Saturday, June 9, 2007

From Bucharest: Some final thoughts on meetings such as this: A big talk fest or an important contribution??? (1)

Now that this meeting is over and I am about to return home, I have to ask: was this just a big talk fest [57 countries and dozens of NGOs represented] or did it -- and other meetings like it -- accomplish something?

I don't think much concrete action was accomplished in the formal part of the meetings. Too many countries used the opportunity to make canned statements and there was little give and take [except for Ambassador Finley and the Egyptian Ambassador Raouf Saad... which was dramatic, unambiguous, but not too constructive].

Last night at Shabbat dinner at the Jewish Community Center [one of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee's projects here] in addition to talking with some nice young people [yes there were more young people there than elderly], I had a conversation with Dr. Gert Wiesskirchen, the OSCE's personal representative on combating antisemitism.

He stressed the need for these meetings to be focused on implementation. In other words, what actions have been agreed upon and what has been done. Fewer speeches and more concrete analysis of what has worked and what has not.

Stacy Burdett, the ADL veteran representative at this meeting is someone who knows this process well. When I posed this question to her she said that the very fact that individual countries have to analyze what the situation is in their country, that they have to come and talk about, that a spotlight is shown on the topic is important and, in fact, may well be far more important than precisely what is accomplished at the meeting itself.

Of course, you would not have these countries assessing the situation that faces them if they were not preparing for a meeting.

So, in short, the work done for the meeting and the fact that this conglomeration of countries is saying, "this is a problem and we have to deal with it" is a valuable enterprise. [Except, of course for the Egyptians and the NGO from the Arab countries who were quite emphatic that they have no problem.]

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