4 February 2011
Economic and Social Council
ECOSOC/6460
NGO/714

Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Committee on NGOs

9th & 10th Meetings (AM & PM)


Committee on Non-Governmental Organizations Recommends Special Consultative

 

Status for 12 Groups, Roster Status for Another, Postpones 16 Applications 


Following Protracted Debate, Roll-Call Vote on ‘No Action’ Motion,

Committee Defers Consideration of International Lesbian and Gay Association


The Committee on Non-Governmental Organizations today recommended 13 civil society groups for consultative status in the work of the Economic and Social Council, while it postponed its consideration of 16 other applications.


In a day that also featured intense discussion, the Committee held protracted debate — and an eventual roll-call vote on a “no-action” motion put forward to overcome a request for a vote on recommending consultative status for the International Lesbian and Gay Association, a Belgium-based organization whose application had been before the Committee for the past 10 years. 


By a vote of 9 in favour to 7 against with 1 abstention, the Committee adopted the “no-action” motion, put forward by Sudan’s representative.  It thereby rejected a request for a vote — submitted by Belgium’s delegate — to decide on recommending status to the NGO (non-governmental organization), which had the stated aim of promoting the human rights of lesbians, gay men, bisexuals and transgendered individuals by ensuring that international norms of equality and non-discrimination were realized.  The application was deferred to the Committee’s May session.


Sudan’s delegate said he had called for “no action” because he believed that whenever there was a question before an NGO, that group must respond, and indeed, the Committee was still awaiting a response to the questionnaire sent.  Those questions should be answered.  The NGO had modified its statute twice, but answers were pending.  The Committee was mandated, through resolution 1996/31, to look at applications and, after responses were received, to take action. 


After the vote, the United States’ representative offered a historical look at the Committee’s consideration of lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT) organizations, saying that it had not approved one such organization in the past decade.  He was disturbed by today’s result, as it showed that nothing had been learned from that history.


In the Committee’s work, general, special or roster status is granted in accordance with such criteria as the applicant’s mandate, governance and financial regime.  Organizations enjoying general and special status can attend meetings of the Economic and Social Council and circulate statements, while those with general status can, in addition, address meetings and propose agenda items.  Roster-status non-governmental organizations can only attend meetings.  Organizations with general and special status must also submit a report every four years.


The Committee decided to recommend special consultative status to:


International Ecological Safety Cooperative Organization, an international organization with headquarters in China, which aims to maintain ecological safety, address ecological crises and disasters and strive to achieve harmonious development of economy, society, and ecology through cooperation among Government agencies, NGOs, businesses and financial institutions in Member States;


South Sudanese Women Christian Mission for Peace, a Sudanese national organization, which aims to promote and ensure women's access to public power and decision-making positions in all sectors and at all levels; improve the economic conditions of women and other marginalized groups; and advocate for elimination of all kinds of violence and abuse against women and children.


Sudan’s delegate, who was not present when the decision was taken, wished to put on record that the NGO, which he fully supported, was registered with regional authorities, not federal authorities;


Association of World Reindeer Herders, a Norway-based international NGO, which promotes professional, cultural and commercial contacts among herders, and disseminates information about world reindeer husbandry;


Associazione Nazionale Volontarie Telefono Rosa, a national organization in Italy, which focuses on women’s rights, providing legal and psychological assistance for women in dire circumstances, and undertaking targeted interventions in parliament to improve women's conditions


Center for Global Community and World Law, a United States based international NGO which conducts research, education and consultation to promote a peaceful, just and sustainable global society; supports the provisions of the United Nations Charter relating to the abolition of war; and offers conferences, publications and research to facilitate mutual understanding, among other activities;


Centre for Equality Rights in Accommodation, a national organization in Canada, which addresses poverty and homelessness in Ontario and Canada by promoting human rights in housing for disadvantaged individuals and families;


Coordinadora Española para el Lobby Europeo de Mujeres, a national organization in Spain, comprising women’s associations from 27 European Union Member States, which acts as speaker on equality policies with the European Commission and the Spanish Government;


Drug Prevention Network of Canada, a national organization in Canada, which assists individuals and organizations across Canada to advocate a healthy, drug-free lifestyle, and oppose legalization of drugs which are currently illegal and harmful to human health;


Ecocosm Dynamics Ltd., a national organization in the United Statesworking to reduce overall human consumption;


Fundacion Atenea Grupo GID, a national organization in Spain, which aims to promote social welfare through interventions in areas such as health, family, infancy, youth, and equality of opportunities between women and men.  It also seeks to address conditions in penitentiaries, as well as to promote interventions in areas such as social and labour integration, free time, the rights of ethnic and cultural minorities, immigration and education;


GS1, an international organization Belgium, dedicated to the design and implementation of global standards and solutions to improve the efficiency and visibility of supply and demand chains globally and across sectors; and


International Federation of Psoriasis Associations, an international organization based in Sweden, which aims to be the unifying global voice of all psoriasis associations, supporting, strengthening and promoting their cause at an international level.


