Durban Deception: Libyans Using Front Organization to Subvert NGO Movement

That Libya chairs the Durban II “anti-racism” process, which culminates in the April 20-24, 2009 Durban Review Conference in Geneva, is bad enough. Far more dangerous, however, is Libya’s hidden campaign to subvert the NGO (non-governmental organization) movement, using a Libyan front-organization to instigate an innocent-sounding campaign for a “NGO Forum.”

On its face, nothing could be more desirable for a human rights conference than to have a broad gathering of non-governmental organizations, to allow the world’s unheard voices to speak.  NGOs are often the backbone of whatever positive comes out of the UN human rights system. Which is exactly why repressive regimes often try to stifle them.

Tragically, however, the repressive regimes are even more clever than that. Instead of waging only open battle against the NGO movement, which enjoys a powerful aura of respect in the media and other influential circles, the anti-democratic countries long ago realized that, “If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.”

Over the years, they created “GONGOs”, groups that are NGOs in name — with UN accreditation that allows official participation at world conferences — but that are in fact “Government-Operated NGOs.” Cuba, China, and Sudan all have their GONGOs, state-funded and controlled, who show up at UN conferences to spout the respective party lines and deny human rights violations and atrocities.

The objective is for diplomats, non-governmental delegates, and the broader world to believe that the regimes’ propaganda is the legitimate view of idealistic activist groups that represent the people. These groups obviously fail to meet the official UN criteria for NGOs, but get a pass from the highly politicized accreditation process.

This is exactly what is happening now in the preparation for Durban II. One of the groups lobbying hardest for the April conference to feature another “NGO Forum” — just like the event in 2001 that degenerated into an anti-Western, anti-Israel and anti-Semtic hatefest, and which was condemned by the United Nations, Human Rights Watch and other leading NGOs — is the Geneva-based “North South 21” (known in French as “Nord Sud 21”), a Libyan GONGO. Another coalition member is EAFORD, an openly anti-Semitic group, also created in Libya, that, in a September 2008 statement to the UN, accused “Jews everywhere” of “allowing Israel to inflict [a Holocaust] on the Palestinian people.”

To spell it out: What we have here is a Libyan-led “NGO” campaign demanding a NGO Forum from the Libyan-led governmental committee planning the conference. Qaddafi has the whole world over a barrel. It’s the greatest scam since the invention of three card monte.

Click on to see North South 21’s dedicated webpage for promoting a repeat of the 2001 hatefest, all in the supposed name of the legitimate NGO movement. Joining it are a motley group of radical anti-Israel and anti-Western organization, knowing enablers, and naive fellow travelers in the anti-racism cause.


What do we know about North South 21?

 A series of publicly-available documents show how the Qaddafi regime created the organization in 1989, as part of the Geneva-based committee to award an annual “Moammar Qaddafi Prize for Human Rights.” Radical anti-Western activist Jean Ziegler played a founding role in the inter-linked organizations.

UN Watch detailed all of this in a major 1996 report here, as cooroborated by a front page story by Switzerland’s leading newspaper,  the Neue Zurcher Zeitung. Further details about the Libyans’ open acknowledgment of North South 21 being a part of the Qaddafi Prize organization can be found here. (Supplement to UN Watch’s June 20, 2006 Report, “Switzerland’s Nominee to the UN Human Rights Council and the Moammar Khaddafi Human Rights Prize”, containing excerpts from that document Jean Ziegler’s role as a 1989 co-founder of the Khaddafi Prize and its 2002 winner, and confirming the Khaddafi Prize organization’s control over North-South XXI and the North-South Institute, of which Jean Ziegler is vice-president.According to the Libyan press agency, the organization in Geneva that awards the Khaddafi Prize is an entity called North-South XXI (or Nord-Sud XXI). See “President Chavez of Venezuela wins International Gaddafi Award for Human Rights,” Libyan Jamahiriya Broadcasting Corporation, December 10, 2004, at (see Attachment 7 here); “Oxymoron,” Neue Zürcher Zeitung, 15 Oktober 2004 (citing Libyan press agency Jana as saying the Prize is awarded by an International People’s Committee and Nord-Sud XXI) (see Attachment 8 here).  

The British press has also reported North-South XXI’s role in awarding the Prize. See “Gaddafi human rights prize for two dock strike wives,” The Daily Mail (London), September 4, 1997 (stating that Prize “[r]ecipients are chosen annually by a Geneva-based organisation called Nord-Sud 21.”) (see Attachment 9 here).

