Resuming its 2019 session today, the Committee on Non-Governmental Organizations recommended 75 groups for special consultative status with the United Nations Economic and Social Council, while deferring action on the status of 28 others.
Throughout the day, delegates and secretariat representatives spotlighted a dramatic spike in the number of applications before the Committee, with many speakers raising concerns about the body’s capacity to process that larger workload. Several delegates pointed out that, in 2018, the Committee was forced to defer one fifth of the applications it received from non-governmental organizations (NGOs) seeking consultative status. However, other speakers described the increasing volume of applications as a clear vote of confidence from civil society groups around the globe.
“The continuing increase in the number of applications and reports is a clear indication of the strong interest by non-governmental organizations in participating in United Nations policy and decision-making processes,” said Committee Chair Mohamed Sallam (Sudan). Noting that the current resumed session will take up a total of 243 new applications and 265 previously deferred ones, he recalled that a recent General Assembly resolution called on the Committee to adopt a more streamlined approach to its work.
Andrew Dorel, Acting Chief of the Non-Governmental Organizations Branch, said the number of requests before the Committee has gone beyond the Branch’s capacity for another year. Pointing out that it received 820 applications for status between 2 June 2017 and 1 June 2018, he said that larger scale has led to a backlog in the Branch’s work and delays in the work of the Committee itself.
Several speakers, delivering general statements at the meeting’s outset, echoed those concerns. The representative of Estonia, for one, proposed a more balanced use of time during the resumed session to avoid worsening the Committee’s backlog. Warning against the practice of prolonging deferred applications, she also called for better preparation and more efforts to avoid duplication in the questions posed to organizations.
The representative of the European Union, urging members to consider the applications before them in a balanced and objective manner, declared: “The United Nations needs to hear as diverse a range of voices as possible.” Civil society groups serve as a bellwether for the climate around the globe, as well as a voice for the most vulnerable, he said, adding that extraneous considerations should not be allowed to impact the Committee’s work.
The representative of the United Kingdom agreed, noting that civil society groups are often the only way for voices to be heard in repressive situations around the globe. Joining others in expressing concern about the Committee’s backlog, he also sounded alarm about disturbing reports of intimidation and reprisals against human rights defenders and other civil society representatives. “We must send a clear message that we value the work of civil society,” he stressed.
In the afternoon, the Committee held an interactive dialogue with three NGOs — World Toilet Association, El Cantare Foundation and Alianza Americas — during which it granted two of the groups special consultative status.
In other business, the Committee approved the draft programme of work for its resumed session, as contained in a working paper. Mr. Sallam reminded members that they approved the Committee’s 2019 agenda (document E/C.2/2019/1) at their regular session in January, during which they also elected him as Chair and Nadav Yesod (Israel) as Vice-Chair on behalf of the Group of Western European and Other States. Noting that consultations are still ongoing within regional groups as to possible candidates for the vacant Vice-Chair posts, he said the Committee will address that matter at a later stage.
The 19-member Committee vets applications submitted by NGOs, recommending general, special or roster status on the basis of the applicant’s mandate, governance and financial regime. Organizations with roster status can only attend meetings of the Economic and Social Council. Those enjoying special status can attend meetings and issue statements, while those with general status can speak during meetings and propose agenda items. Those with roster status can only attend meetings.
The Committee will meet again at 10 a.m. on Monday, 20 May, to continue its resumed session.
MOHAMED SALLAM (Sudan), Chair of the Committee, delivered brief opening remarks, noting that members will consider 243 new applications for consultative status at their resumed session. Also considered will be 265 applications deferred from previous sessions, he said, adding that the Committee also has before it 190 new quadrennial reports from non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in special or general consultative status and 130 reports deferred from earlier sessions. Noting that there are also several new and deferred requests for reclassification, mergers or changes of name, he stressed: “The continuing increase in the number of applications and reports is a clear indication of the strong interest by non-governmental organizations in participating in United Nations policy and decision-making processes.”
Stressing that the steady increase in the Committee’s workload requires the adoption of a more streamlined approach to its work, as called for in General Assembly resolution 73/205, he noted that the Assembly invited the Committee to examine in a timely manner how it can effectively accommodate the growing number of applications for consultative status. In that regard, he also drew attention to the large number of deferred applications from the Committee’s regular session, largely due to the fact that members did not complete a second reading of new applications at that time and did not engage in a second reading of deferred applications. Under those circumstances, he said, the Committee will need to move expeditiously in the resumed session to ensure that all applications are given adequate consideration.
