... the final outcome document – is in the bag. We have it. It is a good document. It cannot be reopened now. And thereby hangs a tale.
Since day one of my new job as High Commissioner, I was committed to the Durban Review Conference. From September 1 when I took office until today, I simply cannot recall how many meetings, phone calls, discussions I have had with my team and with ministers, ambassadors, NGOs, journalists, to explain why this conference was so important and why it should enjoy participation by all.
It was very difficult. I had to face a widespread, and highly organized campaign of disinformation. Many people, including Ministers with whom I spoke, told me that the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action, which as you know was agreed by 189 states at the original World Conference Against Racism in 2001 was anti-Semitic, and it was clear that either they had not bothered to read what it actually said, or they were putting a cast on it that was, to say the least, decidedly exaggerated.
Many others have labelled the entire Durban process as a “hate fest.” We have had some rough moments in the process, but a “hate fest?” I’m sorry, this is hyperbole. It is a gross exaggeration. But it is everywhere on the Internet. And I’m sorry to say many mainline newspapers who incidentally declined many op-eds that I sent up to them. Because I kept urging States to take part, one of the most vociferous opponents of the conference called me the “dangerous High Commissioner for Human Rights.” So if you see a special look about me, that’s the danger. Another called me the “ludicrous High Commissioner for Human Rights.” That look I have dropped since. I expect these types of personal attacks to continue for the rest of my tenure. But I can live with them because I see this conference as a success and I know that you will judge this process in a valid and fair way.
If people actually read the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action, they would have realized that it includes a paragraph which says that “the Holocaust should never be forgotten”. It includes two paragraphs that denounce “anti-Semitism and Islamophobia”, and one paragraph which mentions the suffering of the Palestinians, their right of self-determination and the security of all States, including Israel, and two paragraphs calling for peace. That’s all there is on the Middle East. And I could not get these corrections published in some important newspapers, particularly in the US, who used the word hate fest without checking these paragraphs.
The final document of this conference – the Conference product, if you like – also says the Holocaust must never be forgotten and deplores anti-Semitism along with Islamophobia and all forms of racism, xenophobia, racial discrimination and related intolerance. But already the propaganda machine is starting to wind up to term this conference a failure, a “hate fest and all the rest of it.” This is extraordinary. Yet no one has really written up the true story of this Conference – a strange rough and tumble affair full of smoke and mirrors, I must admit, yet very definitely a success story, with plenty of good will as well as plenty of bad will of the type I have described just now.
... because of this campaign that was so determined to kill the conference, some countries decided to boycott it, although a few days earlier, they had actually agreed on what is now the final text. I consider this bizarre. You agree the text on Friday evening, and walk out on Sunday. I think, it was unfortunate that a few states disengaged from the process. Although almost all of them had agreed this text, they are not part of the consensus that adopted it. I do hope they will come back into the process now. They can still add their names to the list of 182 states that have adopted the outcome document. And by the way, Iran is part of that consensus. When the final call came, Iran did not oppose the text.
The regional and political groups all made concessions. It’s very important to note that. It was difficult for them. If you take the Arab countries for instance: they accepted that neither Palestine, nor the Middle East is mentioned in the text. Of course they are mentioned in the DDPA and the word “reaffirm” carries those paragraphs into this document, but no specific mention of these paragraphs in this text because of the concessions made by them. That is extremely difficult for them to do politically. The OIC was also very cooperative as we moved towards consensus. The Africans, the Europeans and all the other groups also made concessions to a greater or lesser degree. That’s why we say that no individual state is completely happy with this document but collectively they are all happy with it.
So there we are. That is part of the story of the Durban Review Conference . I’ll leave the rest to you.
And what did the assembled press do with what was left to them?
Judge for yourself.
My judgement is: The press, by and large, didn't do the story justice. Nor, by implication, did they do justice for all the victims of Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance.