Durban Watch

Durban II

EYEontheUN ALERT - August 29, 2007

Day 3

Today the going got tough at the Preparatory Committee (PrepCom) meeting for the Durban II conference. The EU has not yet rolled over and negotiations are bogged down over the objectives and procedural rules, among other things. The EU does not want a conference that is open-ended and the Organization Islamic Conference(OIC) and the African Group of the UN Human Rights Council (the majority of whom are members of the OIC) are hell bent on the longest possible conference focused on Islamophobia, and from time-to-time on the implementation of Durban I's final Declaration. As Pakistan said today, they are particularly keen to have discussion on "new forms of racism, including racial profiling in the fight against terrorism..."

Agreement was, therefore, only reached on some of the easier items:
  • Durban II will be held in the first half of 2009
  • Participation in the Conference "should be at the highest possible level"
  • The High Commissioner for Human Rights will be designated as Secretary-General of the Conference and assume responsibilities for preparations. (Current High Commissioner, Canadian Lousie Arbour, may rue the day she took the job and quit the Supreme Court of Canada. Durban I tarnished the reputation of Mary Robinson despite her efforts at serious reforms of the UN human rights system.)
  • All future PrepCom sessions will be held in Geneva and the venue of the Durban Review Conference will be decided later.

Brazil (the coodinator of the Latin American and Caribbean Group) offered to host a preparatory regional conference in 2008. Participants also decided that the Conference would "evaluate and enhance the effectiveness of the existing Durban follow-up mechanisms and other UN mechanisms dealing with the issue of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance" and "promote the universal ratification of ICERD [International Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Racial Discrimination]." Of course, actually implementing racial equality for the majority of UN member states is another issue altogether.

The EU put forward amendments to possible draft decisions for the PrepCom to consider. One concerns an attempt to make efforts to implement the Durban I Declaration more concrete. Another addresses a plan for international, regional and national preparatory initiatives in advance of the Conference. Number three was about money. Though much of the draft decision speaks about voluntary contributions, and the EU proposed changes would scale back the financial outlay coming from the Office of the High Commissioner, the bottom line is that the EU agrees to recommend that the cost of this farce come from the UN regular budget. "The Preparatory Committee decides: (a) to request the United Nations Secretary-General to provide the necessary resources for the preparations for the Durban Review Conference and to consider providing the necessary financial and technical assistance for the convening of the regional preparatory meetings, when organized in UN offices."

None of this, however, touches the issue of the Durban II objectives. The Libyan Chair - who might as well be sitting as the head of the OIC - offered a new "non-paper" which includes: "the Review Conference will...identify emerging and persisting contemporary and other manifestations of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance since 2001; ...identify additional measures, initiatives and practical solutions for combating racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance and their contemporary forms and manifestations." If accepted, such a formula would hand the OIC exactly what they're after - attention on hysterically exaggerated accusations of discrimination against Muslims, accompanied by finger-pointing at the usual list of racist villains, Israel and America.

At the end of the day, some were still holding their breath to see how long it takes the EU to capitulate in the name of cooperation and face-saving for the UN.