On September 22, the UN General Assembly will mark twenty years since the World Conference against Racism in Durban, South Africa, hosting the fourth such event (“Durban IV”). The original conference in 2001, in particular its NGO Forum, in which over 1,500 non-governmental organizations (NGOs) participated, featured blatantly antisemitic rhetoric and images calling for the elimination of Israel. Durban was a major catalyst for ongoing delegitimization campaigns against Israel, such as BDS, lawfare, and other forms of political warfare.

Through economic, cultural, and political isolation, supporters of the “Durban Strategy” seek to turn Israel into a pariah state and to undermine the fundamental right of the Jewish people to self-determination. As NGO Monitor has repeatedly shown, echoes of this “Durban Strategy” can still be seen in ongoing NGO campaigns that single out Israel and frequently cross the line into antisemitism. The intense NGO lobbying in the International Criminal Court to open an investigation against Israel is a prominent example.

European governments play an active role in facilitating this strategy. Through numerous mechanisms and channels, they transfer millions in taxpayer funds to advocacy NGOs promoting antisemitism and political warfare. At the same time, in the lead-up to Durban IV, the number of countries that have announced boycotts of the event is growing, including the US, Canada, Australia, Germany, the UK, Hungary, Austria, the Netherlands, the Czech Republic, Bulgaria, New Zealand and France.

In the shadow of the Durban Conference, NGO Monitor was founded in order to document the activities of this NGO network and its financial enablers. The importance of promoting accountability for NGOs that exploit human rights for attacks against Israel, and for their supporters, is one of the main lessons learned from the 2001 conference.

NGO Monitor President Gerald M. Steinberg said, “The Durban conference, and specifically the NGO Forum, was the blueprint and set the strategy for the hate and Israel-directed antisemitism of the 21st century. Led by Human Rights Watch, Amnesty, FIDH, Al Haq and many others, the NGO Final Declaration demonized Israel with labels such as apartheid, racism, genocide and war crimes, and called for BDS and lawfare with the goal of ‘the complete international isolation of Israel.’ In the twenty years that followed, and continuing now, the same powerful NGOs have actively sought to implement this political warfare aimed at delegitimizing Israel and self-determination for the Jewish people, regardless of boundaries or policies.
We call on all political leaders and diplomats not to participate in the UN-NGO 20th anniversary “celebration” of Durban, and to end all funding and support for this antisemitic and anti-human rights NGO-led warfare.”

Anne Herzberg, Legal Advisor of NGO Monitor noted, “While it is good so many countries have refused to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the antisemitic 2001 Durban Conference, this is not enough. The Conference’s antisemitic Declaration and Programme of Action continues to guide all UN activities related to countering racism and is heavily promoted by diplomats and UN officials.  But, a racist document cannot be the foundation for countering racism. The Durban Declaration must be scrapped once and for all and replaced by a mechanism that actually promotes universal human rights.”