Issue 182: Durban II Draft Revives 2001 Tehran Declaration

In this Issue:

  • Durban II Draft Revives 2001 Tehran Declaration
  • New UN Watch Report: “Durban II Draft Shatters EU’s Red Lines”
  • NGO Committe on Racism Goes Rogue, Stopped by UN Watch
  • Geneva’s Greens Urge City Council to Support Durban II “NGO Forum”
  • Leading International Voices on the 2001 Durban NGO Forum

Durban II Draft Revives 2001 Tehran Declaration

Durban II is heading toward another debacle. The draft declaration for the April 2009 conference on racism, published by the United Nations at its recent preparatory session in Geneva, revives the hateful rhetoric of the 2001 Tehran Declaration by accusing Israel of committing “genocide”, “crimes gainst humanity”, and “a new kind of apartheid”; attacks free speech; declares that Islam and its adherents are the world’s greatest victims of racism and of “defamation of religion”; and lists counter-terrorism as a cause of racial discrimination. The text shatters every one of the European Union’s red lines. See new UN Watch report below.

Instead of condemning this betrayal of the principles of the United Nations Charter, High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay told delegates she was “encouraged by the tone and by the substance of your deliberations over the last two weeks,” and praised “this kind of cooperation and constructive engagement.” She also lauded “the spirit of understanding, accommodation and respect that has characterized the review process thus far.”

New UN Watch Report: Durban II Draft Shatters the EU’s Red Lines

According to a detailed report released today by UN Watch — click here to read Shattering the Red Lines — the dominant thesis of the 88-page Durban II draft declaration is that the U.S., Western Europe, Israel, and other liberal democracies — their principles, institutions, policies, respective histories and national identities — are singularly racist, and, in addition, discriminatory against Islam.[Cliquez ici pour version Francaise]

Free speech, wealth, globalization, security measures to combat anti-Western terrorism — all of these are attacked as causes of racism, discrimination, and the “defamation of Islam.” The aggressive campaign to impose a new regime of global censorship, dictated by Islamic sensitivities, makes the Durban II language even worse than that of the original conference in 2001.

Ignoring racism and intolerance around the world, the draft — compiled by a committee that includes Libya as chair, and Iran, Pakistan, and Cuba as vice-chairs — focuses only on one specific country, Israel, which it portrays as the enemy of humanity, using language lifted verbatim from the notorious 2001 Tehran Declaration.

The UN Watch report highlights a selection of the draft’s 646 provisions that breach the European Union’s red lines. As set forth by France on behalf of the EU, in a 19 September 2008 statement to the UN Human Rights Council, the EU red lines reject (1) singling out one region of the world in particular; (2) reopening the 2001 Durban declaration by inserting a prohibition against “defamation of religion,” designed to restrict free speech and impose the censorship of Islamic anti-blasphemy laws; (3) drawing up an order of priority among victims; and (4) politicizing or polarizing the discussion.

Earlier this year, French President Nicolas Sarkozy pledged — “without ambiguity” — to withdraw the EU from the Durban II process if the 2001 excesses repeated themselves and the EU’s concerns were ignored. Sarkozy also set forth a timeline in which France would act on its pledge, saying the decision would be made while France chaired the EU “in the final months preceding the review conference.” That deadline for action expires on December 31, 2008.

Click here to read new report: Shattering the Red Lines

NGO Committe on Racism Goes Rogue, Until Stopped by UN Watch

“NGO Forum” organizers meet on sidelines of Durban II prep session, October 2008, Geneva, falsely claiming to have mandate from the NGO Committee on Racism. On the panel were lead lobbyists for the forum, Jan Lonn of the Afro-Swedish National Association, Margaret Parsons of the African Canadian Legal Clinic, and Charles Graves (chair) and Biro Diawara of Interfaith International.

In addition to the vitriolic draft produced by the prep session’s governmental conference, a motley crew of radical left-wing, anti-Western, and anti-Israel non-governmental organizations—including Libyan front organization “North South 21”—assembled on the sidelines of the preparatory session, to demand that the final Durban II conference in April include a “NGO Forum,” the most noxious element of the 2001 Durban fiasco. Their efforts appear to be coordinated with the Libyan regime of Colonel Qaddafi, chair of the UN conference.

The 2001 NGO Forum, which gathered thousands of activists, degenerated into an anti-Semitic hatefest, and was condemned even by sympathetic participants such as UN human rights chief Mary Robinson, Human Rights Watch, and South African Deputy Foreign Minister Aziz Pahad. (See list of quotes at bottom.)

