Geneva, Switzerland
April 20-24, 2009

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(last updated on March 7, 2010)



NGO Monitor´s Durban II Resource Guide

 A comprehensive guide to the Durban Review Conference. With background, analysis, and information on NGOs that are expected to participate in the April 2009 event.

[Click here for a PDF of the guide]

Table of Contents

I. Introduction: the role of NGOs in Durban and the “Durban strategy”

For an overview of the first Durban conference and the NGO Forum, see:

On April 20-24, 2009, in Geneva, Switzerland, the United Nations will host the “Durban Review Conference,” (Durban 2) – a follow-up to the 2001 UN World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia, and Related Intolerance (WCAR). As mandated by the UN General Assembly, the Human Rights Council of the United Nations (UNHRC) is responsible for organizing and convening the event “towards the effective and comprehensive implementation” of the conclusions and recommendations of WCAR, and to continue the “global drive for the total elimination of racism.”

The first Durban conference became an instrument for racism itself, particularly directed against Israel. This agenda was driven by Iran and a number of Arab states, and primarily by the participants in the antisemitic NGO (non-governmental organization) Forum. The final declaration of the NGO Forum – which labeled Israeli counter-terrorism measures as “war crimes,” revived the “Zionism is racism” slogan, and introduced the “Durban Strategy” of isolating Israel internationally, following the model of the campaign against apartheid in South Africa.

This Durban strategy, led by NGOs, is behind the BDS (boycotts, divestment and sanctions) efforts, which are justified using the rhetoric of human rights, to demonize and delegitimize Israel.

A campaign for an NGO Forum at the Durban Review Conference has been launched at the UN, including a 30-NGO meeting organized by Interfaith International and the NGO Committee Against Racism on April 28, 2008. Representatives from the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights also attended. During the October PrepCom, a number of NGO delegates met separately on three occasions to debate the NGO Forum. On October 16th, “a group of NGOs, misleadingly presenting itself as the NGO Committee on Racism” (a subcommittee of CONGO – the Conference of NGOs in Consultative Relationship with the UN), held a session, chaired by Charles Graves of Interfaith International — an NGO active in the first Durban conference and identified with comments justifying suicide bombings in the context of the “occupation.” Claiming that the UN would provide them with facilities, some of the NGOs appointed regional coordinating committees to advance the prospects of an NGO Forum.

In May 2008, these NGOs published a letter to the Preparatory Committee expressing a “strong desire” for another NGO Forum at the Review Conference, and describing the NGO Forum at the Durban 2001 conference as “an important catalyst for many victim groups to come together, network, interact and build support for the work against racism and discrimination.”

Funding for an NGO Forum could come from “substantial funds” leftover from the 2001 NGO Forum. Already, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights has offered travel support to NGO representatives to attend the April Review Conference.

During the January Intersessional (January 19-23 2009), the head of the Human Rights Treaties branch of the OHCHR, Ibrahim Salama, discussed the financial difficulties facing the conference and the need for additional funds.  He explained that the budget will cover basic costs, but more funding is needed for, among other things, “empowerment and participation of NGOs.”  Despite the concern for sufficient funding, UN Watch reported that an NGO Forum is still a possibility – NGO funding guidelines have already been drafted, and a committee has been formed to evaluate NGO applications. The OHCHR is also continuing to “encourag[e] NGOs to participate actively in the Review Conference and its preparatory process.”

II. Accreditation of NGOs for the Durban Review Conference

NGOs with UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (ECOSOC) consultative status, and those that acquire specific accreditation for the Durban Review Conference, are invited to attend preparatory meetings and the Geneva conference. Additionally, as the conference in April 2009 is a follow-up to Durban, all NGOs previously accredited for the original conference, including those that organized and participated in the vehemently antisemitic rhetoric and events, are automatically permitted to attend the Review. The deadline for specific accreditation for Durban 2 was extended to February 10, 2009.

The accreditation process can be highly political, anti-Israel, and questionable on human rights – Libya chairs the Preparatory Committee (PrepCom), and Iran, Cuba, and Pakistan are also on the committee. For instance, in the May 2008 PrepCom meeting, a radical NGO known as the Palestinian Grassroots Anti-apartheid Wall Campaign (PGAAWC) was given immediate accreditation, while Iran blocked the participation of the Canadian Council for Israel and Jewish Advocacy (CCIJA).