The Committee turned its attention to several agenda items related to “Strengthening of the Non-Governmental Organizations Branch of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs”, review of its working methods and the status of its general voluntary trust fund in support of the United Nations Non-Governmental Organizations Informal Regional Network.
MARC-ANDRE DOREL, Acting Chief of the Non-Governmental Organizations Branch, said the number of requests before the Committee has gone beyond the Branch’s capacity for another year. Recalling that it received 820 applications for status between 2 June 2017 and 1 June 2018, he said that large scale has led to a backlog in the Branch’s work. It also has implications for the work of the Committee itself, he said, recalling that the General Assembly requested Committee members to review their working methods with a view to streamlining and efficiency.
The representative of India then asked the Secretariat whether progress had been made on the proposal to vet NGOs’ applications vis‑á-vis the Security Council’s sanctions lists.
Responding, Mr. SALLAM recalled that the Committee met recently with representatives of the Department of Political and Peacebuilding Affairs to discuss that matter. He asked Committee members whether they would agree to convene an informal working group on the issue, open to all members, which would present its findings to the Committee as a whole.
The representative of Mexico, agreeing with the goal of such a working group, asked if precedents exist for similar informal working groups and requested clarity on the group’s precise purpose and structure.
Mr. SALLAM said the scope and purpose of such a working group would be to make proposals for the way forward in how to apply screenings related to the Security Council’s sanctions lists, to be reviewed by the Committee and forwarded to the Economic and Social Council.
The representative of the Committee secretariat said precedent does exist to form such a group, recalling that, in the early 2000s, the Committee established an informal working group to consider revisions to the questionnaire for applications for consultative status. In the present case, he said, the Secretariat could provide more information on what a sanctions list-related screening would imply, as it could have implications for the Committee’s workload.
The representative of the United Kingdom expressed wariness about rushing into a decision on that issue, pointing out that the Committee is already failing to process applications expeditiously. Indeed, a fifth of the applications before it is already being deferred from previous years. That workload will only become more complicated, he stressed, warning that adding yet another layer of bureaucracy will further complicate the process rather than expedite it. “This is a lot simpler than perhaps we’re making it,” he said, proposing that NGOs merely be asked to make a declarative statement to the effect that they are not on, or related to entities on, the Security Council’s sanctions lists.
As no formal objections were made to the Chair’s proposal, Mr. SALLAM then announced the establishment of an informal working group to consider ways to apply a sanctions list-related screening process to NGOs seeking consultative status, while underlining the need to avoid increasing the Committee’s workload.
The representative of the European Union, noting that the Committee has a burdensome session before it with many applications to consider, called on members to consider them in a balanced and objective manner in line with relevant Economic and Social Council resolutions. “The United Nations needs to hear as diverse a range of voices as possible,” he stressed, noting that civil society groups serve as a bellwether for the climate around the globe, as well as a voice for the most vulnerable. Extraneous considerations should not be allowed to impact the Committee’s work, he said, welcoming recent efforts to enhance the Committee’s interaction with civil society.
The representative of the United States called on members to recommit to make the Committee and the United Nations more broadly accessible to civil society organizations. The Committee should hold consultations with NGOs in consultative status prior to every session, he said, recalling that it did so for the first time in June 2018. Welcoming the webcasting of the Committee’s sessions, he underlined the importance of transparency. Turning to the Committee’s increasing workload, he praised its increasing transparency, but registered concern about the practice of deferring quadrennial reports to future sessions. Indeed, the Committee’s only role should be to take note of such reports and considering or deferring them slows and politicizes the work its work.
The representative of Brazil welcomed the Committee’s practice of webcasting its sessions, which allows delegations to follow along from anywhere in the world.
The representative of Estonia proposed a more balanced use of time during the resumed session to avoid worsening its backlog. The prolonging of deferred applications should be avoided, she said, calling for more preparation before formal sessions, as well as more efforts to root out the duplication of questions posed to organizations.
The representative of the United Kingdom, associating himself with the European Union, said civil society groups are often the only way for voices to be heard in the repressive situations around the globe. Voicing concern that more than a fifth of applications before the Committee in 2018 were deferred, he said NGOs must be given adequate time to respond to the Committee’s questions. He also expressed concern about disturbing reports of intimidation or reprisals against human rights defenders and other civil society representatives. “We must send a clear message that we value the work of civil society,” he stressed.
