Durban II Debate: Islamic states want focus on “foreign occupation” and criticism of Islam

The Durban Review Conference, the UN’s world racism confab set for next April in Geneva, will be a highly visible, amply funded, well-advertised and attended gathering that will focus the world’s attention on the West’s defamation of Islam and racial discrimination against its adherents, as well as on Israel’s racist persecution of Palestinians. That was the goal expressed by Islamic states and their allies at a UN Human Rights Council debate this Tuesday.

See UN summary below.

   

HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL HOLDS GENERAL DEBATE ON RACISM AND RACIAL DISCRIMINATION AND FOLLOW-UP TO DURBAN DECLARATION AND PROGRAMME OF ACTION

The following information was released by the United Nations Office at Geneva (UNOG):

The Human Rights Council this morning held a general debate on racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related forms of intolerance and on follow-up and implementation of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action. At the beginning of the meeting, the Council concluded its general debate on follow-up and implementation of the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action.

Glaudine Mtshali, Vice Chairperson of the Preparatory Committee of the Durban Review Conference, speaking on behalf of the Chairperson Najat Al-Hajjaji, said there had been considerable progress made at the Preparatory Committee (PrepCom) towards a successful Durban Review Conference. The first substantive session of the PrepCom had been able to conclude the organizational aspects of the preparatory process in a constructive spirit and had taken all its decisions by consensus. The PrepCom had concentrated its efforts on deliberating on and resolving various issues pertaining to the following three main areas: organization of the work of the Durban Review Conference, including the venue, date and the duration of the Conference as well as participation of observers; the review of contributions to the preparatory process; and the structure and modalities of the preparation of the draft outcome document of the Durban Review Conference. The PrepCom had decided that the Review Conference, which would include a high-level segment, would be convened in Geneva from 20 to 24 April 2009, and the slogan would be “United against Racism: Dignity and Justice for All.

In the general debate on racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related forms of intolerance, delegations commended the spirit of dialogue and constructive engagement which had prevailed during the Preparatory Committee of the Durban Review Conference. This first session of the Preparatory Committee had been able to arrive to a number of consensual decisions of vital importance. It was regretted that the venue of the Conference had become an issue of contention. Geneva was however thought to be a very promising choice. The importance of the full participation of non-governmental organizations was underlined. Further the outcome of the Review Conference had to include space to eliminate new and emerging manifestations of racism. It was important to appoint an Executive Coordinator for the Conference.

Speaking in the general debate about racism were the delegations of Egypt on behalf of the African Group, Pakistan on behalf of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference, Slovenia on behalf of the European Union, Argentina on behalf of the Southern Common Market MERCUSOR, Brazil, Cuba, the United Kingdom, Switzerland, Azerbaijan, Senegal, China, the Russian Federation, Algeria, Iran, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, Turkey and Libya.

Also speaking were representatives of Mouvement contre le Racisme et pour l’Amitie entre les Peuples, North South XXI, Liberation, United Nations Watch, Indian Council of South America, Mbororo Social and Cultural Development Association, Indian Movement Tupaj Amaru, International Humanist and Ethical Union, World Union for Progressive Judaism, Al-Haqim Foundation, World Federation of Trade Unions, International Movement Against all Forms of Discrimination and Racism and the International Islamic Federation of Student Organisations.

Also speaking about the Vienna Declaration at the beginning of the meeting were representatives of the International Humanist and Ethical Union and the European Region of the International Lesbian and Gay Association.

When the Council meets this afternoon at 3 p.m., it is scheduled to hold an interactive dialogue with the Independent Expert on Haiti, Louis Joinet, and to hold a general debate on technical assistance and capacity building.

