Issue 307: U.N. Bars UN Watch From Monitoring Durban III “Anti-Racism” Meeting

In an unpredecented development, the United Nations has decided to block UN Watch from attending and monitoring this Thursday’s Durban III “anti-racism” meeting. See full story below.  This is the first time in history that UN Watch has been officially excluded from a UN proceeding. In response, UN Watch filed an urgent complaint with UN rights chief Navi Pillay, the leading figure in the Durban process, asking her to denounce this act of discrimination. While her office pledged to pass on the complaint to the General Assembly President, High Commissioner Pillay is so far refusing to speak out. Click on this video to see what UN Watch intended to say at the Sept. 22 UN gathering.


U.N. Watchdog Group Barred From ‘Racism’ Meeting

But a group with close ties to Gaddafi is cleared to attend

By Patrick Goodenough
Sept. 15, 2011

( – A watchdog group that has frequently angered human rights-violating regimes at the United Nations has been blocked from attending next week’s controversial “Durban III” racism meeting in New York.

U.N. Watch, based in Geneva and accredited by the U.N., has been excluded from a list of 88 approved non-governmental organizations, but a group with close ties to Libya’s former Gaddafi regime was approved to attend next Thursday’s event.

The high-level meeting marks the tenth anniversary of the Durban Declaration and Plan of Action (DDPA), first adopted in Durban, South Africa. The U.S. and at least 10 other Western democracies have announced they will not attend, because both the 2001 “Durban I” and a 2009 review conference, “Durban II,” picked out Israel for condemnation.

Queries sent to the U.N.’s NGO Branch on Wednesday about the process of NGO accreditation received no reply, but according to a U.N. Web site, the final list of civil society groups permitted to attend was “approved by Member States.”

Among those on the list is the Geneva-based group, North-South 21 (“Nord-Sud 21” in French), a group funded by Muammar Gaddafi in the late 1980s to administer something called the “Al-Gaddafi International Prize for Human Rights.”

Past recipients of the award include former Cuban president Fidel Castro – described in the citation as a “freedom fighter” (1998), the “children of Iraq, victims of hegemony and embargo” (1999), Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez (2004), and Roger Garaudy (2002), a French communist-turned-Muslim who was convicted in 1998 on charges of denying the Holocaust.

Another recipient of the Gaddafi Prize was Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who won the award last year and early this year was criticized at home for not repudiating it.

Nord-Sud 21 was a participant in an NGO Forum that was held on the sidelines of Durban I in 2001.  Attendees recall that the event was characterized by pro-Israel speakers being shouted down while pro-Palestinian groups circulated anti-Semitic caricatures and posters equating Israel with Nazi Germany and apartheid South Africa.

Durban protest
Pro-Palestinian protestors demonstrate in Geneva on the eve of the “Durban II” conference in Geneva. (Photo: ICARE)

The forum’s final document declared Israel to be “a racist, apartheid state” and called for the establishment of a tribunal to bring Israelis to justice for “war crimes, acts of genocide and ethnic cleansing.”

Nord-Sud 21 also took part in the April 20-24, 2009 event Durban II in Geneva, where it hosted a side-meeting to complain about the fact that a final text being considered by participating governments did not include language directly referring to Palestinian occupation and Israeli “apartheid,” according to a European anti-racist monitoring group that monitored the week’s events.

(In the end the Durban II text reaffirmed the DDPA, which singled out Israel alone for criticism, by identifying “Palestinian people under foreign occupation” as victims of racism. Durban III is similarly set to “reaffirm … the full and effective implementation of the Durban Declaration.”)

‘Ominous sign’

While U.N. member states have decided to allow Nord-Sud 21 to participate in Durban III, they have ruled out attendance by U.N. Watch, which monitors the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva.

U.N. Watch executive director Hillel Neuer said late Wednesday that the U.N. had given no reasons for turning down its application.

It was the first time ever that U.N. Watch had been “barred” from a U.N. meeting, he told, calling it an “ominous sign that the only U.N. watchdog group is being kept out.”

It was “telling,” Neuer added, that a Gaddafi “front group” was being welcomed.

“It is an embarrassment for the U.N.” he said, adding that U.N. high commissioner for human rights Navi Pillay should speak out.

U.N. Watch has become a thorn in the side of countries on the Human Rights Council that have poor human rights records.

Its representatives have used their brief speaking slots to accuse governments of abuses and hypocrisy – using direct language seldom heard in U.N. chambers – and frequently are interrupted by complaints from delegates of such countries as Cuba and China.

In an unusual but effective tactic, U.N. Watch has at times used its time slot to feature a guest – such as the former commander of British forces in Afghanistan who defended the conduct of Israel’s 2008-9 offensive against Hamas in Gaza; and a Syrian opposition supporter who last month challenged countries like China, Russia and Pakistan by name, asking them how they could justify their “support for a regime that slaughters its own people.”


UN Watch