III. List of active NGOs (by impact)

NGO Statements at the Durban Review Conference

Mouvement Contre Le Racisme et pour L’amitié Entre Les Peuples (MRAP)

Human Rights Watch (HRW)

Europe – Third World Center

Al Haq

  • “As the most egregious form of racial discrimination, the practice of apartheid is clearly proscribed by international law…There is significant evidence to suggest that Israel has introduced such a regime in the Occupied Palestinian Territory”

Canadian Arab Federation


  • “Israel’s protracted military occupation is not an interim measure that maintains law and order following armed conflict, but rather a regime of colonizing power under the guise of occupation, which includes features of apartheid…”


Arab Commission for Human Rights (ACHR)

  • “How can this conference ignore the deep suffering over decades of the Palestinian people who have suffered from the most brutal and pernicious discriminating practices by the colonizer?…How can we ignore and not denounce the apartheid wall?…Can we kill under the weight of the barbarism and the concentration camp in Gaza where more than one and a half million people live under siege? Can we keep silent while the holy city of Jerusalem is undergoing ethnic cleansing, displacement, expulsion of its citizens?”

Nord-Sud XXI, Union of Arab Jurists

  • “We had hoped for an outcome document referring prominently to the victims of racism and intolerance, highlighting the special situation of serious and widespread discrimination against Palestinians that two successive Special Rapporteurs have called apartheid.”


  • “We also regret that the document fails to refer to foreign occupation as a cause of racism and discrimination. This would have implicitly condemned the closure of territories, the seisure of land, the development of illegal settlements, the systematic violations of cultural rights and of the right to education.”


  • “We will continue to work for the rights of the Palestinian people…We participated actively in the Civil Society Forum for the review conference held in Geneva this past week…it could finally be help in spite of lack of official UN support and the many obstacles that had to be overcome. Following the presentations…we are more convinced than ever that the implementation of the DDPA can be moved forward only by taking an all comprehensive approach to this global social crisis.”

ECOSOC-accredited NGOs:
(Click here to search the ECOSOC NGO database.)

Human Rights Watch

Badil Resource Center for Palestinian Residency and Refugee Rights

  • Open Letter to the Latin American people, its governments, movements and organizations: Confront the root causes of racism at the upcoming UN World Conference Against Racism,” June 2, 2008
  • NGO Monitor’s Analysis: “Palestinian NGO coalition uses Durban 2009 as political platform; ignore abuses in Latin America
  • Badil’s Submission to the United Nations Human Rights Council Universal Periodic Review of Israel
  • Co-sponsor of Combatting Racism: From Transatlantic Slavery to the Durban Review Conference (September 19, 2008), a seminar “focus[ing] on the upsurge of racism and the global implementation of the Durban programme in preparation of the Review and ways civil society can be mobilized”, organized by the European Social Forum.
  • Badil’s Statement to the Durban Review Conference Prep Com (October 9, 2008)
  • Joint Statement to the Durban Review Conference Prep Com by Badil and Habitat International Coalition (October 16, 2008)
  • Public Launch of the Palestinian Civil Society Strategic Position Paper Towards the UN Durban Review Conference, November 29, 2008
  • Badil´s Statement to the January Intersessional Meeting (January 20, 2009)
    • “Palestinians have been subjected to an unlawful collective punishment , torture, economic blockade, severe restriction of movement and arbitrary closure to their territories. …the draft declaration is silent as to … sanctions in the context of the Palestinian people. Palestinian people were omitted from the list of victims of racial discrimination. … in line with atrocities taking place in Gaza.”
    • This is indicative of the attempt being made by certain NGOs to capitalize on the Gaza war and bring it to the fore of the Durban Review Conference.
  • Badil’s statement to the Tenth regular session of the UN Human Rights Council (March 2-27)
  • As UN blocks Palestine-related side events at Durban Review Conference, Palestinian civil society launches “Israel Review Conference” in Geneva on the eve of Durban Review, Badil,  April 16, 2009

The International Organization for the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (EAFORD)

Nord-Sud XXI

Arab Lawyers Union (Egypt)

Amnesty International

  • Racism and the Administration of Justice: Amnesty´s Position on Durban I, July 25, 2001
  • World Conference Against Racism Ends: Successes must not be over shadowed by disputes, September 7, 2001
  • Amnesty International’s Submission to the United Nations Human Rights Council Universal Periodic Review of Israel
  • Joshua Rubenstein´s (Northeast Regional Director, Amnesty International USA) Letter to Boston Jewish Advocate, Dec. 27, 2007.

