|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Committee on NGOs
29th & 30thMeetings (AM & PM)
committee on non-governmental organizations recommends status for 12 groups,
approving gay-rights federation in ‘breakthrough’ decision
On the last scheduled day of its 2008 resumed session, the Committee on Non-Governmental Organizations decided to recommend 12 civil-society groups for consultative status with the Economic and Social Council, including the “breakthrough” approval of the Dutch organization Federatie van Nederlandse Verenigingen tot Integratie van Homoseksualiteit by a roll-call vote.
However, the Committee voted to reject the application of the New York City-based Human Rights Foundation on the basis of its apparent links to terrorism. Also today, it settled the case of the World Union for Progressive Judaism by deciding to send the group a letter of reprimand. The organization’s status had been under dispute since 13 May owing to what members deemed its “bad behaviour” at a January meeting of the Human Rights Council.
The 19-member Committee uses various criteria to recommend general, special or roster status with the Council, including the applicant’s mandate, governance and financial regime. Organizations with general and special status can attend Council meetings and circulate statements. Those enjoying general status can, in addition, speak at meetings and propose items for the Council’s agenda. Groups with roster status can only attend meetings.
In an action hailed by one member as a breakthrough, the Committee decided to recommend the Federatie van Nederlandse Verenigingen tot Integratie van Homoseksualiteit -- the first ever organization devoted to the protection of the rights of lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgender people to be so recommended -- for special status with the Council. It took that action by a roll-call vote of 7 in favour (Colombia, Dominica, Israel, Peru, Romania, United Kingdom, United States) to 6 against (China, Egypt, Pakistan, Qatar, Russian Federation, Sudan), with 5 abstentions (Angola, Burundi, Guinea, India, Turkey).
Celebrating that decision, the representative of the United Kingdom, who requested the vote, said that although individual members might disagree with the philosophies of particular organizations, that was no cause for their exclusion. That was true of organizations such as Federatie van Nederlandse Verenigingen tot Integratie van Homoseksualiteit, whose constituency deserved equal rights with others to engage in the work of the United Nations. However, of the countries voting against the motion, the representative of Egypt described the decision as a setback for the Committee, since questions posed by some members had been left unanswered. The representative of Qatar expressed disappointment at the rift caused by the vote, noting that the resulting decision did not represent the world community’s feelings.
The Committee rejected the application of a second organization, the Human Rights Foundation, by a vote of 13 in favour to 4 against (Colombia, Israel, Peru, United States), with 2 abstentions (Romania, United Kingdom). In reviewing that application, the representative of Cuba had raised several objections against the Foundation, whose Chairman, Armando Valladares, was a convicted criminal in Cuba, said to have participated in terrorist activities shortly after the end of the Batista era. Citing various forms of evidence, including tribunal documents describing Mr. Valladares’ links to “bomb factories” and newspaper clippings showing a photograph of him with other suspects in the case, the Cuban delegate further accused the organization of subversive activities in Bolivia. The representatives of the Sudan, China, Guinea, Egypt, Russian Federation, Burundi, Venezuela, Dominica and Angola expressed their support for the Cuban position.
In contrast, the United States delegate, with agreement from the representatives of the United Kingdom, Israel and Peru, asked the Committee to defer the case until the Committee’s next session in January 2009, arguing that members had only heard one view. Mr. Valladares had been a “prisoner of conscience”, jailed by the Cuban Government for 22 years, but was now recognized as a distinguished poet and writer living in the United States. The Human Rights Foundation, founded by Mr. Valladares upon his release, should be given a chance to defend its application in person.
Not wishing to delay action on the case, which had already been discussed during informal meetings, Cuba’s delegate called for a roll-call vote against the motion proposed by the representative of the United States. The motion for a deferral was rejected by a vote of 12 against to 6 in favour ( Colombia, Israel, Peru, Romania, United Kingdom, United States), with 1 abstention ( India). Another votewas promptly held at the request of the United States, by which the Foundation’s application was ultimately rejected.
In a general statement after the vote, the representative of the United States remarked that the Committee had violated the preamble to its own founding resolution -- Economic and Social Council resolution 1996/31 -- by which the Council sought to encourage “the breadth and diversity of views” brought by non-governmental organization at its deliberations. The representative of Israel, who also voted against the rejection, expressed regret that no time had been given to review both sides of the case, a sentiment echoed by the representatives of the two abstaining Members. Expressing an opposing view, the representatives of Egypt, Sudan, China, Burundi and Qatar said the evidence shown by Cuba’s delegate against Mr. Valladares had been convincing enough to give sufficient cause to reject the Foundation’s application.
