Durban Watch

Durban II

EYEontheUN ALERT - October 22, 2008

UN NGOs Begin Planning Durban II NGO Forum
Extreme Anti-Israel NGOs Assume Central Role

More than 50 NGO's met three times last week in Geneva to discuss holding another UN NGO Forum "against" racism during the Durban II Conference next April. The group included a contingent of extreme anti-Israel NGOs. Present were representatives from BADIL (BADIL Resource Center for Palestinian Residency and Refugees' Rights), EAFORD (The International Organization for the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination), Nord-Sud XXI, the Union of Arab Jurists, the Syrian UN Association, as well as the League of Arab States. Meeting organizers revealed that requests have already been made to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to make space available within the UN, or to secure the international conference center across from UN premises for the Forum.

During meetings on Thursday and Friday the group purported to create a "Coordinating Committee" which would "facilitate" the NGO Forum during the Durban II Conference. It appears that this Committee will include BADIL and Nord Sud XXI, who recommended themselves for membership.

For incontrovertible evidence of the 'demonization of Israel agenda' emerging from the NGO Forum organizers, what follows is part of a verbatim account of the meetings.

Background on some of the NGO participants

  • UN-accredited NGO BADIL has long advocated the end of a Jewish state. The following image taken from BADIL's website is just one example of its antisemitic message.

    For more BADIL images, click here.

    For information on BADIL, click here.
Translation: Holiday Cookies
[Ed. Note: Jews put hand grenades among holiday cookies fed to the unsuspecting.]

  • UN-accredited NGO EAFORD describes itself as having been created "in response to...U.N. Resolution 3379, which determined that Zionism is a form of racism and racial discrimination."

  • UN-accredited NGO Indian Movement Tupaj Amaru has circulated statements to the UN Human Rights body such as: "America subjugates the world as no empire has ever done in the history of mankind." November 29, 2006, the representative of this NGO told the Human Rights Council: "Today, the Palestinian people are suffering a human tragedy. They are victims of genocide and extermination and that because of the only crime of defending their lives and their ancestral land."

  • UN-accredited NGO Nord-Sud XXI recently circulated a UN document referring to: "the international crime of genocide committed by Israel against the Palestinian people."


Meeting - October 15, 2008 - (partial verbatim record)
    [The meeting distributed the following document:]

    NGO Forum Information Exchange, October 15, 2008


    • To explore the modalities of the NGO forum
    • Reflection on the contents topic of the forum
    • Make suggestions for the designation of volunteers at the regional level for the consultations and information exchange with national NGOs
    • Sensitize the actors present in Geneva for adoption of a constructive approach to the Durban review
    • Establish agenda for the months to come
    • Prepare a register of grievances for the attention of the OHCHR and the member states of the PrepCom
    • Set up a coordination committee which will facilitate the compilation of the document- NGO's contribution to the DRC
      Afro-Swedish National Association
      ...The UN has repeatedly said the Conference Against Racism is on an equal footing with other major UN conferences and summits in the human rights and social field. This means that the review process is on equal footing with the expectation of resources, attention and the work from the United Nations and governments....The NGO Forum that happened in Sweden in September was the major congregation of European civil society...We had figures from NGO constituencies that discussed problems related to this Conference such as Islamophobia, such as the situation that emerged after 9/11...

      African Canadian Legal Clinic (Margaret Parsons)
      I want to thank the Committee against Racism for organizing this NGOs meeting. I am the executive director of the African Canadian Legal Clinic in Toronto...The NGO community in Canada is working to come together and working hard for not only the Durban Review Conference but for the NGO Forum...There was definitely support for an NGO Forum at the Durban Review Conference that came out of the Brasilia [regional] conference. People are expecting there to be an NGO Forum, one that is supported by governments not just in principle but in fact, so that NGOs can have the resources to participate at the NGO Forum in April. [At the Abuja Regional Conference] African NGOs came together to work on how they are moving forward in preparation for the Durban Review Conference and NGO Forum because coming out of Abuja there was a unanimous call for an NGO Forum...It is imperative that we do have an NGO Forum....I think it is important that we have the ability to be able to talk about the impact of the efforts we've made, and in our own space to be able to hold our governments accountable and to be able to say we are discussing areas in which they failed to implement the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action.

      Red de Mujeres Afrolatinoamericanas, Afrocribenas y de la Diaspora
      ...In order to contribute to this Durban process we would like the Forum to be possible and to be able to participate in the April Conference. It is very important to us to say we are here to show are presence ...This situation requires a coalition and common point and we can find our common points.

      Network of Women of African Descent
      We think...the Forum for the NGOs is a proposal so that young people may express themselves their ideas and proposals in the combat against racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance that still exist in our world.

      Indian Movement Tupaj Amaru
      I want to intervene on behalf of indigenous peoples and as an NGO Indian Movement Tupaj Amaru. I would like to support strongly the organization of a social Forum against racism during the Conference of the Durban Review Process. Why? The reasons are multiple. First we always have suggested this to the PrepCom so that the governments will reinforce measures in the fight against racism after the 11th of September... Because many, many things happened after 9/11. There is more discrimination against indigenous peoples, against Africans, migrant workers, ...then genocide against the Palestinian people. It is very important and it must be at the center of our debate.