Presentation by Vice-President of Bureau for the Durban PrepCom

GLAUDINE MTSHALI, Vice Chairperson of the Preparatory Committee of the Durban Review Conference, speaking on behalf of the Chairperson Najat Al-Hajjaji, said there had been considerable progress made at the Preparatory Committee (PrepCom) towards a successful Durban Review Conference. The first substantive session of the PrepCom was able to conclude the organizational aspects of the preparatory process in a constructive spirit and took all its decisions by consensus. She congratulated the Group of Latin American and Caribbean Countries for organizing a regional preparatory meeting.

Ms. Mtshali said the PrepCom concentrated its efforts on deliberating on and resolving various issues pertaining to the following three main areas: organization of the work of the Durban Review Conference, including the venue, date and the duration of the conference as well as participation of observers; the review of contributions to the preparatory process; and the structure and modalities of the preparation of the draft outcome document of the Durban Review Conference. Delegates could review the most recent report at the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights website.

Regarding the organization of work, the PrepCom decided that the Review Conference, which would include a high-level segment, would be convened in Geneva from 20 to 24 April 2009, the slogan would be “United against Racism: Dignity and Justice for All”, and the same criteria, practices and arrangements regarding the participation of observers at the sessions of the PrepCom should also apply to the participation of all observers. The High Commissioner for Human Rights should work with the United Nations Department of Public Information to carry out a worldwide information campaign, and a dedicated extranet page should be developed where all documents would be found. The provisional agenda for the Review Conference was adopted.

The PrepCom adopted five decisions about accrediting non-governmental organizations (NGOs). While there were hundreds of NGOs that already had consultative status, there were a large number of NGOs that participated in the 2001 World Conference in Durban and might participate in the Review Conference. The accreditation of NGOs outside of these groups had to be processed appropriately by the PrepCom. The credentials of 43 NGOs were discussed. Four were fully accredited, one was excluded. Five were provisionally accredited, pending further information being received. Thirty-three were not invited to the first substantive session of the PrepCom. One NGO withdrew.

Ms. Mtshali said the PrepCom had before it contributions from 40 States and a number of United Nations bodies, intergovernmental organizations, various human rights mechanisms and NGOs. A panel discussion on the objectives of the Review Conference was held with the participation of experts. It was followed by an interactive dialogue. Nigeria offered to host a regional preparatory meeting for Africa in Abuja from 27 to 29 August 2008. She called for other regions to host similar meetings.

The PrepCom adopted a decision providing that the outcome, consisting of a declaratory part and an action-oriented part containing further actions and initiatives, would be based on contributions received and outcomes of the preparatory meetings and activities at the international, regional and national levels, and that it should be drawn up in accordance with the agreed structure of the outcome document as contained in this PrepCom’s decision. Consultations were ongoing.

The PrepCom had also decided to establish an intercessional open-ended intergovernmental Working Group which would report on its activities to the PrepCom at its second substantive session to be held from 6 to 17 October 2008.

General Debate on Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Forms of Intolerance, Follow-up of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action

OMAR SHALABY (Egypt), speaking on behalf of the African Group, said that the African Group commended the spirit of dialogue and constructive engagement which had prevailed during the session of the Preparatory Committee of the Durban Review Conference. The first substantive session of the Preparatory Committee had been able to arrive to a number of consensual decisions of vital importance. The African Group deeply regretted that the venue of the Conference had become an issue of contention. It had been hoped that all countries concerned would demonstrate the highest level of commitment towards the convening of a viable and visible conference. It was however recognised that with the necessary political will, all parties could make of Geneva a successful venue. There were however matters of concern which had to be addressed in urgency. There was a necessity to identify the authority to which the responsibility for producing the draft outcome document was to be allocated. There was also a glaring institutional weakness within the unit of the Secretariat which was supposed to service the Durban review process effectively. The fact that the effective participation of civil society organizations had been hindered due to lack of preparation and proper communication on the part of the Secretariat was of great concern to the African Group. There was also a need to appoint an Executive Coordinator who would work with relevant United Nations Agencies to give visibility to the Conference. The funding of the Review Conference was also a key element in its success. Every party was urged to contribute generously to funding this milestone event. The outcome of the Review Conference had to address all the contemporary manifestations of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance.

