Speakers Argue over Use of Procedure as Political Barrier to NGO Applications
As the Committee on Non-Governmental Organizations continued their session, recommending 10 organizations today for special consultative status and 2 for general consultative status with the Economic and Social Council while postponing action on 33 groups, representatives tackled the politicization of procedure in the selection process.
The matter of deferring non-governmental organizations came up several times during the day-long session, with the representative of Armenia urging that all questions be free of political associations. Civil society organizations registered in Armenia had been bombarded with arbitrary questions, resulting in some ceasing to respond.
Echoing that stance, the representative of the United Kingdom noted that a United Kingdom organization, which had been waiting for almost seven years to receive a recommendation for special consultative status, had had to answer 65 questions. That postponement was unjustified as that group actively promoted the principles of the United Nations.
Addressing how organizations’ funding came into question, the representative of the United States urged the Committee to avoid “politically-motivated scrutiny” aimed to defer approval and nothing more. Civil society received funding from a number of sources, including Governments. That did not mean that they were not independent.
However, the representative of Turkey said that according to the Committee rules, every delegate had a right to pose questions, a position also stated by Azerbaijan’s representative.
Nonetheless, what was more important than funding and independence, stressed the representative of India, was whether United Nations guidelines and principles were being upheld.
The 19-member Committee vets applications submitted by non-governmental organizations (NGOs), recommending general, special or roster status on the basis of such criteria as the applicant’s mandate, governance and financial regime. Organizations enjoying general and special status can attend meetings of the Council and issue statements, while those with general status can also speak during meetings and propose agenda items. Organizations with roster status can only attend meetings.
Action on several applications was postponed because Committee members requested further information from the candidates about, among other items, details of their respective organizations’ projects, partners, expenditures, sources of funding and relationship with United Nations system actors. The Committee also took note of several changes of names and reinstated 81 organizations.
The Committee on Non-Governmental Organizations will meet again at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, 1 June, to conclude its work.
Special Consultative Status
The Committee recommended that the Economic and Social Council grant special consultative status to the following 9 organizations:
Coordination des Associations et des Particuliers pour la Liberté de Conscience (France);
Fang Protection Services, Incorporated (United States);
Gain International (United States);
Global Financial Integrity (United States);
New Jersey Minority Educational Development NJ-MED (United States);
Rainy River District Women’s Shelter of Hope (Canada);
Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik (Germany);
Virtual Activism Incorporated (United States);
and Neighbourhood Environment Watch Foundation (Nigeria).
The Committee postponed consideration of the following 33 organizations:
Center for Media & Peace Initiative Inc. (United States) — as the representative of South Africa requested clarification on the concept of diaspora — whether it was African or European diaspora — and also more information on which media houses had benefitted from one of the organization’s programmes.
Centre Zagros pour les Droits de l'Homme (Switzerland) — as the representative of Iran asked for a written response in English for a question previously posed and requested the name of institutions and research centres with which it was cooperating.
The representative of Israel requested clarification from the Secretariat in terms of responses in English or French. It was understood that French was a language in which non-governmental organization could respond.
The Secretariat said that it was indeed allowed that the non-governmental organizations could respond in either French or English and encouraged Member States to use their own resources to translate the answers into English.
The representative of Israel requested clarification that only Iran’s second question would be posed to the organization.
The representative of Iran said that the non-governmental organization had the ability to translate the answer from French to English and added that the interpretation would help speed up the application process.
The representative of Israel said that “without any prejudice toward the non-governmental organization or any member of the Committee”, it had been long-established that the Committee would accept its responses in French and that any Committee Member could use Google Translate to interpret the answers.
The representative of Iran said that the time of the Committee was “more important than to waste on such an unimportant issue” and would think of other methods to transfer her concerns.
The Secretariat then said the issue would be discussed in informal consultations and that it was important to not break the practice of the Committee.
