Discussions commence on latest Durban II text

Today at the U.N. Human Rights Council, states began negotiations of the latest (March 17) draft outcome document for Durban Review Conference, also known as “Durban II.” In this infomral meeting of the Intercessional Working Group, most states endorsed the text.

Reactions to the text
• Chile on behalf of the group of Latin American Countries (GRULAC), Cuba on behalf of the Non-alligned Movement (NAM), Pakistan on behalf of the Islamic States (OIC), the Czech Republic on behalf of the European Union (EU), South Africa on behalf of the African Group (AG), Brazil, Mexico, Nigeria, Switzerland, China, India, Turkey, Colombia, Singapore, Morocco, Norway, Philippines, Tunisia, Palestine, and New Zealand all commended the latest draft as a good basis for the negotiation of the final outcome document.
• The EU specifically said that the document is going in the right direction, but also highlighted the need for improvements in the areas of freedom of expression/incitement, rationalization of follow-up mechanisms, proportion of victim categories, and multiple forms of discrimination. The document retains coded references to the campaign of Islamic states to criminalize criticism of relgion or “defamation of religions;” hence, the EU focus on freedom of expression. The EU mentioned multiple forms of discrimination because of its desire to include condemnation of discrimination based on gender and sexual orientation, which have been removed from the latest draft under pressure from the majority African-Islamic bloc.
• Mexico, Switzerland and New Zealand announced they would make no further amendments and will simply react to the proposals that are going to be introduced by other delegations. Mexico, Singapore and Colombia said they can accept the document as is. Many other countries urged for restraint in proposing changes so as to protect the “perfect balance” of the document.
• Cuba (NAM), Pakistan (OIC), South Africa (AG), Nigeria, Bangladesh and Morocco warned the West not to try to ‘renegotiate’ the 2001 Durban text (DDPA). The AG said that the Durban II outcome should be complementary to the DDPA, not a negation of it. Morocco stated that this “would jeopardize the whole process”. They said the forum for the reform of the Durban follow-up mechanisms should be the Human Rights Council and not the Durban Review Conference.
• The EU, Norway, Switzerland, India and Mexico called for the document to be ready before the last meeting of the Durban II preparatory committee, to be held just before the conference. Nigeria responded to the EU by saying that this position shows the EU’s lack of political will and real commitment to the process.

Middle East
• Syria and Iran said they will raise some of their concerns during the next week’s meeting. Syria and Egypt spoke of continued concessions and sacrifices by one party, an implicit reference to the removal of “the plight of Palestinians”/ condemnation of Israel in the draft.
• Palestine said it hopes that “the very hard decision we took will push the conference in a successful direction.” It siad it may modify its position depending on proposals put forth. The Russian facilitator responded that Palestine’s political gesture is commendable and appreciated by all.

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