International Commission of Jurists

  • ICJ’s Submission to the United Nations Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review of Israel

Christian Aid


  • ITTIJAH’s Submission to the United Nations Human Rights Council Universal Periodic Review of Israel
  • Co-sponsor of Combatting Racism: From Transatlantic Slavery to the Durban Review Conference (September 19, 2008), a seminar “focus[ing] on the upsurge of racism and the global implementation of the Durban programme in preparation of the Review and ways civil society can be mobilized”, organized by the European Social Forum.
  • Statement on Israel´s Pronouncement to Boycott Durban II, Ameer Makhoul, November 24, 2008: “Ittijah-The Union of Arab Community Based Associations calls civil society organizations, solidarity movements worldwide, boycott campaigns and political bodies […] to boycott Israel, to impose sanctions and to label it as a colonial racist state under the Motto: Zionism is Racism- Israel is an Apartheid, the same motto used during the world conference against Racism, 2001.
  • Public Launch of the Palestinian Civil Society Strategic Position Paper Towards the UN Durban Review Conference, November 29, 2008
  • Tzipi Livni´s statements to be presented at Durban Review Conference to promote boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel, Ameer Makhoul, Press Release, December 12, 2008

Women´s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF)

  • Joint Statement to the Durban Review Conference Preparatory Committee, September 25, 2007
  • Joint Letter in support of the Durban Review Conference and NGO participation, May 26, 2008
  • Joint Statement (with the International Youth and Student Movement for the United Nations) to the Human Rights Council on the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action, September 22, 2008
  • Public Launch of the Palestinian Civil Society Strategic Position Paper Towards the UN Durban Review Conference, November 29, 2008

Interfaith International

  • Interfaith International´s statement to the World Conference against Racism, September 6, 2001: “It is our hope that the Conference will take appropriate measures to prevent racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance toward religious or ethnic minorities. Religious intolerance exacerbates racism, resulting in violence and oppression. All States should protect the right of individuals to practice their own religion and beliefs, as well as the right for such individuals to participate in all aspects of society. We urge that all States adhere to United Nations conventions and covenants. We demand that all States undertake strong and effective measures to protect against stereotypical attitudes, prejudice and Islamophobia in the media and educational curricula which can lead to hatred and violence. We urge the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to establish a monitoring mechanism in that regard.”
  • Charles Graves´ statement to the panel discussion on Intercultural Dialogue Exchanges Views on Cultural Identity, Indigenous Populations, Poverty and Religion, March 22, 2004: “The Durban Conference on Racism was an amazing display of the world’s victims – victims of discrimination and racism. The voices heard at the Conference provided an agenda for anti-racism for years to come. The problem after Durban and now was largely intercultural and it meant to break down the walls between victims and their oppressors. Intercultural activity was perhaps the best way to break down racism which was simply the lack of intercultural dialogue.”
  • On August 30, 2007, Charles Graves, Interfaith International´s Secretary-General, chaired a meeting on the “engagement of NGOs to effectively implement the Durban Program of Action”, announcing a CONGO subcommittee for Durban Follow-Up.
  • On October 16, 2008, Charles Graves chaired another meeting of NGOs to prepare for an NGO Forum. Following investigations, Graves acknowledged that he had used without official authority the NGO Committee on Racism’s name in correspondence with the High Commissioner for Human Rights and in meetings with other UN officials, to promote an NGO Forum, but that it is in reality “not an official supporter or member of the Coordinating Committee for an NGO Forum for the Durban Review Conference and does not officially support the idea of an NGO Forum at that Conference.”
  • On October 16, 2008, Charles Graves praised the 2001 NGO Forum and denied that its Final Declaration contained antisemitic content: “The NGO Forum was a turning point in the history of the world. There was nothing in the NGO Forum Declaration that was antisemitic or anti-Israel. There is no guarantee that the new NGO Forum will be Semitic or antisemitic.”

Ligue Internationale Contre le Racisme et l´Antisemitisme (LICRA)

  • Report: Nouveau Conseil des Droits de l’Homme de l’ONU: Un laboratoire de haine: La route vers Durban 2 [The New Human Rights Council: A Laboratory of Hatred: The Road toward Durban 2], Malka Marcovich, May 22, 2007
  • LICRA’s Joint Statement (with MAPP) to the Durban Preparatory Committee, August 28, 2007
  • Statement on the Durban Review Process by Richard Serero, LICRA´s Secretary General, September 11, 2007
  • LICRA´s involvement in the Durban Review Process, Patrick Gaubert, October 1, 2007
  • LICRA calls on France to lead the opposition to Durban II, February 18, 2008
  • LICRA´s oral statement to the Durban Preparatory Committee, October 15, 2008
  • LICRA calls on France and the European Union to withdraw from the Durban Review Conference, November 26, 2008

Simon Wiesenthal Center Inc.