MARGHOOB SALEEM BUTT (Pakistan), speaking on behalf of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, said that the first substantive session of the Preparatory Committee of the Durban Review Conference took important decisions and built on the progress made so far in the preparations for the Review Conference. Atmospherics during the Preparatory Committee session had improved significantly. Boycotts and threats of disengagement would not help achieve desired results. Dialogue and constructive engagement would. Their differences of opinion notwithstanding must be united in a common fight to address the menace of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance. In that regard, the Organization of the Islamic Conference welcomed the adoption of an apt logo, which was reflective of this common desire. The Organization of the Islamic Conference supported and echoed the High Commissioner’s call to condemn all deplorable and manipulative distortions, such as anti-Semitic and Islamophobic agendas, or that conveyed any other form of intolerance. Discrimination on the basis of race, religion, ethnic origin, colour or creed, whether historical or contemporary, should be combated with full vigour under relevant international laws.

The outcome of the Review Conference must include space to eliminate new and emerging manifestations of racism. It must provide a comprehensive protection mechanism to the victims including those who had suffered the wrath of war on terror in terms of racio-religious profiling and its consequential incitement to racio-religious hatred. Additional complementary instruments to the International Covenant on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination could fill the existing gaps and reinforce the protection regime in this regard. Regional preparatory meetings would play an important role in shaping the outcome of the Durban Review Conference. In this regard the Organization of the Islamic Conference welcomed the announcement of regional meetings in Latin American, Africa and Europe and hoped that remaining regions would take initiative to finalize these meetings enabling infusion of their inputs into the process. Due to the shortage of time, it was important that the media campaign for the Review Conference start as a priority. This campaign must make use of all resources and have full involvement of the Department of Public Information. Despite the General Assembly resolution 62/220, which provided the necessary funding, Member States must also contribute generously to make up for any deficits in holding a successful Review Conference. Further, the widest possible non-governmental organization participation in the Review Conference should be ensured, victims of racism, racial discrimination and xenophobia attitudes must find space to be heard and actions must be taken to redress their grievances.

ANDREJ LOGAR (Slovenia) speaking on behalf of the European Union, said the fight against racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance was a priority of the European Union. Almost seven years had passed since Durban, where success was achieved after intense negotiations. The consensus obtained at Durban must be preserved. Over the weeks all the necessary decisions on the procedural framework for the Review Conference had been taken. The European Union would bring substantial elements to the Review Conference. Since 2001, the European Union had intensified efforts to fight racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance at national and regional levels. The European Union was pleased to learn that the first negotiations would start over the summer. The European Union would participate actively. In the course of the preparation process, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) must be increasingly involved. Their active role must be built on the excellent practices followed by the Human Rights Council. Geneva as the venue would facilitate the best possible and active participation by civil society. The European Union would follow the question of NGO participation closely and believed their active participation was of key importance.

ALBERTO J. DUMONT (Argentina), speaking on behalf of the Southern Common Market (MERCOSUR), said that since the beginning of its work, the MERCOSUR countries had attached great importance to the fight against racism and discrimination. They had been grappling with the problem of human rights since 2004. There had been different regional initiatives. The possibility of a special forum taking into account the indigenous people and afro-descendents was also being considered. After the 2005 regional conference in Brasilia a Working Group had been established on racial equality. Drafting an inter-American convention against racism was on the agenda of the group. A plenary had approved the report and the creation of a Special Rapporteur on this issue had also been agreed on. With regard to the Working Group on Discrimination, several proposals had been considered. At the next meeting, a joint working session would be held with the Education Working Group. The MERCOSUR countries had further adopted a common stance for monitoring the Durban Declaration and Programme of Work.

