Member States have gathered at the 2011 regular session of the Committee on Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs), a standing committee of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), to review a record number of applications by NGOs seeking consultative status with ECOSOC, discuss strategies to strengthen DESA’s NGO Branch, and review the quadrennial reports submitted by accredited NGOs.
During this year’s session, the Committee is expected to go over 170 new applications, and 180 applications deferred from earlier sessions. Completing this process is a key task of the committee since once accredited, NGOs can have access and participation in all of the subsidiary bodies of the Council such as the Commission on the Status of Women, the Commission on Sustainable Development, and the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues.
Furthermore, having consultative status also gives NGOs the opportunity to participate in the Human Rights Council and many of the human rights treaty bodies of the United Nations.
To be eligible for consultative status, a NGO must have been in existence for at least two years, and have an established headquarters, a democratically adopted constitution, authority to speak for its members, a representative structure, appropriate mechanisms of accountability and democratic and transparent decision-making processes.
Additionally, the basic resources of the organization must be derived in the main part from contributions of the national affiliates or from individual members. Consequently, when reviewing the different applications from NGOs, the Committee takes into consideration the aforementioned requirements to evaluate if they can be accredited.
During the opening of the session, Mr. Andrei Abramov, Chief of the NGO Branch, highlighted the importance of taking a more proactive approach in involving NGOs in the ECOSOC process and increasing the number of accredited NGOs from developing nations to ensure equal representation and opportunities for civil society from across the world.
The 2011 regular session also seeks to find ways to strengthen DESA’s NGO Branch. It is the focal point within the UN Secretariat for NGOs in consultative status with ECOSOC and for NGOs seeking status. As the number of accredited NGOs is continuously growing, the Branch’s workload is significantely higher than before.
According to Mr. Abramov the Branch has experienced a “200 per cent workload increase,” and thus, more human capital and financial resources are needed to enhance the structure of the Branch.
Finally, Member States will also review the quadrennial reports that NGOs have submitted. NGOs in the highest two categories of accreditation, namely General and Special consultative status, are required to report every four years on the work they have undertaken in support of the goals of the Council and the United Nations. This year, the Committee will go over approximately 200 of these reports.