The Committee decided to recommend roster status to:


International Federation of Thanatologists Associations, an international organization with headquarters in the Netherlands, which aims to promote international understanding and goodwill among the world's funeral service professionals, to offer a platform for the exchange of professional views and information and to achieve uniformed standards, rules, regulations and treaties for the cost efficient international repatriation of deceased individuals.


Pending receipt of answers to delegates’ questions, the Committee postponed consideration of the applications of the following non-governmental organizations:


Indo-European Chamber of Commerce and Industry — an international NGO based in India focused on the economic development of the country’s less developed regions by fostering trade relations with European countries — as the organization’s responses to questions asked had not yet been posted on the website.


Jananeethi — A people's Initiative for Human Rights — a national organization in India dedicated to defending and upholding the civil and fundamental rights of disadvantaged and marginalized groups so that people, irrespective of their ethnic, regional, religious or other identities, are able to seek justice and equity in all spheres of their life — when Pakistan’s delegate asked for details about projects funded by foreign Governments, and wanted more information about the NGO’s intervention in cases of domestic violence. He also asked about support to “sexual minorities”, as he did not know about any “sexual minorities”.


Israel’s delegate, referring to “sexual minorities”, read out what the NGO had previously stated about that issue, namely that people with a different sexual orientation found it extremely difficult to survive in society.  They were harassed everywhere and badly needed support and legal protection. In response, Pakistan’s delegate Pakistan asked if the Government recognized groups such as gays and lesbians as sexual minorities.  “You have to follow the laws and regulations of that country,” he insisted.


China’s representative asked the NGO to use United Nations terminology when referring to Hong Kong, Special Administrate Region, and the Taiwan Province of China.


Krityanand UNESCO Club Jamshedpur — a national NGO in India working to “popularize” the aims of the United Nations; promote international understanding, peace and tolerance through education, science, culture and mass communication; and organize programmes in the areas of social work, human resource management, and the health system, among others — as Pakistan’s delegate asked about the nature of projects in which the NGO closely collaborated with the Indian Government and its cooperation with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.


NGOs Computer Literacy, Shelter and Welfare, Rawalpindi, a Pakistan-based national organization working to build sustainable family, institutional and community initiatives for health, literacy, human rights, clean environment and capacity building through partnership at all levels — because India’s delegate noted that not all questions had been answered and needed more information about the NGO’s finances, specifically income generated through contracts.


People's Life Center — a national organization in India working to establish a just social order based on human values such as love, justice, equality, brotherhood, peace and harmony — when Pakistan’s representative was not satisfied with responses provided and asked about the NGO’s affiliations with other entities and the nature of letters sent to the Government.


Programme on Women's Economic Social and Cultural Rights — an international India-based organization, which promotes women’s human rights, in particular economic, social and cultural rights, by bringing a gender framework to policy, law and practice at all levels in both conceptual and practical realms — as Pakistan’s delegate could not view the submitted registration certificates.


Project Green Nigeria — a national organization, which works with Nigeria’s rural farmers and development partners in reducing poverty in community households through sustainable agricultural development, food security, research and development — as Morocco’s representative asked for documentary evidence of its existence.


SAHIL — a national organization in Pakistan, which works exclusively on the issue of child abuse and exploitation — as China’s delegate asked for information about the NGO’s donors.


Victorious Youths Movement — a national organization in Cameroon, which works in the areas of HIV/AIDS, environmental conservation, youth and women empowerment, agriculture, and human rights — when Kyrgyzstan’s delegate asked how the NGO helped people with disabilities through “moral and financial support” with its limited resources, and what criteria were used to select people in need of assistance.  Morocco’s representative asked for underlying documents to be provided for this and organizations under consideration.