SILVIANE TUSI BREWER (Brazil) said that Brazil in 2003 created a special secretariat at a ministerial level to promote racial equality. The Government understood that consultations with civil society played an important role. At the international level, Brazil had always been participatory in the fight against racism and racial discrimination. A reaffirmation of their commitment to the fight against racism was evident by the decisions sited at the first session of Preparatory Committee of the Durban Review Conference. Combating racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related forms of intolerance was a priority. Brazil was committed to finding ways to make the Review Conference more constructive in order to assess the effectiveness of existing follow-up mechanisms and good practices. The Latin American and Caribbean initiatives should stress how the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action had been incorporated by States, organizations, and civil society. There was a need for the development of statistical issues encountered during the implementation of the Declaration and Programme of Action. There was a strong need to strengthen intergovernmental, interregional and civil society partnerships. Brazil pledged its strong commitment to the Durban Review Conference and its support in the preparatory sessions.

YURY GALA (Cuba) said racism, racial discrimination and xenophobia had social, cultural and political elements. They had served as the ideological spurs for wars and slavery. Although science had proved that all humans were the same, racism still existed. Racism exacerbated the gap between the rich and poor with the rise of globalization. There was an increasing denigration of rights. Discriminatory migration laws were proliferating. There was a continued inappropriate use of information technology to promote racist and extreme ideologies. There were increasing numbers of neo-fascist organisations. Religions continued to be subjected to racism. Achieving full implementation of the principles of the Durban Declaration was important. There were new sinister forms of racism. Fighting this horrible scourge was important for the international community. It could count on the efforts of Cuba. All needed resources must be earmarked for the Review Conference. The international community must intensify all efforts to counter all forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related tolerance.

PETER GOODERHAM (United Kingdom) said that the United Kingdom wanted the Durban Review Conference to contribute to the global fight against the problems of racism facing the world today. The United Kingdom had brought to Duran a strong and long-standing commitment to tackling racism, discrimination and intolerance. Since then the United Kingdom had further strengthened their laws and policies to tackle racism, discrimination and intolerance and to promote equality and cohesion. The United Kingdom had stepped up their fight against hatred and extremism, extending their laws on racially motivated crimes. They had also built up a strong body of anti-discrimination legislation since the 1960s. In 2005 the United Kingdom had launched a three-year national strategy to increase race equality and community cohesion. Further 2007 had marked the 200th anniversary of the abolition of the slave trade throughout the British Empire. The Durban review process provided an opportunity to learn from each other. Given the particular history of the 2001 Durban Conference, they wanted the Review Conference to address anti-Semitism and Holocaust remembrance, both important parts of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action. Any attempts to deny the Holocaust would be unacceptable. Further they could not accept any attempts to limit freedom of expression in the name of promoting tolerance and non-discrimination. It was believed that the framework agreed in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights struck the right balance between freedom of expression and freedom of religion or belief. The challenge for Member States was now to make the conference a success, to avoid divisions and to restore credible international consensus aimed at addressing racism.

ALEXANDRA RUPPEN (Switzerland) welcomed the recent developments with regards to the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action. Switzerland was one of the “Friends of the Chair” of the President of the Working Group and would help to facilitate the start of negotiations. The role of the Secretariat was vital as the Review Conference was fast approaching, and all documents must be available as soon as possible. The contribution of civil society was also important and Switzerland expected non-governmental organizations to play a role and contribute to the discussions. The final document of the Durban Conference in 2001 was based on consensus. Switzerland hoped that this view prevailed at the upcoming Review Conference. The Durban Review Conference would take place in Geneva in 2009 and Switzerland as the host country would ensure that all necessary steps were taken. Switzerland would ensure work towards countering racial discrimination, xenophobia and other related forms of intolerance.