The representative of Iran requested the Secretariat provide the response of the organization in English.
The Secretariat said that the Committee could not request a non-governmental organization reply in a certain language or discriminate a working language of the United Nations. The Secretariat also did not have a practice of providing interpretation or translation services. The fact that the non-governmental organization had its website in five different languages did not oblige it to reply in a language other than French.
The representative of Iran requested that the comments be transferred to the organization and hoped that the Secretariat would provide precedent on such an issue.
Christian Solidarity International (United Kingdom) — as the representative of Cuba requested additional information on funding and projects.
Christian Solidarity Worldwide (United Kingdom) — as the representative of Cuba asked about the organization’s work in Europe and work with local organizations in her country.
The representative of the United Kingdom, taking the floor as an observer State, spoke in support of the application, adding that it was “a shame” that, as in previous sessions, he had to take to the floor again. The organization worked to ensure that the freedom of all was promoted, not just Christians; it was unjustified for the Committee to block the status of the group when it so actively promoted the principles of the United Nations. The group had been waiting for almost seven years now and had already answered 65 questions. No credible reason could be cited for refusing them except for blatant discrimination.
Cities of Peace, Inc. (United States) — as the representative of China requested clarification on whether the group recognized Tibet as an integral part of China.
Collectif des Familles de Disparu(e)s en Algerie (France) — as the representative of South Africa requested additional information on the group’s work.
Congrès National des Arméniens Occidentaux (CNAO) (France) as the representative of Turkey requested additional information on the group’s association.
The representative of Armenia, taking the floor as an observer State, said two diaspora Armenian organizations had been “posed with questions over and over” and pointed out that that recently civil society organizations registered in Armenia had come under scrutiny. Questions should be free of political associations. Since 2013, the delegation of Turkey had been bombarding this non-governmental organization with questions. Due to the bias attitude of Turkey and Azerbaijan, one of the non-governmental organizations gave up and did not bother answering arbitrary questions.
The representative of Turkey said that according to the Committee rules every Member had a right to pose questions. Many Armenian non-governmental organizations had been recommended for special consultative status.
The representative of Azerbaijan said that Armenia’s accusations were baseless and that the Committee had been working in an impartial matter. All Committee members had the right to ask question to non-governmental organizations. The Armenian non-governmental organization last year was granted consultative status, he recalled, adding that posing questions was a normal process of the Committee.
The representative of Armenia said there had been four Armenian non-governmental organizations during the current session and all of them had been posed questions. “We don’t think this was pure coincidence,” he said, also noting that historical maps should not be politicized. Dialogue in the region could greatly contribute to easing tensions.
The representative of Turkey said that the Committee could pose questions about a map the organization had published on its website. She agreed with her Armenian colleague that dialogue was crucial.
The representative of Azerbaijan, addressing his Armenian counterpart, said that the country his colleague was representing was occupying twenty percent of Azerbaijan territory.
Dansk Flygtningehjælp (Denmark) — as the representative of the Russian Federation requested additional information on how it managed to be a non-governmental organization and deal with an issue such as demining when that required expertise, knowledge and experience.
The representative of the United States said the organization clearly stated that it provided technical support to Colombia through consultants. “It’s quite common for non-governmental organizations to be involved in this kind of work,” she said, adding that the question posed by the Russian Federation had already been answered.
The representative of the Russian Federation said his question was more technical in nature. When dealing with the war in Chechnya, the Russian Federation had refrained from using the organization’s services as it was not as transparent as hoped. The organization’s work in demining in the North Caucasus had not been effective. Reiterating his first question, he also requested more information on how the organization received its information and how its staff worked on the ground.
Droits de l'Homme sans Frontières — Human Rights Without Frontiers (Belgium) — as the representative of China asked whether the organization was working in the Middle East.
Electronic Frontier Foundation, Inc. (United States) — as the representative of China requested its financial statements for 2015.