The representative of China noted that, on 5 March at a side event in Geneva, an NGO with consultative status — the European Coordination of Associations and Individuals for Freedom of Conscience — erroneously referred to a separatist political movement in China on its website and in various other materials. That constitutes a serious violation of China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, he stressed, demanding that the group immediately correct its mistake and abide by all United Nations standards and guidelines.
Mr. SALLAM said that matter will be relayed to the NGO in question for action.
Requests for Special Consultative Status
The Committee recommended that the Economic and Social Council grant special consultative status to the following 73 organizations:
“Vətəndaşların Sosial Rifahı Naminə” ictimai birliyi (Azerbaijan);
ASTRA — Anti trafficking Action (Serbia);
Action Citoyenne pour l’Information et l’Education au Developpement Durable (Chad);
Action pour le Respect et la Protection de l’Environnement (Cameroon);
Action progressive pour la gestion de l’environnement (Democratic Republic of the Congo);
Actions pour la Réinsertion Sociale de la Femme (Democratic Republic of the Congo);
Afrique Secours Congo (Democratic Republic of the Congo);
Agir pour le Developpement (Benin);
Ajoke Ayisat Afolabi Foundation (Nigeria);
All Believers Pentecostal Church International (Ghana);
All-Ukrainian Association “Successful Guards” (Ukraine);
Arms of Comfort Foundation (Nigeria);
Asociacion Civil Kape Kape (Venezuela);
Asociación Cultural Nueva Acrópolis de El Salvador (El Salvador);
Association Against Women Export (Nigeria);
Association pour la sensibilisation de la drépanocytose (Cameroon);
Associação Jadir de Taekwondo (Brazil);
Azad Foundation [India] (India);
Barisal Unnyon Sangstha (Bangladesh);
Beijing Crafts Council (China);
Casa Hunter Associação Brasileira Dos Portadores Da Doença De Hunter E Outras Doenças Raras (Brazil);
Central Integrada de Apoio Familiar Pastor Rubens de Castro (Brazil);
Centre du Commerce International pour le Développement (Guinea);
Christian Women for Excellence and Empowerment in Nigerian Society (Nigeria);
Co-Exist Initiative Organization (Kenya);
Concern on Innovative Radiance Society (India);
Concertation Nationale de la Société Civile du Togo (Togo);
Derecho Ambiente y Recursos Naturales (Peru);
Disabled Women’s Association (Azerbaijan);
Equality for Peace and Democracy Organization (Afghanistan);
Faudar Rural Educational Society for Harijans (India);
Fondation Sounga (Congo);
Forum de la Jeunesse pour le Développement Durable (Togo);
Foundation for Partnership Initiatives in the Niger Delta (Nigeria);
Fundacion Saraki (Paraguay);
Fundación Nacional para la Superación de la Pobreza (Chile);
Fundación Ronda (Chile);
Fundación para la Democracia Internacional (Argentina);
Gender And Environmental Risk Reduction Initiative (Nigeria);
Green and Better World (Cameroon);
Healthy Aging India (India);
IMPACT Foundation Inc.: The Emmanuel & Una Springer Memorial Foundation (Saint Lucia);
Inclusion Ghana (Ghana);
Institut Mobile d’Education Démocratique (Haiti);
Instituti për Kërkime dhe Alternativa Zhvillimi (Albania);
Instituto Global da Paz (Brazil);
Iran Autism Association (Iran);
King Khalid Foundation (Saudi Arabia);
Lasses Education & Healthcare Initiative (Nigeria);
Maji Mazuri Centre International (Kenya);
Mandela Center International (Cameroon);
Merja Zarka (Morocco);
Musawah Global Vision Berhad (Malaysia);
National Association of Professional Social Workers in India (India);
National Campaign for Education — Nepal (Nepal);
O.N.G. Norte Verde y Medio Ambiente (Chile);
Observatoire Tunisien de l’Economie (Tunisia);
Offthehook Foundation For Rural Dwellers (Nigeria);
Okowa Five Charity Initiative (Nigeria);
Organisation of African Youth (South Africa);
Organised Centre for Empowerment and Advocacy in Nigeria (Nigeria);
Organização Nova Acrópole Lago Norte (Brazil);
People Empowering People, Africa (Cameroon);
Sahaj Sansthan Nokhada (India);
Shuchona Foundation (Bangladesh);
Social Watch / Contrôle citoyen au Bénin (Benin);
Society for Economic Empowerment and Entrepreneurship Development (Nigeria);
Solidar Tunisie (Tunisia);
Sustainable Run for Development (Cameroon);
Synergie Feminine Pour La Paix Et Le Developpement Durable (Guinea);
Synergie Institute of Trade Commerce and Industry (India).
