Resuming its 2018 session, the Committee on Non-Governmental Organizations today recommended 53 groups for special consultative status with the United Nations Economic and Social Council, and deferred action on the status of 16 others.
Jorge Dotta (Uruguay), Chair of the Committee, in opening remarks, said the subsidiary body would consider 228 new applications for consultative status, 224 applications deferred from previous sessions, 204 new quadrennial reports from non-governmental organizations with general or consultative status, and 84 quadrennial reports deferred from earlier sessions. Noting that the Committee had started discussions on reviewing its method of work, he said it would need to move expeditiously to ensure that all applications were given adequate consideration.
Marion Barthelemy, Director of the Office for Intergovernmental Support and Coordination for Sustainable Development at the Department of Economic and Social Affairs, said the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development had given new impetus to civil society involvement in the work of the United Nations. Since that Agenda’s adoption, the number of non-governmental organizations applying for consultative status with the Economic and Social Council had grown from 440 in 2014 to a record 774 in 2018. Further efforts were needed to reach out to organizations from the global South and ensure that the overall number of applications better reflected the world’s demographic structure, she said.
Much of the morning was taken up with a discussion among delegates over China’s proposal that the Committee revoke the accreditation of the Society for Threatened Peoples (Germany). The Committee agreed to postpone a decision after setting 25 May as a deadline for that group to respond to China’s concerns, which centred on links it might have with Uygur separatists in Xinjiang Province.
The Committee also failed to reach consensus on whether to allow a non-governmental organization, the International Service for Human Rights, to deliver opening remarks.
Late in the day, the Committee held an interactive dialogue with three non-governmental organizations — the Havtzelet Cultural and Educational Institutions of Hashomer Hatzair (Israel), Operation Underground Railroad (United States) and WomenNC-NC Committee for CSW/CEDAW (United States) — during which it granted all three special consultative status.
The 19-member Committee vets applications submitted by non-governmental organizations, 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 adopted its 2018 agenda (document E/C.2/2018/1/Rev.1) during its regular session in January.
The Committee will meet again at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, 22 May, to continue its session, which runs from 21 to 30 May, and again on 11 June. In addition, the Committee has scheduled its first-ever round of consultations with non-governmental organizations for 22 June.
JORGE DOTTA (Uruguay), Chair of the Committee on Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs), said the subsidiary body had a packed agenda before it. It would consider 228 new applications for consultative status, 224 applications deferred from previous sessions, 204 new quadrennial reports from non-governmental organizations with general or consultative status, and 84 quadrennial reports deferred from earlier sessions. There were also several new and deferred requests for reclassification, mergers and change of names. Noting that the Committee had started discussions on reviewing its method of work, he said it would need to move expeditiously to ensure that all applications were given adequate consideration.
MARION BARTHELEMY, Director, Office for Intergovernmental Support and Coordination for Sustainable Development, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, said the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development had given new impetus to civil society involvement in the work of the United Nations. Since that Agenda’s adoption in 2015, the number of non-governmental organizations applying for consultative status with the Economic and Social Council had grown from 440 in 2014 to a record 774 in 2018. Moreover, since the start of the decade, the rate of increase of applications for organizations from developing countries, at 36 per cent, was higher than that from developed countries, which was 25 per cent. Further efforts were needed to reach out to organizations from the global South and ensure that the overall number of applications better reflected the world’s demographic structure. She went on to note the growing workload of the NGO Branch as well as consultations that the Committee would be holding on 22 June with non-governmental organizations. The latter illustrated the need for more interaction between intergovernmental processes and civil society so that they might better understand and profit from each other’s contributions.
The representative of Cuba said that more non-governmental organizations from the global South would lead to better results. He also stressed the need for every application to get careful consideration.
The representative of the United States said her country strongly supported the participation of civil society and faith-based organizations in the work of the United Nations. Discussions with non-governmental organizations with consultative status should be a regular practice. Too often, however, the Committee asked questions that were unacceptable and not in line with Economic and Social Council resolution 1996/31. Also, the Committee far too often denied consultative status to non-governmental organizations dealing with human rights and humanitarian action. She expressed concern that non-governmental organizations which received Government funding were being treated as Government-organized non-governmental organizations.
The representative of Cuba, on a point of order, said the statement by his counterpart from the United States had nothing to do with the remarks delivered by the Director of the Office for Intergovernmental Support and Coordination for Sustainable Development. He asked that she address her concerns under another agenda item.