Though it sounds lovely to have a broad gathering of non-governmental organizations for the world’s unheard voices, this is hardly what the organizers have in mind.

Moribund Committee Rises From Dead to Organize Global “NGO Forum”

For one thing, the NGO Forum campaigners are using questionable methods of organization. On the sidelines of the recent UN preparatory session in Geneva, they convened three meetings on “Organizing the NGO Forum”, under the name of the NGO Committee on Racism. The lead person behind it was committee secretary Charles Graves, of Interfaith International.

That this committee was now organizing a NGO Forum for Durban II came as news to UN Watch. We’re a member in good standing of the committee, as well as vice-president of its parent body, the NGO Special Committee on Human Rights. When we spotted the event flyer posted on the UN walls, we found it curious that the members of the Committee on Racism had never been consulted, much less informed.

Particularly odd about the whole thing was that the committee in question has been moribund for many months. Its veteran president— Jean-Jacques Kirkyacharian of MRAP—gave up his functions last year, and was never replaced. Elections are long overdue. It has failed to hold meetings or any other consultations. Yet suddenly, as if rising from the dead, pretenders to the throne of this non-functioning entity emerged to claim sponsorship of what may be one of the most controversial and dangerous political gatherings of our time. They also suddenly claimed to have broken free of the parent body that funded them over the years, and to which they are constitutionally bound.

As they say in Alaska, the committee had gone rogue.

UN Watch and Responsible NGOs Decried Breach of Procedure

UN Watch immediately took action. We filed a series of detailed protests, invoking basic rules of procedure and NGO principles. Other responsible NGO figures in Geneva quickly followed suit, expressing surprise with the actions of the Graves group, and describing the resulting situation as “chaos.”

Long-time members were surprised to learn that their committee name was being used publicly as an organizer of a future NGO Forum. They noted that the committee had failed to hold meetings for over half a year, and that no decision had ever been taken regarding a NGO Forum for Durban II. Even those supportive of the Durban conference expressed concern that any NGO gathering be a transparent and inclusive process, and they voiced confusion and frustration at what they saw instead as an erratic and exclusive process.

There was some irony in the sad display. From the very start, the would-be organizers of a worldwide forum for thousands of NGO activists proved unwilling or unable to consult with barely a dozen members of a tiny sub-committee in Geneva, in whose name they purported to act.

Activists Admit: We Used Committee Name to Lobby Governments, High Commissioner, other UN Officials

Following UN Watch inquiries, Graves revealed that he had used the committee’s name to lobby for the forum in letters to High Commissioner Navi Pillay, in closed-door meetings with the Libyan-led committee of 20 governments planning Durban II, as well as with officials of the UN Anti-Discrimination Unit. All of this occurred without any mandate, and in contravention of committee rules against the issuance of statements in the name of the committee.

The scenario is rather clear. Whoever is taking the lead, the Libyan chair and her allies are engaged in a dance with a small group of fringe organizations, to coordinate a NGO forum like that held in 2001. And while Ban Ki-moon and other responsible figures in the UN want nothing to do with a repeat of the 2001 fiasco, certain others in the UN secretariat seek the opposite.

All they and the Libyans need is a collaborator among the NGOs that can claim to speak in the name of a broad authority. In this manner they hope to win the support of new High Commissioner Navi Pillay, who has reportedly decided that, “if there is momentum and a critical mass, the UN Secretariat will consider holding a NGO Forum.”

What no one inside the UN is likely to tell Pillay is that this coalition, apart from Graves, is led by groups such as “North South 21”, a Geneva-based outfit that was created in 1989 by Libya—making it a “GONGO”, or “Government Operated NGO”—and which also functions as the committee for the Muammar Qaddafi Human Rights Prize, which it has awarded to Holocaust denier Roger Garaudy and anti-Semite Louis Farrakhan, among others. Abdelbagi Jibril, listed here as an officer of North South 21, works closely with the Graves group. For more details on North South 21—known in French as “Nord Sud 21″—click here.

Another member of the NGO Forum lobbying campaign is EAFORD, an openly anti-Semitic group, also created in Libya, that in September told the UN Human Rights Council that “Jews everywhere” were “allowing Israel to inflict [a Holocaust] on the Palestinian people.”

The same UN secretariat that twice censored innocuous submissions of ours, concerning questionable UN officials, had no trouble distributing this racist statement with the UN imprimatur. Even more shocking, the High Commissioner’s website on racism offers a permanent link to only two NGOs, and anti-Semitic EAFORD ranks as one. (Click here and scroll to the bottom-left column.)