European Muslims League (Switzerland) — as the representative of China requested clarification with regard to Tibet.
Federal Lezghin National and Cultural Autonomy (Russian Federation) — as the representative of Azerbaijan requested further clarification on an answer the organization provided and additional information about the relationship between the non-governmental organization and another organization.
Fondation Alkarama (Switzerland) — as the representative of Sudan requested information on how the organization dealt with issues relating to Syria.
Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) (Ireland) — as the representative of Sudan asked why the organization’s offices moved from Lebanon to Ireland and requested a list of its partners.
Hokok Coalición Internacional Contra la Impunidad (Spain) — as the representative of Sudan requested clarification on one of the answers in the application, as well as a list all of its activities in Arab countries.
The representative of the United States said that the organization had already answered the second part of the question.
The representative of Sudan said that he posed the question to the organization and not to the United States.
The representative of the United States, pointing out that the Committee had blocked the organization for years, underscored that there was a responsibility to not ask the same question over and over again.
The representative of Greece also said that it was important to avoid asking the same question. “It is a repetitive question and I cannot see the merit of asking it again,” he added, requesting the representative of Sudan to clarify where the answer was unsatisfactory.
The representative of Sudan said that the representative of the United States should not have double standards when it dealt with different organizations. He requested additional information on funding, the organization’s affiliations and its dealings, if any, with United Nations organizations and agencies.
Inimõiguste Instituut (Estonia) — as the representative of the Russian Federation requested information on affiliations and in what other countries the organization planned its activities.
The representative of Estonia, taking to the floor as an observer State, said it was important to provide consultative status to organization that promoted United Nations principles and yet there were deviations in doing so. Stating that the Committee has a tendency to asked repetitive questions, she emphasized that such actions left the organizations in a “loop of deferral”.
The representative of the Russian Federation said that if the institution was called “Human Rights Institute” it should defend all rights for all people. There were thousands in the country who were deprived of “many, many rights” he said, adding “I’ve looked at the site and there’s nothing there about how it defended people who had no passports.”
Human Aid UK (United Kingdom) — as the representative of Israel requested an update on the investigation being conducted on the organization.
Insamlingsstiftelsen Kvinna till Kvinna (Sweden) — as the representative of the Russian Federation requested further information on its activities in conflict areas and how it cooperated with Governments of those countries. He also asked if the organization was active in the recent conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan.
International Association of Genocide Scholars, Inc., (Canada) — as the representative of Turkey requested a list of contributors.
International Dalit Solidarity Network (Denmark) — as the representative of India requested information on funding in regards to its activities in India, as well as how the organization had arrived at the conclusion that civil society in India was shrinking.
The representative of the United States said that the non-governmental organization had waited the longest before the Committee and that it was time to make a decision. If there was an issue with the group, perhaps that Member State could have a conversation with the non-governmental organization.
Interregional Non-governmental Organization "Committee against Torture” (Russian Federation) — as the representative of the Russian Federation requested additional information on its work in promoting human rights in the Russian Federation.
Iran Human Rights Documentation Center (United States) — as the representative of Iran said that this organization could not be entitled for status as a non-governmental organization as it received 86 per cent of its budget from the United States and Canada. It should be viewed as an affiliated Government organization. She also requested information about what activities the organization was involved with in the Middle East.
The representative of the United States said the organization’s goal was to establish a credible record on human rights in Iran since the 1979 revolution. Many questions posed to the organization had been repetitive and had been used as a stalling tactic. She outlined how the Committee had asked the organization the same question seven times since applying five years ago. This “politically-motivated scrutiny” aimed to deferral its approval and nothing more.
The representative of the Russian Federation, stating his support for the representative of the United States, said that if the delegation of Iran did not have any more questions then he would recommend granting consultative status to the organization.
The representative of Iran said it was clear that the United States should not fund an organization and yet introduce it as a non-governmental organization. Civil society should be independent and her delegation would not be convinced to grant status to an organization that had a specific political agenda.