The representative of the United States, continuing her statement, said she hoped that tight time limits would be respected.
The representative of Iran said the Committee had demonstrated that it intended to increase the number of organizations with consultative status. Regarding remarks by his counterpart from the United States, he said they were another attempt by that country to politicize the Committee’s work.
The representative of Austria said that more and more observer States like his were attending Committee sessions, but it was hard for them to follow its work as they had little insight on when applications would be considered. Modernization of its methods of work should take due consideration of “humble observers”.
The representative of China said his delegation had circulated a letter asking that the Committee revoke the consultative status of the Society for Threatened Peoples, which had enabled Dolkun Isa, a Vice-President of the Eastern Turkestan Liberation Organization, to attend various United Nations meetings, including the recent Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, where he identified himself as being from the World Uygur Congress, which had no consultative status.
The representative of the United States said the Committee was being asked to be an accomplice to an act of reprisal against Mr. Isa. Her delegation agreed with a proposal that the non-governmental organization in question be given until 25 May to respond, but it wanted to know from others if there were genuine terrorist concerns. She added that the United States would not have given Mr. Isa a visa to attend the Permanent Forum if he was going to engage in terrorist activities.
The representative of Germany requested that the proposal to revoke consultative status be withdrawn. He noted that Mr. Isa was a German citizen and that Germany had no information that he might pose a security risk.
The representative of the European Union said his delegation shared the strong concerns expressed about removing the accreditation of the Society for Threatened Peoples. He noted that that group had held consultative status since 1993.
The representative of the Russian Federation said organizations with consultative status had a responsibility to observe the United Nations Charter as well as the Organization’s security requirements. He thanked China for showing flexibility by enabling the Committee to get in touch with the Society for Threatened Peoples by 25 May.
The representative of Pakistan said allegations of terrorism should not be taken lightly. He agreed with China that time should be given to the organization to respond. He also urged the Committee not politicize the issue.
The representative of Cuba said the letter circulated by China was in line with the Committee’s rules of procedure. He thanked that country for not pressuring the Committee into making an immediate decision, thus enabling delegations to collect information and consult their capitals.
The representative of Israel agreed with the proposal to postpone discussion until 25 May.
The representative of Iran said Member States should be careful in bringing arguments against the legitimate concerns of other Member States.
The representative of China said Mr. Isa and his organization had been involved in acts that undermined the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Member States. He had also violated United Nations rules in attending the meeting. He said his country’s request had nothing to do with reprisal. China was only standing up for the purposes and principles of the Charter and the maintenance of international peace and security.
The representative of the United States said her country took its host nation responsibilities seriously. It would not let a terrorist come into the United States willy-nilly to hang out at the United Nations. Mr. Isa was a German citizen with no criminal record and a 10-year visa to enter the United States. Accusing the Society for Threatened Peoples of harbouring a terrorist and promoting terrorism was beyond the pale and outrageous. China should withdraw its request for revoking its consultative status.
The representative of the United Kingdom, associating himself with the European Union, and speaking as a Committee observer, said it would be unfortunate to see the body move at lightning speed in considering the revocation of accreditation when it moved so slowly in considering applications from organizations that dealt with human rights.
The representative of China said he did not understand why his counterpart from the United States was being “so passionate and emotional”. Before she became an Ambassador, he said, she had participated in a Xinjiang project initiated by an American think tank with the aim of helping separatist activities in that province of China. He said he suspected she was in close contact with those people.
The representative of the United States, on a point of order, said the Committee had just hit a new low and that in was inappropriate for her counterpart from China to launch a personal attack against an Ambassador from her country. She added that she had never seen such outright disrespect in the Committee.
The Chair asked China’s representative to limit his remarks to concrete information about the non-governmental organization in question and to avoid a political discussion.
The representative of China said he did not think he had made a personal attack. He added that his Government had always protected the rights of ethnic minorities in China, including Uygurs. He reiterated that Mr. Isa and his organization had engaged in criminal activities in China.
Mr. DOTTA said arguments had been made by all sides and the issue was exhausted. The Committee would analyse the situation on 25 May as planned.
The representative of the European Union said that the activities of civil society were increasingly being constricted in many countries. His delegation trusted that Committee members would support the vital work of civil society in the United Nations, adding that the full spectrum of civil society voices must be heard within the Organization’s walls.
