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Concerns growing over NGO participation in Durban III

June 23, 2011 18:29

Plans for UN racism conference put spotlight on NGOs, reminding some of how original conference deteriorated into arena for anti-Zionist rhetoric.

Flags of member states outside the UN headquarters

United Nations flags_521. (photo credit:Istock)

NEW YORK – Work continues on preparations for Durban III, a September 2011 United Nations commemoration of the 2001 UN World Conference Against Racism – and concerns are growing as to the role of non-governmental organizations.

Current plans for programming of the New York event, as laid out by a pending General Assembly draft resolution, would spotlight NGOs, a factor that reminds some of how the original Durban conference deteriorated into an arena for anti-Zionist rhetoric and vitriol.

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"If, as in 2001, the same NGOs are provided a platform in New York at 'Durban III', this will set the stage for another round of activities that exploit and undermine the moral and human rights agenda," Gerald Steinberg, president of NGO Monitor, said. "Under the façade of human rights, over 1500 NGOs - many allied with Iran and oppressive Arab regimes - used the NGO Forum to attack Israel and promote a strategy of delegitimization and double standards that continues today. At Durban II in 2009, there was no NGO Forum, and this disaster was not repeated. Therefore, in the preparations for Durban III, it is important to ensure that NGOs that exploit human rights are not given a platform."

The Durban III commemoration is scheduled for the second day of the United Nations’ General Assembly meetings in September. The draft resolution proposes that speakers at the opening plenary would include a representative “of a non-governmental organization active in the field of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance.” Selected NGO representatives would also participate in roundtable meetings.

"No criteria are provided regarding the selection of NGOs," Steinberg stated. "The danger is that genuinely international human rights issues, including gender and LGBT discrimination, minority rights, and attacks against pro-democracy demonstrators by Arab regimes, will again be ignored. The proposed framework would invite NGO manipulation and hijacking, as happened at Durban in 2001."

The United States, Israel and Canada have all said they will not participate in Durban III due to the strong tinge of anti-Semitic and anti-Zionist rhetoric exemplified by Durban I.

The draft resolution, as well as general consultations on the commemoration, will come up for discussion on Friday. General Assembly President Joseph Deiss has been requested to compile a list of NGO representatives to attend Durban III. In March 2011, Deiss utilized the General Assembly hall as a venue to premiere the film ‘Miral,’ which many believed to be an anti-Israel work.

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