Durban II update: 2009 conference location undecided, NGO forum in doubt

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On January 30, 2008, the UN’s Jose Domingo Dougan-Beaca, head of the Anti-Discrimination Unit at the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), briefed NGOs in Geneva on the latest news concerning Durban II:

  • Location of 2009 conference undecided:  No country has yet volunteered to host the final 2009 Durban Review Conference. New York and Geneva are two locations being considered.
  • NGO Forum “cast a negative light”:  There is a debate at the OHCHR on whether a NGO Forum should take place at the 2009 conference. OHCHR is thinking against it, since the NGO forum at Durban 2001 cast a “negative light” on the entire conference.
  • Regional meetings:  Brazil is the only country that has offered to hold a regional coordination meeting in advance of the 2009 conference. The OHCHR will send letters to regional groups asking that they organize any regional coordination meetings between June and September 2008.

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Following are highlights from last week’s 6th session of the Intergovernmental Working Group (IGWG) on the effective implementation of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action:

  • An inter-sessional working group on Durban will likely be created and meet between this year’s two substantive Durban planning sessions, between May and October 2008.
  • In the absence of the U.S., Canada, and Australia, the European Union found itself leading opposition to various efforts by the African and Islamic states. The EU strongly resisted attempts to introduce new topics into the Durban II discussion — i.e., topics not contained in the original 2001 Durban declaration. Egypt on behalf of the African group proposed that the Working Group take up new issues such as remedies for victims of racism, incitement to hatred and racial profiling. The IGWG will meet for a second week sometime in 2008 and discuss issues delegated to it by the April Durban prep-com.
  • Egypt on behalf of the African group said they will table a comprehensive resolution on Durban follow-up at the Human Rights Council’s March 2008 session, which will likely include many contentious issues.