Civil Society’s Work Has Many Implications for Work of Economic and Social Council, Official Says As Committee on NGOs Opens 2010 Session

25 January 2010

Civil Society’s Work Has Many Implications for Work of Economic and Social Council, Official Says As Committee on NGOs Opens 2010 Session

25 January 2010
Economic and Social Council
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Committee on NGOs                                          

1st & 2nd Meetings (AM & PM)                                 

Civil Society’s Work Has Many Implications for Work of Economic and Social

Council, Official Says As Committee on NGOs Opens 2010 Session

Members Grant 2 Requests to Withdraw Status; 8 Bids Approved, 24 Postponed

Civil society was the critical “eyes and ears on the ground”, Nikhil Seth, Director of ECOSOC Support and Coordination in the Department of Economic and Social Affairs, said as the Committee on Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) opened its 2010 regular session today .

“The impact of your work has many implications for the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) and the wider United Nations community as we strive to strengthen our partnership with civil society,” Mr. Seth said, noting that the emergence of civil society over the last two decades had had a profound influence on international development cooperation and on the deliberative process of the United Nations.

The Millennium +10 Summit in September would take place against the backdrop of a greater urgency to accelerate progress towards attainment of the Millennium Development Goals by 2015, he said.  Hearings in June would be aimed at facilitating and incorporating the voice of civil society into discussions at the High-level Plenary Meeting, as well as identifying areas for a plan of action as input for the event’s outcome document.

Mr. Seth recalled that new networks and partnerships involving Governments, civil society, international organizations, non-governmental organizations and the private sector had been formed during the Council’s last session.  With the increase in the number of NGOs being accredited to the Council, attention was now focused on exploring ways to facilitate a more organized, coordinated, systematic and sustained level of engagement between the NGO community and the Department of Economic and Social Affairs.  Among other things, a departmental task force of NGO Focal Points had been reactivated; NGO representation in side events of the intergovernmental processes had intensified greatly; there was continuing support for the development of regional networks, including the United Nations IRENE Network; and there were increasing numbers of online discussions with civil society.

He stressed, however, that, to the extent possible, more space must be made available for civil society on the Organization’s economic and social development agenda.  Furthermore, NGOs, particularly those enjoying consultative status with the Economic and Social Council, should also be held accountable to support the work of the United Nations.  The consideration of quadrennial reports therefore continued to be an integral and important item on the agenda.  “The impact of your work has many implications for ECOSOC and the wider United Nations community as we strive to strengthen our partnership with civil society,” Mr. Seth said in conclusion.

Committee Chair Ramis Şen (Turkey), elected by acclamation, said members had before them 242 applications for consultative status -- 141 new and 101 deferred ‑‑ in addition to 184 quadrennial reports, including 13 old ones.  Such a heavy work load required effective use of time if members were to focus on and remain faithful to ECOSOC resolution 1996/31, which governed the Committee’s proceedings.

Andrei Abramov, Chief of the new Non-Governmental Organizations Branch established within the Department since May 2009, said it had made strides in systematizing and organizing its work to better service the Committee and the NGO community.  A draft programme of work for 2010-2011 had identified some strategic priority areas, including:  better servicing of the Committee; enhancing substantive contributions by NGOs to major events; revitalization of the NGO-IRENE Network; implementation of the NGO Trust Fund; enhancement of the NGO Knowledge Management system; capacity-building for NGOs; and partnership with the United Nations system and others.

He said that, despite the gains made, however, the Branch faced a number of key constraints, including the fact that substantive interaction with NGOs in consultative status had been sporadic and outreach at the country and regional levels through the United Nations funds and programmes had been non-existent.  As resource mobilization was becoming increasingly critical, a review of the human resources and financial requirements of the Branch had now become intrinsic and necessary.  He said he hoped to sharpen the Branch’s focus on partnering with others in the United Nations system and enhancing interaction with civil society to promote the Organization’s work.  It was also necessary to ensure greater implementation of and follow-up to intergovernmental processes.