UN Watch Action Stops Committee from Going Rogue

In wake of UN Watch’s sustained action in defense of the committee’s rules and reputation, which Graves decried as undue “pressure”, he finally agreed to cease and desist. Stopped from going rogue, he now formally acknowledges that the NGO Committee on Racism “is not an official supporter or member of the Coordinating Committee for an NGO Forum for the Durban Review Conference and does not officially support the idea of an NGO Forum at that Conference.”

Moreover, Graves has written, “no member of our NGO Committee should think that our NGO Committee officially supports the NGO Forum or participates as such in the new Coordinating Committee.” Finally, “any further meetings supporting the NGO Forum at the Durban Review Conference can be called by those NGOs in favour of such an NGO Forum, and not by the NGO Committee Against Racism.” (And he may even agree to finally allow committee elections—but that is another story.)

All of which is perfectly fine by us. If every single one of the Libyan front organizations in Geneva, aided by their fellow travelers in Canada, Sweden, and elsewhere, want to sponsor an anti-Western and anti-Semitic circus, let them at least do so in their own names only. But not in our name.

Time For Real NGOs to Say: Not in Our Name

Now is the time for every NGO with courage to speak out and say: Not in our name. True heirs of the human rights movement must rise up to denounce an assembly that—dominated by GONGOs and their enablers, witting and unwitting—is as far from being non-governmental as it is from being an open forum.

Unless this happens—unless NGOs take a stand today by issuing public statements, and by writing letters to High Commissioner Pillay, to the Swiss government, to the City of Geneva, and to every other entity now being pressured to support a sequel to the 2001 hatefest—the Libyans and their allies within the UN will win the day.

And human rights, which should be celebrating the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration, will be the greatest loser.


Geneva’s Green Party Urging City Council to Support Durban II “NGO Forum”

Geneva’s Green Party is urging the city council to lend support and resources for the campaign to hold a Libyan-supported “NGO Forum” at the April 2009 Durban II conference. Anne Moratti Jung, a member of the Geneva city council for the Green Party, is co-sponsor of the motion, and spoke about the initiative at a recent Geneva gathering in support of a NGO Forum, monitored by UN Watch.

The Green Party motion claims that the April 2009 conference will be an “opportunity for the City at the conference to promote the mission of international Geneva and to strengthen relations with international organizations, the UN and NGOs.” UN Watch has the full story here.

Leading International Voices on the 2001 Durban NGO Forum

With a Libyan-backed group of fringe organizations now lobbying the UN and the City of Geneva to help them hold a so-called “NGO Forum” during the April 2009 Durban Review Conference (“Durban II”), it’s worth recalling why so many fear a repeat of the nightmare that was the 2001 NGO Forum.

Former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson:

[T]he atmosphere of anti-Semitism at the NGO Forum was described as ‘hateful, even racist’ by former High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson. Source: U.S. House of Representatives Resolution 1361 EH, Sept. 23, 2008

I had urged the NGOs not to adopt it. But the process was democratic and they went ahead and adopted it. But I also have a democratic right to reject that declaration dealing with Israel. . .  I think the NGO Forum, by including that text on Israel, have diminished the chances of it being adopted by the conference. I don’t think it can be adopted. Source: “Israel branded ‘racist’ by rights forum,” CNN, Sept. 2, 2001.

[A]fter [an activist] showed Robinson the booklet, she stood up, waved it and said, ‘This conference is aimed at achieving human dignity. My husband is a cartoonist, I love political cartoons, but when I see the racism in this cartoon booklet, of the Arab Lawyers’ Union, I must say that I am a Jew – for those victims are hurting. I know that you people will not understand easily, but you are my friends, so I tell you that I am a Jew, and I will not accept this fractiousness to torpedo the conference.’ Source: Robinson in Durban: I am a Jew“, The Jerusalem Post, Aug. 30, 2001.

South African Deputy Foreign Minister Aziz Pahad:

The South African government has condemned the anti-Semitism at the nongovernmental conference against racism held in Durban last August. Referring to the “disgraceful events,” Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs Aziz Pahad said the conference was hijacked and turned into an anti-Semitic event. Source: “South Africa decries anti-Semitism at Durban Racism Conference,” Human Rights Education Association, 2002.

