ERRC dissociates itself from WCAR NGO Forum

07 November 2001

Press statment, September 5, 2001

The European Roma Rights Center (ERRC) is saddened to conclude that it cannot endorse the 72-page NGO Declaration and Programme of Action submitted to the organisers of the World Conference against Racism in Durban on behalf of the NGO Forum. "These documents contain inappropriate language, fuelling precisely the kind of hatred and racism the Durban gathering was meant to challenge," said Dimitrina Petrova, Executive Director of ERRC. "We cannot but deplore the fact that an event of such importance for Roma and other victims of discrimination was apparently hijacked by biased activists, forcing through their own agenda. The aggressive exclusion of Jewish participants by fellow NGO colleagues and the accompanying, blatantly intolerant anti-Semitic spirit plaguing the entire process, prompted us to firmly distance ourselves from this forum's unfortunate outcome. Along with numerous other organisations and individuals of goodwill, we will continue to press for a final conference text which faithfully reflects the purposes for which so many have come to Durban."ERRC was among the more than 50 NGOs, predominantly from Central and Eastern Europe, who co-signed the September 3, 2001 statement protesting the NGO Forum process and its resulting documents. The text of this statement follows:

Joint Statement by Eastern and Central Europe NGO Caucus and other NGOs September 3, 2001 (Durban, South Africa)

We, WCAR NGO Forum delegates of more than 50 non-governmental organizations from more than 20 countries of Eastern and Central Europe and the former Soviet Union and other countries of the world, state that we do not support the documents allegedly adopted by the NGO Forum and come forth with a forward-looking positive proposal.

First and foremost, we declare that the process of compilation and adoption of the NGO Forum Declaration and Program of Action was neither transparent nor democratic and permeated with procedural violations. The draft documents were not submitted to the delegates in a timely manner; the rules of procedure were unclear and repeatedly changed; the discussion was heavily restricted. Finally, the delegates were not given an opportunity to vote on the draft documents in their entirety. This enables us to affirm that the documents cannot be considered adopted by the NGO Forum and are not consensus documents.

We believe that as a result of this flawed process, the contents of the documents include unacceptable concepts and language. We are particularly concerned with certain ideas included in the chapters "Globalization," "Palestine," "Reparations," and a number of paragraphs of the documents.

We must emphasise that the language of the chapter "Palestine" as well as the deliberate distortions made to the chapter "Anti-Semitism," is extremely intolerant, disrespectful and contrary to the very spirit of the World Conference Against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance.

Nevertheless, despite the negative results of the NGO Forum, we strongly believe that the international NGO community should not give up but continue to work on the basis of the positive aspects of the entire preparatory process to the World Conference and the Forum itself. In particular, the following achievements represent a sound foundation for future consolidated efforts: reinforcement of the available international legal mechanisms of protection against racism and discrimination; development of national anti-discrimination legislation and institutions; creation of national plans of action; recognition of the slave-trade as a crime against humanity; acknowledgement of the scourges of colonialism; inclusion on the agenda of such issues as denial of racism; double discrimination; religious intolerance; state racism; ethnic cleansing; racism not rooted in the slave-trade; sexual orientation; migrants and internally displaced persons; indigenous peoples; and specific groups of victims such as Roma, Chechens, Tibetans, and Dalits.

We intend to immediately move on to implementation of the above achievements and call upon the international NGO community to join us in these efforts.

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PS: On top of all the troubles of the NGO Forum, at the closing ceremony, the delegates had to listen for over two hours to a speech by Fidel Castro. We are offended by the fact that one of the worst dictators in the contemporary world, particularly notorious for gross violations of human rights, was invited to address this world gathering of non-governmental organizations. Listening to Fidel speak, we only had to wonder why the organizers had failed to invite Alexander Lukashenko, Turkmenbashi, Saddam Hussein, or the Taliban regime.

The statement was adopted by 36 NGOs from 19 countries of Eastern and Central Europe at their caucus meeting on September 2, 2001. At the request by NGOs from countries outside of the region of Eastern and Central Europe, the caucus decided in its meeting on September 3, 2001 to make the document open for joining by other NGOs from outside of the region and call it a "Joint Statement".

