March 31, 2020
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Divided, WCAR Falls

Harsh words and lack of consensus defeat the very purpose of the meet

Divided, WCAR Falls
From the very beginning, the wcar experiment was expected to be a failure. On the last day, September 7, it seemed closer to becoming a disaster. Indeed, rarely has there been a UN conference where ngos championing a clutch of causes have been so bitterly opposed to each other. Their acrimony found its echo in the ngo Declaration—taken out before the inter-government meet—which bristles with hate language, precisely what the wcar was supposed to fight against.

Expectedly, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson refused to recommend the ngo Declaration to the participating governments for discussion. That made it difficult for governments to evolve a consensus over a wcar Declaration and a programme of action, at least till the time of writing this report.

Even as the US and Israel quit the negotiations earlier in the week, determined members of the Arab League continued to lobby hard with the European Union for condemning Zionism. EU objected to the harsh language the delegates wanted to employ against Israel. Consensus also seemed to elude the issue of reparation, which demands countries who indulged in slave trade to contribute to a fund dedicated to assisting the 'victim nations'.

But the group most adversely hit at the wcar is the Dalit caucus. Successfully marginalised by the Indian government, it is now clear that the ncdhr can only hope for a bracketed mention of discrimination on the basis of work and descent (not caste, though) in the wcar programme of action. Technically, a bracketed mention means the issue is debatable.

Only one para on caste-based discrimination is expected to form part of the programme of action, that too under the broader category of work and descent. The Indian government in fact wants to dilute even this bracketed mention by deleting 'work' and rephrasing this para in very general terms. Negotiations were still on at the time of going to press on Friday.

wcar's biggest failure, though, has been the lack of unity among the participants and its inability to successfully project its message of peace and equality. This lack of unanimity—and the hectic lobbying and negotiations—shows that the world still remains divided between those who feel exploited and others who think that they are needlessly being accused, a wcar Declaration notwithstanding.
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