay'. France today stated that it will leave when a declaration is accepted in which Israel is marked as a racist state. The other EU countries will do the same.

For victims of racism, xenophobia and related intolerance, the ones this conference is about, the many, many millions all over the world, this kind of behavior is without any respect. Solutions should be found and progress be made with the full support of states, not with states working against it. As Jesse Jackson said yesterday; ' if there are problems you talk and find solutions. It is childish to walk away.'

Ralph du Long


Events of the day - NGO side

The NGO briefing this morning started slow and was rather boring. Delegates were walking around with tired faces. Some people are already leaving for home, others are thinking of taking short holidays or going on a Safari. Discontentment rules but also last ditch attempts to make joint statements, which might produce positive directions. Delegates that stay are mostly concentrating on the governmental conference and on side events.


At 3 PM the Eastern and Central Europe NGO Caucus held a press conference in which they presented a statement on their behalf and 77 NGOs from 37 countries (the list is growing rapidly). You can find the statement in yesterday's edition. The title of the press conference was 'Beyond Durban - can NGOs produce a valid NGO Declaration'. The organisers stated that despite all the failures in the document there are a lot of achievements. However, they deem the process of compilation and adoption to be non-transparent, un-democratic, against the rules and unclear. According to them the document was not presented to the caucuses and NGOs in its various stages and was in fact not adopted at all since there had not been a vote over the entirety of it. Moreover, it is a non-consensus document that contains unacceptable language and concepts. It is intolerant, disrespectful and not in line with the spirit of the WCAR. The chair of the meeting said that "the bitter confrontations and attacks, including disturbing Antisemite actions and statements that took place during the NGO Forum are reflected in the NGO Declaration".

A member of the Helsinki committee gave a few examples of the Antisemite propaganda that was made during the NGO Forum, for example the slogans "kill all the Jews" during demonstrations, the handing out of pamphlets with the texts like "the good things Hitler did" and he showed an extremely Antisemitic cartoon from a collection which had been on display in the NGO Exhibition centre. The chair of the meeting said that in his opinion the Israel-Palestine matter shouldn't have been addressed during the NGO Forum or WCAR and that NGOs should have showed respect and restraint. He said he was frustrated because of the manner in which the NGO Forum had been hijacked and a focus on the contentious issues was created and undermined by Antisemitism. He wondered aloud what to do to prevent hijacks like that in the future. He closed his remarks by saying that the declaration as such was not spread around enough and looked like a draft, if anything. On the question of ICARE if the statement by the Eastern and Central Europe NGO Caucus and the 77 NGOs was presented to High Commissioner Robinson the organisers replied that they had indeed done so last night, meeting with Mrs. Robinson for 1 minute in which she expressed her pity about the NGO Declaration but also stated that 'there are some very good things in there too'.

Also at 3 PM the NGO Declaration was presented to the President of the World Conference Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, since High Commissioner Mary Robinson refused to do so. Myrna Cunningham of the ISC gave a 15-minute speech in the main hall of the ICC in which she only briefly made a remark about rights of the Palestinians. Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma will take it upon herself to offer the Declaration to the governments present at the WCAR. After this the Youth Summit Document was also presented by members of the International Youth Committee and their speech was more focussed on the Israel-Palestine matter.


Event of the day

Governmental side

The NGOs got wise to the fact that while they are arguing with each other, paragraph after paragraph of the governmental documents are changed, deleted or passed, including the most terrible, without anybody there to intervene. So today there was a queue of people to get in to the Program of Action room. The same system was applied as yesterdays system at the gates; 2 people out, 2 people in. During the PoA meeting the delegates worked for two hours on paragraph 240 and then...deleted it. The hot topic (for the NGOs) was that the EU now indeed has proposed to take the word 'race' out of the PoA, NOT replacing it by e.g. discrimination on the basis of skincolor.


The series of demonstrations continues at Durban Exhibition Centre

Today, Lesbians and Gays

Bright yellow t- shirts sparkled the Exhibition Centre today. The shirts with the text: 'homophobia, the racism within' was clear enough.

In a statement the Caucus on sexual orientation said that it is a fundamental issue that should be considered in the discussion on racism, xenophobia and related intolerance. The subheading of the statement was taken from a Amnesty International report: 'criminalizing homosexuality is license to torture' Lesbians and gays from all over the world participated. They all agreed that sexual orientation should be specifically mentioned in the final documents of the conference.

Interview with Doudou DIÈNE,
Director of the "Slave Route" Project of UNESCO

"The transatlantic slave trade saw the greatest deportation in history. From the mid 15th century to the closing decades of the 19th century, tents of millions of Africans were brutally wrenched from their villages and transported to the plantations and mines of the Americas and the West Indies. The impact of this unprecedented movement is still burdening the descendants of these stolen peoples, and the continent that was their home." (UNESCOPRESS)

Yesterday UNESCO organized a panel discussion, where the history of slavery and slave trade was approached. Can you tell more about it?

This slave trade, along the Atlantic and Indian Oceans has lasted more than 7-8 centuries. It has cost Africa several tenths of millions of its men, children and women. And if slavery is an universal phenomenon, the slave trade, especially the Atlantic trade is the only one which has been characterized by racial factors and due to this we can link very closely the slavery with the racism against black persons. Because racism against black persons has been theorized by the intellectuals of Europe from 16th -17th century, to legitimate and justify the slave selling as they were defined as goods. So we are dealing here with the biggest tragedy of human history by its duration and extension.

So, what about reparations?

In my view, people are focusing too much on the financial reparations, which has been debated by the African communities and African-Americans descendents. Many consider that the tragedy is of such a scale, and the human loss is so terrible, that is impossible to compensate it financially. And it is not even moral! But there are other forms of reparation. The most fundamental being what I call "moral and ethical reparation". It is the public declaration that slavery is a crime against humanity as the French Parliament has done a few months ago. Because in this way the tragedy that black African people suffered, is shared by everybody else. This is a foundation for any further reparation. The second reparation is the historical one. Because what characterizes the Atlantic slave trade is the historical silence on this. In any of the history books, even in Africa, one can not find information on the slave trade in all its components and aspects. Putting back all these facts, the figures and the full picture in the history book will be a fundamental reparation in the field of memory. The third reparation is the reparation in education. I think that in the fight for human rights the past should be remembered. If the children are not taught and informed that about a tragedy on this scale, this can be repeated. The last reparation is a linkage between slavery and development. One of the major causes of the African economical non-development is based on demographic loss and African economical destabilization. For four centuries, the regular economic actions couldn't take place because of the insecurity and of the selling of people. If we link this factor, which is objectively established, with the issue of development, all negotiations on trade, on debt, etc. could see the light in the agreements with developed countries.

What is the situation with the inclusion of this issue in the final document of WCAR?

It is debated at the moment, on the base of the proposal of an African group and they negotiate now. I hope they will succeed, because this is a fundamental issue. More and more the economical slavery is mentioned lately. What do you say about it? There is a clear linkage between the historical slavery and the actual slavery; they are both motivated mainly by economic profit. In the first one it was the exploitation of the new lands of the Americas and Caribbean, in the new one it is the 'law of the market' that dictates - extension of the market. The two slaveries are marked by a huge movement of the population - in the first one a forced movement, in the second one a movement by immigration to get a better life, even with the price of exposing to very harsh living conditions. The two of them are linked and they should be tackled together.


Racism and the Media

Panel debate

 

In the WCAR, every day the media are present among us. Looking for their subjects, looking for information, the 'yellow badges' (colour designated by the organisers) are all around. Today a special panel debate was allocated to approach the relation between the media and racism. The media are one of the key actors in the struggle against racism, mainly because it is a factor that can bring change in peoples' mentalities. The role of the media, as being identified by the panellists is multiple. It is the reflection of our world, it is the one that controls the information by exposing it to the public, it shows the freedom of expression. Unfortunately, it can also be influenced by our prejudices. And the complexity of reality that the media face, makes it difficult to stay clear and balanced. It is extremely difficult to keep the journalists honest and objective. This is also because in many cases different groups of society (women, black or indigenous people) are not represented in the media in real proportions. Therefore it is hard to see deeper in the real problems and much easier to stop at the surface. Sometimes the media are used as a weapon for racist hate, when it gets in the political influence. How can media balance the 'fight for survival' (the need the money to survive) with the equal attention showed to every specific issue occurred in the society? How can things that go wrong in the accuracy of media be fixed? The discussion of today revealed the following. It is important to address complaints and critics to the journalist's organisations, to make them responsible for injustice. We have to look to the information sources of the media and provide journalists with good sources, good context and quality information. Civil society must be a critical consumer and react on the content when it is not appropriate. Also, much more energy should be put in journalists' training for tolerance, non-discrimination, solidarity and cooperation. But meanwhile it should not be forgotten that among the journalists, there are also very competent ones, fighting for promoting the human rights and anti-discrimination, loosing their lives for this.

Young

The Youth Summit presented its conclusions today, together with the NGO Final Declaration. Elena Taryor from the USA comments on the discussions in the Youth Caucus.

Were the same issues discussed as in the other caucuses ?

 It's just like intersectionality. Youth are from the Dalits, the Palestines etc. The issues are everybody else's issues. But it needs a little bit more discussion because of the Youth perspective. Youth are also discriminated against because of their age. People assume that they don't have experience and don't experience racism as everybody else does. In reality we are actually effected more. Adults make all the decisions about waging war. Young people, especially young people in Africa have to fight these wars.

How does racism effect you in daily life?

 My story is kind of a unique story. I moved much and I have gone to different kinds of schools. My first school was an all white school and I was the only person of colour. When people never see people of colour, they have all these ideas they see on television. They don't understand people of colour. And then I went to all black schools with a handful of non-black people. That was a different kind of experience. Later I went to a Jewish school. Because I had to live in so many different environments I had to learn about different cultures and respect them. Even if it is not an equal respect from both levels.

After you finish your education are you going to face difficulties trying to enter for example the labour market ?

I don't know, I haven't worked yet. I think Americans generally try to perceive themselves as being more open than a lot of other people. It will depend on where I live. Some areas in the States are more open to diversity than others. Where my mom lives, the Ku Klux Klan marches every year, so they are not so perceptive.

You met a lot of people here. Did you recognize experiences ?

Everybody has their own experiences and perspectives because they are all from a different background. My dad is Liberian, my mother American. I bring a completely different mindset than many people from my school. There are people here from indigenous people who have different struggles than I have, Muslim people, people from Nigeria who have different experiences.

What were the most discussed items?

I think the item most discussed was being more inclusive. Just remembering, instead of just saying. I guess Youth felt that people in charge of writing the documents came from a certain background and were not always thinking of cast people, Romas or people with disabilities. So it was just about including everybody at various levels. It was hard though to get it working but I do not know yet the final result. A big problem was the language. We were not funded enough for translations, people felt excluded because they could not read the documents in their languages so they could not include their issues. Everybody has the same story I guess.

What are the items where you found each other ?

I think the most important thing was that we will form a Youth Network We decided our universal issues and we will combat as a community. We have been working on structures, the question now is how to do it. So we have practical problems but I am sure we will solve them before the end of the conference.

Contributions by others:



None today

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