Movement for the Abolition of Prostitution and Pornography and all forms of Sexual Violence and Sexist Discrimination (MAPP)

  • Was active at the NGO Forum of the 2001 Durban conference in seeking to include additional issues not related to the Arab-Israeli conflict, and in opposition to the majority of NGOs.
  • Organized a post-Durban conference with C.L.E.F. (French Coordination for the European Women´s Lobby) in the French National Assembly.
  • MAPP´s Statement to the Durban Preparatory Committee, August 28, 2007.
  • MAPP´s Statement to the October 2008 PrepCom, expressing concern for women victims of violence, sexual exploitation, and religious extremism, and stressing that there should be no hierarchy of victims as was the case in the 2001 Durban conference.

Movement against Racism and for Friendship among Peoples (France)

  • MRAP’s Statement to the Human Rights Council, Gianfranco Fattorini (March 25, 2008)
  • MRAP’s Statement to the Durban Review Conference Prep Com (October 15, 2008)


– Law in the Service of Man

Islamic Relief

Médecins du Monde

Médecins sans Frontieres


Palestinian Centre for Human Rights

NGOs Accredited to the Durban Review Conference:

Ford Foundation (significant NGO funder, and primary funder of original conference in Durban)

  • New Funding Guidelines, January 8, 2004: “By countersigning this grant letter, you agree that your organization will not promote or engage in violence, terrorism, bigotry or the destruction of any state, nor will it make sub-grants to any entity that engages in these activities.” Ford also clarified in this memo that “this prohibition applies to all of the organization’s funds, not just those provided through a grant from Ford.”

Palestinian Grassroots Anti-Apartheid Wall Campaign (PGAAWC).

  • PGAAWC is a network of NGOs focusing on anti-separation barrier (“apartheid wall”) activities and the promotion of BDS (boycotts, divestment and sanctions) campaign.
  • PGAAWC’s Submission to the United Nations Human Rights Council Universal Periodic Review of Israel
  • Co-sponsor of Combatting Racism: From Transatlantic Slavery to the Durban Review Conference (September 19, 2008), a seminar “focus[ing] on the upsurge of racism and the global implementation of the Durban programme in preparation of the Review and ways civil society can be mobilized”, organized by the European Social Forum.
  • 6th Week against the Apartheid Wall (November 9 – 16 2008) “to mark the 60th year of the Palestinian Nakba (catastrophe)”. “The only effective means to promote justice in Palestine to date is the united Palestinian call for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions issued in July 2005 […] We ask you to support the resistance of the people by mobilizing against the Wall and the apartheid system it has created on ground.”
  • Public Launch of the Palestinian Civil Society Strategic Position Paper Towards the UN Durban Review Conference, November 29, 2008

Canadian Arab Federation (CAF)

  • Executive director´s statements to the press: “…believes nothing in the draft [of the Outcome Document] justifies” Canada´s boycott of the conference, and “supports the planning committee´s calls for stronger laws against defaming religion.”
  • Interview on Unusual Sources Radio Program (Canada) with Mohamed Boudjenane, President of the Canadian Arab Federation: “NGOs from Canada went there [October PrepCom] to participate and remind the international committee that in spite of the refusal of our government to boycott this conference, that the civil society and the labor movement is still concerned by human rights, racism and indeed we will be participating in the next conference […] We will go there [to the Durban Review Conference], with or without our government […] The NGOs are organizing a forum in December to rally their communities.”
  • Public Launch of the Palestinian Civil Society Strategic Position Paper Towards the UN Durban Review Conference, November 29, 2008
  • The Canadian government will not renew a two-year contract with the Canadian Arab Federation worth over $2 million. A government official said that the decision was due to “certain public statements,” which “have included the promotion of hatred, anti-Semitism and support for the banned terrorist organizations Hamas and Hezbollah.” (March 19, 2009)

Arab Association for Human Rights

  • HRA’s Submission to the United Nations Human Rights Council Universal Periodic Review of Israel


B’nai B’rith Canada

  • Hate Jurisdictions of Human Rights Commissions: A System in Need of Reform, Submission by the League for Human Rights of B´nai Brith Canada to the Canadian Human Rights Commission, August 2008 (see page 14)
  • Mark 60th anniversary of Universal Declaration of Human Rights with pull-out from Durban II, B’nai Brith Canada Press Release, December 10, 2008

B’nai Brith International

  • BBI’s Statement to the Durban Review Conference Prep Com (October 6, 2008)
  • B´nai B´rith Confronts UN, Michael Brasky, The Bulletin, December 11, 2008

International Association of Jewish Lawyers and Jurists

  • The International Association of Jewish Lawyers and Jurists’ Joint Statement with the Hudson Institute and the Touro Institute on Human Rights and the Holocaust to the Durban Review Conference Prep Com, delivered by Prof. Anne Bayefsky, October 6, 2008.