Human Rights Watch:

Human Rights Watch. . . calls on all participants to avoid a repeat of the conduct that so marred the 2001 conference. In particular, the NGO forum at the Durban Conference undermined the wider process when the forum’s concluding statement singled out one country, Israel, as the target of exaggerated and unsupportable allegations and when certain forum participants made anti-Semitic statements and expressed anti-Semitic sentiments that targeted, among others, individuals participating in the conference.Source: Human Rights Watch, “Position Paper: Second Preparatory Committee for the Durban Review Conference,” April 21, 2008.

Amnesty International:

Amnesty International “joined Jewish and Israeli leaders in warning that a forthcoming UN conference against racism could degenerate into an assault on Israel, Zionism, and the significance of the Holocaust.” Regrettably, we were not able to head off the ugly incidents that in fact did take place. Source: Joshua Rubenstein, Northeast Regional Director, Amnesty International USA, Letter to Boston Jewish Advocate, Dec. 27, 2007.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy:

Vous avez parlé de la conférence de Durban. Je vais vous le dire : la conférence de Durban en 2001 a donné lieu à des débordements intolérables de la part de certains Etats et de nombreuses organisations non gouvernementales qui ont fait de cette conférence une tribune contre l’Etat d’Israël. Personne n’a oublié. Une conférence de suivi est prévue pour 2009. Monsieur le Président, vous m’avez interpellé. Je vous répondrai très franchement. La France n’acceptera pas que les dérives et les outrances de 2001 se répètent. Nos partenaires européens partagent les inquiétudes de la France. Celle-ci présidera l’Union européenne dans les derniers mois précédant la conférence de suivi. Je vous le dis, nous saurons nous désengager du processus si nos exigences légitimes ne sont pas prises en compte. J’estime que ma réponse est sans ambigüité.


You have spoken about the Durban conference. I will tell you: The Durban conference in 2001 led to intolerable excesses from certain states and numerous NGOs that turned the conference into a forum against Israel. No one has forgotten. A follow-up conference is planned for 2009. Mr. President [of the CRIF], you asked me a question. I will answer very frankly. France will not allow a repetition of the excesses and abuses of 2001. Our European partners share France’s concerns. France will chair the EU in the final months preceding the review conference.  I say to you:  if ever our legitimate demands are not taken into account, we will disengage from the process. I believe my response is without ambiguity. Source: Discours de Nicolas Sarkozy au diner annuel du crif le 13 fevrier 2008.

Canadian Secretary of State for Multiculturalism Jason Kenney:

[The Durban conference] turned into a bit of a circus for intolerance and bigotry, particularly but not exclusively directed at the Jewish people. . .  Hitler posters [were displayed] by NGOs that have been re-invited by the organizing committee now chaired by Libya. Source: “Canada pulls support for UN anti-racism conference,” CTV News, Jan. 23, 2008.

U.S. House of Representatives

[T]he NGO Forum produced a document called the ‘NGO Declaration’  that contained abusive language, branding Israel an ‘apartheid state’ that is guilty of ‘racist crimes against humanity’. . .  the atmosphere of anti-Semitism at the NGO Forum was described as ‘hateful, even racist’ by former High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson and as ‘disgraceful’ by Deputy Foreign Minister Aziz Pahad, of South Africa, who also stated that parts of the 2001 World Conference Against Racism were ‘hijacked and used by some with an anti-Israeli agenda to turn it into an anti-Semitic event’…”  Source: U.S. House of Representatives Resolution 1361, Sept. 23, 2008

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay:

Seven years ago at the 2001 World Conference against Racism, the virulent anti-Semitic behaviour of a few non-governmental organizations on the sidelines of the Durban Conference overshadowed the critically important work of the Conference. Measures were taken to address this betrayal of the core principles of the Durban Conference, and the NGO document was not forwarded to the Conference.” Source: Address by Navanethem Pillay, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to the Opening of the Durban 2nd Preparatory Committee, Oct. 6, 2008.

U.S. Representative Tom Lantos:

Another ring in the Durban circus was the NGO forum, taking place just outside the conference center. Although the NGO proceedings were intended to provide a platform for the wide range of civil society groups interested in the conference’s conciliatory mission, the forum quickly became stacked with Palestinian and fundamentalist Arab groups.

Each day, these groups organized anti-Israeli and anti-Semitic rallies around the meetings, attracting thousands. One flyer which was widely distributed showed a photograph of Hitler and the question “What if I had won?” The answer: “There would be NO Israel…” At a press conference held by Jewish NGO’s to discuss their concerns with the direction the conference was taking, an accredited NGO, the Arab Lawyers Union, distributed a booklet filled with anti-Semitic caricatures frighteningly like those seen in the Nazi hate literature printed in the 1930s. Jewish leaders and I who were in Durban were shocked at this blatant display of anti-Semitism.

