Statement: Marking 20 Years of the NGO “Durban Strategy”
On September 22, the UN General Assembly will mark twenty years since the World Conference against Racism in Durban, South Africa, in 2001, hosting the fourth such event (“Durban IV”). The original conference, and particularly its virulently antisemitic NGO Forum, was a major catalyst for delegitimization campaigns against Israel, such as BDS, lawfare, and other forms of political warfare.
Following the hijacking of human rights for hate at Durban, responsible governments and NGOs should not be providing legitimacy to this process by participating in the commemoration.Twenty years ago, 1500 non-governmental organizations (NGOs) gathered at the UN conference, using blatantly antisemitic rhetoric and images calling for the elimination of Israel. Powerful international NGOs, including Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, were complicit in the antisemitism and participated in the silencing of Jewish and Israeli participants. The NGO Final Declaration and Program of Action referred to Israel a “racist, apartheid state” guilty of “crimes against humanity…” and called on “the international community to impose a policy of complete and total isolation of Israel as an apartheid state….”
The echoes of this “Durban Strategy” can be seen in ongoing NGO campaigns that single out Israel and frequently cross the line into antisemitism. In the legal realm, NGOs successfully lobbied the International Criminal Court to open an investigation into alleged Israeli war crimes, despite weak legal evidence and a lack of jurisdiction. Likewise, the UN Human Rights Council, notorious for permanent Agenda Item 7 that singles out Israel, has established numerous unjust Commissions of Inquiry against Israel – also in coordination with the NGO campaigns.
The Durban Strategy also launched the boycott campaign (BDS – boycott, divestment, and sanctions). Through economic, cultural, and political isolation, BDS supporters seek to turn Israel into a pariah state and undermine the fundamental right of the Jewish people to self-determination. BDS activists have infiltrated many institutions, ranging from churches and unions to companies like Ben & Jerry’s.
European governments play an active role in facilitating the Durban Strategy. Through numerous mechanisms and channels, they transfer taxpayer money to advocacy NGOs promoting antisemitism and political warfare.
In contrast, the hatred of Durban also led to the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s (IHRA) Working Definition of Antisemitism. The declaration has become the international consensus, adopted by 35 countries to date. In response, many of the same NGOs responsible for the hate at the original Durban conference are leading attempts to delegitimize the IHRA definition.
NGO Monitor was created after Durban in order to document the destructive activities of these powerful organizations and their enablers. We provide information and analyses, and promote accountability for NGOs that exploit human rights for attacks against Israel. Our researchers publish detailed analyses about their campaigns, funding sources, and the links with other actors that undermine human rights and promote antisemitism.
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, France, New Zealand, Italy, and Croatia. We call on all countries and responsible NGOs to display a similar commitment to human rights, not to attend Durban IV, and to stand up against the ongoing travesty anchored in the Durban Strategy.