Issue 294: The Good News: Human rights groups led by UN Watch to hold parallel conference, give voice to victims

GENEVA — Two weeks after the Obama administration announced it would boycott the upcoming UN racism conference known as “Durban III,” the world body adopted a resolution today detailing the program and speakers for the September 22 event in New York, to include UN chief Ban Ki-moon and top rights official Navi Pillay.

As world leaders will commemorate the 10th anniversary of the 2001 Durban Declaration on racism and discrimination, a coalition of 25 non-governmental organizations will be holding a parallel summit, adjacent to the UN, to give voice to victims worldwide, according to a statement issued today by UN Watch, an independent human rights monitoring group based in Geneva.

The NGO Human Rights Summit, to be organized by UN Watch in partnership with an international civil society coalition, will take place on September 21-22, 2011, beginning on the same day as President Obama will open the annual session of the UN General Assembly.

This will be a golden opportunity for human rights groups to turn an international spotlight on some of the most pressing situations, demand action for victims, and urge the UN to remove violator states from the membership of its human rights agencies.

To that end, the international coalition of NGOs led by UN Watch will hold a parallel summit of human rights dissidents, pro-democracy and anti-racism activists. When Iran, Syria, China, Cuba, Zimbabwe and other repressive governments present a politicized agenda to shield their own abuses, human rights activists will instead focus attention on the victims most in need of global attention, including those protected under the Durban Declaration’s Article 2 prohibition against discrimination based on political or other opinion.

The NGO summit will demand action on urgent situations of genocidal racism as well as the massacre of peaceful protesters and the targeting of pro-democracy advocates around the world. Victims of discrimination and gross human rights abuses from Sudan, China, North Korea, Iran, Cuba, Venezuela, Syria, Zimbabwe and elsewhere will testify about their persecution and demand that the world leaders gathered at the UN address their situations.

Speakers at the NGO summit will include victims of persecution, former prisoners of conscience, parliamentarians, human rights experts and activists. Themes to be addressed by the panel sessions will include genocide, discrimination against women, discrimination against gays and lesbians, and discrimination based on religion or political opinion. The summit will conclude with a joint declaration demanding action on urgent situations.

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