Egypt’s representative acknowledged that great improvements had been made, in particular regarding the “paperless system”, but noted that access to that system could still be improved.  There was also a need to address the issue of NGOs that failed to submit their quarterly reports on time.

China’s representative and the observer for Chile expressed the hope that the NGO Branch would be granted the required additional human and financial resources.  China’s representative noted that applications from NGOs in developing countries had been given priority, and expressed hope that the Branch would give due attention to helping them address technical difficulties.

Turning to the agenda item “Implementation of Economic and Social Council resolution 2006/46 and decision 2008/217”, Mr. Abramov said they had been adopted to enable NGOs accredited to the World Summit on the Information Society to apply for consultative status with the Economic and Social Council and provided for the Committee’s expeditious consideration of such applications, of which it had 10 before it, including 5 deferred from previous sessions.

The observer for Iraq lodged a complaint about the General Federation of Iraqi Women, saying that the NGO was part of the toppled Saddam Hussein regime, which had used civil society organizations as tools of repression.  The organization, whose members all belonged to the Ba’ath party, had spied on Iraqi families and turned Iraqi women into a commodity to be used by the leaders of the now fallen regime.  It had been dissolved in 2003, according to Iraqi law, and was not registered with the Iraqi authorities regulating NGOs.  Nevertheless, the NGO continued to use its consultative status with ECOSOC in a manner that went against the spirit of the new Iraq, he said, demanding that the Committee revoke its consultative status, given its lack of legitimacy.

The representatives of Egypt, Romania, Dominica and the Russian Federation requested that the Committee consider the complaint at a later stage since they had no access to the information available owing to technical difficulties.

Pakistan’s representative then tabled a complaint against Interfaith International, a Geneva-based NGO with special consultative status, saying the Government of Pakistan had tried to enter into a dialogue with the organization about its statements and actions during Human Rights Council meetings in which it had attacked the country’s territorial integrity, sovereignty and political independence.  Pakistan had asked the NGO to respect the principles and provisions of the United Nations Charter but had not received an appropriate response.  He noted that a representative of the NGO, who had addressed the Human Rights Council, had an Interpol warrant against him.  Pakistan requested the Committee, “as a last resort”, to withdraw the consultative status.

Noting the serious violations by that organization, the representatives of China, Sudan, Egypt, Qatar, Burundi and Cuba supported Pakistan’s request.  However, the representatives of Romania, Peru, United Kingdom and the United States requested more time to study the documentation provided and consult their capitals.

The Committee then decided it would consider the matter again on Friday afternoon.

The observer for Switzerland asked the Branch to ensure it was as well informed about complaints against NGOs based in his country as it was of applications for consultative status by national organizations headquartered in Switzerland.

During opening-day meetings, the Committee granted two requests to withdraw the consultative status of a non-governmental organization, and recommended that the Economic and Social Council grant special consultative status to eight NGOs.  It also postponed consideration of 24 applications pending answers to questions raised by delegates.

The Committee recommended that ECOSOC grant special consultative status to:

Asociación Habitat Pro, a national organization based in Peru, which studies improvements in the quality of life for people affected by poverty and extreme poverty;

Association Congolaise d'Education et de Prevention Contre les Maladies et la Drogue, a national organization in Congo which seeks to contribute to educational and social programmes;

Bangladesh NGOs Network for Radio and Communication, a national organization aiming to give rural people easy, quick and low-cost access to global communications so they are enriched and updated by knowledge;

Fondation G én éreuse D éveloppement, a Cameroon-based international organization that provides disadvantaged population groups with services to improve their living conditions;

Liberians United to Expose Hidden Weapons, a national organization seeking to enhance and promote national and international security for sustainable peace and development, while raising public awareness of the proliferation of illicit small arms and light weapons both nationally and internationally;

Mehr Nuri Public Foundation, a national charity-based foundation in Uzbekistan, which renders material and financial assistance to needy families;

National Association of Vocational Education of China, a national organization calling for vocational education and seeking to combine education closely with labour and society;

and Social Development Centre, a national non-profit organization based in Qatar which envisions building stable and self-sufficient families and seeking the effective contribution of all individuals in community development.