MAMMAD TALIBOV (Azerbaijan) said that Azerbaijan had been supportive of the Durban-follow up process and would continue to do so. Racism was one of the worst scourges and all should be united in the fight against it. Azerbaijan welcomed the adoption of the decision on the structure of the outcome document. Azerbaijan was worried by the contemporary manifestations of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related tolerance. It also noted with great concern the plight of people under foreign occupation who were in most cases the victims of racism and racial discrimination. Furthermore, migrants and asylum seekers were facing innumerable problems and required due attention and effective solutions. Despite all efforts to tackle challenges, the world had witnessed the increase of all these evils. Azerbaijan was of the view that the existing Durban mechanism would not be sufficient to effectively respond to new challenges. New response mechanisms could allow the international community to prevent all human calamities from occurring again. Clear political will and strong determination were needed, and they should not be limited to nice words and good intentions. Azerbaijan hoped that the Review Conference would open a new page in the struggle against racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance. It hoped to see civil society as an important actor in the process.

PIERRE DIOUF (Senegal) said that the preparation process for the Durban Review Conference had made significant progress on all issues and had taken important decisions in the last weeks, including on the venue for the Review Conference. These results were due to the common commitment to overcome racism. This deserved applause; however they had to continue in the same spirit of cooperation, while accepting their differences. This was the essence of belonging to the same human family. The full involvement of non-governmental organizations was paramount, as well as the availability of all documents in time and in all official languages. The dynamic of the consensus had to prevail, as it had at the beginning of the process, so that dignity for all could triumph in the end.

KE YOUSHENG (China) said that China welcomed the setting up of an intercessional Working Group, which identified a number of key logistical issues, such as defining the agenda. This decision taken at the Preparatory Committee reflected the cooperative spirit of all parties involved. The Durban Review and the Programme of Action had yet to be implemented. Forms of racism, xenophobia and other related discrimination remained a daunting challenge for the world and it was important for the Council to address them. It was against this background that the Durban Review Conference became all the more important. China looked forward to the continuation of all parties’ cooperation and achieving positive results.

NATALIA ZOLOTOVA (Russian Federation) said the Russian Federation had consistently championed rights for all. The Russian Federation noted the efforts to counter racism and the crimes committed on its behalf and believed that resolving these issues took efforts at the national, regional, and international levels. The Russian Federation considered the first session of the Preparatory Committee of the Durban Review Conference to be a success. The dates and venue were agreed and a common understanding was achieved for the outcome document. An important step was the launch of the intercessional Working Group. Of interest was the proposal of the chair to set up an informal group of friends. A lot still needed to be done. The right level of an information campaign had not been reached yet. The Russian Federation called for more support by donor nations. Extra attention had to be paid to the participation of civil society. The report would be incomplete without the final results of regional preparatory meetings. In Europe an alarming trend demonstrated a new spiral of racism. The Russian Federation hoped for a fully fledged European regional conference. It hoped that its European partners would share the approach.

IDRISS JAZAIRY (Algeria) welcomed the constructive dialogue in the Preparatory Committee of the Durban Review Conference. A specific chapter on the issue of populations under foreign occupation should be added to the outcome document. While the controversy over the venue was worrying, it was felt that Geneva was a promising choice. The participation of non-governmental organizations had to be facilitated. It was important to make sure that the Durban Review Conference would complement and reinforce the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action. Algeria supported the proposal to appoint an Executive Coordinator.

The Representative of Iran said that the adoption of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action was a defining momentum in the fight against racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance. The 2001 Durban Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance underscored the international community’s renewed commitment to combat racism in all its forms and manifestations, particularly the contemporary forms, in a comprehensive manner. The follow-up mechanisms for the effective implementation of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action as well as the Special Rapporteur on Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance had played an important role in setting the tone for the international community to advance the global agenda for combating racism, racial discrimination and xenophobia inter alia through raising public awareness. Iran appreciated the valuable efforts done by those mechanisms to this end. The emergence of new forms of racism in the aftermath of September 11 and under the pretext of the so-called war against terror reflected the visible discrimination and xenophobia throughout the world, especially against Muslims.