The representative of the United States said that civil society does get funding from a number of sources, including Governments, which did not mean that they were not independent. That was an issue she was interested in discussing more.
The representative of India said that the Committee seemed to be going off topic. More important than funding and independence was whether United Nations guidelines and principles were being upheld. When there were unclear political motivations at hand, it was important to look into that, according to the Economic and Social Council resolution and United Nations principles.
Korea Human Rights Foundation (Republic of Korea) — as the representative of South Africa requested additional information on projects, which countries it was present in and a list of affiliated organizations in the region.
The representative of Greece said the question had already been posed a few months ago.
The representative of South Africa said that she specifically requested information on youth leadership in the country.
Mittetulundusühing Fenno-Ugria Asutus (Estonia) — as the representative of the Russian Federation requested a list of organizations that had been sponsoring the group.
Muslim Hands (United Kingdom) — as the representative of Israel requested additional information on the donations and its work with the organization Union of God.
The representative of Iran said that the organization had been blocked for a long time due to its religious affiliation.
Peace Islands Institute Inc. (United States) — as the representative of Azerbaijan requested information on funding from private sector donors.
Public Interest Advocacy Centre Ltd (Australia) — as the representative of Turkey requested further information on its work combating discrimination.
Survivor’s Network of those Abused by Priests (United States) — as the representative of South Africa requested more information on whether it dealt with abuses outside of the Catholic Church.
The representative of the Russian Federation said that sharp attacks against this organization continue. He asked whether the organization and the Catholic Church were dealing with the same matter and had the organization attempted to work with the Vatican to, based on mutual respect, deal with the issues.
The representative of the United States said it was surprising that the organization was still not approved. She urged those who had not already to watch the movie “Spotlight”, in which the organization’s work was depicted. Furthermore, the organization had reached out to the Catholic Church and had tried to establish a dialogue. “They are an important organization doing important work and they deserve to have Economic and Social Council status,” she said.
The Lady Fatemah (A.S.) Charitable Trust (United Kingdom) — as the representative of South Africa requested additional information on restricted sources of income and for the organization to be specific about where such funds come from.
United Sikhs (United States) — as the representative of India requested more information on what the group meant by indigenous people.
Women Living under Muslim Laws - International Solidarity Network (United Kingdom) — as the representative of China requested information on activities in the Asian-Pacific region since 2013.
Women’s Freedom Forum, Inc. (United States) — as the representative of Iran requested information on whether it was involved in the Palestinian territories.
World Without Genocide (United States) — as the representative of South Africa asked how the organization was involved in peace initiatives in Africa if it was not on the ground on the continent.
The Committee recommended that the Economic and Social Council reclassify the following two organizations from special consultative status to general consultative status:
International Electrotechnial Commission (Switzerland);
and Yayasan Cinta Anak Bangsa (Indonesia).
The Committee recommended that the Economic and Social Council reclassify the following organization from roster consultative status to special consultative status:
International Federation of Thanatologists Associations FIAT-IFTA (Netherlands)
The Committee postponed consideration of the following three organizations requesting reclassification.
World Council for Curriculum and Instruction (United States) — as the representative of China noted the organization’s website did not use the correct name for Taiwan and asked for correction.
Windows for Peace through Democracy (United Kingdom) — as the representative of Turkey asked about the organization’s reporting processes with regard to its host country.
World Evangelical Alliance (United States) — as the representative of China noted that the organization had not responded to the questions previously posed by the Committee.
The Committee took note of approximately 400 quadrennial reports submitted by non-governmental organization in consultative status with the Council, as contained in documents E/C.2/2016/2/Add.27 – E/C.2/2016/2/Add.46, as well as E/C.2/2016/CRP.10 - E/C.2/2016/CRP.12.
While representatives noted seven documents containing those reports, they also requested additional information and clarification on organizations contained in 15 of those documents.
