Durban Watch

Durban II

EYEontheUN ALERT - December 5, 2007

On November 28, 2007 the Third Committee of the General Assembly adopted a resolution of crucial importance to all those concerned about Durban II (L.65/Rev.1). Even the European Union voted against this Durban follow-up resolution in the General Assembly - a first since the original conference. The battle lines have been drawn over who will pay for Durban II and the growing apparatus of preparatory committees, conferences, and trips by selected UN special procedures, NGOs and others from developing countries.

The battle itself has now moved to the budget apparatus of the UN, and in particular the General Assembly's Fifth (budget) Committee. Just prior to the adoption of the resolution in the Third Committee, the Secretariat announced a preliminary figure of approximately 7.2 million dollars from the coffers of the UN's regular budget for parts of Durban II. (L.90) This would mean the vast majority of funding would come from Western states through mandatory UN contributions and 22% from the United States.

The question, therefore, is this -- will the United States, Canada, Australia and the European Union agree to pay for Durban II and its preparation even though they voted against one or the other of the two resolutions relating to the planning or the substance of the conference? Will they pay for what is bound to become a clash with Islamic states and a feeding ground for xenophobia including antisemitism, knowing that they do not have the numbers to prevail and ensure that universality will trump racial and religious intolerance?

Over the next week or two the UN Secretariat will prepare a detailed breakdown of the costs of Durban II to which the follow-up resolution (so far) commits member states. At the 11th hour on November 28th Pakistan (speaking on behalf of the Group of 77 and China) made oral revisions to the resolution. As a consequence of (temporarily) dropping some of the more expensive features, the 7.2 million preliminary figure will likely be revised downwards. Nevertheless, this stage will mean a commitment on the part of member states to approve Durban II spending as part of the UN's 2008-9 biennium budget.

The usual procedure is for the Fifth Committee to operate by consensus – so it will be exceptional if the U.S. or the European Union were to refuse consensus now. But the hypocrisy of paying for Durban II threatens to make a mockery of Western democracies and their professed values trumpeted regularly across the UN.

The European Union has said openly they were double-crossed and had joined consensus on previous Durban resolutions on the strength of promises that the G-77 never kept. Stung by a treachery visible to anyone else a mile away, they told the Third Committee on November 28th:
    "At this point, we ask ourselves whether it is worth for all delegations to make all such efforts [sic] to reach compromises if they can be so easily broken. We also reiterate our doubts about whether some of the main players in this process are genuinely interested in keeping the Durban follow-up process on a consensus basis which includes all regions of the world."
Doubts? This is a snow-job if there ever was one. And actually the votes against from the United States and Israel (in addition to walking out of the conference), as well as abstentions from others, have denied consensus to Durban I and Durban follow-up from the beginning.

The United States explained its vote against the resolution by specifically objecting to the costs as well as the merits of Durban II, stating in part:
    "[T]he outcomes of the [World] conference [held in Durban in 2001] were deeply flawed and divisive. The resolution now before us endorses that flawed outcome and is therefore itself seriously problematic...Durban follow-up activities are duplicative...[W]e do not support the continuation of such duplicative work...[W]e do not believe that the Human Rights Council should act as a preparatory committee for the Durban Review Conference...[T]he Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights should provide for more substantial programming...rather than put its valuable resources into more conferences."
Are these states now going to approve the costs of Durban II from the regular budget of the UN – a cost which rebounds directly onto the backs of their own taxpayers?

In its last minute amendments the G-77 agreed to continue talking about "the allocation of funding from the regular budget of the UN for the Durban Review Conference." Still, the resolution decides to use regular budget funding for some aspects of its preparation. This is on top of using the regular budget of the Office of the High Commissioner to pay for all the meetings of the Human Rights Council acting as the preparatory committee for the conference.

Action Needed

The United States should object to the funding of Durban II from the UN's regular budget. This means calling for the vote in the Fifth Committee on the financing of Durban II and voting against. The vote is expected to take place within the next 2-3 weeks. Though the outcome of the funding vote would mirror the vote on the follow-up resolution itself (119 for, 45 against, 6 abstentions), it would send a clear and consistent message about the pernicious nature of Durban, its aftermath and its reincarnation. It would also set the stage for a concerted effort to resist the hijacking of the anti-racism agenda of the UN by the least tolerant members of the human family.