General Assembly Adopts Consensus Text Concerning Non-Governmental Organization Accreditation for Rio+20 Sustainable Development Conference

21 May 2012
GA/11239

General Assembly Adopts Consensus Text Concerning Non-Governmental Organization Accreditation for Rio+20 Sustainable Development Conference

21 May 2012
General Assembly
GA/11239
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Sixty-sixth General Assembly

Plenary

109th Meeting (AM)

General Assembly Adopts Consensus Text Concerning Non-Governmental Organization

Accreditation for Rio+20 Sustainable Development Conference

Proposals to Defer and Amend Text Rejected by Recorded Vote

The General Assembly this morning, after defeating two proposals put forward by Syria, found consensus and endorsed the Secretariat’s recommendations for the accreditation of non-governmental organizations and other major groups currently not in consultative status with the Economic and Social Council, but wishing to attend and contribute to the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development.

Overcoming two recorded votes called for by the Syrian delegation — a motion to defer action and an oral amendment that would have removed two Israeli environmental organizations from the list of participating civil society groups — the Assembly endorsed the procedure set out by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in his note of 3 April (document A/66/760) and its accompanying three annexes.

That document notes the Assembly’s earlier decision (66/554 of December 2011) that civil society groups not having status with the Economic and Social Council could apply to the Secretariat if they wished to participate in the Conference, known as “Rio+20”, being held in the Brazilian city from 20 to 23 June.  Under the United Nations Charter, the Council, through its NGO Committee, traditionally sets the parameters of civil society’s interaction with the Organization on economic and social development matters.

Ahead of the Assembly’s ultimate decision, the representative of Syria requested that action be deferred on the draft endorsing the Secretariat’s recommendations (document A/66/L.44) so that Member States could continue their consultations.  Supporting the motion were the delegations of Cuba, Nicaragua, Bolivia, Ecuador and Egypt, whose representative said the matter was “very sensitive”.

Yet, the representative of the United States stressed that the draft text was a “technical, non-political decision”.  He also questioned the assertion that delegations had not had enough time to consider it, and said there was absolutely no valid reason for a delay.  “This isn’t a political matter, but it is being turned into one,” he said, adding that his delegation was among those prepared to take action immediately.  Canada’s representative added that the Assembly had approved the process for accreditation months ago, and now must take a decision.

The motion to defer action was defeated by a recorded vote of 53 against to 34 in favour, with 7 abstentions (Central African Republic, Ethiopia, Guinea-Bissau, Kazakhstan, Mozambique, South Africa and Uganda).  (See Annex 1)

Immediately following that action, Syria’s representative said that his delegation regretted action had not been deferred, and as such, he urged the Secretariat to ensure that non-governmental organizations and groups adhered to the principles of the Charter.  The Secretariat must ensure that the Charter was not violated and that technical criteria decided by the Assembly be followed regarding participation in the Rio Conference.

Moreover, Syria’s review of the Secretariat’s list had revealed two Israeli organizations — Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael-Jewish National Fund, and Life and Environment from the Israeli Union of Environment NGOs — which were in breach of the Charter, including through their support of Israel’s ongoing settlement construction and occupation of Arab territories.  That country was also in breach of Security Council resolutions condemning its annexation of the Syrian Golan.  Declaring that his delegations’ decision had not been based on politics, because the issue at hand directly affected the Charter, he called for an amendment to the text that would exclude the two groups from taking part in the Rio+20 process.

In response, Israel’s representative said the Rio Conference was only days away, and criticized what he saw as attempts to “waste precious time by dragging these proceedings into a theatre of the absurd”.  The proposed oral amendment had “nothing, absolutely nothing” to do with anything other than that the two groups were Israeli.  The Secretariat had approved a list of hundreds of NGOs, including the two in question, both of which had made significant contributions to sustainable development.

He said the delegation that had proposed a no action motion spoke for a regime that had “zero credibility”, and which cared little for the development of its own people, much less broader sustainable development.  As the Assembly met, President Assad’s forces were brutally oppressing and killing the people of Syria.  The Syrian delegation’s move was an “insult to the Assembly’s” intelligence, an “absurd, desperate and cynical sideshow”, having nothing to do with the Rio Conference or the future of the planet.

Supporting the oral amendment were the delegations of Cuba, Egypt, Sudan Ecuador, Iran and Algeria, with Nicaragua’s speaker adding that the Economic and Social Council had already “rejected” the two organizations and the Assembly must, therefore, not give a “free pass” to groups working to undermine the sovereignty of a Member State, and hinder the rights of the Palestinian people.   Tunisia’s speaker said that the list of NGOs had not been officially distributed or forwarded to all Member States.  The Secretariat had employed a “new procedure” in placing the list online, and his delegation questioned the legitimacy of such a move.

The representatives of Canada and the United States said their delegations would vote against the oral amendment, and urged the Assembly to uphold its earlier decision.

The oral amendment was defeated by a recorded vote of 58 against to 28 in favour, with 9 abstentions (Argentina, Central African Republic, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Mozambique, Nepal, Russian Federation, South Africa and Thailand).  (See Annex II)

Speaking after the vote, Syria’s representative thanked all those that had supported its amendment and regretted that the two organizations could not be deleted form the list of participants.  He noted that, despite the proposals, the decision was ultimately adopted by consensus.   Syria would nevertheless reiterate it objection to the participation of the two groups.

