The Intergovernmental Working Group (IGWG) on Durban Follow-up started its seventh session on Monday. The group was established following the 2001 Durban Conference with a mandate to implement its Declaration and Program of Action. Like many other ill-fated UN anti-racism initiatives, the IGWG it has been exploited by abusive regimes that are hostile to the very notion of human rights, seeking internatonal legitimacy as they deny freedom to their people.
By the end of its second day, this week’s IGWG session has met for a total of 90 minutes, instead of the scheduled 12 hours. Why the delay? A stand-off over who will chair the group. In the interim, the Secretariat is presiding, in the person of Mona Rishmawi, the Palestinian lawyer and former activist who recently became Chief of the Rule of Law, Equality and Non-Discrimination Branch of the OHCHR.
The IGWG used to be headed by the former Ambassador of Sri Lanka, Mr. Dayan Jayatilleka, who was recently recalled by his government after a reported internal political dispute.
Who will now lead the world effort to combat racism and xenophobia? Nigeria for the African Group made the only nomination: Sudan. Yes, the country whose ruler has been indicted by the International Criminal Court for its racist genocide in Darfur.
Only Sweden for the European Union dared to object. By contrast, Nigeria, South Africa, Pakistan, Cuba, India, Iran, Sri Lanka and others all accepted the nomination. Some even demanded to know the grounds upon which the EU objected.
After having the racist regime of Libya chair Durban II’s Main Committee and its 2-year lead-up, why not have the racist genocidal regime of Sudan head the follow-up? At the UN Human Rights Council, it all makes perfect sense.