The Committee postponed consideration of the following 27 organizations:
Advocacy, Research, Training and Services (ARTS) Foundation (Pakistan) — as the representative of India asked for more information on that group’s reproductive rights awareness project, which is supported by Amplify Change;
Alliance des Femmes pour l’Egalité et le Genre en Guinée (Guinea) — as the representative of China asked for more information about the organization’s “projects with embassies”;
Asia Pacific Transgender Network (Thailand) — as the representative of China said the organization, on its website, failed to use the appropriate terminology referring to the Taiwan Province of China;
Association Mauritanienne Action pour le Développement Humain (Mauritania) — as the representative of China asked why the organization lists various projects and activities but also cites zero expenditures on projects, and the representative of Burundi requested a detailed list of activities undertaken in 2018;
Beijing Volunteer Service Federation (China) — as the representative of the United States, noting that the organization’s expenditures exceed its income by more than $111,000, asked how the group can operate with such a deficit;
Carlsron Initiative for Peace and Human Rights (Nigeria) — as the representative of Cuba asked whether the organization has undertaken activities outside Nigeria, and if so, what groups it has partnered with;
Charity Organization International Charity Foundation “Global Ukraine” (Ukraine) — as the representative of the Russian Federation asked for more information about several abbreviations listed in the income section of the group’s application;
Children’s Dignity Forum (United Republic of Tanzania) — as the representative of Pakistan, noting that the organization receives 100 per cent of its income from a Swedish governmental body, asked for more information about that relationship, as well as about its financial deficit;
Community Center for Integrated Development (Cameroon) — as the representative of India asked for more information about the organization’s stated work in supporting and monitoring the Government’s compliance with instruments to secure women and girls’ rights;
Dimdim Humanitarian Relief Foundation (Iraq) – as the representative of India asked for more details on the organization’s methodologies for carrying out work related to its stated mission, namely to “rescue missing children, women and youth”;
Drug Policy Network South East Europe (Serbia) — as the representative of the Russian Federation asked the organization to provide more details about its attendance at sessions of the United Nations Commission on Narcotic Drugs;
GIN SSOGIE NPC (South Africa) — as the representative of the Russian Federation asked the organization to clarify its status when it was on the Human Rights Council and participated in the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women. The representative of China asked the organization to use correct terminology regarding Taiwan Province, Hong Kong and the Tibet autonomous region of China;
His Highness Maharaj Hanwant Singhji Charitable Trust (India) — as the representative of India asked about the projects funded by foreign sources and the private sector;
Human Development Foundation (Pakistan) — as the representative of India asked about the activities carried out under the organization’s social capital development programmes;
Insan Defending Human Rights (Lebanon) — as the representative of the Russian Federation asked whether the organization carries out projects in Syria, and if so, he requested detailed information about them;
Institut arabe des chefs d’entreprise (Tunisia) — as the representative of China said the organization’s website contains articles that do not use the correct terminology for Taiwan Province of China, Hong Kong Special Administrative Region and Macau Special Administrative Region;
Institutia Privata Centrul National de Studii si Informare pentru Problemele Femeii “Parteneriat pentru Dezvoltare” (Republic of Moldova) — as the representative of the Russian Federation asked for more information about donations received from the Soros Fund;
International Union for Sustainable Development (Egypt) — as the representative of India had questions about the organization’s $12 total income, and how it plans to carry out activities with a small budget;
Le conseil promotionnel pour l’action des jeunes en Afrique (Congo) — as the representative of India asked about the organization’s overseas activities;
Non-Governmental Organization “Association of Wives and Mothers of Soldiers Participating in Ato” (Ukraine) — as the representative of the Russian Federation requested details about the organization’s social and medical care projects, who the group cooperated with and what the results were;
Onelife Initiative for Human Development (Nigeria) — as the representative of Nicaragua asked the organization to clarify how, if it has not attended any United Nations conferences, it has been able to contribute to United Nations activities;
Organization of female conscience renewal (Morocco) — as the representative of Bahrain asked whether the projects listed in the application were the only ones carried out and whether it could expand upon that information provided;
Pouya Institute for Communications and Social Development (Iran) — as the representative of the United States asked about the organization’s participation in the 2016 Human Rights Council minorities forum and other activities;
Republican Social Information Center “Istiqbolli Avlod” (Uzbekistan) — as the representative of the Russian Federation asked whether all the organization’s members have the right to participate in the general meeting and have equal voting rights.