      NGO Committee Against Racism (Charles Graves)
      The NGO Committee Against Racism has had several meetings here...and what it boils down to now is to find a space here in the Palais des Nations during the Durban Review Conference, in other words we can have a room like this where we can discuss problems like this. We can reserve a room every day like this... or we can reserve rooms at the International Conference Center, which costs money. But we could have contribution from the government of Geneva. We have already written a letter to the High Commissioner [for Human Rights] to ask what she can do for us about the space. It is a problem of space. We are working already together with this other group World Against Racism Network to provide space for NGOs in the Durban Review Conference. We don't know where this space is going to be. We have to decide what the agenda is going to be...We'll do our best to provide space.

      African Canadian Legal Clinic (Margaret Parsons)
      There is consensus around the world, in this room, in other countries for an NGO forum and I think we have support from a lot of regions and governments for an NGO forum.

      CIRAC (Circle of International Reflect Action and Communication)
      We want to put together a strategy that would work as of today on the content of the NGO Forum, on the content of the press conference and perhaps Declaration on the youth which there was in 2001. The message was important and also it was a memorandum of the civil society.

      Nord Sud XXI
      The PrepCom needs to decide that there will be a Forum.

      Interfaith international
      I think its absolutely necessary in the next two days to try to decide on the coordinating committee for an NGO Forum. We want to put together a strategy that would work as of today on the content of the NGO Forum, on the content of the press conference and perhaps Declaration on the youth which there was in 2001. The message was important and also it was a memorandum of the civil society.

      Meeting - October 16, 2008 - (partial verbatim record)

      NGO Committee Against Racism (Charles Graves)
      ... Set up a Coordinating Committee which will facilitate the compilation of the document - the NGO's contribution to the Durban Review Conference.

      ...When this Committee is established the question of rooms will be discussed which will be used by NGOs that will come to the Conference which will be either here or at the International Conference Center of the City of Geneva where rooms if we'll have more than 100 people will be gratis.

      ...This Committee should mobilize the participation in the Forum and the Conference...There should be a final declaration of this meeting and this will also be up to this Committee.

      ...I believe all members of our Committee except a few are interesting in pursuing the possibility of this Forum. Even if the Committee Against Racism cannot participate or votes...not to participate in this kind of event, the NGO Forum, or whatever you want to call it, then we have to accept the decision of the Committee. That Committee at the moment seems to at least have a majority in favor of exploring the idea of the Forum; it is not just individual. That is the consensus of the Committee. Even if the Committee decides it won't participate in the Forum, I believe NGO members of the committee will actively participate.

      ...It's difficult to say there is no interest in such meeting.

      ...We are not creating the NGO Forum of Durban in 2001. We are simply providing a place where people can express themselves in continuation of Durban in 2001. If they want to come here and express themselves we are providing the effort to provide the space that's all.

      ...Let me read this to you again:

      • The Coordinating Committee for the NGO Forum for 2009 Durban Review Conference shall be established after the second substantive session of the PrepCom.
      • The Coordinating Committee will be composed of the NGOs, civil society structures from all regions that fully support the DDPA.
      • The Coordinating Committee shall decide on the program for the NGO Forum and promote the broadest participation from all regions.
      • The Coordinating Committee may co-opt additional members to strengthen its representation.
      For the time being the WARN (World Against Racism Network) will function as facilitators or secretariat of the Coordinating Committee.

      Simon Wiesenthal (Shimon Samuels)
      You said the Committee will be composed of the members who fully support the DDPA. Are you referring to the NGO Forum Declaration or the governmental Declaration?

      NGO Committee Against Racism (Charles Graves)
      No, I am referring to the governmental Declaration... The NGO Forum Declaration, we have consulted it very carefully. I have a copy. It has said nothing which would insinuate that there was a racist or anti-Israel element. The paragraph on antisemitism was well stated and well done in the NGO document. So the idea that at the first Durban Conference NGO participation was antisemitic in its Declaration, I don't agree. I don't think it was. One half of the NGOs dissassociated itself from it, but another half didn't. So let's not give the impression to the media that this Forum was dangerous, bad, so on and so forth which has been heard from several sources. This is certainly misrepresentation that many NGOs believe. Many NGOs believe this was the first time in history they could discuss their problems. Whether or not certain groups took advantage of the situation to blast and demean other groups, that is another matter. But the Forum itself, I found it to be quite well worked out. So I am making a distinction about giving a bad name to the NGO Forum in Durban.

      Simon Wiesenthal (Shimon Samuels)
      I want a solid clarification. Are you saying there was nothing anti-Semitic, anti-Israel, is that the position members of this Committee have to take?