Pending receipt of answers to delegates’ questions, the Committee postponed action on the application of the following non-governmental organizations:

Abaawa Hagar Saah Memorial Foundation -- a Ghana-based national NGO which, among other things, seeks to help prevent malaria and reduce infections of tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS, while providing training in income-generating activities for street children and women -- as Egypt’s representative noted that the responses it had provided did not answer the questions asked;

Africa Safe Water Foundation -- a national organization in Nigeria which aims to develop, manage and increase access to water and sanitation; undertake basic hygiene and water education; and contribute to development projects -– when Egypt’s representative asked about the involvement of private companies in the organization’s activities;

Association pour la Lutte contre le Travail des Enfants au Niger -- a national NGO aiming to abolish child labour –- because Egypt’s representative requested more details about its activities;

Aube Nouvelle pour la Femme et le Développement -- a national organization based in the Democratic Republic of the Congo which aims to establish a social and legal environment conducive to the advancement of women –- when the representatives of Burundi and Egypt requested proof of its registration and activities;

Community Development Volunteers for Technical Assistance -- a national organization based in Cameroon, which aims to integrate communities where elderly people can lead meaningful, satisfactory and dignified lives -- as Egypt’s representative sought more details of its planned projects;

Egyptian Association for Educational Resources –- a national organization and a regional leader in developing proactive, responsible, committed and skilled youth to make a difference and create effective positive impact at the national, regional and global levels -- as Burundi’s representative asked for more information;

Environmental Camps for Conservation Awareness -- a national organization in Nepal which implements programmes to raise the quality of life through the wise use of available local resources and the application of alternate and renewable technologies –- when Egypt’s representative asked for more financial information;

Environmental Management for Livelihood Improvement Bwaise Facility -- a Uganda-based national organization that seeks to empower communities to implement development plans and programmes that promote sustainable development –- as Egypt’s representative noted that Uganda had not acknowledged its existence;

Family Africa --  a national faith-based NGO from South Africa, involved in the betterment and education of at-risk and vulnerable groups, and in facilitating economic empowerment through microbusiness start-up grants and small-business training -- because Egypt’s representative asked about its registration documentation in countries other than South Africa;

Federacion International Fe y Alegria -- an international NGO based in the Dominican Republic, whose activities are directed at the most impoverished and excluded sectors of the population in order to empower them in their personal development and participation in society -- as Cuba’s representative requested more information on its Latin American programmes, and Egypt’s representative asked about its registration documentation and activities in Chad;

Foundation for the Development of Knowledge Suma Veritas -- a national NGO in Argentina that seeks to contribute to women’s empowerment as a way of achieving equality, development and peace –- when Dominica’s representative sought information about its finances, and Egypt’s representative asked about its governing structures and relationships with other organizations;

Fundacion UNITRAN -- a national organization in Uruguay which seeks to promote road safety education by working on educating drivers, pedestrians, and traffic authorities in Latin America and the Caribbean -- as Egypt’s representative asked how it could maintain its independence from an international company that was financing it;

Integrated Development in Focus -- a national organization in Ghana seeking to contribute to improved quality of life for women, youth and children –- after Qatar’s representative asked about its opinion regarding “harmful traditional practices” in maintaining respect for the sexual integrity of children when dealing with harmful traditional practices;

Isigodlo Trust -- South African Women in Dialogue -- a national organization aiming to promote and support a conducive environment for women's advancement, while providing an inclusive platform of dialogue for women to bridge gaps and break barriers across all social, economic, political, cultural and geographical divides -- as Egypt’s representative sought more information about its recent activities and clarification of its relationship with the African Peer Review Mechanism of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD);