Australian Lesbian Medical Association — a national organization in Australia for lesbian doctors, lesbian medical students and their partners — as Pakistan’s delegate made a number of queries, referring to answers provided to former questions, such as a reference to the Yogyakarta Principles.  As the NGO had said that sex of the parents did not matter, “just love”, he asked if tools existed to establish the stability and loving nature of people as same-sex parenthood was also a legal issue.


He further asked if the NGO, a medical organization, thought that homosexual people were more prone to sexually transmitted diseases and transmitting those diseases, requesting the NGO support its response with medical documents.  As the organization promoted awareness about “these types of people”, he asked at what particular age the NGO would consider awareness or education or promotion of those types of preferences should start.


Noting that in promotion of those types of sexual orientation, it was often mentioned that the orientation was genetic, he asked if the NGO did consider that a basis.  If not, if sexual orientation changed over time due to circumstance, then his question was:  there are many preferences that may not be sexual but were promoted, accepted and adopted due to circumstances in which a boy or girl lived.  Would all types of preferences, due to such circumstances, be considered legal, accepted and promoted?  Maybe it could be a drug.  It was complicated question, he said, but it was important to understand.


In the ensuing debate, Belgium’s delegate said the questions should be clarified.  The reference to addictions, for instance, was not clear.  The Committee should not place additional conditions on NGO’s by asking for studies on which they based opinions.  He was supported in that by the representatives of the United States, Bulgaria and Israel.  The delegate of the United States urged that questions were asked to which there were answers, adding that the NGO had used the Australian Psychology Society as a source.


Israel’s delegate added that questions should address concerns that were valid, while respecting the organization.  He was “puzzled” by Pakistan’s questions, such as about “awareness” to sexual orientation.  It was not the Committee’s role to decide on sexual orientation.  Referring to answers provided by other NGOs regarding sexual orientation, which included references to international instruments such as the Covenant on Economic and Social Rights and the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, he said it was especially important that NGOs that were more knowledgeable about certain issues than the Committee had fair access to the Economic and Social Council.  Another representative from Israel’s delegation noted that various questions asked today had been asked and answered during a former session and expressed concern at the repetitive nature of questions asked this NGO.


Sudan’s and Senegal’s delegates fully supported Pakistan’s statement, stressing the “natural” right of each Committee member to receive a satisfactory answer to queries.  Sudan’s representative added he had more questions he would submit in writing, Cuba’s delegate, without going into the current issues, urged Committee members to respect the right of any member to pose questions.  The representative of the Russian Federation echoed that opinion, saying delegates’ questions deserved answers.


The United States delegate stressed that all questions should be aired in the open session and urged the Committee to move forward so that the NGO could be recommended for status.


Noting that delegates with “puzzled minds” should have listened more closely, Pakistan’s representative clarified his remarks about addiction, saying that he had wondered whether addiction could be linked to a certain environment; for instance, children growing up in alcoholic or drug addicted families and then developing a similar preference.  Would that kind of preference become acceptable — an “accepted norm” — that would gradually develop into a right?  The NGO’s answers provided so far were not satisfactory to his delegation.


In a general statement, Egypt’s representative was compelled to note that as a result of some discussions and references to certain terms during the Committee’s deliberations, he was in an awkward position, as a former Committee member.  He reaffirmed that Egypt did not recognize that there was any acceptable and internationally recognized definition to controversial references and notions discussed.  Further, he did not recognize there was any legally binding definition for such terms as “sexual preferences” or “sexual orientation”, or that such terms had been defined by any internationally recognized instrument in the human rights arena.


The United States’ delegate felt compelled to speak after those comments, stressing that the Committee had not been created to evaluate any accepted or unaccepted terms, but rather to see if NGOs met criteria under resolution 1996/31. In fact, the Council had, in the past, reversed the Committee’s position on “controversial” issues.  The Committee was not here to discuss terms or definitions but to uphold the resolution.


Ducuum — an international NGO headquartered in Ireland, which supports educational projects in areas most affected by high illiteracy among children and women in Sudan; helps economically disadvantaged students access tertiary level education; and encourages African women to engage in self-development through employment, education and training.


Sudan’s representative said the NGO had registered in Ireland, as its founders had come from Ireland, and that was unacceptable.  He asked about projects carried out in Sudan and for clarity about registration, membership and projects.  Venezuela’s delegate asked for a copy of the registration certificate.


European Union Association in the United States — an international NGO headquartered in the United States, which communicates the Union's positions in the United States and at the United Nations in the fields of culture, business, international relations and foreign security policy, among other things — with Pakistan’s delegate asking for more clarity in answers to questions about how the NGO separated European Union and Economic and Social Council policy and, further, how it could contribute to the Council’s work.