      NGO Committee Against Racism (Charles Graves)
      I said "The Coordinating Committee will be composed of the NGOs, civil society structures from all regions that fully support the DDPA." That is what it will do. My personal opinion is that there is too much widespread gossip floating around about the Durban Forum: it was a disaster, a failure, it was antisemitic, so on and so forth which I don't believe. There were other parts of the Durban meeting that were openly antisemitic, but I am not saying the Forum itself was. But this Coordinating Committee that will be set up there is no guarantee it will be semitic or antisemitic. This is the UN. People have the right to say what they want to say. They will say it. We have to accept what people say. We cannot always be keeping people from saying what they are supposed to say. My friend from Simon Wiesenthal is trying to make me reassure him that there won't be a repeat of what happened in Durban. But I cannot guarantee that.

      Nord Sud XXI
      We are not here to really judge the Forum. If we judge the Forum now, it means we are not sincere. We know among civil society there are a lot of different opinions. Let's not bring our differences here. We are trying to create a Coordinating Committee. So if we are going to have conditions to condemn the civil society for Durban 2001 we will not create anything or even participate in the Durban Review Conference. So do we want NGOs to come to this event as civil society or not? I think yes, because we have been here six months now discussing. We know everybody. We know that we have this problem with the friends of Israel or civil society...We know everything. We are clear. Let's be transparent. We will continue to condemn the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories. That's our problem. It is very legislative. It's coming form the Charter of the UN that nobody has the right to accept the occupation of other people's territories. There are a lot of resolutions at the General Assembly, the Security Council, condemning the permanent occupation of Israel of Palestinian and Arab territories. That's our view. But to bring this to the Coordinating Committee...? It is not right. We have to set up the Coordinating Committee now.

      Meeting - October 17 - (partial verbatim record)

      African Canadian Legal Clinic (Margaret Parsons)
      The criteria used for the NGOs recommended for the Coordinating Committee are:
      • Actively participated in the Conference in Durban 2001, as well as the process that led up to Durban conference
      • NGOs involved in Durban follow-up, whether on a national or regional level, at the PrepComs that have taken place up until today
      • They must be NGOs rather than individuals
      • We looked for regional representation from each region
      • These NGOs support the DDPA and also support the civil society Forum for the Durban Review Conference.
      The list of the names recommended for this Committee are:


      • Red de Mujeres Afrolatinoamericanas, Afrocribenas y de la Diaspora

      • "Gilleres" (Brazil)
      • The Caribbean Policy Development Center

      • [indigenous organization] (St. Lucia)

      • African Canadian Legal Clinic for North America


      • European Network Against Racism (ENAR)

      • The Swedish Center Against Racism

      • The Italian Antiracism Committee

      • "Lineup" (Russia)

      • The Anti-racism Information Service (Geneva)


      • The African Steering Committee for the Durban Review Conference (established at regional preparatory meeting in Abuja)

      • The International Committee for the Respect and Application of the African Charter on People and Human Rights

      • Rights and Development Forum


      • Movement Against All Forms Of Discrimination And Racism (IMADRE)

      • "Mamasilla" (Philippines)

      • UN Association of Syria
      Nord Sud XXI
      I would like to propose Nord Sud XXI because we have also our affiliation in Middle East.

      BADIL (Rania Madi)
      There are two organizations who are not here for the moment and I would like to add Teja who represents the Arab organizations in Israel and BADIL Resource Center based in Bethlehem.

      Afro-Swedish National Association
      I am very glad we have this list now because that shows clearly that we have a group of NGOs from different continents who have agreed on setting up the Coordinating Committee for an NGO Forum at the Durban Review Conference. So that means that matter is settled and resolved at this moment. We do have an agreement that there is going to be an NGO Forum and there is a very potent, strong group of NGOs who are behind this...I think the idea was that it would be expanded to consultations. This will be a good thing that we have group who is ready to start work. Then we can see how we can constitute the participation for the different regions. In order to be able to move the work forward.

      African Canadian Legal Clinic (Margaret Parsons)
      This Committee is working towards organizing the NGO Forum for the Durban Review Conference. That is clearly my understanding. That is what I am signing up for.

      Afro-Swedish National Association
      WARN (World Against Racism Network) was established last year primarily to facilitate the work of the Durban Review process. It has some 20 members from all continents, and of course they are of different kinds of ECOSOC and non-ECOSOC NGOs. It has been promoting this work - the NGO preparation for the conference and it has organized together with the NGO Committee Against Racism a letter to the High Commissioner requesting the support for the NGO preparations, and NGO Forum. Its chair is Edith Balentyne from the International Women's League for Peace and Freedom and Krishna Batellli its treasurer.

      African Canadian Legal Clinic (Margaret Parsons)
      It is an NGO Forum - not a space. We cannot compromise on that in terms of its language, its intent and its work. I do not agree on calling it a space. It is an NGO Forum and this is what we are here talking about. It is a Forum and I am not about to capitulate to anti-Durban forces.

      Canadian Labor Congress
      We want an NGO Forum and I can definitely tell you for my organization which represents 55,000 people we are here and we believe it's important that civil society participate and that there will be an NGO Forum. And I can assure you that the Canadian Labor Congress will participate and we want an NGO Forum.