The increase in racist violence and xenophobic ideas in certain parts of the world, in political circles, in the sphere of public opinion, mass media and in society at large, as a result of the resurgent activities of associations and political parties established on the basis of racist and xenophobia platforms and charters, and persistent use of those platforms to promote or incite racist ideologies were alarming. In this respect, Iran expressed its strong condemnation over the cases of stereotyping Islam through making a defamatory film against the Holy Koran in the Netherlands, as a vivid example of incitement to racial and religious hatred. There was an urgent need to address the contemporary and emerging scourges of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, inter alia, through adoption of further initiatives and actions. Further, Iran welcomed the timely decisions of the General Assembly and the Human Rights Council to hold the Durban Review Conference in 2009.

KATHERINE BUNDRA, of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, said that the International Federation had challenged racism and racial discrimination since its inception. Its commitment to protect human dignity and tackle discrimination was recently given an additional practical dimension through the adoption of the Declaration Together for Humanity. Despite all that had been done, racism remained an endemic problem today. The auxiliary role of the Red Cross/Red Crescent Societies to their public authorities in the humanitarian field offered them a privileged platform to engage in humanitarian advocacy and influence decision-making. The International Federation strongly believed in the role of youth as agents for behavioural change. There was a need to reinforce the foundation of our common existence as members of a universal human family with intent and dignity and equal and inalienable rights. Laws had been made but more needed to be done. The International Federation called upon Governments to support capacity-building at the grass roots level and campaigns designed in consultation with communities themselves.

ALI ONANER (Turkey) said that the Durban Review Conference would be one of the major items of next year’s human rights agenda. Racism, in all its forms, continued to challenge the exercise of most fundamental human rights and freedoms. It threatened the fabric of societies and moral values. It was important to ensure the effectiveness of the instruments at their disposal to fight against this scourge. Turkey believed that sharing best practices was the most appropriate way in the course of the review. Turkey would continue to contribute constructively to the preparation of the Review Conference. All parties should focus on the essential and remain committed to the principle of not reopening or renegotiating the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action. Politicization of discussions had to be avoided.

FAWZI M. S. ABUSAA (Libya) said that Libya underscored the efforts taken by the international community to fight discrimination and racial discrimination, however, there were forms of discrimination that had not been eradicated today. There needed to be a complete halt on policies that prevented victims of such acts from living free and dignified lives. Strengthening school programmes with human rights ideas was the only way to put an end to behaviours that encouraged racism, discrimination and xenophobia. Promoting tolerance and love despite cultural or religious differences was important. Libya also noted with satisfaction that the Durban Review Conference was approved by a General Assembly resolution, in order to assess the progress and reflect on what changes needed to be made. This would strengthen the area to eradicate racism and forms of discrimination. Libya strongly condemned the emerging new forms of discrimination, defamation, slander, and discarded pictures of the Prophet. New legislation needed to be established to put an end and stop all these forms of racism and discrimination.

JEAN-JACQUES KIRKYACHARIAN, of Movement against Racism and for Friendship among Peoples, said it was not possible to fight racism without exposing the root causes of it. Much criticism had been expressed against the outcome of the 2001 Durban Conference and the political character which had prevailed. But how could questions of racism be foreign to issues of policy? Matters of politics mattered when talking about racism. People from poor nations were doing everything they could to reach the opulence of rich countries. France must make elimination of racism a priority of its European Union presidency.

NIRAJ KUMAR PABARI, of North South XXI, said that the Durban Review Conference was one of the most important international undertakings with regard to fighting racism. All States were urged to participate in the Conference. It was a sine qua non condition to the success of the Conference to allow the participation of non-governmental organizations. In order for non-governmental organizations from all over the world to attend, funding should be made available to them.

