January 14, 2008

NGO Durban II Update: Statement Challenges NGOs to Reject Hatred

NGO Monitor’s call on NGOs and their funders to adopt clear guidelines for the 2009 “Durban” Conference is having an impact. From NGO Monitor:

NGO Monitor’s call on NGOs and their funders to adopt clear guidelines for the 2009 “Durban” Conference is having an impact. Magenta, based in Holland, in cooperation with the Jacob Blaustein Institute for the Advancement of Human Rights, published a "Statement of Core Principles for WCAR [UN World Conference against Racism] Follow up." This document expresses the need for a corrective movement to reverse the damage of the disastrous Durban I conference in 2001, and to restore the universality of human rights.

As documented by NGO Monitor, in preparing for the conference scheduled for 2009, the statement recalls that many of the participants in the NGO Forum of the 2001 Durban conference were responsible for:
"violations of procedure in the preparatory and drafting processes, … racist treatment including violence, exclusion and intimidation against Jewish participants, and the misuse of human rights terminology in the document related to the Israeli- Palestinian conflict."
Signatories to this Statement currently include Rabbis for Human Rights (RHR), which recently participated in NGO Monitor’s December 2007 Conference, devoted to the lessons of Durban, Human Rights First, and UN Watch. These and other prominent NGOs pledged to "reject hatred and incitement in all its forms, including anti-Semitism, to learn from the shortcomings of the 2001 WCAR, and to work together in a sprit of mutual respect."

This activity marks an important first step in preparing for the NGO Forum at the planned "Durban 2009 follow-on conference", and reflects the emphasis that NGO Monitor has placed on the need for strong statements and commitments by NGOs and their major funders, including the European Union, individual government aid agencies, and the Ford Foundation.

In reporting on this statement, (January 10, 2008), the Jerusalem Post quotes Rabbi Arik Ascherman of RHR: "We're not trying to protect Israel from being criticized, but as people who are really concerned with human rights and racism, and think it is important that there be a body among the community of nations dealing with these things, we don't want to see another hijacking."

Prof. Gerald Steinberg, head of NGO Monitor, noted in the Jerusalem Post article:
"There is a learning process taking place. Rabbis for Human Rights are among the first of the NGOs who were too quiet before and during 2001, to have expressed a clear position that seeks to avoid a repetition of that disaster." At NGO Monitor, "we believe there are also some people at Amnesty Israel who understand the importance [of this] and they need to make those concerns public, and we would expect that B'tselem and other groups who claim a human rights mandate
would take a leading position along with RHR."
In the coming weeks and months, NGO Monitor will be contacting officials, members, and funders of NGOs, particularly those involved in the 2001 NGO Forum at Durban, to discuss and ascertain their positions regarding participation and guidelines for the 2009 conference. The results of this research will be published as available by NGO Monitor.

Additional reports and analysis on preparations for the 2009 Durban follow-up conference, click here to see.