Committee on Non-Governmental Organizations Rejects Special Status for Group, Closes File on Another, Approves 10 Applications while Deferring 15 Others

26 May 2009

Committee on Non-Governmental Organizations Rejects Special Status for Group, Closes File on Another, Approves 10 Applications while Deferring 15 Others

26 May 2009
Economic and Social Council
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

committee on non-governmental organizations rejects special status for group,

closes file on another, approves 10 applications while deferring 15 others

In a roll-call vote today, the resumed session of the Committee on Non-governmental Organizations rejected a proposal to recommend special consultative status with the Economic and Social Council for the Democracy Coalition Project, even as it recommended that status for 10 organizations, postponed consideration of 15 applications, pending receipt of additional information and closed the file on one group.

The 19-member Committee recommends general, special or roster status with the Council in accordance with such criteria as the applicant’s mandate, governance and financial regime.  Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) enjoying general and special consultative status can attend meetings of the Council and circulate statements.  Those with general status can, in addition, speak at meetings and propose items for the Council’s agenda, while organizations holding roster status can only attend meetings.

Special consultative status was recommended for:

Haiti Mission, an NGO headquartered in the United States which has, as its primary focus, a commitment to provide basic humanitarian aid to the villages of Numéro Deux and Ravine Saab, comprising the Church Parish of Our Lady of the Assumption in the Diocese of Jeremie, in Haiti;

Human Security Initiative Organization, an organization in the Sudan that strives to promotea human security concept and perspectives; prevention of the illicit spread and misuse of small arms and light weapons; prohibition of the recruitment of child soldiers, while promoting reintegration programmes; and protection from landmines and of human rights;

De Vrienden van Congo, an NGO headquartered in Belgium which focuses on rural development in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  A representative of the NGO answered questions about its expenditures and projects, making clear that all its activities were carried out within that country, where it was registered;

National Council of Youth and Children Associations of Russia, a group based in the Russian Federation whose mission is to support and coordinate the activities of Russian youth and children’s organizations in order to encourage the protection and realization of their interests, as well as the rights of children and youth;

Centre de Formation aux Techniques Informatiques, an NGO in Cameroon wishing to popularize information technology in the country;

Fundación Help for the Andes, a Chile-based NGO, which aims primarily to improve the lives of the disadvantaged and the suffering by improving health, education, living conditions, communication skills, social behaviour and social adjustment;

International Initiative for Peace, a Nigeria-based NGO, which wishes to take practical steps to promote the peaceful resolution of disputes, ensure mutual understanding and facilitate national and international integration as necessary condition for development and the resolution of conflicts;

East West Institute, a United States-based organization, seeking to make the world safer by addressing the seemingly intractable problems threatening regional and global stability;

Global Volunteer Network Foundation, an organization based in the United States, which supports the charitable and educational work of local community organizations all over the world through the distribution of financial, in-kind and material donations; and

J.W. Bethany, Inc. doing business as Smile of a Child, a United States-based organization, seeking to help world leaders alleviate poverty and improve the lives of children.

In a roll-call vote of 6 members in favour (Colombia, Israel, Peru, Romania, United Kingdom, United States) to 8 against (Angola, Burundi, China, Cuba, Egypt, Qatar, Russian Federation, Sudan), with 5 abstentions (Dominica, Guinea, India, Pakistan, Turkey), the Committee rejected a proposal by the United States to recommend special consultative status for Democracy Coalition Project, Inc., a United States-based organization, which conducts research and advocacy relating to democracy promotion policies at the national, regional and global levels.

The vote took place after a lengthy debate in which the representative of the United States stated that the NGO had met all requirements under resolution 1996/31 and that it should not be required to answer questions which had been answered before.  In a general statement after the vote, he said he was “deeply saddened” by the decision which “reflected poorly” on the Committee and the United Nations.  The vote showed that many members did not respect democratic principles, as “true democracies” respected the right of civil society to provide constructive criticism.  As the standard “filibuster tactic” of asking many questions would have continued many more sessions, he had been forced to call for a vote.  He looked forward to the Economic and Social Council revisiting the application in July.

