Opening Second Week of Regular Session, Non-Governmental Organizations Committee Recommends Consultative Status to 2 Groups, Defers Action on 44, Opposes 1

ECOSOC/6886-NGO/866
5 February 2018
11th & 12th Meetings (AM & PM)

Opening Second Week of Regular Session, Non-Governmental Organizations Committee Recommends Consultative Status to 2 Groups, Defers Action on 44, Opposes 1

On the sixth day of its 2018 regular session, the Committee on Non‑Governmental Organizations today recommended 2 entities for special consultative status with the Economic and Social Council, deferred action on the status of 44 and voted against status for 1 other.

The 19‑member Committee considers applications for consultative status and requests for reclassification submitted by non-governmental organizations.  Once an application has been reviewed and approved by the Committee it is considered recommended for consultative status.  Organizations that are granted 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’ activities, partners, expenditures, sources of funding and locations where projects were carried out.

The Committee also discussed requests for reclassification, as well as its working methods, with delegations making comments and suggestions.

The Committee on Non‑Governmental Organizations will meet again at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, 6 February, to continue its session.

Special Consultative Status

The Committee recommended that the Economic and Social Council grant special consultative status to the following organizations:

Pak Women (Pakistan); and

International Federation of Consular Corps and Association (Belgium) — reclassified from roster status.

The Committee postponed consideration of the following organizations:

International Non-Olympic University (India) — as the representative of India requested more information on its research activities.

Islamic African Relieve Agency (Sudan) — as the representative of United States requested further details on its partnership with the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the work of the Economic and Social Council.

National Centre for Promotion of Employment for Disabled People (India) — as the representative of India enquired about the sources of its external financing.

Social Services Trust (India) — as the representative of India requested information on the activities of its recently closed offices.

Swadhikar (India) — as the representative of India asked for information on its foreign financing and its latest financial statement.

The Arab Council for Supporting Fair Trial (Egypt) — as the representative of Venezuela asked about its activities for 2018.

The F. W. de Klerk Foundation Trust (South Africa) — as the representative of South Africa requested details on its new Centre for Constitutional Law.

Al-Marsad, The Arab Centre for Human Rights in the Golan Heights (Israel) — as the representative of Israel asked how one became a member of the organization.

Alliance to Renew Co-operation among Humankind (Belgium) — as the representative of Iran asked about the nature of its relationship with its financing partner in the Netherlands.

Anti-Corruption Foundation (Russian Federation) — as the representative of the Russian Federation requested an explanation for the presence of Alexei Navalny as a founder of the organization.

Asia Center for Human Rights (Republic of Korea) — as the representative of Iran requested its financial accounts for 2016 and 2017 and how its activities would contribute to the work of the Economic and Social Council.

Association pour la défense des droits de l'homme et des revendications démocratiques/culturelles du peuple Azerbaidjanais-Iran (France) — as the representative of Iran asked why the organization used the term “South Azerbaijan” when no such entity existed in the real world.

Bureau international pour le respect des droits de l'homme au Sahara Occidental (Switzerland) — as the representative of Burundi requested a summary of its 47-page response to a question put to it on 5 June 2017 on its work relating to the protection of economic and cultural rights.

Center for Constitutional Rights Inc. (United States) — as the representative of China requested details on its work in Iraq.

Centre Zagros pour les Droits de l'Homme (Switzerland) — as the representative of Iran requested its financial statement.

Christian Solidarity International (Switzerland) — as the representative of China asked for more information about its activities in Europe, and the representative of Sudan requested more details about its presence in southern Sudan or in the south of South Sudan.

Congrès National des Arméniens Occidentaux (France) — as the representative of Turkey requested an updated financial statement.

Dansk Flygtningehjælp (Denmark) — as the representative of the Russian Federation asked for details of its projects with the Ukraine NGO Forum and with the Danish Refugee Council.

Dream Touch for All (Republic of Korea) — as the representative of Cuba requested details on the funds it received from the private sector, as well as confirmation that it received governmental funding only from the Republic of Korea and no other Government.

Embajada Mundial de Activistas por la Paz (Global Embassy of Activists for Peace) Corp. (United States) — as the representative of Turkey requested details on the group’s Peace Integration Summits.

Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Network (Denmark) — as the representative of Burundi requested information about the group’s planned activities for 2018.

European Centre for Democracy and Human Rights Ltd. (Belgium) — as the representative of India enquired about the group’s number of staff and use of volunteers, and as the representative of China requested information about its expenses.