Réveil communautaire d’assistance aux victims (Burundi) — as the representative of India requested information on its projects, including any in countries outside of where it is registered. The representative of Cuba asked for details about a project which assisted 45 children;
S.O.S.-Esclaves (Mauritania) — as the representative of Burundi asked about its financing from international organizations;
Shrimad Rajchandra Sarvamangal Trust (India) — as the representative of China asked the organization about photos on its website featuring the fourteenth Dalai Lama, who has been involved in separatist activities against China, and whether it supports such activities;
Interaction with Non-Governmental Organizations
A representative from the World Toilet Association said efforts revolve around Sustainable Development Goal 6, as more than 2 billion people lack access to toilets around the world. Stressing that toilets are crucial to public health and a vital piece of human dignity, he said the group builds public toilets, working with Governments, companies and others in select countries. Thus far, it has built 33 toilets in 16 countries, chosen from applications submitted through a public announcement portal. Through its world toilet leaders programme, it engages in discussions to solve toilet problems and improve toilet culture. The group’s international toilet culture conference, which involves Governments, academic researchers and others, was held in 2018 in South Africa under the theme “sustainable sanitation”, he said, noting that the group’s headquarters building resembles a large toilet. It is applying for Economic and Social Council consultative status because it is an example of consultative synergies and works to raise awareness, including around the Sustainable Development Goals.
In the ensuing discussion, the representative of China asked if the group has any connection with the World Toilet Organization, while the representative of Cuba asked for details about its provision of toilets in disaster zones.
The organization’s representative replied that it does not collaborate with the World Toilet Organization. It receives funds from the Korean Red Cross, which offers humanitarian emergency operations, and also provides toilet expertise to those operations.
The Committee then recommended that consultative status be granted to the organization.
A representative of the El Cantare Foundation said the group supports women’s contribution to sustainable development and encourages women from any culture or economic status to engage under a single platform in projects that help women and girls in overcoming fear, trauma and other difficult times. She described El Cantare Foundation’s support for a computer programme and another one involving chicken eggs for women in rural areas.
The representative of India asked if the organization works with any partners in India and whether it has any offices in that country, while the representative of Cuba asked about the organization’s scope, as it seems to have an international focus, rather than a national one.
The organization’s representative replied that it worked with an NGO in India, not the Government. It is a grass-roots organization. To Cuba’s delegate, she said the group is seeking to become a global organization.
The representative of India asked further if the organization could provide more information in writing about its scope.
A representative of Alianza Americas, noting that the organization has been deferred Economic and Social Council status several times, explained that it is an immigrant-led and immigrant-serving network of more than 45 organizations representing some 150,000 families. Noting that Alianza Americas is about to celebrate its fifteenth birthday, she said it works in and with migrant organizations in the United States, as well as transnationally, to create a sustainable way of life throughout the Americas. It brings delegations to Mexico and elsewhere, builds capacity among community leaders through its leadership institute and carries out coordinated advocacy to help resolve economic, social and political issues facing immigrant communities.
The representative of China asked about activities in Asia, while the representative of Cuba requested details about its “tax day” project and the new narratives it creates around immigration.
The organization’s representative replied that it does not have projects in Asia, and that the “tax day” programme aims to raise awareness that immigrants pay taxes in the United States and should have a say in where that money is being spent. The “somos” programme aims to empower young people and children to take a creative approach in asserting themselves, fostering a sense of pride in a context where white supremacy and xenophobia are present. The new narratives are around the fact that immigrants are a blessing to the nations they arrive in — as well as their home countries — and they should be part of all sustainable and just solutions that communities seek to forge together.
The representative of Cuba further asked about the group’s humanitarian work in Haiti, and about which projects receive funds from the Open Society Foundation.
The organization’s representative replied that its work in Haiti responds to the needs of two Haitian organizations which have requested temporary protected status assistance. The Open Society Foundation funds support the Global Coalition on Migration, for which it has acted as a fiscal sponsor, and to support Central Americans seeking asylum in the United States.
The Committee then recommended that consultative status be granted to the organization.