Another eight civil-society groups were recommended for special status today, including: the Foundation for a Culture of Peace, an international organization based in Spain and focused on publicizing and implementing the 1999 United Nations Declaration and Programme of Action on a Culture of Peace; Istituto Internazionale Maria Ausiliatrice, a faith-based organization in Italy seeking to improve human relationships in the classroom; Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition, an international organization based in Switzerland that seeks to build public and private partnerships to reduce malnutrition worldwide; Service for Peace, a United States-based international organization that brings together people of diverse faiths and backgrounds to address community needs through volunteer work; and African Child Care Association, an international organization based in the United States that provides young people with the tools to protect themselves against HIV and other sexually transmitted infections.
Others included: Junior Achievement Worldwide, a United States-based international organization dedicated to educating young people about free enterprise; Dutch Council for Refugees, which seeks to protect asylum-seekers and refugees; and the Hudson Institute, an organization based in Washington, D.C., and dedicated to research and analysis to promote global security, prosperity and freedom.
The Committee recommended three groups for roster status, including: NTIC et citoyenneté, an organization in Mauritania that promotes the use of information and communication technology among the people of Mauritania as a tool for development; Center for Health and Gender Equity, an organization in the United States that studies the effects of that country’s policies on the health and rights of women and girls abroad; and New Zealand Council of Licensed Firearms Owners, which seeks to preserve the rights and privileges of licensed firearms users.
It decided to defer the applications submitted by: the International Association of Women Judges, an organization based in Washington, D.C., after the representative of China sought more information about its activities in Asia and its funding mechanisms; Saferworld, an Ireland-based international organization that conducts research, advocacy and training in tackling the spread of arms and armed violence, after Egypt’s delegate asked for more information about its organizational structure and its opinion on landmines; Hope Medical Enterprises Ltd., an organization in the United Kingdom seeking to empower Iraqi women and girls through counselling on sexual health, family planning and dental hygiene, after Egypt’s delegate requested information about its presence in the United States and Iraq, if any; Genève pour les Droits de l’Homme, an international organization based in Switzerland that provides training for human rights advocates and diplomats in the area of human rights law, after Cuba sought further clarification regarding its involvement with national educational authorities; and Presse Emblème Campagne, an international organization based in Switzerland that seeks to protect journalists in areas of armed conflict and internal violence, after Cuba’s delegate asked for more information on its activities.
Regarding Lestime, a Swiss organization providing support and counselling to the lesbian community, the representatives of Egypt and Qatar repeated a series of questions posed earlier, including one regarding the applicability of human rights instruments to lesbians.
Also referring to past questions, the Committee deferred the applications submitted by: the International Gas Union, an international organization based in Norway that promotes technological advancement and best practices in the gas industry; WITNESS, a New York City-based international organization that seeks to use video and online technologies to showcase human rights violations; and Universitas 21, a network of research institutions headquartered in Guernsey -- a British Crown dependency in the English Channel that is not part of the United Nations; Mahabodhi International Meditation Center, an international organization based in India that provides humanitarian services to the impoverished people of Ladakh; and the International Foundation for Dharma Nature Time, an Indonesia-based international organization seeking to promote cultural diversity.
For similar reasons, the applications of the following organizations were also deferred: the Marijuana Policy Project Foundation, an organization in Washington, D.C., that seeks to minimize the harm associated with marijuana through regulation similar to that applying to alcoholic beverages; International Human Rights Observer, an organization in Pakistan seeking to create mass awareness of the rights enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights; and the Forest Products Association of Canada, an organization seeking to provide leadership in advancing the lawful interests of forest-products companies.
The Committee decided to close the file on Ma Qualcuno Pensi ad Abele, an Italy-based international organization seeking to help victims of injustice and “bad public and health administration” in Venezuela. The representative of Venezuela said the organization had no respect for the principle of national sovereignty.
Owing to lack of time, the Committee was unable to adopt its draft report today, as would be expected on the last day of a session. For that reason, Committee Chairman Hassan Hamid Hassan ( Sudan)saidhe would request a half-day meeting, at a time to be announced, for proper closure.
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