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Durban III NGO Participation Raises Concerns

UN decision to include NGOs in Durban III conference raises specter of the original virulently anti-Zionist Durban conference in 2001.
By Gabe Kahn.
First Publish: 6/23/2011, 8:46 PM / Last Update: 6/23/2011, 9:07 PM

As the 'Durban III' UN world Conference Against Racism this September approaches the role of non-governmental organizations has generated growing concern.

Current plans for this years event, to be held in New York City, call for the spotlight to be given to NGOs, raising the specter of original Durban conference which deteriorated into anti-Zionist, anti-semitic hate fest.

Durban III, scheduled for September 2011 in order to mark the tenth anniversary of the infamous UN World Conference Against Racism, held in Durban, South Africa. 

"If, as in 2001, the same NGOs are provided a platform in New York at 'Durban III', this will set the stage for another round of activities that exploit and undermine the moral and human rights agenda," Gerald Steinberg, president of the Jerusalem-based NGO Monitor, warned.

"Under the façade of human rights, over 1500 NGOs, many allied with Iran and oppressive Arab regimes, used the NGO Forum to attack Israel and promote a strategy of delegitimization and double standards that continues today. At Durban II in 2009, there was no NGO Forum, and this disaster was not repeated. Therefore, in the preparations for Durban III, it is important to ensure that NGOs that exploit human rights are not given a platform," Steinberg said.

The Durban III conference is scheduled for the second day of the United Nations’ General Assembly meetings in September. Current plans call for speakers at the opening plenary to include a representative “of a non-governmental organization active in the field of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance.”

Selected NGO representatives would also participate in roundtable meetings at the United Nations.

"No criteria are provided regarding the selection of NGOs," Steinberg said. "The danger is that genuinely international human rights issues, including gender and LGBT discrimination, minority rights, and attacks against pro-democracy demonstrators by Arab regimes, will again be ignored. The proposed framework would invite NGO manipulation and hijacking, as happened at Durban in 2001."

The United States, Israel and Canada have all said they will not participate in Durban III due to the strong tinge of anti-Semitic and anti-Zionist rhetoric Durban I proved to be the poster child for.

Of additional concern to observers is that Durban III, which could deteriorate into a high-profile anti-Zionist harangue, is set to occur around the same time the Palestinian Authority has said it will ask the United Nations for a unilateral declaration of statehood, thereby charging an anti-Israel spirit in the plenum.