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.'
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
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,
Racism and the Media
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.
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.
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