For me, having experienced the horrors of the Holocaust first hand, this was the most sickening and unabashed display of hate for Jews I had seen since the Nazi period.Source: “The Durban debacle: An insider’s view of the world conference against racism,” Fletcher World Forum, Winter Spring 2002, at 46. The late Tom Lantos was founder of the U.S. Congressional Human Rights Caucus and delegate to the 2001 Durban conference.

UN Expert Gay McDougall

I join with Congressman Lantos and other critics who rightly condemn the anti-Semitism that some groups brought to events and activities surrounding the Non-Governmental Forum (NGO Forum). In some places, there was an atmosphere of intimidation and hate against Jewish people. There were cartoons and posters that were hurtful and inappropriate. Additionally, the final NGO document contained language relating to Israel that was inflammatory. In fact, portions of the document proposed by the Jewish caucus were defeated in a process that was intimidating and undemocratic.” Source: “The world conference against racism: through a wider lens,” Fletcher World Forum, Summer/Fall 2002, at 136.

Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) Delegate to NGO Forum Jerry V. Leaphart:

[T]he NGO Forum document contained language that was fairly criticized as anti-Semitic. Source: “The World Conference against Racism: What was really achieved?” Fletcher World Forum, Summer/Fall 2002, at 154.

Joint Coalition of 94 NGOs, including International League for Human Rights,
Human Rights First, ENAR – European Network Against Racism, UNITED for Intercultural Action – European network against nationalism, racism, fascism and in support of migrants and refugees, The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law (USA), SOVA Center for Information and Analysis (Russian Federation), Leadership Conference on Civil Rights (USA), ILGA-Europe, International Lesbian and Gay Association, CCDN – Celebrating Cultural Diversity Network (UK), CRARR – Center for Research-Action on Race Relations (Canada), Observatorio sobre Conflictos Etnicos en la Argentina – OSCEA, CAERS – The Canadian Anti-racism Education and Research Society, Citizens’ Watch (Russia), AFRICAN UNION Social organization of St. Petersburg (Russia), Asian American Justice Center, Freedom House (USA), Human Rights Without Frontiers International, Roma Virtual Network (RVN), The Kyrgyz Committee for Human Rights (Kyrgyz Republic), Helsinki Citizens’ Assembly of Moldova, Defence for Children International (Czech section), Sisters of Mercy, Mercy Justice Office – SCP (Ireland), Physicians for Human Rights, Helsinki Committee for Human Rights (Sweden), The Bahá’í International Community, The Canadian Helsinki Watch Group, Conectas Direitos Humanos (Brazil):

Many civil society representatives were disappointed, when the [2001 Durban] NGO process, which raised the profile of important contemporary racism problems and the historic wounds of slavery and discrimination, was discredited. UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson spoke out against what she called the “hateful, even racist” antisemitic atmosphere that plagued the NGO forum. She refused to commend it to governments for their consideration. Leading international human rights organizations called some of the human rights language in the declaration inaccurate, inappropriate and even counterproductive. They regretted that progress on vital issues such as discrimination against Roma and caste discrimination was thereby diminished. Observers were shocked by violations of procedure in the preparatory and drafting processes, the racist treatment including violence, exclusion, and intimidation against Jewish participants, and the misuse of human rights terminology in the document related to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. With a few notable exceptions, the vast majority of groups was silent or refused to speak out. In the years since, many have reflected that the result was a regrettable vacuum of moral leadership. Source: Civil society groups seek Durban Review that rejects hatred,” April 28, 2008

On the Durban Conference in General:

U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell:

Today I have instructed our representatives at the World Conference Against Racism to return home. . . I know that you do not combat racism by conferences that produce declarations containing hateful language, some of which is a throwback to the days of ‘Zionism equals racism;’ or supports the idea that we have made too much of the Holocaust; or suggests that apartheid exists in Israel; or that singles out only one country in the world–Israel–for censure and abuse. Source: “World Conference against Racism,” U.S. Department of State, Sept. 3, 2001.

Prime Minister of Canada Stephen Harper

We have every reason to believe it [the 2009 Durban Review Conference] will be a repeat of Durban I. . . We will not be party to an anti-Semitic and anti-Western hatefest dressed up as an anti-racism conference. Source: PM calls UN conference an ‘anti-Western hatefest’“, National Post, Jun. 28, 2008.

UN Watch