Human Rights First

  • Human Rights First Calls on Governments to Prevent Repeat of Problems that Plagued 2001 [Durban] Conference
  • Civil Society Groups Seek Durban Review that Rejects Hatred, Press Release, April 28, 2008
  • HRF’s Statement to the Durban Review Conference Prep Com (October 9, 2008)
  • HRF´s letter to UN High Commissioner of Human Rights, expressing “serious concerns in connection with the Durban Review Conference” (November 11, 2008)
  • Rights Groups Urge Obama Administration to Address Concerns with the Durban Review Conference, Letter by Human Rights First, Jacob Blaustein Institute and Leadership Conference on Civil Rights to Senator Clinton (January 12, 2008)
  • Rights Groups Welcome U.S. Engagement in Durban Review Process, Human Rights First, February 16, 2009

Rabbis for Human Rights

  • RHR joins concerns over Durban II, Haviv Rettig, The Jerusalem Post, January 10, 2008

European Network Against Racism

  • Statement on Durban Review Conference, May 21, 2008

Addameer Association for Prisoner´s Support and Human Rights

Ahali Center for Community Development

Alternatives pour un Monde Différent

Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith

Arab Organisation for Human Rights (Egypt)

Arab Program for Human Rights Activists (Egypt)

Association of Forty

B’nai B’rith Europe

B’Tselem: The Israel Information Center for Monitoring Human Rights in the Occupied Territories

Canadians for a Genocide Museum

Gaza Community Mental Health Programme (GCMHP)

Hadassah Women’s Zionist Organization of America

Islamic Supreme Council of America

Jewish Council for Public Affairs (USA)

Jewish Council for Racial Equity (UK)

Jordanian Society for Human Rights

Land Center for Human Rights (LCHR) (Egypt)

LAW: The Palestinian Society for the Protection of Human Rights and the Environment (no longer active)

Ligue des Droits de l´Homme (Belgium)

Ligue internationale contre le racisme et l´antisémitisme (France)

Middle East Children´s Alliance (USA)

Palestinian Human Rights Organization (Lebanon)

SIKKUY: The Association for the Advancement of Civic Equality


Union of Jewish Women of South Africa

Other NGO Statements on the Durban Review Conference:

Independent Jewish Voices

  • Statement in support of Canadian participation in Durban II (June 18, 2008)
  • Statement, on behalf of EAFORD, to October PrepCom, denying antisemitism of the Durban Conference in 2001 (October 15, 2008).
  • Statements lobbying Canadian government to end its boycott of the Durban Review Conference (November 2, 2008).

Jacob Blaustein Institute for the Advancement of Human Rights

American Jewish Committee

American Jewish Congress

  • UN Vote Threatens Freedom of Expression, Coalition to Defend Free Speech, December 18, 2008

World Jewish Congress

  • World Jewish Congress Welcomes UN Official´s Remarks on Durban Anti-Semitism, PR Newswire, Virtualization, October 7, 2008
  • World Jewish Congress Dismayed by One-Sided Statements of UN General Assembly President, Press Release, PR Newswire, Market Watch, November 26, 2008
  • World Jewish Congress President Ronald S. Lauder: ´UN Anti-Racism Conference Must Not Become Another Platform for Spreading Anti-Semitism´, Press Release, Market Watch, December 17, 2008
  • WJC: Durban II chaired by human rights abusers, Tovah Lazaroff, Jerusalem Post, April 17, 2009

European Jewish Congress

  • No more messages of hate at Durban, please, Statement by Henry Grunwald, October 17, 2008
  • The EJC is very concerned with the upcoming Durban II Conference, European Jewish Press, December 15, 2008
  • EJC challenges Europe on anti-racism confab, JTA, December 17, 2008

Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council (AIJAC)

  • Durban Renewal: The Return of the UN´s Orwellian “Anti-Racism” Conference, Allon Lee, November 24, 2008

Executive Council of Australian Jewry

  • ECAJ Resolution urging the Australian government to boycott the Durban Review Conference, December 4, 2008

Union Juive Francaise pour la paix (UJFP)

  • UJPF´s Statement against Israel´s boycott of the Durban Review Conference, Press Release, November 20, 2008 (original French)

Canadian Jewish Congress

  • Letter to the Editor in Response to Navi Pillay’s op-ed, Keith Landy, Canadian Jewish Congress, Ha’aretz, December 19, 2008

EU Fundamental Rights Agency and Council of Europe’s Commissioner for Human Rights

