The U.N. agency charged with organizing the upcoming Durban II racism conference has quietly altered the title of its “Draft Outcome Document” to read “Different sections of compilation of proposals,” in an apparent bid to downplay draft proposals that revive the hateful rhetoric that plagued the original Durban conference of 2001. See graphic demonstration below.
The move comes as part of an aggressive new public relations campaign by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) that in recent days has started to lash out at governments, newspapers, and organizations that have sought to question the misuse of the principles and terminology of the anti-racism cause by Libya, Iran, and other repressive regimes.
In September the OHCHR made a thinly veiled attack on Jewish organizations, accusing unnamed “lobby groups” that were “focused on single issues” of launching “ferocious, and often distorted, criticism” of the Durban II event, slated for April 20-24, 2009 in Geneva. UN Watch immediately protested, and in a detailed letter urged spokesman Rupert Colville to retract the innuendo-laced statement. Yet he has refused to do so, much less reply. Subsequent requests made to senior OHCHR officials have gone ignored.
Click on image below to see original version of U.N. website with title, “Draft Outcome Document” (highlighted in green):
Click above to see UN Watch’s Hillel Neuer interviewed on CTV’s “Canada AM” over the UN’s $23 million ceiling art for its new Human Rights Council chamber, and quoted by FOX News “Special Report with Brit Hume”. Transcripts below. Al Jazeera video clip coming soon.
Fox News Transcript, Brit Hume, host of “The Grapevine,” November 19, 2008:
… Both the United Nations and the Spanish government are coming under fire for a work of art at the U.N.’s Switzerland offices.
The 16,000 square-foot ceiling mural adorns the ceiling of the new Human Rights Council chamber. It took Spanish artist Miquel Barcelo two years and $23 million to complete. It was unveiled Tuesday during a ceremony attended by Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.
While Spanish taxpayers picked up most of the tab, around 633,000 came from funds normally used to help alleviate poverty and boost health care in poor countries. Spain’s Opposition Party blasted the Spanish government and Executive Director of U.N. Watch Hillel Neuersays they “took money from starving children in Africa — and spent it on colorful stalactites.”
The U.N. also bumped talks aimed at easing tensions between Georgia and Russia from Tuesday to Wednesday to make way for the ceremony…
CTV Television, CANADA AM 7:43:55 ET, November 20, 2008 Thursday
“UN Human Rights Council accused of wasteful spending on art”
ANCHOR: SEAMUS O’REGAN
GUEST: HILLEL NEUER, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, UN WATCH
O’REGAN: It’s a spectacular and controversial new work of art. The United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva has unveiled its new mural on the ceiling. It’s a 16,000-square-foot piece featuring hundreds of colourful, dangling icicles. The controversy comes from the price tag. The work cost $23 million, a good portion of which came from the Spanish government.
And for more on what’s at issue here, we’re joined on the line from Geneva by the executive director of UN Watch, Hillel Neuer.
Mr. Neuer, thank you very much for joining us. First of all, what’s your reaction to this?
NEUER: Well, Seamus, I’ve just been to see the chamber right now. And you talked about icicles. Frankly, I prefer the beautiful icicles that we see in Montreal and Toronto around this time of year, rather than ones that I just saw with a price tag of $23 million. Look, as a regular speaker at the Human Rights Council, I can confirm that we needed a better chamber.
The old one needed repairs. But $23 million, from money that was supposed to go into the Spanish foreign aid budget to starving children in Africa, is just an extravagance that in these difficult financial times for families around the world makes the United Nations seem frivolous. And it just sends absolutely the wrong message.
O’REGAN: Mr. Neuer, the Spanish government says, they said, look, you know, this money may have been in the foreign aid budget but it was separate from any poverty-alleviation budget. But, I mean, you know, no question, $23 million by any stretch of the imagination is quite a lot, I mean, for a work of art.
NEUER: Well, look, there are two separate issues here. One is what the Spanish taxpayer wants to pay for. And in Spain today the opposition parties and the leading newspapers are sharply critical of the government’s decision. And that’s really for the Spanish taxpayers.
But it’s up to the United Nations to decide what kinds of purchases it allows. And this kind of a thing is really symbolic of what’s happened with the Human Rights Council which, unfortunately, has become a lot of colourful rhetoric but little real action for the victims who need it most.
O’REGAN: Yeah, and a big controversy in Spain at the moment.
Mr. Neuer, thank you very much. We may check in with you later on this. Thank you.
UN Watch welcomed the new clarification issued today by UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour, in response to its Jan. 28, 2008 letter protesting her endorsement of the Arab Charter on Human Rights, which contains anti-Semitic provisions.
“Last week the High Commissioner endorsed the Arab Charter, but today she has shown courage in criticizing its ‘incompatibility… with international norms and standards,’ and that’s a step forward,” said Hillel Neuer, UN Watch executive director. “We welcome Ms. Arbour’s recognition today that the Arab Charter includes ‘inconsistencies’ in regard to its approach to the death penalty for children, the rights of women and non-citizens, and anti-Zionism.”
“At the same time, we await a response to our demand that the UN official who advised the High Commissioner to sign the initial January 24 announcement be held fully accountable,” said Neuer. “We are talking about someone who recommended the endorsing of a charter that promotes classically anti-Semitic themes, describing Zionism, the Jewish national liberation movement, as uniquely evil, and advocating its ‘elimination.’ We trust that the High Commissioner — whose mandate centers on the notion of individual responsibility and accountability, and who opposes the culture of impunity – will lead by example and ask the responsible adviser to draw the necessary conclusions.”
“This latest episode only underscores the kind of dangers that are up ahead. With Ms. Arbour serving as secretary-general of the Durban Review process — ostensibly UN meetings to combat racism, but which is chaired by Libya with the help of Iran and Cuba — we trust that she will immediately and forcefully oppose any similar efforts to hijack the language and idea of human rights for anti-Zionism or to denigrate Western democracies,” said Neuer.
“Until Mr. Ban and Ms. Arbour take action, Jean Ziegler’s unethical conduct will cast a shadow upon the reputation and integrity of all the independent experts” — Hillel Neuer, UN Watch
Geneva, Nov. 13, 2007 — The U.N. expressed “regret” after one of its officials allowed undercover Cuban diplomats to attend a news conference where they sought information on a French journalist asking questions about Fidel Castro’s regime, the Associated Press reported today. UN Watch, the Geneva-based monitoring organization, called on Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour and members of the UN Human Rights Council to order a full investigation into “the tangled web of Jean Ziegler’s collusion with the Castro regime.”
Mr. Ziegler, mandated by the council to address the “right to food,” recently returned to his native Geneva after an 11-day mission to Cuba, which he hailed as a world model for how it feeds its people.
At an October 11 press conference convened by Ziegler prior to his departure — where he announced that he would visit Cuba not to investigate violations but rather to praise its government — a journalist who asked critical questions was quickly singled out by undercover Cuban diplomats who had entered the room in violation of a strict U.N. prohibition. The officials asked other journalists to identify the name and agency of the reporter who debated Ziegler.