Durban Review Conference: The First Substantive Preparatory Committee Meeting
The Durban Review Conference, scheduled for mid 2009 to review the implementation of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action, is a follow-up to the United Nations World Conference Against Racism (WCAR) held in Durban in August/September 2001.By Rochelle Jones.
The United Nations Human Rights Council is acting as the Preparatory Committee for the
Durban Review Conference, and held its first substantive meeting recently in
Geneva, from 21 April to 8 May. In this Friday File, AWID revisits the WCAR
and highlights some of the concerns in the lead up to the Review
WORLD CONFERENCE AGAINST RACISM (WCAR)
The WCAR was held in Durban, South Africa, in August/September 2001.
Convened as a critical element in the struggle against racism, racial
discrimination, xenophobia, and other forms of intolerance, it was a
significant and symbolic event for South Africa due to the end of apartheid
nearly seven years earlier. Unfortunately the event was marred by
controversy amid allegations of intolerance and anti-Semitism, and then
overshadowed by the events of September 11, 2001. The outcome of the WCAR
was the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action (DDPA) - which notably
excluded the final statement of the NGO Forum's proceedings- rejected by
governments because the conference became extremely politicized.
There are apprehensions surrounding the impending review conference, based
on what happened in Durban in 2001. Canada bowed out of the conference in
January this year over concerns some of the issues that precipitated
expressions of intolerance in 2001 have not been readily dealt with nor
remedied . The presence of Libya and Iran on the organizing committee,
for example, has generated concern . Some NGO's have also decided to
boycott the event, but many organizations hope that the follow up
conference will drive state action on the 2001 outcomes, and open dialogue
on issues that have evolved or intensified since 2001. These NGO's are
hoping for a productive
Conference, and have developed a 'Statement of Core Principles for WCAR
The DDPA is a substantial document outlining recommendations to combat
racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and other related forms of
intolerance. It is an important framework and guideline and makes reference
to a wide range of issues such as: measures of prevention and education at
the international and national levels; prosecution; policy research and
action plans; and economic and political decision-making. 
The DDPA has provisions for the inter-sectionality of racism with gender,
"Paragraph 62 urges States "to take all necessary measures to address
specifically, through policies and
programmes, racism and racially motivated violence against women and
girls". The involvement of women in decision-making at all levels in
working toward an end to discrimination is stressed in Paragraph 51. In the
development of concrete measures, it calls for States "to incorporate race
and gender analysis in the implementation of all aspects of the Programme
of Action and national plans of action".
Paragraph 50 urges States "to incorporate a gender perspective in all
programmes of action...and to consider the burden of such discrimination
which falls particularly on Indigenous women, African women, Asian
women, women of African descent, women of Asian descent, women migrants and
women from other disadvantaged groups".
The gender dimensions of poverty must also be taken in consideration by
ensuring "gender analyses of all economic and social policies and
programmes...to benefit those individuals or groups of individuals who are
victims of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related
intolerance" (Paragraph 52). 
THE PREPARATORY MEETINGS
In 2006, the United Nations General Assembly decided to convene in 2009 a
review conference on the implementation of the DDPA. Three Preparatory
Committee (Prep Com) meetings were planned in the lead-up to the review
The first meeting was held in August 2007, where Governments made
organizational decisions around the accreditation of NGOs, funding, and the
objectives of the Review Conference, which are to review progress and assess
implementation of the DDPA; assess the effectiveness of the existing Durban
follow-up mechanisms and other relevant United Nations mechanisms in order
to enhance them; promote the universal ratification and implementation of
the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of
Racial Discrimination; and to identify and share good practices.
The second meeting, which was the first substantive meeting of the Prep
Com, adjourned on 2 May, to resume on May 26. On the agenda was a review of
reports, contributions and other documentation - of which were to be used to
draft the outcome document of the Review Conference.
To facilitate the process, a decision was taken at the first meeting in
August 2007 to obtain information from
Governments on their implementation of the DDPA. The Office of the United
Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights drafted a questionnaire, which
was disseminated to all 192 member states and consists of six core
questions drafted on the basis of the objectives of the Durban Review
Conference. These core questions basically ask: "what, if any has been the
general impact of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action (DDPA) in
your country, can you identify the level and scope of racism, racial
discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerances in your country today
and what are you, as government doing about it?"  39 Governments
responded as at April 4 , and according to the Netherlands based ICARE
Centre Anti Racism Europe), responses ranged from "we have no racism
issues" to page after page of measures taken to eliminate any and all forms
of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance. 
The Annex of the questionnaire allows Governments to elaborate on specific
policies, programs of action, legislative change etc. they have taken.
Question 9 in the Annex specifically relates to gender, and asks: What
measures have been taken to combat racial discrimination against women and
girls and to ensure the incorporation of race and gender analysis in the
implementation of all aspects of the Programme of Action and your national
plan of action?  Not all respondents answered questions from the annex,
however, focusing primarily on the core questions.
NGO presence at the Prep Com meetings is encouraged, and there were several
NGO meetings organised by CONGO - the Conference of NGOs with consultative
status. 29 representatives discussed the engagement of the NGO community
with the Review process, some expressing their disappointment at the lack
of initiative taken by NGOs to participate . The possibility of an NGO
Forum to be held in parallel to the Review Conference was raised at an NGO
meeting organised by Interfaith International, with all agreeing that an
NGO Forum was necessary. However, there seemed to be a common sentiment
amongst representatives that an NGO forum was not wanted by some
Governments and organisers of the Review Conference ? allegedly related to
the controversy that erupted from the NGO forum at the WCAR. A group of
NGOs has requested a meeting with High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise
Arbour to ask for support for a NGO Forum at the Review Conference.
NEXT STEPS FOR THE REVIEW
When the second Prep Com meeting resumes on May 26, the report will be
adopted and the venue for the Review Conference confirmed. The third Prep
Com meeting will be held in October 2008, with official regional meetings
in Brazil and Nigeria hopefully taking place before then. About 30 civil
society representatives from ten countries in Asia attended the First
Regional Workshop on the Durban Review Conference (DRC) 2009, organised by
FORUM-ASIA and the International Movement Against All Forms of
Discrimination and Racism (IMADR) in Bangkok in February this year.
Their Joint Statement was delivered at the 7th Session of the UN Human
Rights Council in March, making reference to the multiple forms of
discrimination faced by women in Asia. This is an example of successful
organizing by regional NGOs to participate in the Durban Review process.
Georgina Stevens from the IMADR spoke about the importance of organizing at
one of the CONGO meetings convened at Prep Com 2. She said that "although
countries and regions were slow in organizing regional meetings, that
should not hold us back from organizing our own events. We should try not
to be slowed down by the lack of response from states. We must coordinate,
create a united front and be strong as NGOs to facilitate our own
The Review process is complex and substantial, and for a successful outcome
of driving Governments' commitment on the issues, it is critical that NGOs
mobilise and participate.
 Canada quits racism conference, 24/01/2008.
 Ibid. See Also, Pushing the World's Battle against Racism
By Benjamin Pogrund http://www.mideastweb.org/log/archives/00000691.htm
 Statement of Core Principles is available here:
 The DDPA is available at:
 Excerpted from Forum Asia.
 Cited in ICARE's (Internet Centre Anti Racism Europe) special report on
Com meeting, available at:
 All documentation pertaining to the first substantive session of the
meeting can be found here:
 Ibid Note 6.
 Ibid Note 7.
 Ibid Note 6.