The first preparatory meeting leading to the 2009 UN World Conference against Racism will take place at the UN's offices in Geneva next week and is already being deemed a "second Durban." The 2009 conference, whose venue has yet to be decided, will be a follow-up to the 2001 UN anti-racism conference held in Durban, South Africa, which focused on Israel and culminated in resolutions calling Israel an "apartheid state" and equating Zionism with racism. The US and Israel pulled their delegations from the conference; Australia and Canada accused it of "hypocrisy."
Revisiting the trauma of the Durban conference
"The anti-racism meeting in Geneva is shaping up to be a wolf in sheep's clothing," said Hillel Neuer, executive director of UN Watch, a watchdog NGO based in the city. "Every indicator is that the sequel to Durban will mimic both the format and script of the 2001 conference, using the noble language of anti-racism as a cover to promote hatred of the West and anti-Semitic, anti-Israel propaganda.
With the Islamic states also planning to add new accusations against the West under the claim of 'religious defamation,' this is a fiasco in the making."
The preparatory meeting, which runs from August 27-31, will be chaired by Libya and include representatives of Argentina, Armenia, Belgium, Brazil, Cameroon, Chile, Croatia, Cuba, Estonia, Greece, India, Indonesia, Iran, Libya, Pakistan, Norway, Russia, Senegal, South Africa and Turkey. Those countries make up the bureau, the committee that will decide on the modalities and objectives of the 2009 conference.
Brasilia and New York are rumored as possible venues, although Libya and South Africa, whose Foreign Ministry is a major player in the process, are also seeking to host the conference.
"The composition of the preparatory committee including Iran and Libya, meeting for the reenactment of the infamous Durban conference, suggests that nothing has been learned since 2001," said Prof. Gerald Steinberg, executive director of NGO Monitor. "Once again, the NGO network that hijacked Durban 2001 - funded by the Ford Foundation and European government aid programs - is preparing to play a key role in using this conference for the demonization of democracies and deligitimization of Israel."
"The designated chair is Libya, a racist regime that gave its highest award in 2002 to convicted French Holocaust-denier Roger Garaudy, brutalizes black African migrants, and tortures Bulgarian and Palestinian medics for the crime of being foreigners," Neuer added.
Following the active role nongovernmental organizations played in Durban in 2001, NGO Monitor has expressed concerns about politicized groups taking part in the 2009 conference. The Jerusalem based organization has submitted to the Preparatory Committee a detailed analysis of the impact that would result from these groups' involvement. It has urged the committee to carefully examine the credibility and biases resulting from NGO participation in order to avoid a repeat of Durban.
"Although these NGOs claim to promote universal human rights, the record shows that in reality, they advance biased agendas based on a highly distorted narrative that exploits and undermines international law," NGO Monitor said. "Several of these NGOs, including Human Rights Watch and Amnesty, played an active role in the NGO Forum in 2001. Rather than provide objective information to address the crucial issue of eliminating discrimination in all its forms, and through universal standards, many statements of these NGOs and their activities during the 2001 NGO Forum included highly inflammatory rhetoric and even anti-Semitic material, such as comparing Israel to Nazi Germany.
"The Final Declaration of the Forum endorsed the singling-out of Israel through a campaign that called for sanctions and boycotts against Israel through the abuse of the principles of human rights and international law," NGO Monitor said.
"The question is whether UN Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour and others who claim to be committed to human rights will take the action that [then-UN high commissioner for human rights] Mary Robinson failed to in 2001 and prevent this farce," Steinberg said. "Furthermore, will the major NGO superpowers, such as Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, which added their weight to the 2001 Durban travesty, repeat this role?
"In contrast, the Israeli Foreign Ministry, in cooperation with the US and perhaps other democratic governments, have heeded NGO Monitor's analysis, and are actively raising these dangers with NGO funders, including the EU and its member governments, who fund these radical NGOs," Steinberg said.
The Preparatory Committee will meet again in Geneva on April 21-30 and November 17-28, 2008.