Durban Watch

Durban II

EYEontheUN ALERT - August 28, 2007

Day 2 a.m.

The gloves are off and the EU (which on UN-math doesn't have the votes to win battles) has immediately started to attempt to mollify the enemies of human rights. On the one side stand all those states who want to turn Durban II into a copycat of Durban I, a free-for-all with alleged Islamophobia taking center stage. The game plan isn't complicated. As long as all Muslims are victims, those acting in the name of Islam regardless of their actions couldn't possibly be perpetrators. And if anti-semitism is about all semites including non-Jews instead of meaning Jew-hatred, as Syria suggested yesterday, then Jews are not victims of racism but the evil-doers.

In order to stir-up a sufficiently frenzied Durban II, these states are aiming to ensure the agenda will permit consideration of issues beyond the implementation of the Durban I final document. Of course when these states began agitating for a so-called Durban Review Conference they never had any intention of sticking to the text of Durban I, (however much it already reflects their views). There are all kinds of incidents over the intervening years, such as the Danish cartoons incident, that they are intent on hysterically suggesting are a Jewish, Christian and American sponsored plot against Muslims everywhere. As rabble-rouser Egypt said yesterday, the aftermath of 9/11 "saw a new and dangerous phenomenon in incitement to racial and religious hatred. An example in this regard were the highly defamatory cartoons published by a Danish newspaper in 2005, which deeply hurt over a billion Muslims around the world, and threatened social harmony and peace, both nationally and internationally."

Here are some of today's comments of the "let Muslim states do anything they want" side – the speakers coming from states with some of the worst human rights records on the planet:

Azerbaijan: "We shouldn't limit our debates to the implementation; we must focus on today's picture of racism in all its forms and manifestations."

Nigeria: "the use of stereotypes to impugn on the identity and religion of people has increased racism... There is a compelling need for us to confront the past and the omissions of the original document."

Pakistan: "It is not helpful at this stage to erect barriers. New forms of racism need to be addressed...There's a need to address in the Durban Review Conference the new scourges of racism... racism is not static, it is hydra headed and keep changing in form."

Bangladesh: "We cannot turn a blind eye since the last Durban....There is a surge and new forms in racism. The goal of Durban is defeated if we don't take this into account."

Egypt: "We should look at the developments since 2001 with regard to some issues. Why? Because the situation is not isn't sufficient to cover the negative developments with regard to racial profiling..."

Iran: "We agree with Egypt. Although the Durban Declaration and Program of Action, we cannot ignore new developments, like racial profiling and religious profiling as new developments since 2001."

On the other side are the Europeans and some Latin Americans who are worried, probably first and foremost, that a full-fledged Durban II would bring dishonor to the United Nations – that is, make it obvious who runs the place. Various members of these regional blocs voiced the opinion that Durban II should stick to implementation of Durban I. When the argument wasn't proceeeeding very well, Portugal had a new tact – appeasement. "Our views are not so opposed. The questions on Islamophobia, racial profiling, and racism on the Internet were already included in various paragraphs..." of Durban I. And of course, they're right – Durban I already isolated Israel, deleted numerous draft sections on anti-semitism from the UN anti-racism agenda, and included Islamophobia. Rather than having objected to Durban I in the first place, however - and walk out of the hatefest with the U.S. and Israel – the EU at that time enjoyed playing Western power-broker and joined consensus.

From the outset of the Durban II process, the EU has been outwitted. They voted in favor of the resolution which opened the door to a Durban Review Conference at the General Assembly in November 2006, leaving only the United States and Israel to vote against. After their vote, they sputtered out an explanation of vote which was a pathetic attempt to impose their interpretation on deliberately ambiguous language They "understood" that (1) the 2009 conference would focus on the implementation of what was decided in Durban without reopening the "programme 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 one of the three existing Durban follow-up mechanisms.

But here we are – at a Preparatory Conference for Durban II gunning for an open-ended agenda.

To further bolster efforts at re-creating the full-fledged Durban I madness, the Organization of Islamic Conference and the African Group engaged in another battle today over the rules of procedure. They are refusing to adopt the regular General Assembly rules of procedure for special sessions and instead want different rules of procedure applied to Durban II.

The Libyan President of the Bureau or Chair, notwithstanding her officially neutral role, has already demonstrated her intention to push the position of the Organization of the Islamic Conference – just as she did while chair of the UN Human Rights Commission in 2003. At that time, she is remembered for example, for deliberately running out the clock on a resolution that would have objected to discrimination (including murder) against homosexuals. In her UN "non-paper" distributed today and accompanying comments, she cast the two positions on the subject-matter of Durban II this way: one side was interested "to take stock of contemporary manifestations of racism and racial discrimination since 2001...[and] to come up with new strategies and practical solutions for combating racism" and the other side had a "narrow objective" of "not reopening the debate agreed upon in 2001."

Her comments were immediately supported by human rights champions Egypt and Iran. On the issue of rules of procedure the President argued in favor of the African Group's position.

Day 2 - of what is shaping up to be a no-holds-barred anti-Western and anti-semitic Durban II – brought to you by the United Nations.