African states, nongovernmental organizations NGOs and their allies from around the world converged on Durban ready to work.
The fighting spirit of Pan-African unity was phenomenal. Delegates huddled, strategizing and fine-tuning their united approach to real political redress. The African peoples' plan of action after the WCAR was to take the fight to the people of their respective nations. The Durban organized the first national rally for reparations on the Mall of the U. Over 50, people from across the United States attended.
The perpetrators of the racist crimes against humanity are doing all they can to negate the victory in the WCAR. Western national and international media outlets glossed over the Durban Declaration Program of Action DDPA or distorted or outright lied about the final agreements and outcome. From the outset, the United States led the Western nations in their efforts to derail the WCAR, feigning offense on the issue of equating Zionism with racism.
The United States sent a mid-level delegation to the conference with orders to direct the dialogue toward defending Israel and ignoring their own centuries-old racist oppression and exploitation.
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Israel has learned much from their U. United Nations follow-up meetings to implement the Durban Declaration have been deliberately slow-tracked. There are usually fiveand 10year reviews of the progress of implementation-the WCAR took eight years for its first review. More work needs to be done on the ground to expose the process and mobilize people.
On September 3, , after four days of deadlocked negotiations that did not reach agreement on language, the United States and Israeli delegations withdrew from the conference. This decision was criticized by several people, including Jesse Jackson and President of South Africa Thabo Mbeki , both of whom stated their opinions that it had been a mistake by the United States to send a low-level delegation to the conference in the first place, and Amnesty International , which stated that the U.
Jackson had been involved in earlier attempts to create compromise language. The low-level U. The draft documents had stated "deep concern" at the "increase of racist practices of Zionism and anti-Semitism" and talked of the emergence of "movements based on racism and discriminatory ideas, in particular the Zionist movement, which is based on racial superiority".
Alternative proposals, which the U. Despite Colin Powell's denunciation of the "hateful language" that "singles out only one country in the world, Israel, for censure and abuse" in the draft text and U. The withdrawal of, the U. Several reports had the Europeans staying on solely in order to help South Africa salvage the Conference. After the withdrawal, senior conference officials became highly involved in the rewriting of the Declaration — something that critics maintained they should have also been doing before that point.
In the end, the Conference delegates voted to reject the language that implicitly accused Israel of racism, and the document actually published contained no such language. Several countries were unhappy with the final text's approach to the subject, but all for different reasons. Syria and Iran were unhappy because their demands for the language about racism and Israel had been rejected by the Conference, the latter continuing its insistence that Israel was a racist state.
Australia was unhappy with the process, observing that "far too much of the time at the conference [had been] consumed by bitter divisive exchanges on issues which have done nothing to advance the cause of combating racism". Canada was also unhappy. The language of the final text was carefully drafted for balance. The word "diaspora" is used four times, and solely to refer to the African Diaspora.
The document is at pains to maintain a cohesive identity for everyone of African heritage as a victim of slavery, even including those who may have more European than African ancestors.
World Conference against Racism 2001
The "victim" or "victims" of racism and slavery the two words occurring 90 times in the document are defined in only the most general geographic terms. The word "Jewish" is only used once, alongside "Muslim" and "Arab", and "anti-Semitism" is only used twice, once alongside its assumed counterpart of "Islamophobia" and once alongside "anti-Arabism".
The difficulty that this generates is that it is politically impossible to act when the calls for action in the Programme are couched in such generalities that only the "countless human beings" that the document explicitly talks of can be identified. This was a forum of 3, NGOs , attended by 8, representatives. It, too adopted a Declaration. However, this was not an official document of the WCAR and was not issued as such. The Forum's proceedings were highly disorganized, with several NGO delegates walking out of the Forum, to the jeers of other delegates, and ending in discord; and the resultant declaration had 62 paragraphs of introduction, followed by a document that appeared to commentators as being the result of every lobby putting its pet aversions in.
It described Israel as a "racist, apartheid state" that was guilty of "racist crimes including war crimes, acts of genocide and ethnic cleansing". The document was not intended to be presented to the Conference, although a copy of it was intended to be handed over, as a symbolic gesture, to the Conference secretary-general, Mary Robinson, at the conclusion of the Forum. Ms Robinson refused to accept the document, citing concerns over its language. In a later interview she said of the whole conference that "there was horrible anti-Semitism present — particularly in some of the NGO discussions.
A number people said they've never been so hurt or so harassed or been so blatantly faced with an anti-Semitism. Critics described the description of Israel as apartheid as the "Durban Strategy". They claim that this comparison was made with the intention of causing and encouraging divestment from and boycott of Israel. These NGOs provided research assistance at the Forum and helped to develop declarations and resolutions that dealt with the issue of compensation for slavery.
The resolutions adopted by the Forum dealing with reparations for slavery dealt only with the transatlantic slave trade, and did not mention the traffic in African slaves to Islamic lands in the Middle East. The Forum also called upon the United States to ratify all major human rights treaties that had already been ratified.
Department of State had noted specifically that CERD's restrictions on freedom of speech and freedom of assembly were incompatible with the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States. The United States was far from the only such country to do so, however. Incompatibility of the treaty with national constitutions, including the freedoms of assembly and speech guaranteed by those constitutions, is also noted by Antigua and Barbuda, the Bahamas, Barbados, France, Guyana, Jamaica, Japan, Nepal, Papua New Guinea, Switzerland, and Thailand. Several, including France, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Malta, Monaco, Nepal, the United Kingdom, note that they consider the provisions of the treaty to be restricted by and subject to the freedoms of speech and assembly set forth in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
One commentator noted that in order to comply with the interpretation of CERD created by the NGOs at the Forum, the United States would have to "turn its political and economic system, together with their underlying principles, upside down — abandoning the free speech guarantees of the Constitution, bypassing federalism, and ignoring the very concept of majority rule, since practically nothing in the NGO agenda is supported by the [U. Other NGO demands included demands for: . Tom Lantos assigns the blame for the withdrawal of the U. The Conference was largely overshadowed in the news and in international affairs by the September 11, attacks , which occurred 3 days after the Conference ended.
President Bill Clinton had called her a "splendid choice" for the post and the U. She stepped down from the post in September Many faults were attributed to Ms Robinson, with cumulative effect on the U.
Some people stated that she lacked mediation and bureaucratic experience, and thus was unable to resolve sensitive issues at the Conference. News reports attributed her differences with the U. Second, the U. Third, she had openly criticized the U. Fourth, she had opposed U.
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Tom Lantos himself did not assign sole or even primary blame to Robinson for the breakdown of U. That he assigned to the NGOs, as aforementioned, and to the member states of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference.
Durban and World Conference Against Racism: Reparations now!
Moreover, several people have defended Robinson's secretary-generalship of the conference. However, the Declaration and Programme of Action did make provision for follow-up mechanisms. Mary Robinson stated in her closing address that the Conference was intended to be a beginning, not an end. Manning Marable , of Columbia University in New York , pointed out that one of the objectives of the Conference was to increase coordination in human rights activities, and to strengthen networks amongst those combating racism; and as such the actions of governments in response to the Conference are not the sole intended outcomes — actions by civil society and non-governmental agencies are also required.