The architects of Durban II — Libya, Iran, and other intolerant and repressive regimes — tried to repeat the hatefest of the 2001 Durban conference, where real human rights issues were ignored, Israel was speciously singled out in the conference declaration, and the NGO Forum became a venue for massive displays of anti-Semitic incitement.
But thanks to UN Watch and its many NGO partners and supporters, the malign design of Durban II was defeated. With the U.N. frightened by the prospect of an E.U. walk-out, the Durban II declaration, while unacceptable on several grounds, importantly dropped any express focus on Israel — the first such outcome in decades. Equally if not more important, the most significant NGO events in Geneva that week, co-organized by UN Watch, were actually those supportive of human rights.
The extremist forces that sought to repeat the hatefest of 2001 were roundly defeated, as they themselves have conceded in various articles and blogs. Groups like “North-South 21”, a Libyan front group that masquerades as a NGO, did manage to organize a “Civil Society Forum” and certain other events, but these were held in the wrong side of town, were poorly attended, and failed to gain any traction among respected NGOs or the media.
By contrast, following are links showing some of the major activities organized by UN Watch, working together with large NGO coalitions, that helped set the tone for a week that exposed the hypocrisy of the Durban II architects, frustrated their worst intentions, and gave voice to victims of human rights violations worldwide:
- UN Watch exposes hypocrisy of Libyan Chair of Durban II planning committee Speech by Ashraf Ahmed El-Hojouj, victim of Libyan torture, interrupted by Libyan chair; episode featured on Swiss TV, The New Republic online, France 24, Canada’s National Post, and many other newspapers and blogs. Geneva, April 17, 2009.
- Geneva Summit for Human Rights, Tolerance and Democracy “The real human rights conference, as Eleanor Roosevelt would have wanted it.” Moving testimony by some of the world’s most well-known human rights victims, former political prisoners, and scholars, before an historic gathering of more than 500 human rights, anti-racism and pro-democracy activists, who assembled from around the world on the eve of the Durban II conference. Organized by UN Watch, SOS Racisme, Freedom House, and 30 other human rights NGOs. Geneva International Conference Center, April 19, 2009.
- Yom Hashoah Commemoration On the day that Iranian President Ahmadinejad opened the U.N. Durban II conference, in which he mocked the Holocaust and called for the elimination of Israel, UN Watch and Geneva Jewish communities co-organized a major Holocaust commemoration, in the adjacent public square, to mark Yom Hashoah. The 3,000 seats were filled to capacity, attended by international diplomats, Swiss dignitaries, and Jewish communities and church groups from Geneva and all across Europe. Keynote speakers: Elie Wiesel, Bernard-Henri Levy, Professor Irwin Cotler, and Father Patrick Desbois. Geneva, April 20, 2009.
- Conference Against Racism, Dicrimination and Persecution A conference featuring leading voices in the battle against discrimination, including activists for women’s rights, gay rights, and victims of racism and genocide from around the world. Co-organized by UN Watch and many other NGOs. Geneva, April 22, 2009.
- Iran interrupts UN Watch speech to Durban II conference Iran interrupts speech of UN Watch executive director Hillel Neuer after he mentioned the suffering of former Iranian political prisoner Ahmed Batebi. Geneva, April 23, 2009.