Fair Trials International (United Kingdom) — as the representative of China asked if the organization intended to open offices in addition to those it maintained in London and Brussels.

Federal Lezghin National and Cultural Autonomy (Russian Federation) — as the representative of Azerbaijan asked for information about the group’s recent activities.

Global Forum for Media Development (Belgium) — as the representative of Cuba requested information about the group’s 2017 activities in Latin America and whether it received Government funding.

Hokok Coalición Internacional Contra la Impunidad (Spain) — as the representative of Pakistan requested information about the way the group conducted its activities.

Inimõiguste Instituut (Estonia) — as the representative of the Russian Federation asked whether the group operated in his country, and if so, whether it worked with Russian non-governmental organizations.

International Dalit Solidarity Network (Denmark) — as the representative of India requested information about the nature of its relations with its 12-member non-governmental organizations.

International Organisation to Preserve Human Rights Ltd. (United Kingdom) — as the representative of Iran requested that the group provide the sources of its information on demonstrations which had taken place in May 2017.

Interregional Non-Governmental Organization "Committee against Torture" (Russian Federation) — as the representative of the Russian Federation asked that the group explain the reasons why it did not protect the rights of Russian citizens detained abroad.

Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung e.V. (Germany) — as the representative of Cuba requested information on the nature of the group’s work with the National Democratic Institute and Freedom House, as well as details of its projects in Latin America over the past five years.

Mittetulundusühing Fenno-Ugria Asutus (Estonia) — as the representative of the Russian Federation requested information about the group’s funding sources and its overseas projects during the past two years.

Muslim Hands (United Kingdom) — as the representative of Israel requested details on the organization’s links with Water Aid.

Peace Research Institute Oslo (Norway) — as the representative of Cuba requested more information about the organization’s activities.

The Andrey Rylkov Foundation for Health and Social Justice (Russian Federation) — as the representative of the Russian Federation asked about the group’s participation in United Nations meetings, its interactions with the Open Society Foundation, whether it was a foreign agent in the Russian Federation, and if so, why that was not mentioned on its Internet site.

The National Democratic Institute for International Affairs (United States) — as the representative of the Russian Federation said that the organization had indicated it would focus on two areas of the work of the Economic and Social Council, that of the Commission on the Status of Women and on the question of the electoral process.  He wanted to know if the organization intended to focus on those areas only.  In addition, he requested it to explain the projects that it had carried out over the course of the two years prior to the events in Ukraine in late 2013 and early 2014, as well as who had paid for that activity.  The representative of the United States said that the entity was an independent organization working to strengthen democratic institutions worldwide.  It had already answered questions on funding, and based on the relevant criteria, it was qualified and worthy of accreditation.  The representative of the Russian Federation said that his country closely monitored the activities of many non-governmental organizations that carried out destructive activities.  The representative of Cuba said that the organization had given details previously on its experience in Bolivia, and it seemed those activities had started in 1991 lasting until 2009.  The entity said it had closed its offices there in 2009.  He wanted to know what had happened and why the office was closed.

Turkiye Diyanet Vakfi (Turkey) — as the representative of Greece said that the group had provided a list of countries where it had carried out projects.  According to the relevant Security Council resolutions, there was no other internationally recognized Cypriot State other than the Republic of Cyprus.  In addition, the entity should use the correct United Nations terminology when referring to the former Republic of Yugoslavia.  The representative of Turkey said that the issue being cited was probably the reference to “Northern Cyprus” on the organization’s website.  She said that, while the Committee was not the platform to discuss the issue of Cyprus, the organization had been asked where it was conducting its activities and it replied to that question.  She said that the Turkish Cypriots living in that part of the island had religious needs and the organization was conducting its activities in response to those needs.  The representative of Greece reiterated that there were no other recognized Cypriot States other than the Republic of Cyprus.  The representative of Turkey said that she knew what there was on the northern part of the island, it was a country with a functioning parliament and a United Nations-led process under Organization parameters, but that was not for the discussion of the current Committee.

USA Refugees & Immigrants, Corp. (United States) — as the representative of Venezuela said she would like to know what other non-governmental organizations, communities and Governments it worked with.

United Sikhs (United States) — as the representative of India said the entity had mentioned the Sikh Aid Project, which gave aid and rehabilitation help.  She requested more information on its disaster relief activities over the last five years, as well as the names of regions and countries where that work was undertaken.