The representative of Denmark, speaking as an observer, said the active participation of non-governmental organizations in the work of the United Nations must not be seen as undermining States. He added that the repeated deferral of applications was a serious concern.
The representative of Estonia said the Committee must take decisions as effectively, quickly and responsively as possible, thus increasing the number of organizations accredited.
The representative of the United Kingdom expressed her country’s concern over the apparent discrimination against organizations with a human rights focus.
The representative of Canada, looking forward to the consultation scheduled for 22 June, said a diversity of voices would enrich the Organization’s discussions.
The representative of the United States requested that the remarks she made earlier be reflected in the record as a general statement.
The representative of Australia urged the Committee to respect the contributions made by civil society, which had a positive effect on accountability and transparency.
A representative of civil society began speaking.
The representative of China, on a point of order, said the Committee was running out of time and it should move to the next item on its agenda. Civil society would have an opportunity to engage with the Committee on 22 June.
The representative of the Russian Federation made a similar request.
The representative of Uruguay said non-governmental organizations should be allowed to speak at the outset of each session. It was regrettable that during some recent meetings, some had been denied that fundamental right. She added that the International Service for Human Rights was going to make a statement on behalf of about 100 non-governmental organizations, whose contributions would help improve the Committee’s working methods.
The representative of the United States asked her colleagues to adhere to Economic and Social Council resolution 1996/31 and commitments made in January 2017 by allowing today’s non-governmental organization to speak. She expressed concern that the Committee was reversing its past practice.
The representative of Canada said he was disappointed that a non-governmental organization was being prevented from taking the floor.
The representative of Austria said it was interesting that, session after session, the Committee spent a half-hour or an hour or two hours talking about a civil society statement that would only last a couple of minutes. The consultations on 22 June marked a big step forward, but that should not stop the Committee from listening to the important voice of civil society.
The representative of the United Kingdom said that despite being given the floor, a non-governmental organization was being denied the right to speak on the basis of an unclear point of order.
The representative of Greece said he agreed with his counterparts from Uruguay and the United States.
The representative of Israel said she would like to hear the statement that was about to be made.
Mr. DOTTA, acknowledging a lack of consensus on the issue, said the Committee would proceed to other agenda items.
Requests for Special Consultative Status
The Committee recommended that the Economic and Social Council grant special consultative status to the following 50 organizations:
AWWA Ltd. (Singapore);
Action pour l’Education et la Promotion de la Femme (Chad);
Aie Serve (Lebanon);
Akshar Foundation (India);
Alianza ONG (Dominican Republic);
Aman against Discrimination (Libya);
Apex Voluntary Agency for Rural Development (India);
Arab Society for Academic Freedoms (Jordan);
Aravind Foundation (India);
Asmau Foundation for Orphans and Less Privileged (Nigeria);
Asociacion la Familia Importa (Guatemala);
Association Humanity First Cameroon (Cameroon);
Association Nationale pour Promouvoir la Société Civile et la Citoyenneté (Algeria);
Association des Citoyens pour le Progrès du Centre (Haiti);
Association des femmes pour le développement à la base (Democratic Republic of Congo);
Association des jeunes volontaires au service du monde environnemental (Togo);
Association pour la promotion du développement local (Cameroon);
Beyond Beijing Committee (Nepal);
Caucus of Development NGO Networks (Philippines);
Center for China & Globalization Limited (China);
Center for Human Rights Studies of Mofid University (Iran);
Centre for Social Justice Limited by Guarantee (Nigeria);
Centre d'analyse et de recherche en droits de l'homme (Haiti);
Centre for Communication and Sustainable Development for All (Cameroon);
Centre for Legal Rights Advancement (Nigeria);
Centre for Promoting Alternatives to Violence (Singapore);
Collectif des Associations Contre l'Impunité au Togo (Togo);
Community Development and Welfare for the Less Privileged Initiative (Nigeria);
Daughters of Virtue and Empowerment Initiative (Nigeria);
El Hikma Organization for Health and Social Welfare (Sudan);
Echange pour l'organisation et la promotion des petits entrepreneurs au Togo (Togo);
Educate a Child in Africa (Cameroon);
Election Network Society in the Arab Region (Jordan);
Farasooye Taaly Institute (Iran);
Friends Group (Nepal);
Fundación Multitudes (Chile).