YOANNA HUAIBING FU, of Liberation, said that the people who lived in North-East India were victims of the worst kinds of racial discrimination. They were people hidden behind false talk of pluralism and democracy. They were fraudulently integrated into the Indian Union and forcibly subjected to the tricolour. Their religions, customs, language and culture were distinctly non-Indo-Aryan and non-Dravidian. Whenever they went to mainland India, particularly its capital, they were treated as aliens and subjected to all kinds of insults and slurs. India had established racial landmarks which had been established especially for the Mongoloid people in the North East. The Armed Forces Special Power Act of India sanctioned the murder of Mongoloid people of North East by the Indian Forces. India persisted in disregarding indigenous people’s property rights and had not altered its highly prejudicial dam building activities. Most of the region’s indigenous peoples depended on the forest for their subsistence and non-material needs. Their fundamental means for subsistence would vanish with arbitrary dam building exercise by India. Liberation demanded that India allow all Special Rapporteurs to access the North East region.

HILLEL NEUER, of United Nations Watch, said it was time to reflect upon historic principles, like one person one vote. This might sound obvious today. But five decades ago in parts of the United States, it was not obvious to all. Many African Americans were denied the right to have their votes counted equally. There was a young attorney who challenged racism. That was Morris B. Abram. He founded United Nations Watch. It was with these legacies and principles that United Nations Watch approached the Durban Review Conference. The Durban Review must not repeat any of the unacceptable elements that marred the 2001 conference. It could not once again paradoxically become a platform for racist hatred and anti-Semitism nor misuse human rights terminology in regard to the Arab-Israeli conflict. United Nations Watch was encouraged to see many strong commitments in this regard, including from France, the United Kingdom and the Netherlands. There were worrying signs. Due to frivolous objections, the Preparatory Committee refused to accredit a respected Canadian Jewish NGO. Yet it welcomed another group whose very name Palestinian Grassroots Anti-Apartheid Wall Campaign brought back the hateful and divisive rhetoric of 2001. United Nations Watch was also worried about an early blue print for the April 2009 declaration. Unless there was urgent remedial action, the Durban Review Conference was in danger of becoming little more than Durban Conference Two.

RONALD BARNES, of the Indian Council of South America, said that the strengthening of the participation of non-governmental organizations in the preparatory work to the Durban Review Conference was vitally important. It was also important that the documentation was distributed to all stakeholders. During the last Working Group session the Secretariat had not allowed the distribution of documentation to non-governmental organizations. Further, if the Review Conference omitted the important issue of self-determination, the Conference would deny the examination of one of the roots of discrimination. Canada was thanked for the long awaited apology on the residential school policy. Canada was urged to recognize the United Nations Declaration on Indigenous Peoples.

BIRO DIAWARA, of Mbororo Social and Cultural Development Association, expressed joy that Switzerland would host the Durban Review Conference in Geneva. This was a result of the solidarity of the Swiss people for their demands, since the time of the League of Nations. The Association asked why the Durban Review was being held. For their part, it coincided with the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It therefore should give rise to more trust, worldwide dialogue, and redefining the policy, cultural and legal choices that arose from the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action. There was a need for a monitoring mechanism by States in order to share the rich experience in eradicating racism and discrimination, especially for women, children and refugees. The Review was important in the setting up of programmes and projects to combat racial discrimination. This must be the decade of justice, action and dignity. The Durban Programme of Action was the result of the commitment of the international community. The 2009 Durban Review Conference must dispel shadowing areas of xenophobia. It should give rise to a new humanity.

LAZARO PARY, of Indian Movement “Tupaj Amaru”, said the situation was bleak indeed. There was a lack of political will to implement the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action. The Preparatory Committee should not have ignored that after 11 September racism had taken on a dramatic expansion toward Muslims. There was an eye for and eye attitude. There were pre-emptive strikes which had lessened the security in the world. The Administration in Washington and the European Union had become occupying powers. The Preparatory Committee had before it a political mission to examine colonialism, slavery and other matters. It had to do this, otherwise, the Conference would be stripped of its political elements. Colonialism and slavery were crimes against humanity.