European Window Film Association — a Belgium-based international NGO, which wants to change the perception of the European Union and consumers about window films and to promote window film products both for use in automotive and buildings.


Pakistan’s representative wondered what kind of entity the Association had registered as because he had noticed that it paid taxes.  The United States’ delegate said the NGO was showing it was a non-profit organization that must pay value-added tax.  There was no evidence that cast into doubt the non-profit status of the organization. Pakistan’s delegate then asked the Secretariat to verify as what type of entity it had registered.


The Secretariat official said the certificate was bilingual in Dutch and French, and confirmed it was a registration certificate of a non-profit organization.  Belgium’s representative said that if it was an existential question, it should be put to the NGO.


The United States’ representative noted it was clear that the letter had established the entity as a non-governmental organization, according to Belgian law.  What were the different outcomes that would affect the handling of the case?


Pakistan’s representative clarified he was not talking about European or Belgian law.  There was a response given about taxation and he wanted to ascertain if the organization was created as a charity or non-governmental organization. 


Give to Colombia — an international organization with headquarters in the United States, which promotes and facilitates alliances between international donors and the private, public, and social sectors, to provide enduring solutions to the most vulnerable populations of Colombian society — with Nicaragua’s delegate asking about its plans in his country.   Venezuela’s representative also requested a list for countries in which the NGO worked, and a list of private sector donations, which highlighted the company names and amounts received.


International Juvenile Justice Observatory — an international organization based in Belgium, which promotes an international and interdisciplinary approach to issues related to juvenile justice and provides a permanent forum for information and analysis on topics related to juvenile delinquency and justice — with Venezuela’s delegate asking for more details of work done in her country and throughout Latin America.


Pakistan’s representative asked how the NGO, which had no members, considered itself an international organization, to which Belgium’s representative said the group had responded and explained that it was a foundation.  The foundation had no members or affiliates.  The organization was well known in Belgium and he strongly recommended consultative status.


Morocco’s delegate, having viewed the registration certificate, wondered if the organization was a private enterprise — the certificate had been signed and stamped by the Chamber of Commerce.  If indeed it was a public entity, he did not understand why it had registered according to trade law.  Did it carry out commercial activity?


Responding, Belgium’s delegate said that, according to law, an organization must register with the Commerce Institute, a response accepted by Morocco’s representative.  Addressing the query on Latin America, the representative said there were detailed answers regarding activities in that region.  Venezuela’s representative requested that the NGO answer her question.


Pakistan’s delegate said he had asked a specific question and Belgium had given an answer.  But the NGO had stated it had physical members on the Board of Directors.  It also stated it had no members.  Delegates should listen to questions asked.  The NGO had to respond.   Belgium’s representative said there might be a translation problem.  The foundation had no members but it had a board, a group of individuals that managed the foundation.  The foundation itself had no members.  Pakistan’s representative said he would appreciate having the response from the NGO.


International Lesbian and Gay Association — an international organization with headquarters in Belgium, which aims to promote the human rights of lesbians, gay men, bisexuals and transgendered individuals by ensuring that international norms of equality and non-discrimination are realized both in law and in practice, as well as to promote the universal respect for and observance of human rights and fundamental freedoms.


Before considering that NGO’s application, Committee Chairperson Aydan Karamanoğly (Turkey) asked members to be brief and result-oriented in their discussions, as during previous debate about controversial issues, he had allowed participants to talk at length. 


Launching the discussion, Belgium’s representative said the association had been based in Belgium as an international organization since 1999 and had a long history in the Committee.  The organization had applied for over ten years and met all prerequisites under the resolution.  While aware of the divergent views on the organization, he asked that, given the NGO’s lengthy history, the Committee make a decision during the current session.  The matter probably would not come up again next week.  He asked the Committee either to decide now or assure that a decision would be made during current session.


The United States’ delegate said the Association’s decade-long candidacy might make for the longest pending application.  As for the concerns raised, he was confident that the NGO had no relations with paedophiles and had put a measure in place to prevent that behaviour.  His delegation had no problem with taking a decision today.  Noting the Chairman’s wisdom in not opening discussion on the matter, he said there had been a request for decision.  If there was no proposal for a “no action motion”, then the Committee was required to take action.


Sudan’s delegate said the Committee was still awaiting a response to the questionnaire sent.  The questions should be answered.  The NGO had modified its statute twice, but answers were pending.  The Committee was mandated, through resolution 1996/31, to look at applications and, after responses were received, to take action.  That was practice.  He asked that no action be taken now.


