Durban 2001 - International NGO News Conference After the NGO Forum



(from left to right representatives of Physicians for Human Rights, International Service for Human Rights, Lawyers Committee for Human Rights (Human Rights First), Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch)

The international NGOs (INGOs) formed a single caucus with one vote and were asked by members of the Jewish caucus (representing Jewish organizations worldwide) to vote against the NGO Forum document. They refused and instead chose not to vote. Key provisions in the draft NGO Forum document concerning anti-semitism, which had been suggested by the Jewish caucus, were brought to a vote and deleted. The INGO caucus watched again in silence while these voices were stilled. At a news conference which they called two days later, reporters repeatedly asked each of them: "what is your organizations' view of the substance of the NGO document?" They claimed that the document represented the voices of the victims. They claimed, in effect, that "voices" or claims of victimhood took precedence over universal standards. In their words:

a) "the document is a multiplicity of views, backgrounds, experience from which we come. There is language in it we do not endorse, but let's understand it [the document] for what it is." The Lawyers Committee for Human Rights (now Human Rights First), Michael Posner, Executive Director.
b) "This document is a collection of the voices of the victims. We don't believe it was appropriate to vote....The angry voices of the victims at this conference have been heard. ...The angry voices are the failure of governments." Amnesty International, Irene Khan, Secretary-General.
c) "The document gives expression to all voices." Human Rights Watch, Smita Narula, Senior Researcher.