During the debate and in their general statements and explanations of the vote, many speakers who had voted against or abstained regretted that the matter had been rushed to a vote, as Committee members had the right to ask questions in order to determine an organizations compliance with resolution 1996/31 and the principles of the United Nations.  The representatives of Cuba, Russian Federation and China added that they had voted against because the organization had shown a pattern of politically motivated activities against Member States, among other instances, during the recent elections for the Human Rights Council.  The representative of Burundi said he had voted against because the organization had provided erroneous information to the Committee.

Delivering general statements and explanations of position were representatives of the United Kingdom, India, Turkey, Sudan, Egypt, Pakistan, Dominica, Qatar, Colombia and Israel.

The Committee closed the file, without prejudice, on the application of:

Assistance for a Voluntary Return and Reintegration of African Migrants, an NGO based in Switzerland, which aims to assist African migrants wishing to return, resettle or invest in their home country or any other African country, because, in response to questions, it had stated it did not want to contribute to the Economic and Social Council.

Pending receipt of additional information, the Committee postponed consideration of the following NGOs:

Humanitarian Accountability Partnership International, an NGO headquartered in Switzerland, which seeks to achieve and promote the highest principles of accountability through self-regulation by members linked by common respect for the rights and dignity of beneficiaries, as Egypt’s representative requested additional financial information;

Passionists International, an organization based in the United States, which promotes internationally the vision of the Passionist Family, after Peru’s representative asked for more information about projects in his country;

World Granny, a Netherlands-based organization, which tries to improve the quality of life for older people, their families and communities in the developing world, while raising awareness about the situation of older people among the public, institutions and Governments.  Egypt’s representative requested more financial information;

Corrections India, an NGO aiming to bring prisoners' children to the highest level of dignity and social acceptance, in addition to counselling prisoners and bringing them into mainstream life.  Pakistan’s representative asked for additional information;

IFENDU for Women’s Development, an organization based in Nigeria, which aims to educate women, men and youth on the need to dismantle oppressive cultural and religious systems that undermine the full human status of women, and to promote their full participation in all spheres of life.  Egypt’s representative requested more information about the organization’s affiliations and board members, while the representative of the United Kingdom said additional questions were not called for under resolution 1996/31, and added no additional value to the application;

International Institute for Security and Safety Management, an NGO based in India, which promotes security and safety as integral parts of human and socio-economic development, after Pakistan’s representative sought information on future projects in South Asia and on the organization’s board members and finances;

Syrian Centre for Media and Freedom of Expression, an organization seeking to spread culture and awareness of freedom of opinion and expression, belief, variety and tolerance inside Syrian society by cooperating with governmental associations and civil society organizations.  The observer delegate of Syria had previously described the NGO as illegal since it was not registered in Syria, but in France.  The representative of the United Kingdom asked for proper documentation that it was based in France and whether any projects in Syria were properly registered.  The representatives of Qatar, Egypt, Cuba, Sudan, Pakistan, China, India and Dominica asked similar questions and raised queries about its affiliations;

3D -– Trade -- Human Rights -- Equitable Economy, an NGO based in Switzerland, which seeks to promote coherence between national development strategies and global economic processes by achieving broader participation in the elaboration and implementation of national development strategies and ensuring that the needs of particularly vulnerable groups --  women, children or indigenous groups -- are reflected in economic and trade policy, because the representative of Pakistan sought to know about the organization’s activities in developed countries;

Alliance Defense Fund, an NGO headquartered in the United States, which seeks to defend and promote human rights and civil liberties recognized and protected under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and applicable international instruments, as the representative of China asked the NGO to provide its current and future plans for activities in Asia;

Center for Policy Studies, an organization based in the Russian Federation, seeking to strengthen the international security and non-proliferation regimes.  The representative of the United States asked about the organization’s affiliations;

Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, a non-profit organization with headquarters in the United States and comprising European, Japanese and American automobile manufacturers.  It advocates technically sound public policy positions that meet consumer and societal needs for clean, safe, efficient and affordable personal transportation.  In a lengthy debate, the representatives of Cuba and Egypt objected to the group’s being granted consultative status since organizations which clearly represented commercial enterprises might have a conflict of interest with the objectives of the United Nations and the Economic and Social Council.