A host of delegations then took the floor to recommend that in the future, more time be given to ensure broad consultations on such matters, and to note that their decision on the text had no bearing on their historic support for General Assembly decisions and Security Council resolutions regarding the occupation of the Syrian Golan.  Those delegations were Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Uruguay, Indonesia, Peru, Bolivia, India, Cuba, Mexico and Uganda.

Algeria’s speaker said that his delegation was concerned that Member States were not committed to working together towards achieving success in Rio.  Today’s “manoeuvre [on procedural matters] will not go without consequences”, when discussions on substance were being held.

Saudi Arabia’s representative said he regretted that his delegation had not voted but supported attempts to remove the two organizations from the list.

Speaking on a point of order, the representative of Mauritania said his delegation had voted in favour of the oral amendment.

ANNEX I

Vote on No Action Proposal

The draft resolution on proposal for no action on the draft resolution on non-governmental organization accreditation (document A/66/L.44) was rejected by a recorded vote of 53 against to 34 in favour, with 7 abstentions, as follows:

Against:  Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brazil, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Canada, Chile, Costa Rica, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Guatemala, Honduras, Iceland, India, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Malta, Mexico, Monaco, Montenegro, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Palau, Peru, Poland, Portugal, Republic of Korea, Republic of Moldova, Rwanda, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Switzerland, The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, United Kingdom, United States, Uruguay.

In favour:  Afghanistan, Argentina, Bahrain, Bolivia, China, Cuba, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ecuador, Egypt, Equatorial Guinea, Guyana, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Malaysia, Morocco, Namibia, Nicaragua, Oman, Pakistan, Qatar, Russian Federation, Solomon Islands, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Syria, Thailand, Tunisia, Turkey, United Arab Emirates.

Abstain:  Central African Republic, Ethiopia, Guinea-Bissau, Kazakhstan, Mozambique, South Africa, Uganda.

Absent:  Albania, Algeria, Andorra, Angola, Antigua and Barbuda, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bahamas, Bangladesh, Barbados, Belarus, Belize, Benin, Bhutan, Botswana, Brunei Darussalam, Burundi, Cambodia, Cameroon, Cape Verde, Chad, Colombia, Comoros, Congo, Côte d’Ivoire, Djibouti, Dominica, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Eritrea, Fiji, Gabon, Gambia, Georgia, Ghana, Grenada, Guinea, Haiti, Hungary, Indonesia, Jamaica, Kenya, Kiribati, Kyrgyzstan, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Lesotho, Liberia, Lithuania, Madagascar, Malawi, Maldives, Mali, Marshall Islands, Mauritania, Mauritius, Micronesia (Federated States of), Mongolia, Myanmar, Nauru, Nepal, Niger, Nigeria, Panama, Papua New Guinea, Paraguay, Philippines, Romania, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Samoa, San Marino, Sao Tome and Principe, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Serbia, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Somalia, South Sudan, Suriname, Swaziland, Sweden, Tajikistan, Timor-Leste, Togo, Tonga, Trinidad and Tobago, Turkmenistan, Tuvalu, Ukraine, United Republic of Tanzania, Uzbekistan, Vanuatu, Venezuela, Viet Nam, Yemen, Zambia, Zimbabwe.

ANNEX II

Vote on Proposed Amendment

The draft resolution on the proposal to amend the draft resolution on non-governmental organization accreditation (document A/66/L.44) was rejected by a recorded vote of 58 against to 28 in favour, with 9 abstentions, as follows:

Against:  Albania, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, Chile, Costa Rica, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Ethiopia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Guatemala, Honduras, Iceland, India, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Malta, Mexico, Micronesia (Federated States of), Monaco, Montenegro, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Palau, Peru, Poland, Portugal, Republic of Korea, Republic of Moldova, Romania, Rwanda, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Uganda, United Kingdom, United States, Uruguay.

In favour:  Algeria, Bahrain, Bolivia, China, Cuba, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Ecuador, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Libya, Malaysia, Morocco, Namibia, Nicaragua, Oman, Pakistan, Qatar, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, Venezuela, Zimbabwe.

Abstain:  Argentina, Central African Republic, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Mozambique, Nepal, Russian Federation, South Africa, Thailand.

Absent:  Afghanistan, Andorra, Angola, Antigua and Barbuda, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bahamas, Bangladesh, Barbados, Belarus, Belize, Benin, Bhutan, Botswana, Brunei Darussalam, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cambodia, Cameroon, Cape Verde, Chad, Colombia, Comoros, Congo, Côte d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Djibouti, Dominica, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Fiji, Gabon, Gambia, Georgia, Ghana, Grenada, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Guyana, Haiti, Hungary, Jamaica, Kenya, Kiribati, Kyrgyzstan, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Lebanon, Lesotho, Liberia, Lithuania, Madagascar, Malawi, Maldives, Mali, Marshall Islands, Mauritania, Mauritius, Mongolia, Myanmar, Nauru, Niger, Nigeria, Panama, Papua New Guinea, Paraguay, Philippines, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Samoa, San Marino, Sao Tome and Principe, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Serbia, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Solomon Islands, Somalia, South Sudan, Suriname, Swaziland, Tajikistan, Timor-Leste, Togo, Tonga, Trinidad and Tobago, Turkmenistan, Tuvalu, Ukraine, United Republic of Tanzania, Uzbekistan, Vanuatu, Viet Nam, Yemen, Zambia.

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For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.