Vang Pao Peace Institute (United States) — as the representative of Pakistan asked for the outcomes of the projects the organization had conducted, as well as whether it had local partners or whether it worked from its headquarters only.  In addition, with their limited financial resources, he wanted to know how it planned to pay for its activities.  The representative of India asked for more information on the entity’s Project Hope.  The representative of the Russian Federation said that the organization had stated that its aim was the advancement of a peaceful transition to a democratic governance.  He requested clarification as to whether that was a political aim, and whether it had the aim of coming to power in any South-East Asian country.

We Care for Humanity (United States) — as the representative of China said that the application noted that it was a non-profit organization; however, on its website, it had an online store that sold clothes, jewellery and other items.  The website also linked to a store called “Princess Maria”.  He asked for more information on how that revenue raised would be used for humanitarian work.  The representative of India said that the entity’s budget had a surplus and she would like to know what other activities it was planning to undertake.

The Committee voted against granting status to the following organization:

Iran Human Rights Documentation Center (United States) — the representative of the United States requested that the Committee immediately grant special consultative status to the group, saying the Committee had been considering its application since 2011 and it complied with the criteria set out in Economic and Social Council resolution 1996/31.

The representative of Iran said the group was a pseudo-NGO that should not even be on the Committee’s agenda.  It was a political non-governmental organization financed by the Government of the United States to interfere in the internal affairs of a Member State and undermine Iran’s sovereignty.  Its activities had nothing to do with human rights, but rather sought to destabilize Iran.  Furthermore, the group would not contribute to the work of the Economic and Social Council, he said, adding that the support given to the group by the Government of the United States ran counter to resolution 1996/31.

The representative of the Russian Federation recalled that, in the previous three years, the Committee had been asked not to grant special consultative status to the group.  More than 60 per cent of its budget came from the United States Department of State, he said, adding that none of its activities related to democracy and human rights.

The representative of Canada, an observer, said the group had been seeking accreditation for 10 years, and it had responded to dozens of questions from the Committee.  She added that the group worked with international experts on human rights in Iran.

The observer of the European Union said it was important for the Committee to recommend consultative status to non-governmental organizations that complied with the criteria set out in resolution 1996/31.

By a vote of 9 against to 4 in favour, with 2 abstentions, the Committee then failed to grant consultative status to the organization.

Speaking after the vote, the representative of the Russian Federation said the result was fair and equitable.  He said he hoped the United States delegation would find the strength to accept and respect the decision, thus reinforcing the Committee’s authority.

The representative of the United States said the result of the vote was regrettable.  Once again, the Committee had demonstrated its scorn for civil society, she said, adding that her delegation would request a full vote within the Council to overturn the Committee’s decision.

The representative of Iran said he would not change his interpretation of the group’s activities.  His counterpart from the Russian Federation criticized the United States for double standards, favouring some non-governmental organizations while opposing others, such as the Islamic African Relief Agency (Sudan).

Requests for Reclassification Deferred from Previous Sessions

The Committee took up the matter of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (Switzerland), which had requested reclassification of its status from special to general.  The representative of Cuba said that, with regard to the application, he looked at the question to the entity from 27 May 2017 and the response received on 22 September 2017.  The question was more of a suggestion, a request by the Committee derived from the recent question on 3 February 2018 on the name of the organization.  It had applied using a specific name, and now there had been a change in that name.  The Committee had asked the group to respond with the correct name, and the entity had asked how to proceed.  He asked the Secretariat to clarify for the organization what it needed to do.  The representative of the Secretariat said it had provided that information to the entity.  The file was still pending, he said.  The representative of Cuba said that, given the response, it would be wise to wait for an analysis of the organization, as it had not complied with the prerequisite of the Secretariat to update its application.  The representative of the United States said that the Committee had, in May 2017, requested that the group apply for a name change, and one of the supporting documents the entity had provided was a filing receipt for that change.  She asked whether that supporting document had been considered, and whether it was or was not enough to satisfy the requirement for a name change.  The representative of Cuba said that the application had been received by the Committee in February 2016.  From what he understood, there was a question raised for the first time on 3 February 2018.  That question had to do with the supporting documents, so based on the Committee’s analysis, there seemed to be a contradiction.  The supporting documents needed to be aligned with the application, including the name, address and membership.  The representative of the Secretariat said that the procedure for the request for the change of name was more comprehensive than what had been provided initially.  The representative of the United States asked, if the Committee was requesting more information, whether that had been made clear to the entity.  The representative of the Secretariat said that it would be verified what had occurred, but to his knowledge, the entity had been informed.  The representative of the United States thanked the Secretariat for that information, and said it was important that the communication with the entity be included in the application.  The Chair said the matter would remain pending.