ROY BROWN, of the International Humanist and Ethical Union, drew the attention of the Council to several blatant cases of discrimination. In Darfur, the United Nations had documented the enslavement of black Africans by Arab men, mostly for sexual purposes. These people were being discriminated to death, the Council had to continue addressing the issue of Darfur. In India there were over one million of untouchables and the Indian Government had said it had done its outmost possible to remove the untouchability. Discrimination remained deeply rooted in India. Further, Muslims were completely free to practice their religion in Europe and in the United States, Muslims benefited from much less discrimination than other minorities, why then specifically concentrate on Islamophobia? The new Special Rapporteur on racism had to address this selectivity and the Council had to act accordingly.

DAVID LITTMAN, of the World Union for Progressive Judaism, said that in the final report made by the Special Rapporteur on racism and racial discrimination, Doudou Diene, he did not address the problem of indiscriminate killing in the name of God, which should be recognised by all religious and secular authorities as a grave ‘defamation of religions’. The High Commissioner for Human Rights Sergio Vieira De Mello had expressed his strong revulsion against the growing global terrorist plague whereby anyone could be killed at any time, in any place, by anyone. Only five months later, he and over 20 of his United Nations colleagues were assassinated in Baghdad when indiscriminate terrorism struck, leaving many widows and orphans.

ABDUL AMIER HASHOM, of Al-Hakim Foundation, in a joint statement with Interfaith International and Mbororo Social and Cultural Development Association, paid tribute to all parties that challenged racism. The Durban Review Conference would be an important tool for States to combat racism. The Foundation attached high hopes on the NGO Forum. It was fully aware of challenges. In order to secure the Review Conference, the Foundation wished to provide suggestions to the Human Rights Council, including that resolutions adopted by regional conferences be seriously considered, best practices be published, and for developing countries to be provided with a trust fund. The Foundation congratulated the Swiss Government for being the host country.

ANDREA MARIFIL CALFUNAO, of the World Federation of Trade Unions, said that Chile was the county with the lowest human rights record. They had convicted Mapuche leaders that were fighting for their self determination. The methods used against them were the same ones as those used under Pinochet, nothing had changed. The lack of sensitivity of the Chilean authorities was denounced. The Council was urgently requested to look at the issue.

GEORGINA STEVENS, of International Movement against all Forms of Discrimination and Racism, in a joint statement with Asian Legal Resource Centre, said that the International Movement was encouraged by the convening of the Latin American and Caribbean regional meeting in Brasilia, and planned to attend an African regional meeting in Nigeria in August. They were concerned by the failure so far to agree on a venue and date for the Asia/Pacific and the European regional preparatory meetings. To date, none of the Member States from these two regions had offered to host the respective regional meetings. Regional meetings were an invaluable aspect of the preparatory process. They enabled States from the same region to work together in reviewing and taking stock of the implementation of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action in their respective countries and the region as a whole. The International Movement urged Member States in the Asia Pacific region to demonstrate their commitment to implement the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action and their support of the Durban Review Conference, by offering to host the Asia Pacific regional meeting as soon as possible. They also encouraged other States in the Asia Pacific region to consider their capacity to hold such a conference.

FRANCESCA GIANNOTTI, of the International Islamic Federation of Student Organizations, said the Federation wanted the Human Rights Council to maintain its attention on human rights violations related to various aspects of racial discrimination in India. The Indian Constitution was well as the so-called anti terrorism law were based on the philosophy of racial discrimination. Concerns continued to be raised that extraordinary laws had been used to target political opponents, human rights defenders, religious minorities and disadvantaged people. Racial discriminatory principles still in place in India also affected political rights of the numerous Indian races that were not represented equally in the central parliament. The other important issue it raised was the oppressed sections of society in India who were racially discriminated due to caste and religion. The discrimination against Dalits had become known internationally. Other religious minorities continued to be marginalized. It asked the Human Rights Council to continue to study these aspects of human rights violations.

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