  • Joint statement “call[ing] on European governments to remain engaged in the preparations for a UN review conference against racism in April 2009”, December 5, 2008
  • Wiesenthal Centre´s Letter to European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights and Council of Europe Human Rights Commissioner: “EU Engagement in the Durban Process only Endorses States Whose Policies Evoke Racism and Bigotry,” December 8, 2008
  • FRA Fundamental Rights Conference in Paris (France), “Freedom of expression, a cornerstone of democracy – listening and communicating in a diverse Europe”, 8-9 December 2008

Ontario Federation of Labour (Canada)

  • OFL Calls on the Canadian Government to Reverse its Boycott of Durban II, October 2008
  • OFL Public Statement: “60 Years Later Human Rights Abuses Still Rampant,” Market Wire, December 9, 2008

United Nations Association of the United States of America

  • “NGOs Call for Civility at 2009 Conference Against Racism,” Christopher J. Tangney

Parallel NGO Events

A coalition of human rights NGOs is organizing an event called the Geneva Summit to be held immediately before the Durban Review Conference.  A full-day conference to be held on April 19, 2009, the event is designed to “place the most pressing situations on the world agenda” by “promoting universal human rights through the eradication of discrimination, intolerance and persecution.”  Prominent human rights activists and dissidents are among the speakers, and coalition members include groups such as Freedom House and UN Watch and other “human rights, anti-racism and pro-democracy” groups.

Organization of side events during the Durban Review Conference, UNHRC

IV. Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights

The UN selected the Human Rights Council as the main body responsible for “monitoring the implementation of the Durban Declaration” and “to undertake preparations for this event.” In August 2007, Libya was elected chair of the preparatory committee. Cuba is the committee’s rapporteur, and Iran is an executive member. Other members of the UN Human Rights Council can be found here.

The High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navanethem Pillay, will preside over the conference. She has been actively attempting to convince all governments to participate in the Durban Review Conference.

In her October 6, 2008 speech, High Commissioner for Human Rights Navanethem Pillay acknowledged the antisemitism of the 2001 NGO Forum, while minimizing its implications:
Seven years ago at the 2001 World Conference against Racism, the virulent anti-Semitic behaviour of a few non-governmental organizations on the sidelines of the Durban Conference overshadowed the critically important work of the Conference. Measures were taken to address this betrayal of the core principles of the Durban Conference, and the NGO document was not forwarded to the Conference.

On October 14, 2008, NGO Monitor sent an open letter to UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay and UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon calling on them to “avoid providing official sponsorship or funding for another NGO Forum that is likely to be a venue used to promote hatred and antisemitism” and “would further undermine universal human rights principles in the framework of the 2009 Review Conference.”

In his December 12, 2008 article, “Distortions plague anti-racism conference,” Rupert Colville, Spokesperson of the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights writes “The purpose of this Durban Review Conference (sometimes misleadingly referred to as ‘Durban II’) is to examine the implementation of the outcome document of the World Conference against Racism which took place in Durban, South Africa, in 2001. Unfortunately both newspapers replay a number of factual distortions which have become increasingly widespread on the internet over the past year, including numerous references to the review conference as an anti-Semitic ‘hate-fest’.”

On December 16, 2008, Navanethem Pillay, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, published an article in Ha´aretz entitled “The anti-racism debate.” In it, she claims that “The Durban review conference is a timely opportunity to reaffirm the principles of non-discrimination and to build on the Durban Declaration and Program of Action. It is for states to ensure that this objective is met and implementation gaps are closed. If all states are not engaged in the process, this goal may remain elusive. Thus, the concerns expressed by Canada and Israel that the review conference will become a platform for denigrating Israel must be assuaged. Seven years ago, states did so by elevating the conference´s outcome above the hatred and hostility that took place on its periphery, and by reaching a broad agreement on the necessary measures to combat racism and intolerance. They must achieve that commonality of purpose again through active engagement rather than withdrawal.”

On December 16, 2008, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights invited NGOs to a working group meeting in Geneva on December 18, 2008: “The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights seizes this opportunity to renew to non-governmental organizations in Geneva the assurance of its highest consideration.”

On January 5, 2009, UN Watch “called on UN chief Ban Ki-moon and human rights high commissioner Navi Pillay to reject a new draft declaration on racism that restricts free speech, prohibits expression deemed offensive to Islamic sensitivities, and portrays counter-terrorism efforts by the U.S., Western states and Israel as essentially ‘racist.’”