The Committee then turned its attention to the International Federation of Consular Corps and Association (Belgium).  The entity had requested a change from roster to special consultative status.  There were no questions on the request, and the Committee recommended that the special consultative status be recommended.

The Universal Peace Federation (United States) had requested a change from special to general consultative status.  The representative of Cuba asked for a list of the activities that had been carried out by the entity in 2017.  The representative of Turkey said she would like a list of specific projects and organizations to which it provided grants, as well as to what use those grants were put.

Widows for Peace Through Democracy (United Kingdom) sought reclassification from the Committee from roster to special consultative status.  The representative of Turkey said that, in the application, in response to question 7, the group had stated that it supported implementing partners on grass-roots projects, including securing funding for those partners.  She wanted the group to explain how it extended its support in that sense.

Review of Methods of Work of Committee

The representative of Cuba said his delegation was pleased that the Committee was considering a comment made by his delegation during the 2017 session.  What his delegation had done was point out that, under the agenda of the Committee, there was always a session on the methods of work, which was never addressed.  His delegation wished to highlight that it was not requesting anything new.

Committee Chair Jorge Dotta (Uruguay) said that improving the working methods of the Committee was an objective shared by all.  Among the issues to be discussed, he highlighted the ways through which the Committee could cope with the increased number of quadrennial reports to be reviewed.  The Committee had before it a record number of 321 applications at the current session, and that number would increase in future sessions.  He asked how the informal sessions of the Committee could be best used to do part of the work and how it could accelerate the proceedings at formal meetings.  He also asked how the number of deferred applications could be maintained at a reasonable level.

In addition, the interaction of the Committee with representatives of non-governmental organizations had been an area of discussion among Committee members, he said.  The Economic and Social Council had decided in 2017 to have the formal meetings of the Committee webcast and to increase transparency in the proceedings.  He asked what additional steps could be taken to ensure a fruitful dialogue with the non-governmental organization community.  He also noted that other issues could be addressed, including the role of observer States in the proceedings of the Committee, in both formal and informal meetings.

The representative of India said she reiterated her delegation’s one area of concern, a gap in the scrutiny of applications before being submitted.  Terrorists could use non-governmental organizations as fronts, she said, and should not get accreditation in the Economic and Social Council.

The representative of the United States, also speaking on behalf of Australia, Canada, Chile, Iceland, Israel, Japan, Liechtenstein, Mexico, New Zealand, Norway, Peru, Switzerland, Uruguay and the European Union, said it strongly wished to improve the working methods of the Committee.  Often, the Committee hindered the participation of non-governmental organizations, as it could take two or more years to get an application approved.  She encouraged further efforts to make the Committee more successful.  She was concerned over repetitive questions by Committee members that delayed the applications of credible non-governmental organizations.  She urged Member States to limit their questions to matters related to the criteria.

The representative of the Russian Federation said he intended to discuss constructive work rather than political discussions.  On the statement of the representative of the United States on delays on the approval of applications, he said that the countries that complained should look at themselves, as they were the ones causing the delays.  When a country itself deferred an application and then said that there were delays, he said he did not even know how to respond to that.  He did not wish to delve into a political discussion as there were technical issues that had been put forward.  For example, approximately one minute was provided for the consideration of an application, and that was insufficient.  If the number of reports continued and if the Committee members had the same number of resources, conditions would arise when the body would not be able to tackle such a large number of applications.

The representative of Cuba said that large numbers of non-governmental organizations had received consultative status.  That showed the Committee was effective in processing copious information and every year that was increasing.  Every State had the right to clarify their concerns prior to giving opinions on requests, especially when there were suspicions of non-compliance with requirements.  Many organizations had received consultative status after years of analysis.  It would be interesting to ask the Secretariat to look at the situation there.  The Committee was expected to review 321 new applications, which was too many to be considered in an eight-day session.  On another matter, there was a spirit of conflict that was not helpful, and that spirit seemed to be intentional.  He asked whether that the Committee wanted to promote an image that its members were constantly in conflict.

The representative of China said that members of the Committee had an important task to perform as the organizations considered varied, and therefore the body needed adequate time to consider each application.  The workload of the Committee had increased in recent years, and the members of the Committee were working hard and a lot of non-governmental organizations had received consultative status.  In his view, the Committee was already efficient.  Some members had repeatedly raised questions concerning certain organizations.  Perhaps such actions were considered to be hindering the efficiency of the Committee, he said.