After a procedural debate in which the representatives of United States, India, Morocco, Venezuela and Belgium participated, Belgium’s representative asked for a decision to be taken today.  Sudan’s delegate then tabled a “no-action” motion, which would mean that the NGO would remain on the list of deferred applications.  According to Economic and Social Council rules of procedure, if a motion of “no-action” was tabled, up to two delegates could speak in favour, and up to two against, after which, a roll-call vote would be taken.  In this case, if the motion was defeated, the Committee would have a roll call vote on Belgium’s proposal to recommend consultative status to the NGO.


The representative of Senegal spoke in favour of the motion.


Speaking against, the representative of the United States said his delegation was, as a matter of principle, against no-action motions, as any Member State had the right of an “up or down” consideration of a proposal.  Noting that over the last 10 years, numerous LGBT organizations had been voted down by the Committee, decisions that subsequently had been overturned by the Economic and Social Council, he said that advocating LGBT rights was not a disqualifying factor for consultative status.  The intent of the current non-action motion was to block proper consideration of that type of organization, he said, adding that the underlying issues would not be resolved in another 10 years.


Also speaking against, Bulgaria’s delegate said the NGO Committee had had ample time — 10 years — to examine the International Lesbian and Gay Association, ask questions and receive answers and to come to a determination.  The NGO had addressed all concerns and rectified all issues that had prevented consultative status in the past. 


In a roll-call vote, the motion of no-action was carried with nine Committee members voting in favour (Burundi, China, Morocco, Nicaragua, Pakistan, Russian Federation, Senegal, Sudan and Venezuela), seven voting against (Belgium, Bulgaria, India, Israel, Turkey, Peru and United States), with Kyrgyzstan abstaining and Mozambique and Cuba not present.


In general statements after the vote, Sudan’s delegate said he had called for no action because he felt that whenever there was a question before a non-governmental organization, it must respond.  The Committee awaited answers.


Venezuela’s representative said her vote in favour was for strict procedural reasons.  It should not be interpreted as a substantive objection to the organization or its laudable work.


Nicaragua’s representative said her country’s vote in favour was purely procedural.  As long as one delegation had questions and answers were pending, the application should be considered.  Her vote should not be interpreted as any objection to the organization.  Nicaragua favoured consultative status.


The United States’ representative, offering a historical look of the Committee’s consideration of LGBT organizations, said it had not approved one single such organization in the past 10 years.  If the standard was that, as long as one country had a question and no action would be taken, it meant that appropriate consideration of certain NGOs could have been denied for 10 years.


There were profound differences of opinion about the status LGBT groups should have in the United Nations system, he continued.  The Committee’s parent body, the Economic and Social Council, had acted in eight or nine occasions to overrule the Committee’s decision.  He was disturbed by today’s result, as it showed that nothing had been learned from that history.  He hoped that delegations objecting only to procedure reflect on those actions.  If the Committee waited for all countries to exhaust all their questions, the NGO would wait another 10 years.


Israel’s delegate also expressed regret at the voting results, saying that hiding behind procedural matters was not appropriate.  She hoped the organization would get consultative status soon.


Belgium’s representative, supporting statements by the United States and Israel, said the Committee did not want to assume its responsibilities.  He would return to the case in May.  The “problem” had just been postponed for three months.


Taking the floor again, Venezuela’s delegate understood that the procedures just followed were appropriate.  Procedural matters had to be taken into account and members should not think any less of any other delegations.


International Organization for Victim Assistance — an international organization with headquarters in the United States, working to promote policy change for victims, provide training and technical assistance for victim assistance, crisis response and rights, restorative justice and violence prevention — because Burundi’s delegate asked about the organization with which the NGO worked in Burundi, its status in countries where it operated and activities in Uganda and Zimbabwe, while Venezuela’s representative asked about activities in Latin America and funding sources.


Rounding out the day, India’s representative said that nothing would have been lost if the Committee had considered the previous International Lesbian and Gay Association on a later day.  As a result of pressing for a vote today, the Committee had lost out on its planned question-and-answer session, and he did not understand why the motion had been pushed.  Time for interacting with non-governmental organizations was limited and he urged the Committee to be more considerate.


The Committee will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Monday, 7 February, to continue its consideration of deferred applications and begin consideration of quadrennial reports.


* *** *


For information media • not an official record