The final list will be officially communicated on 10 June.
During the ensuing question-and-answer session, the representative of the Association for Trauma Outreach and Prevention Inc. (United States) said the humanitarian organization helped people deal with man-made and natural disasters, and most recently had focused considerable resources on the refugee and migrant crises. “We feel that it is very important to reach out to everyone within the United Nations community” to create greater consciousness of the mounting challenges millions of refugees faced every day, she said.
The representative of Turkey asked for clarification on the NGO’s name.
The group’s representative clarified its name and mission.
The representative of South Africa asked whether the organization had participated in the just-concluded World Humanitarian Summit in Turkey, and requested additional details about its work in Africa.
The NGO representative said no one from the organization had physically attended the Summit. As for its service in Africa, there had been a number of missions to Sierra Leone.
The representative of South Africa asked whether the NGO was involved in other parts of Africa.
The NGO representative said she had only joined the group in February and would have somebody speak to the representative of South Africa directly.
The Committee then decided to postpone its consideration of the NGO’s application.
A representative of USA Refugees & Immigrants, Corp. (United States) said the organization had circulated its answers and report to all Committee members.
The representative of Venezuela requested clarification about the NGO’s budget, asking: “How is it possible for you to work on a broad Latin America level with only about $2,000?” He also asked about specific projects in Venezuela and about the NGO representative’s assessment of the World Humanitarian Summit.
The NGO representative said the organization collected funds in restaurants at events and through donations. It had no ongoing projects in Venezuela and had been unable to attend the World Humanitarian Summit.
The representative of Venezuela noted that the NGO’s website carried many references to his country and requested a written response about its activities in Venezuela, or lack thereof.
The Committee then decided to postpone its consideration of the NGO’s application.
The Committee took note of several organizations’ name changes as outlined in document E/C.2/2016/CRP.15, including International Centre for Alcohol Policies to International Alliance for Responsible Drinking; Doha International Institute for Family Studies and Development (DIIFSD) to Doha International Family Institute; Syriac Universal Alliance, The Federation Syriac International to World Council of Arameans (Syriacs); and Intercity Mission of Christ Embassy to Intercity Mission for Children.
The Committee then took note of several organization name changes as outlined in document E/C.2/2016/CRP.16, including Armenian Young Lawyers Association to Armenian Lawyers’ Association Non-Governmental Organization; Fédération des Villes moyennes to Villes de France; Federation Europeenne des Femmes Actives au Foyer to Fédération Européenne des Femmes Actives en Famille; Foodfirst Information and Action Network (FIAN) to FIAN International e.V.; Foundation for the Refugee Education Trust to RET International; Human In Love Corporation to Human in Love; International Federation of University Women to Graduate Women International (GWI); Interregional Union of Life Help for Mentally Handicapped Persons "Sail of Hope" to Interregional Public Charitable Organization of Assistance to Persons with Disabilities “SAIL OF HOPE”; Kejibaus to Kejibaus Youth Development Initiative; Korean Association for Supporting SDGs (ASD) to Korean Association for Supporting the SDGs for the UN (ASD); Non-Commercial Partnership on Joining of Creditors “World Organization of Creditors” to Association on sustainable development and investment climate improvement, uniting investors and creditors "World Organization for Development".
Withdrawal and Reinstatement
Moving on to E/C.2/2016/CRP.17, the Committee also noted, in document E/C.2/2016/CRP.17, the withdrawal of status due to dissolution of the organization Human Lactation Centre Ltd.
The Committee noted and recommended the list of 81 non-governmental organizations to be reinstated to the Economic and Social Council as outlined in E/C.2/2016/CRP.12. Those included, among others, Association pour la Lutte contre le Travail des Enfants au Niger; International Council of Psychologists; International Forestry Students' Association; International Organization of Supreme Audit Institutions; International Women's Writing Guild; and Women in Law and Development in Africa.