The representative of Turkey said that the number of applications had risen dramatically over the years, which was a welcome indication of civil society’s interest in the United Nations.  The Committee was also experiencing an upwards trend in the production of quadrennial reports.  Those factors made it even more important for using the Committee’s time in the most efficient way.  On holding the informal sessions, she said it might give Committee members more time to review the applications if those were held closer to the formal sessions.

The representative of the Russian Federation said he wanted to draw attention to the fact that his delegation had received information that one member of the Committee attempted to informally exert pressure on the Secretariat.  He said that such instances were not acceptable because the Committee appointed the Secretariat, not individual members.  If even one country exerted influence on any member of the Secretariat, he requested that there be an official confirmation.  Such pressure taking place was exceedingly serious.  At the podium, he saw members from France, Uruguay, Georgia and the Republic of Moldova.  Their role was larger than belonging to a single group, he said.

The representative of Iran said that almost 5,000 non-governmental organizations had got their status.  The main concern should be the intention of certain members to use the platform as a cover to interfere and have their intrusive foreign policy objectives.  It was disappointing to see those countries blaming others, he said.  The working process was exasperating, and the non‑governmental organizations and Secretariat also seemed frustrated.  Hundreds of reports and new applications and almost 200 deferred applications were a tremendous job for the Secretariat.  Most of all, the members felt that frustration, as, if each wanted to work responsibly, it would have to review hundreds of applications each time.

The representative of Uruguay said she wanted to seize the opportunity to underscore how important the Committee was to her country.  She noted that the Committee played an important role as it considered the possible recognition of the consultative status of non-governmental organizations.  Her country had always promoted transparency and in 2017, had proposed, with Chile and Mexico, the possibility of webcasting the sessions publicly, and that was an important step for transparency.  She also proposed the possibility of creating a working group to review and possibly modify the application form so that the Committee could resolve some of the concerns that might arise that were noted by other colleagues.

The representative of Venezuela reiterated his country’s commitment to non-governmental organizations and the role they played.  He viewed with concern that there had been attempts to weaken the work of the Committee, noting that it was likely for political reasons.  However, that undermined the fulfilment of the ideal of the Committee under the United Nations Charter.

The representative of Cuba said he requested clarification on the note received on 16 January that set out the basis for consultations.  His delegation welcomed holding such consultations, but he wished to know what the purpose of the document was, because he had not heard about a deadline from the Secretariat or any informal meetings that might be held.  His delegation said they had the letter on the methods of work from the 17 January and perhaps that could be another question.  He wished to address the proposal made by some delegations to create a working group to review the methods of work of the Committee.  Generally, when a working group was created, there was a high composition of members.  There were only 19 members of the Committee, and his delegation believed there was no need for a working group.

The representative of Uruguay said she wanted to clarify that, given what was said by Cuba, her delegation’s proposal was to study and consider the application form in the working group.  Her delegation was in favour of transparency.

The Chair said, on the issue of the note of 17 January raised by the representative of Cuba, that it was sent close to the date that the Committee was to meet.  It had been circulated informally to members first, and then to civil society.  However, there was no deadline set.  It was just for the Secretariat to gather information from civil society.  The Secretariat was collecting those views so that it could compile and share them with the Committee, and, in an informal setting, decide on the best way to take them forward.

The representative of Cuba said he understood that the Secretariat was compiling those inputs so criteria could be sent on that document.  He understood that, in February, before getting the report, the Committee should be able to address the matter of resolution 61/A/1996/31.  He asked the Chair to clarify whether the Secretariat was reviewing groups that already had consultative status, in which case it would need feedback from those organizations on their concerns regarding the resolution.

The Chair said that a date for that matter still had to be set.

The representative of China said he wanted to ask the Secretariat regarding the newly circulated concept document of the Committee concerning the dialogue with the non-governmental organizations.  He understood it was an update, and that meant that the Committee had not given feedback on that document yet.

The Chair said that the Secretariat had only asked for feedback from the Committee, but not non-governmental organizations.

The representative of the Secretariat said it was as had been described.  Upon request of the Chair of the Committee, the note had been updated following informal consultations with the Committee in December 2017 and shared with it and with non-governmental organizations with status for informational purposes.

He also said that, because the representative of India had referred to terrorism earlier, he wanted to share that there had been consultations with the United Nations Office of Legal Affairs and he would share options for a consideration of the matter.

For information media. Not an official record.