UN Week Goes Beyond the General Assembly

JointMedia News Service previews alternative conferences taking place in New York when the UN will meet to mull Palestinian statehood, among other things.

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From left to right—Rebiya Kadeer, the voice China’s oppressed Uyghur minority, Mariane Pearl, wife of slain Wall Street Journal Daniel Pearl, and Canadian Member of Parliament Irwin Cotler will be among the featured speakers at We Have A Dream: The Global Summit Against Discrimination and Persecution. Credit: NGO Summit

For those concerned that the United Nations will soon both hear a bid for Palestinian Statehood and mark the 10th anniversary of a conference that equated Zionism with racism, Hillel Neuer believes it’s not enough to “criticize what’s wrong with the UN.”

“They have to take the offensive and take the initiative, and speak for the human rights issues,” Neuer, executive director of UN Watch, said in a telephone interview with JointMedia News Service.

The 66th United Nations General Assembly and Durban III (a decade after Durban I sparked mass controversy and accusations of anti-Semitism) will garner much attention from Sept. 20-23. However, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) such as Geneva-based UN Watch—which monitors the UN’s performance against the yardstick of its own charter—are holding a pair of parallel conferences in New York to get across perspectives that might get lost in the international shuffle of the official UN meetings.

Twenty human rights groups have planned We Have a Dream: The Global Summit Against Discrimination and Persecution for Sept. 21-22 at United Nations Plaza. Presenters at the NGO summit include Yang Jianli, a senior Chinese human rights activist; Rebiya Kadeer, the voice of China’s oppressed Uyghur minority; Jacqueline Kasha, a defender of LGBT rights in Uganda; Grace Kwanjeh, a Zimbabwean women’s rights activist tortured by the Mugabe regime; Ahed al Hendi, a Syrian writer jailed for opposing the Assad regime; and John Dau, a survivor of genocide in Sudan.

Additionally, Mariane Pearl, widow of slain Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl, will headline the summit’s session on empowering women.

“The moral power in that room will be phenomenal,” Neuer said.

Nearby, at the Millennium UN Plaza Hotel, the Hudson Institute and the Touro College Institute on Human Rights and the Holocaust are holding a conference dubbed The Perils of Global Intolerance: The United Nations and Durban III on Sept. 22. Speakers include Nobel Laureate Elie Wiesel, former U.S. Ambassador to the UN John Bolton, former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, prominent attorney Alan Dershowitz, and former Israeli UN ambassador Dore Gold, among others.

According to the counter-conference’s webpage, “The United Nations Charter promises that the organization’s central principle is the equality of all men and women and of all nations large and small. The United Nations Durban Declaration and Durban conferences treat Israel differently than all other nations. The United Nations has violated that trust.”

For Neuer, the problems extend far beyond Israel.

“For too long the UN has ignored human rights for one-sixth of the world’s population,” he said, referring to China.

Neuer said “we want the UN to do the right thing,” but stressed that the NGO summit is needed to place urgent human rights situations at the top of the international agenda.

Visit http://ngosummit.org/about.php for more information about the NGO summit, and http://www.durbanwatch.com/ to learn more about the Durban III counter-conference.

Jacob Kamaras is the Editor-in-Chief of JNS.

Posted on October 20, 2011 and filed under World.