Fundación para la Protección de los Arboles La Iguana (Ecuador);
Fundação de Apoio a Pesquisa Científica, Educacional e Tecnológica de Rondônia (Brazil);
Fédération de la Ligue Démocratique des Droits des Femmes (Morocco);
Gana Unnayan Kendra (Bangladesh);
Global Peace and Development Organization (Liberia);
Groots Kenya Association (Kenya);
HaritaDhara Research Development and Education Foundation (India);
Health Development Project — Sierra Leone (Sierra Leone);
Hiranmoy Das Gupta Foundation (India);
Independent Institute for Monitoring the Formation of Civil Society (Uzbekistan);
Instituto Etnia Planetária (Brazil);
Instituto Sou da Paz (Brazil);
Khubaib Foundation (Pakistan); and
Kosar Mashiz (Hazrat Zahra) Charity (Iran).
The Committee postponed consideration of the following 16 organizations:
Al-Mehran Rural Development Organization (Pakistan) — as the representative of Pakistan requested clarification regarding the date the group was set up and the date it was registered.
Cairo Foundation for Development and Law (Egypt) — after the representative of Venezuela requested more information about its participation with United Nations entities.
Arab Program for Human Rights Activists (Egypt) — as the representative of Venezuela asked to know more about joint activities carried out with other regional organizations.
Association for Reconciliation and Development through English (Burundi) — as the representative of Burundi requested more information about the nature of the group’s income-producing activities.
China Biodiversity Conservation and Green Development Foundation (China) — as the representative of the United States requested details of the group’s projects and activities aimed at implementing the Sustainable Development Goals.
China Charity Alliance (China) — as the representative of the United States asked that it elaborate on the specific outcomes of its partnership with the China-Africa Philanthropy Exchange and Communication Forum in 2016.
East Human Rights Group (Ukraine) — as the representative of the Russian Federation requested the full names and nature of organizations identified only by initials on the application form. He also requested details of practical instruments being used by the applicant for reconciliation and social solidarity.
Education des filles (Mauritania) — after the representative of Mauritania asked to know the names and nationalities of those serving on its territorial committee.
Etrat Fatemi Charity Institute (Iran) — as the representative of the United States requested for a detailed breakdown of the group’s funding sources.
Green Lane Agricultural Assistance Non-Governmental Organization (Armenia) — as the representative of Azerbaijan asked for information on activities they carried out in Nagorno-Karabakh or any other occupied areas and, if so, details on those activities.
Habilian Association (Iran) — as the representative of the United States asked for information about all seven board members.
Human Rights & Democratic Participation Center "SHAMS" (State of Palestine) — as the representative of the United States asked the group for details on funding for all projects.
International Association of Justice Watch (Iran) — as the representative of Turkey requested information on the organization’s regional and international partners.
International Association of World Peace Advocate (Nigeria) — as the representative of Cuba asked for a list of the group’s recent projects and activities.
In addition, the Committee postponed consideration of two organizations — ANADEC - Acção Nacional para o Desenvolvimento Comunitária (Guinea-Bissau) and Agir Pour l'Epanouissement de l'Enfant et de la Femme en Afrique (Togo) — pending translation of their respective applications into all six of the United Nations official languages.
The representative of the Havatzelet Cultural and Educational Institutions of Hashomer Hatzair (PPC) said his organization educated 40,000 participants in 15 programmes through the school year and created partnerships with Jewish and Arab communities in 10 municipalities representing 250,000 citizens. His group also worked with the Arab population in Israel and taught Hebrew and Arabic to Arab and Jewish communities, respectively. Cultural activities included academic programmes, working towards Sustainable Development Goals 10 and 16.
The Committee then granted the organization special consultative status.
Turning to the first of two deferred applications, the Committee then heard from the representative of Operation Underground Railroad, who said his four-year-old organization aimed at helping children who were victims of trafficking. Operating at the request of host countries, the group provided rescue and aftercare services for victims.
The Committee then granted the organization special consultative status.
The Committee then heard from the representative of WomenNC-NC Committee for CSW/CEDAW, who said his organization had conducted research in North Carolina, United States, presenting results at the Commission on the Status of Women. Providing answers to previous questions, he said his group was local and the application had been corrected regarding references to Taiwan, in accordance with United Nations rules.
The Committee then granted the organization special consultative status.