Even Geneva’s left-wing daily Le Temps, which is generally avoids criticizing Geneva’s UN industry, said this about North South 21, in an August 30, 2002 article:

The Kadhafi Prize [for Human Rights] is managed in Geneva by North-South 21, which claims to be an organization for the defense of human rights. . . . It is worth noting that North-South 21 does not want to mention the financial investment of Tripoli in the Geneva center. The organization issues many periodicals and other publications but none mentions the name of the provider of funds.  (Le Prix Kadhafi est géré à Genève par Nord-Sud 21 qui se veut une organisation de défense des droits de l’homme… Force est de constater que Nord-Sud 21 ne veut pas évoquer l’investissement financier de Tripoli dans le centre genevois. L’organisation dispose de plusieurs périodiques et autre publications à thème mais aucun ne mentionne le nom du bailleur de fonds.)

See “Un deuxième spectacle autour du Prix Kadhafi,” Le Temps, 30 août 2000 (see Attachment 10 here).  See also “Les Noirs demandent réparation pour l’esclavage,” Le Temps, 7 août 2001 (describing North-South XXI as “an NGO installed in Geneva and tied to Libya” and discussing a symposium “ordered and financed by Libya through North-South XXI.”) (see Attachment 11 here).

While all of the facts are out there, Geneva UN circles tend to pretend that North South 21 is a legitimate group instead of a Libyan GONGO.


A past winner also has attributed the Prize to North-South XXI.  See Website of Union interafricaine des Droits de l’Homme (UIDH), at (noting that it won the Khaddafi Prize at the “proposal of the NGO North-South XXI.”).  Indeed, in a posting on the Human Rights Internet website, UIDH used the fact that the Khaddafi Prize is granted by a northern NGO, based in Geneva with ECOSOC status, to argue against those who criticized it for accepting Libyan money.  See (describing how, after UIDH won the Prize, many of its partner institutions stopped funding it because of the Libya affiliation, and arguing that this was incorrect in light of the Prize being awarded by a Northern, Geneva-based, UN-accredited NGO).

Like the Khaddafi Prize, North-South XXI was founded in 1989. In addition to awarding the Prize, North-South XXI organizes seminars and colloquia (many of which have been held in Tripoli) and issues a periodic journal of the same name. North-South XXI has special consultative status with the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), which allows it to participate at UN sessions. It has argued before UN bodies against the international sanctions on Libya, without ever disclosing its connections to the Khaddafi regime. See Written Statement of North-South XXI to the Commission on Human Rights, 55th Session (E/CN.4/1999/NGO/40) (arguing against sanctions in general and against the sanctions on Libya in particular); Written Statement of North-South XXI to the Commission on Human Rights, 54th Session (E/CN.4/1998/NGO/83) (arguing that sanctions against Libya violate children’s rights).

North-South XXI is located in Geneva at rue Ferdinand-Hodler, number 17. Its director is Ahmad Soueissi, and its chairman is Ahmed Ben Bella. Mr. Ben Bella and Mr. Soueissi are also chairman and secretary, respectively, of a similarly-named organization at the same address: the Institut Nord-Sud pour le dialogue intercultural. The vice-chairman of the Institut Nord-Sud, according to official records of the canton of Geneva, is Jean Ziegler.  See Entry for Institut Nord-Sud pour le dialogue interculturel, Registre du commerce de Genève, at (see Attachment 14 here).

Several websites identify the Institut as the source of the North-South XXI journal, and one describes it as “presided over by Jean Ziegler.” See “Le Monde Diplomatique, Revues,” at; Philippe Corcuff, Liste des publications, at (listing one article as follows: “Avec Éric Doidy et Domar Idrissi, “S’émanciper des langues de bois : originalité du langage zapatiste”, dans Club Merleau-Ponty, La pensée confisquée – Quinze idées reçues qui bloquent le débat public, 1997, Paris : La Découverte; réédité en 2001, Nord-Sud XXI (Institut Nord-Sud pour le dialogue interculturel, Genève), n°16 (4)”).

The Institut Nord-Sud is managed and financed by the Fondation Nord-Sud pour le dialogue interculturel. See Entry for Fondation Nord Sud pour le dialogue interculturel, Registre du commerce de Genève, at (see Attachment 15 here).

The Fondation have the same street address as North-South XXI and the Institut. The Fondation’s address in the Geneva registry of commerce is in care of a Geneva fiduciary society.  However, an entity called the Nord-Sud Fondation,, is also found at rue Ferdinand-Hodler 17, and has the same phone number, fax number, email address, and director as North-South XXI (see Attachment 16 here).

The officers of the Fondation are the same as of the Institute: Mr. Ben Bella, chairman; Mr. Ziegler, vice-chairman; and Mr. Soueissi, secretary. See also Entry for Fondation Nord Sud pour le dialogue interculturel, Registre du commerce de Genève, at at (see Attachment 15 here).�

UN Watch