Les Amis de la Terre/Togo -- a national organization seeking to contribute to human development, strengthen national capacities and develop partnerships for sustainable use of natural resources and preservation of the environment -– when Egypt’s representative requested proof of its registration in Togo;

Nagkakaisang mga Tribu ng Palawan -- a province-wide federation of indigenous peoples in Palawan, Philippines, seeking to strengthen the spirit of indigenous interdependence, brotherhood and solidarity, while securing the freedom of indigenous peoples -- as Egypt’s representative requested more information about its membership and registration;

Organisation Africaine des Experts -- an international organization based in Morocco, which seeks to promote the collective interests of its members and to improve shared skills and knowledge --  when Egypt’s representative sought more details about its aims and the field of expertise;

Project Green Nigeria -- a national organization based in Nigeria which works with rural farmers and development partners in reducing poverty in community households through sustainable agricultural development, food security, research and development, reducing farm losses and enterprise development –- after Egypt’s representative requested more information on its finances, projects and partnerships;

Redeem Africa Foundation -- a national organization in Ghana which supports education and health care in remote districts and fights for the rights of the poor and underprivileged, while also undertaking gender-sensitive initiatives that address sexual and reproductive health issue -- as Burundi’s representative asked what the term “family democracy”, used in its application, referred to;

and Third World Network-Africa -- a national organization based in Ghana, working for greater articulation of the needs and rights of marginalized people, and for fair distribution of resources and forms of ecologically sustainable development that can fulfil human needs -- because Egypt’s representative requested more information about its finances, while noting that its use of the word “gender” did not adhere to United Nations terminology, and Pakistan’s representative asked the meaning of the term “socially constructed gender”.

Answering representatives’ questions, a representative of Victorious Youths Movement, a Cameroon-based national organization focused on HIV/AIDS, said that, since accreditation was a priority, special fundraising activities had been carried out to finance his trip to New York for the meeting.  Although the NGO’s budget was just $8,000, the fundraising had been done in conjunction with patrons.  Its activities were funded through the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat).  The group had a medical adviser on HIV/AIDS and it had taken part in several conferences and seminars.

As representatives requested written responses to questions, the Committee postponed further consideration of the NGO’s application.

A representative of Cause Première –- a Senegal-based international organization working in the areas of health, elimination of female poverty and education, while supporting women victims of armed conflict -- also answered representatives’ questions, saying the group had launched a well-publicized project against tuberculosis in Senegal.  It also worked with partners to counter that disease in francophone African countries.  Contributions were made by regular and honorary members.  The organization had assisted some groups in Guinea, particularly some involved in protecting that country’s beaches, management and administration.  The group was not involved in the pro-independence activities of Senegal’s Casamance region, but wished to help women victims of that conflict.  One programme in the pipeline was “Smile Girls”, geared towards girl victims of sexual abuse and rape during conflicts in West Africa.

As representatives requested written responses, the Committee postponed further consideration of the group’s application.

The Committee also postponed consideration of an application by the Australian Lesbian Medical Association, even though no questions were raised.

A representative of the Buddhist Tzu Chi Foundation -- an international organization based in the United States which provides relief assistance in cases of calamities and disasters -- assured China’s representative that it would correct all instances where it had not used the recognized United Nations name for Taiwan and that in the future it would comply with United Nations terminology.  He said the group was a volunteer organization that had been doing charitable work all over the world.  In answering to India’s representative, he said the NGO had no activities in that country as no natural disasters had taken place there.

In other business, the Committee elected, by acclamation, Alya Al-Thani ( Qatar) as a Vice-Chair.  Elections for the remaining Vice-Chairs and the Rapporteur were postponed until a later date.  The Committee also adopted its agenda (document E/C.2/2010/1) and provisional schedule of work.

The Committee will meet again tomorrow, 26 January, to continue consideration of new applications.

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