V. Government attendance

NGO Monitor has contacted the embassies of EU-member states, as well as Switzerland and Norway, requesting information on their policy towards the UN Durban Review Conference scheduled for 2009. Specifically, NGO Monitor asked whether these governments had defined principles required of NGO grant-recipients regarding participation in the Durban Review Conference, and what lessons were learned from 2001. (responses below)

Various governments have already made public statements expressing their concern over the Review Conference:

  • On March 5, 2009 the Italian Foreign Minister stated that Italy would not attend the conference unless “aggressive phrases of an anti-Semitic nature” were removed from the draft outcome document.
  • On February 27, 2009, the U.S. government decided that “the United States will not engage in further negotiations on this text, nor will we participate in a conference based on this text.” According to the official press release, “[s]adly, however, the document being negotiated has gone from bad to worse, and the current text of the draft outcome document is not salvageable…[a] conference based on this text would be a missed opportunity to speak clearly about the persistent problem of racism.” On April 18, 2009, the U.S. confirmed that it would not participate in the Durban Review Conference, but “will continue to work assiduously in all United Nations fora and with all nations to combat bigotry and end discrimination.”
  • On November 19, 2008, the Israeli government announced that it would not participate in the Durban Review Conference: “The vitriolic tone and context of the “Draft Outcome Document” continue to undermine the genuine aims and objectives of the Durban Conference, and leave us no choice, but to withdraw from what, once again, will apparently become a platform for denigrating Israel.”
  • On January 23, 2008, the Canadian government announced that it would pull out of the conference and maintained that it will not fund NGO participation. Not all Canadian MPs support the government´s decision, and some NGOs have increased pressure in opposition to the boycott.
  • On December 5, 2008, Margaret Biggs, President of the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), responded to NGO Monitor´s inquiry. She asserted that CIDA does not fund NGOs active in the Durban Review Process, in accordance with federal policy.
  • On February 15, 2008, French President Nicolas Sarkozy said, “France will not allow a repetition of the excesses and abuses of 2001…I say to you: if ever our legitimate demands are not taken into account, we will disengage from the [Durban Review Conference] process.”
  • On December 12, 2008, Rama Yade, France´s Secretary of State for Human Rights, asserted that “France will draw ´red lines´ at Durban II […] France and the European Union will do everything to avoid a repeat of what happened in 2001.”
  • On April 6, 2008, U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Zalmay Khalilzad, said, “[W]e will not participate [in Durban Review Conference] unless it is proven that the conference will not be used as a platform for anti-Semitic behavior.” He also noted that the U.S. voted against U.N. resolutions seeking to convene a Durban Review Conference in 2009 because “we [the US government does] not believe there will be a meaningful review of any of the problematic aspects of the original Durban Conference.”
  • On September 23, 2008, the US Congress adopted House of Representatives Resolution 1361 in anticipation of the Durban Review Conference. This resolution calls on the US government to “lead a high-level diplomatic effort” aimed “to defeat any effort by states to use the forum to promote anti-Semitism or hatred against members of any group or to call into question the legitimacy of any state.”  The resolution, which was based on a draft written in the Foreign Affairs committee, is an impressive display of wide political consensus on ´Durban II.’  A total of 24 co-sponsors signed their names to the text. This broad-based approach reflects opposition not only to the attacks against Israel that are embodied in the Durban process, but also the disastrous impact on genuine human rights concerns that results from these activities.
  • On December 17, 2008, U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Ranking Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, stated “Because of the insidious efforts of Iran, Cuba, Libya, and other outlaw regimes and the inability or unwillingness of the UN system to prevent the enemies of freedom and human rights from hijacking the agenda, the Durban II conference is firmly on track to be an anti-America, anti-Israel, and anti-Semitic hate-fest.  I applaud those foreign diplomats, leading Jewish groups, and bipartisan collection of scholars, statesmen, and activists who have recognized this grim reality and refuse to participate in this farce. The U.S., European governments, and other responsible nations should join Canada and Israel in refusing to fund or participate in Durban II, thereby denying legitimacy to this toxic gathering.  This is the time to stand up against hatred and for our fundamental values.”
  • On December 31, 2008, U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Ranking Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, called on the United States and its allies to boycott the Durban Review Conference: “Iran, Libya, Cuba, and their fellow repressive regimes at the UN continue to deny the Jewish state´s right to exist, and they aim, through Durban II and other UN efforts, to prevent Israel from defending itself.  The closer it gets to Durban II´s start date, the more clearly we see that the fix is in, and that Durban II has nothing to do with anti-racism and everything to do with attacking Israel and the Jewish people. Free nations should unite against violent radical Islamists and prevent the further manipulation of the UN to legitimize their extremist agenda. The U.S. and other responsible nations must stand up to the dictatorships that have hijacked much of the UN in general and Durban II in particular. We should, like Canada and Israel, refuse to fund or participate in that hate-fest, and we must lend our legitimacy only to those efforts that truly advance the cause of tolerance and non-discrimination.”
  • On May 22, 2008, UK´s Europe Minister, Jim Murphy, declared “I wish to be clear that the UK government will play no part in a gathering that displays such behaviour. We will continue to work to make sure that the conference is a success, but we will play no part in an international conference that exhibits the degree of antisemitism that was disgracefully on view on the previous occasion.”
  • On October 28, 2008, the Foreign Minister of Denmark, Per Stig Møller, threatened a Western boycott of the Review Conference “If the OIC pushes through this draft resolution [of the ´Outcome Document´]… I have explained the Danish point of view, which is that we cannot accept that religion be conflated with racism.”
  • On December 4, 2008, the Italian Parliament passed a resolution acknowledging that  “several episodes of anti-Semitic nature have occurred [at the 2001 World Conference against Racism], like the distribution to participants of the Protocol of the Elders of Zion and the exclusion of NGOs Jewish members from some sessions of the NGOs Forum, which took place in conjunction with the Conference;” The resolution further warns “Observing the preparation works, is easy to perceive the risk that also this follow-up Conference against racism will turn into a racist conference by itself against Israel”. The Italian Parliament commits “to intervene in the European framework in order to avert the risk that the Conference will develop on a platform based on intolerance and on ethnic, religious and cultural discrimination; to act in order to ensure that the preparatory documents will contain only the purpose of combating racism and discrimination at any latitude and for any reason, and to obliterate the not recondite aim of delegitimize the State of Israel”.
  • On December 16, 2008, Dutch Foreign Minister, Maxime Verhagen, declared that the “Netherlands will not contribute to a summit that degenerates, as the last one did, into an anti-Semitic witch-hunt.”