As of November 10, 2001, the statement had been endorsed by more than 50 NGOs from around the world:

Women's Rights Center (Armenia), "Millennium" Association for Education and Research (Armenia), Belarussian Gipsy Diaspora (Belarus), Czech Helsinki Committee (Czech Republic), Globea Transborder Initiative for Tolerance and Human Rights (Czech Republic), Dzeno Foundation (Czech Republic), Legal Information Center for Human Rights (Estonia), Institute for Refugee and Minority Problems (Georgia), Center for Development and Cooperation-Center for Pluralism (Georgia), Georgian Young Lawyers Association (Georgia), Hungarian Helsinki Committee (Hungary), Legal and Information Service "Dialogue" (Kazakhstan), Youth Human Rights Group (Kyrgyzstan), Latvian Center for Human Rights and Ethnic Studies (Latvia), Lithuanian Center for Human Rights (Lithuania), Association for Democratic Initiative (Macedonia), Helsinki Citizens Assembly of Moldova (Moldova), Youth Helsinki Citizens Assembly of Moldova (Moldova), Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights (Poland), "Never Again" Association (Poland), Midrasz Association (Poland), Jagielonian University Human Rights Center (Poland), Liga Pro Europa (Romania), Romanian Helsinki Committee (Romania), Center for Development of Democracy and Human Rights (Russia), Institute for Independent Sociological Studies (Russia), Moscow Helsinki Group (Russia), Information and Research Center "Panorama" (Russia), Roma National-Cultural Autonomy (Russia), Stavropol Regional Human Rights Center (Russia), Minority Rights Group of the Saint Petersburg Association of Scientists and Scholars (Russia), International Society of Meschetian Turks "Vatan" (Russia), Anti-Defamation League - Russia (Russia), Youth Human Rights Movement (Russia), Harold and Selma Lights Center for Human Rights Advocacy (Russia), The Youth Center for Human Rights and Legal Culture (Russia), Human Rights Center "Memorial" (Russia), Antifascist Youth Action (Russia), Foundation for Civil Society (Russia), Civic Assistance for Refugees (Russia), Citizens' Watch (Russia), Icumbi Society (Russia), African Unity (Russia), Center for Environmental Public Advocacy (Slovakia), Minority Rights Group - Slovakia (Slovakia), Project Schola (Slovakia), Center for Legal Analysis (Slovakia), Romani Legal Defense Agency (Slovakia), "Hayot Jollazi" (Uzbekistan), Humanitarian Law Center (Yugoslavia), Helsinki Committee for Human Rights (Serbia), European Roma Rights Center, International Romani Union, International Institute of Peace (Austria), Hill Watch Human Rights Forum (Bangladesh), B'nai Brith (Canada), The United Nations Association of Denmark (Denmark), Society for Threatened Peoples (Germany), Indigenous/Tribal Peoples Development Centre (India), Sangarsh Karnataka Dalith Samithi (India), Centre for Organisation, Research and Education (India), Indonesia Anti-Discrimination Movement (Indonesia), Italian Helsinki Committee (Italy), Poovulagin Nanbargal (Malaysia), Magenta Foundation (the Netherlands), Swedish Helsinki Committee (Sweden), The United Nations Associations of Sweden (Sweden), Expo Foundation (Sweden), Swedish NGO Foundation for Human Rights (Sweden), Save the Children (Sweden), Society for Threatened Peoples (Switzerland), Mohajis Quami Movement (United Kingdom), Human Rights Documentation Center (USA), International League for Human Rights (USA), Jacob Blaustein Institute for Human Rights (USA), South Asia Human Rights Documentation Centre, Asian Indigenous and Tribal Peoples Network, Simon Wiesenthal Center, World Federation of Trade Unions, NGOs' Coordinating Committee of Human Rights, European Union of Public Relations, UN Watch.

The statement is open for other NGOs who wish to join.

For information, contact Yuri Dzhibladze at +7-095-203-9196 and .



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