Many NGOs Sour on Duban Conference

Final Document Came Under Criticism

DURBAN, South Africa, SEPT. 6, 2001 ( The Mideast conflict has caused a new victim: the nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) attending the World Conference Against Racism.

The clearest example is given by Christian NGOs, which have categorically rejected passages in the final document — an unprecedented action.

Sergio Marelli, director general of the Federation of Christian Organizations International Voluntary Service and president of the Association of Italian NGOs, which embraces 164 organizations, rejected Paragraph 162 and Article 148.

The first describes the state of Israel as “racist,” and the second calls for the reintroduction of the 1975 U.N. Resolution, annulled in 1991, which defines Zionism as “a racist practice.”

Marelli said he was unhappy that these paragraphs attracted world attention while other, more-important passages of the document were neglected.

He told the Italian newspaper Avvenire that the problem lies in the way that NGOs are represented at the United Nations. In fact, anyone can call himself an NGO, even if he only represents himself.

“It must be acknowledged that the effort of so many NGOs, which have representation mechanisms, cannot be placed at the same level of someone who speaks only for himself,” Marelli said.

Since the adoption of the document on Sunday, numerous NGOs, among them Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, which refused to approve it, have distanced themselves from it.

Jewish NGOs refused to vote on the text and announced Tuesday that they were withdrawing from the NGOs´ Forum and from the conference. A day later, 77 other associations, primarily from Central and Eastern Europe, criticized the text and the conditions in which it was adopted.

“It is sad that, for the first time, I cannot recommend to the delegates (at the U.N. conference) to keep in mind the NGOs´ declaration,” Marelli said.

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