Other governments:

  • The Australia Human Rights Commission is sending a delegation of three people to the Durban Review Conference led by Federal Race Discrimination Commissioner Tom Calma.  Calma has stated that “[t]hese are matters that governments need to engage on a global level in order to ensure that their policies are in line with international standards. It is also an opportunity to share good practices in these areas.”  He has also claimed that, “he had not observed either anti-Semitic or anti-Islamic sentiment in the preparations for the conference and urged both the Government and Opposition to send representatives.”  At the conference the Commission will “participat[e] and mak[e] formal presentations in a number of side events during the conference.”    The Commission was established in 1986 by the federal Parliament and maintains statutory autonomy.  The Commission claims to “[l]ead[] the promotion and protection of human rights in Australia” and also works with the Australian Agency for International Development (AusAid) on international projects.
  • In March 2009, the Vatican decided to attend the Review Conference. According to the chief spokesperson, Father Federico Lombardi, “People go to conferences to discuss and debate. That doesn´t mean we agree with the draft text of the final declaration as it is now.”
  • On December 16-17, 2008, Latin American leaders met in Brazil and decided to “Increase regional and international cooperation to combat racism and discrimination, even in the context of the preparation of the Conference for the Review of Durban against Racism, Xenophobia and Related Forms of Intolerance.”

Many of the preliminary responses that NGO Monitor received from European governments were vague and did not answer the questions. Follow-up requests have been sent. Extracts from some of the preliminary responses follow:

  • Austria: “…there has not been any funding for Austrian or international NGOs at the Durban I Conference in 2001, apart from including a few representatives as part of the Austrian delegation…In the same vain, for Durban II in 2009 it is not planned to support the participation of NGOs financially.” (Austria’s full response)
  • Britain: “The British Government believes that it is vital to avoid the disgraceful anti-Semitism that occurred at the time of the 2001 World Conference against Racism. … We want the 2009 Durban Review Conference to contribute to the global fight against racism and anti-Semitism….we are trying to influence the outcome from a position of engagement.” (Britain’s full response)
  • Finland: “[T]he Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Finland has not witnessed anti-Semitic behavior by the Finnish NGO’s. In the Durban 2001 Forum, the UN Association of Finland refused to support the NGO-statement for the reason that anti-Semitism was not condemned in the statement.” (Finland’s full response)
  • Switzerland: “The goal of the Durban II conference should be an evaluation of the progress achieved since 2001 in the combat against racism as well as an examination of subsequent steps to be undertaken.” (Switzerland’s full response)
  • Sweden: “Sweden wishes to see a Review Conference that is as operational and concrete as possible, keeping a clear focus on how States have implemented the recommendations of the Durban Declaration and Plan of Action, agreed in 2001…[A]ny expression or manifestation of anti-Semitism as totally unacceptable. This position will be reflected in the Government´s preparations for the Review Conference at the national level.” (Sweden´s response)

VI. UN NGO Documents

VII. Articles of interest

Durban Review Conference

Governments and funders


Other human rights forums

NGO Monitor reports

VIII. Links