Durban Watch

Durban II

EYEontheUN ALERT - December 8, 2006

UN plans another Durban Racism Conference for 2009

c. 2001 ICARE & Magenta Fdn.

What a UN "anti-racism" conference looks like: Durban 2001

December 8, 2006 Rebecca Tobin reporting from Geneva

In September of 2001, the UN World Conference against Racism, held in Durban, South Africa deteriorated into an anti-semitic, anti-Israel, pro-terrorism frenzy. On November 22, 2006 the Third Committee of the General Assembly adopted an annual resolution on the follow-up to the Durban conference that called for the reoccurrence of the Durban nightmare in 2009, deciding
to convene in 2009 a review conference on the implementation of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action to be conducted within the framework of the General Assembly, making use of the three existing and ongoing follow-up mechanisms, and to this end requests the Human Rights Council to undertake preparations for this event and formulate a concrete plan by 2007 for the review conference; and to provide updates and reports on this issue on an annual basis to both the Secretary-General and the General Assembly
The European Union (EU) voted in favor of this resolution (only the United States and Israel voted against) with the understanding that (1) the 2009 conference would focus on the implementation of what was decided in Durban without reopening the "program of action" for further negotiation and (2) the Human Rights Council would not create a new mechanism to prepare for the conference – rather it would use an existing Durban follow-up mechanism (there are currently three).

Fast forward to the third session of the Human Rights Council. With an intentionally short memory, the African regional group submitted a resolution and a decision this week related to Durban. The resolution on "Preparations for the Durban Review Conference" deliberately leaves the title – and therefore the purpose – of the conference vague while calling for the establishment of a new mechanism to prepare for the conference. It calls for the Human Rights Council to act as the preparatory committee for the conference, elect a bureau and meet for three weeks in 2007 and two weeks in 2008 for a cost of $744,900. The EU had introduced amendments to the African Group's resolution that would have kept it consistent with what they agreed to less than a month ago in the Third Committee. However during informal consultations this week, South Africa and Egypt both claimed that they had a different recollection of what happened in New York and refused EU entreaties. The African Group's resolution was adopted December 8, 2006 by a vote of 34 in favor, 12 against and 1 abstention thus ensuring that Durban 2009 will see a repeat of the 2001 conference – only worse.

One specific inclusion in the resolution reveals the direction that the 2009 conference will take. In inviting different UN bodies to contribute to the new preparatory committee's work, the resolution singles out only two of the many Special Rapporteurs, the Special Rapporteur on Racism, and the Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief. No mention is made, for example, of the rapporteur on promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression. In other words, Islamophobia and its manifestations in Danish cartoons will be on the agenda. Freedom of expression will not.

And it doesn't end there. There was also a decision on "follow-up" to the Durban Conference introduced by the African Group. In addition to the body created in the resolution to plan the 2009 review conference, this decision creates yet another Durban-related mechanism – the Ad Hoc Committee of the Human Rights Council on the Elaboration of Complementary Standards. Notably, a totally separate group of experts was just appointed to produce a report on recommendations to deal with the gaps in standards on combating racism. The EU proposed waiting until that report is received (end of June 2007) to then decide – based on the report -- whether or not an Ad Hoc Committee is necessary. They lost, and by a vote of 33 in favor, 12 against and 1 abstention, the Ad Hoc Committee to elaborate standards will be set up 7 months before the outcome of the report considering the advisability of elaborating standards. Furthermore, the purpose of the Ad Hoc Committee is to create "new normative standards aimed at combating all forms of contemporary racism, including incitement to racial and religious hatred" – in other words to turn the alleged defamation of Islam into a global witchhunt in the name of human rights. The cost for this exercise? $1,058,900.

The resolution and the decision adopted December 8, 2006 now bring the total number of bodies born from the racist and anti-semitic Durban Conference to five. They are:
  1. Intergovernmental Working Group on the Effective Implementation of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action
  2. Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent
  3. Five Independent Eminent Experts to follow-up the Implementation of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action
  4. Preparatory Committee for the Durban Review Conference
  5. Ad Hoc Committee of the Human Rights Council on the Elaboration of Complementary Standards
With a few exceptions, the Durban enterprise is synonymous with racism not its prevention. And it just got a whole lot bigger.