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ARTICLE 19 calls for revisions in draft outcome document of the Durban Review Conference

United Nations: ARTICLE 19 Calls for Revision of the Draft Outcome Document of the Durban Review Conference

(ARTICLE 19/IFEX) - 16 April 2009 - On the eve of the Durban Review Conference, to be held in Geneva on 20-24 April 2009, ARTICLE 19 has published its Analysis of the Draft Outcome Document (as of 9 April 2009).

The Durban Review Conference will examine progress made towards the goals set by the World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance which was held in Durban, South Africa in 2001. It will also renew and strengthen global efforts to combat all forms of racism and related intolerance.

"ARTICLE 19 believes that racism and discrimination constitute major impediments to the realisation of the right to freedom of expression. They prohibit and stifle the right of everyone to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers," said Dr Agnès Callamard, ARTICLE 19 Executive Director. "A strong Outcome Document for the Review Conference will thus be a success for the promotion and protection of freedom of expression, and particularly the diversity and pluralism of voices."

ARTICLE 19's analysis of the Draft Outcome Document is predicated on the principles of universality, interdependence and indivisibility of the right to freedom of expression and equality, and, in particular, on what the organisation considers to be the "mutually reinforcing" nature of these rights.

The analysis identifies a number of positive features of the Draft Outcome Document but also points to several serious shortcomings which need to be addressed before the text is finalised. Some of the key aspects of ARTICLE 19's analysis include:

- As positive features of the Draft Outcome Document, ARTICLE 19 highlights the broad affirmations of the right to freedom of expression and the right to access information contained in the text; the omission of any reference to "defamation of religions"; and the acknowledgement of the importance of the promotion of intercultural understanding to anti-racism efforts in various paragraphs. ARTICLE 19 recommends that such positive features of the draft outcome document should be affirmed and not compromised in the final text.

- ARTICLE 19 suggests that any reference to the "negative stereotyping of religions" as such is excluded from the draft outcome document. This is a vague term which may be abused by state governments to prevent critical debate or even mockery of religious ideas, practices or figures. In ARTICLE 19's opinion, it should be the negative stereotyping of individuals and groups on the basis of their religion or ethnicity that should be of concern.

- Further, ARTICLE 19 argues that the call on "States parties to the International Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination to withdraw reservations contrary to the object and purpose of the Convention and to consider withdrawing other reservations" should be withdrawn from the text. This might be interpreted as encouraging states to withdraw reservations they have made also to Article 4 of the International Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination while such reservations are legitimate on the basis of the right to freedom of expression.

- Finally, ARTICLE 19 stresses that the Draft Outcome document lacks two fundamental dimensions: the lack of a general non-discrimination provision and one that includes sexual orientation as a protected ground; and insufficient consideration of the positive role of the media in relation to the promotion of intercultural understanding. ARTICLE 19 recommends accordingly that the text should be amended to include a comprehensive non-discrimination provision, as well provisions expanding upon the role of the media in promoting intercultural understanding.

The analysis of the DRC draft outcome document is available at:
durban-review-conference-analysis-of-the-draft-outcome-document-as-of-15-apr.pdf (154 KB)

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