World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance

Department of Public Information - News and Media Services Division - New York
Durban, South Africa
31 August 7 September 2001

6 September 2001

 

PRESS BRIEFING BY CHAIRMAN OF DRAFTING COMMITTEE

Working Group I has 63 paragraphs of the draft declaration left to adopt before the World Conference against Racism ends tomorrow, Ali Khorram, Chairman of the Drafting Committee said in Durban, South Africa, this afternoon.

He said at a press conference that the Working Group had to adopt
30 paragraphs this afternoon for the document to be ready, leaving 33 paragraphs relating to the so-called "difficult issues". Working Group II on the draft programme of action had adopted 180 paragraphs, leaving 80 outstanding. Of those, 40 to 45 were being negotiated in the four informal consultation groups dealing with the difficult issues.

Mr. Khorram said that the groups were dealing respectively with the Middle East question, issues relating to the legacy of the past, the grounds of racism and the list of victims of racism. Besides the two working groups and the
four informal groups, there had been more than 50 informal consultation groups negotiating the difficult issues. They had been dismantled after doing their job.

The Chairman said it was hoped and expected that agreement would have been reached on all the ongoing paragraphs by 3:00 a.m. tomorrow so that the draft declaration and programme of action could be presented to the Plenary.

He said that the group facilitating negotiations on the Middle East was dealing with 25 to 30 paragraphs. When it concluded its job, the language of those paragraphs could be substituted by references to foreign occupation or other similar language.

The group facilitating negotiations on the past was handling more than
70 paragraphs, Mr. Khorram said. It was difficult to pinpoint the exact figures because some delegations felt that some paragraphs were beyond the scope of the informal groups and should be negotiated in the Working Group.

Responding to questions, on the Middle East, he said that the regional groups and the General Committee were still discussing a text proposed by Conference President Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma. "We may have their conclusions this afternoon and if it's acceptable to the regional groups and the General Committee, it will go to the Drafting Committee and then to the Main Committee or Plenary", he added.

Asked whether there was a danger that there might be no consensus,
Mr. Khorram said political will was needed to resolve the most difficult issues. A simple majority of 51 per cent was required for general agreement on procedural matters and a two-thirds majority for substantive matters.

Asked if there was a possibility of dropping the paragraphs on the Middle East and saying the Conference had failed to reach consensus on the issue,
Mr. Khorram said he was not sure it was appropriate to drop the Middle East question. "This Conference has to deal with all matters of racism", he added.

Had any new ground been broken at the Conference in the paragraphs adopted so far? another journalist asked.

The Chairman replied that would depend on how different delegations saw their priorities. The issue of victims was important for some, the past for others, the Middle East for others.

Asked about the latest developments on the question of an apology for slavery and colonialism, Mr. Khorram said informal consultations were continuing on the history of colonialism and slavery under the facilitators from Brazil and Kenya. "They are working on language and have made good progress. They could finalize their work by this evening."

Asked about the possibility of extending the Conference and working through the weekend, he said there was no reason why it should be extended, but that would depend on the issue. The questions of grounds and victims would be settled, and only the Middle East question was pending.

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