The representative of the United States noted, however, that nothing in Economic and Social Council resolution 1996/31, which guides the work of the Committee, prohibited accreditation, adding that there had been precedents.  The organization met the resolution’s requirements and intended to contribute to the Council’s work on issues such as the environment and transportation.  It had also clearly stated that it was not a for-profit organization, and as such duly registered in the United States.  Consultative status should, therefore, be recommended without hesitation.

Romania’s representative added that the alleged conflict of interest was a matter of speculation.  The Committee should show restraint in taking decisions based on assumptions.  Asking lengthy lists of questions not germane to the requirements of resolution 1996/31 -– which did not in any way prohibit consultative status for organizations like the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers -- was an obstruction of the Committee’s work and, therefore, affected its credibility.

Egypt’s representative asked whether members of the NGO’s executive structure were nominated or appointed as representatives of member companies or on their individual qualifications or interests.  He also asked about its finances.

Dalit Freedom Network, a United States-based NGO and partner of the Dalit (“Untouchables”) in their quest for religious freedom, social justice and human dignity, when the representatives of India and Egypt asked about its activities and affiliates, its staff in India and whether it saw discrimination against Dalits as racism;

A representative of the Assyrian Academic Society, an organization based in the United States, which seeks to ensure a thorough understanding and awareness of the Assyrian people, answered questions from the representative of Turkey, saying that the Society had had 30 years of experience in research.  Among other things, it provided scholarships to archaeology students and assisted in United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) programmes.  Although Society members could refer to it in speeches and publications, they did not speak on its behalf unless explicitly authorized to do so.  The Committee postponed consideration pending written answers to the questions raised.

In answer to questions asked by Turkey’s representative, the representative of CIEMEN -- an NGO based in Spain which aims to disseminate information on the situation of oppressed people -– asked whether the NGO was required to submit a list of speakers and participants in a seminar and what else it should do to fulfil the requirements of resolution 1996/31.  The organization could provide a list, but that could take time.  Moreover, as the NGO would continue to organize seminars, it would have to provide a “plethora” of lists.  The Committee postponed consideration after Turkey’s representative requested a written answer.

A representative of the International Center for Transitional Justice, a United States-based NGO seeking to help countries pursuing accountability for past mass atrocities or human rights abuses, answered questions about its activities in Latin America, saying it had provided materials and information to Venezuela, Argentina, Bolivia and Peru.  Upon the request of the Government of Peru, it had consulted on the establishment of a truth commission after the 1980-2000 conflict in that country.  It had no activities in Cuba, but was working on an accountability project about Guantanamo Bay.  The Committee postponed consideration pending receipt of written answers.

The Committee then heard a statement by Liberato C. Bautista, President of the Conference of Non-Governmental Organizations in Consultative Relationship with the United Nations (CoNGO), who said it was an independent, international, non-profit membership association of NGOs that facilitated the participation of NGOs in United Nations debates and decision-making processes, while advocating for strong, engaged and empowered civil society communities.  Currently engaged in preparing NGOs for the upcoming substantive session of the Economic and Social Council, CoNGO requested the Committee to recommend consultative status for as many NGOs as were able to manifest their earnest desire to participate actively in the consultative process.

Members of the Committee are Angola, Burundi, China, Colombia, Cuba, Dominica, Egypt, Guinea, India, Israel, Pakistan, Peru, Qatar, Romania, Russian Federation, Sudan, Turkey, United Kingdom and the United States.

The Committee will reconvene at 10 a.m. tomorrow, 27 May.

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