Durban Review Conference – final pre-conference negotiations in Geneva

"... we saw two big white tents. Which right away flashed me back to the Durban WCAR NGO Forum..."

"... we saw two big white tents. Which right away flashed me back to the Durban WCAR NGO Forum..."

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Quotes of the day

Alas, I’m not Harry Potter or another magician’ (Chair)

‘We’re going to try to make the conference as successful as Durban in 2001’ (Oops)

‘There’s a big elephant in the room but it’s a friendly one, an African elephant’.

Day one of the last intersessional Working Group meeting for the Durban Review Conference (or Intersessional WG for the DRC) saw magicians, elephants in the room and other Disney-esque characters. Exiting the accreditation/security bunker in the morning, to the right we saw two big white tents. Which right away flashed me back to the Durban WCAR NGO Forum, but hey, those tents are for accreditation when the actual DRC starts. The UN expects around a 1000 NGO delegates and they think the security bunker does not have the capacity to hold a number like that.

Back to the meeting, which started fairly on time, 10.15am. The High Commissioner, Ms. Navanethem Pillay, held an opening speech in which she stated that the progress had been remarkable, the latest negotiation document (The Rolling Text) was welcomed by her, she had received many encouraging statements about it from many groups and delegations, lots of goodwill, et cetera. She stressed that ‘procrastination and expediency is not an option’ (which somehow reminded me of the Borg in Star Trek: you will be assimilated). Her full speech can be read here, scanned for your convenience by your intrepid ICARE news team. One of her last sentences was somewhat exaggerated: ‘…the way forward in the anti-racism agenda depends on the outcome of the Durban Review Conference’.

The rest of the morning meeting was pretty laid back, with some undertones. The Chair, Mr. Boychenko first asserted that the ‘Rolling Text’ needed to be adopted as the basis for the working document. Syria immediately piped up saying that this would in no way negate their right to come back to the older texts, including the January 23 one. Sudan wants a reconfirmation of the DDPA, ‘no more no less’ and Pakistan said on behalf of the OIC that they had shown the utmost restrained and expected the same from their discussion partners.

All this veiled ‘you better behave’ language. What a ritual. Next the Chair tried to pull a fast one by firing of a whole lot of Para numbers and suggested that those could be ‘adopted ‘ad ref’ (in one go) by the meeting. This did not succeed. Here’s a scan with those paragraphs.

Notable was the relative quiet of the EU delegations in the morning. Strategy? Inertia? Luckily it got somewhat better in the afternoon. Also notable was Iran, which came in late since they, and a few other delegations were held for 45 minutes at the security bunker because their accreditation papers got lost. The Iranian delegate complained about that but lauded Boychenko for the new working document. Iran turned all flowery, calling the chair a Magician but at the same time said that all ‘their paragraphs’ were dropped from the text. They made the gracious offer to come with a written contribution to correct this problem. Boychenko wisely ignored this. Later in the day delegates talked about all kinds of elephants (see report from the plenary) and on the NGO side an interesting situation presented itself. See further. Tomorrow we will start only at 11am (practically that will make it 11.30) because of private meetings probably. The Intersessional ends Thursday afternoon at 6pm. Friday there will be no meetings since it is the Christian holiday good Friday. More tomorrow. As Yoda said to Luke Skywalker, ‘Abusus non tollit usum’

Ronald Eissens

To follow events from Geneva as they unfold, bookmark the ICARE website and visit daily.

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