Can we speak Arabic?

Jane Gabriel
27 February 2008

The Karama delegates met last night to prepare two statements they want to add to the CSW  'Agreed Conclusions' which they'll take to the second meeting of the Middle East caucus for discussion. Each evening they gather in the hotel lobby, share chairs and sit on the floor, but found this evening that another delegation had caught on and got there first. They squashed in anyway amidst the potted plants, laptops balanced on their knees and got down to business. First thing in the morning the delegates will divide up. Some will go to a breakfast with a key Karama funder and some will head straight for  the NGO morning briefing where they'll inform other NGO's that "there is an Arab NGO taking part in the CSW this year" and announce the round table they are hosting called ‘Dignity and the Politics of Financing for Women's Rights' on Thursday.  

They are constantly dealing with the question of whether they will be able to speak in Arabic, submit documents in Arabic, whether there will be translators present or whether they'll have to put forward only their members that can speak English. Their email requests to the CSW to find out which language will be acceptable go largely unanswered so they are forever discussing the two scenarios. Last year they had several fights over their right to present in Arabic and switched back and forth between the languages as a necessity.  

'Three minutes, two pages and double spacing': delegates wishing to make an oral statement in the conference hall for three minutes must submit in writing, in advance and according to these rules. Karama have spotted an opportunity to do so on Friday at 10am during the' Interactive dialogue on women's participation in conflict resolution'. It was on their ‘to do' agenda last night.  I'm planning to interview some of them for podcasts in the next two days. Everyone is keen, but at this rate it looks as if the best chance of doing the interviews will be while they are stuck in the eternal morning queues (smoking happily) to get in to the UN.


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