2 February 2011

Committee on Non-Governmental Organizations Recommends Special Consultative Status for Eight Civil Society Groups, Postpones Consideration of 19 Applications

2 February 2011
Economic and Social Council
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Committee on NGOs

5th & 6th Meetings (AM & PM)

Committee on Non-Governmental Organizations Recommends Special Consultative Status

for Eight Civil Society Groups, Postpones Consideration of 19 Applications


Members also Recommend Reclassification of Four Groups

The Committee on Non-Governmental Organizations today recommended eight organizations for special consultative status with the Economic and Social Council and postponed consideration of 19 applications.

In other action, the Committee recommended that one non-governmental organization be reclassified as having special consultative status and that three organizations be reclassified as having general consultative status.  It postponed consideration of five requests for reclassification pending receipt of answers to questions posed.

The 19-member Committee recommends to the Council general, special or roster status, in accordance with such criteria as the civil society applicant’s mandate, governance and financial regime.  Organizations enjoying general and special status can attend the Council’s meetings and circulate statements, while those with general status can, in addition, address meetings and propose agenda items.  Roster-status non-governmental organizations (NGOs) can only attend meetings.

The Committee today recommended special consultative status for:

CLIPSAS - Centre de Liaison et d'Information des Puissances Maçonniques Signataires de l'Appel de Strasbourg, an international organization based in France which wants to connect national Masonic associations that had signed the Masonic signatories to the Strasbourg Appeal;

Drammeh Institute, Inc, an international NGO based in the United States which wants to preserve the documentary heritage of the black experience through the moving image (i.e. film and video), to encourage accurate representation in media and challenge misleading notions about African descendant populations;

Fundación Ecología y Desarrollo, an international organization headquartered in Spain which aims to develop, manage and promote sustainable development projects and corporate social responsibility in Spain and Latin America;

Grand Triangle, Inc., an international organization based in the United States which aims to achieve universal fraternity and development by promoting peace, cooperation and justice;

International Samaritan, a United States-based international organization which serves to alleviate poverty in garbage-dump communities worldwide, and eradicate ignorance by providing United States citizens the opportunity to participate in service trips that bring social services to these communities;

Minhaj-ul-Quran International, a United Kingdom-based international organization working to promote peace, tolerance, interfaith harmony and education, tackle extremism and terrorism, engage with young Muslims for religious moderation, promote women’s rights, development and empowerment, and provide social welfare and promotion of human rights;

Turkish Philanthropy Funds, a United States-based international organization which helps donors realize their philanthropic goals to meet community needs in the United States and in Turkey;

World Federation for the Treatment of Opioid Dependence, an organization based in the United States which promotes the development of medication-assisted treatment services for opioid addiction, founded on the principles of evidence-based treatment practices and effective clinical services;

Pending receipt of answers to delegates’ questions, the Committee postponed consideration of the applications of the following non-governmental organizations:

Center for Global Nonkilling — an international organization with headquarters in the United States which wants to promote change towards the measurable goal of a killing-free world — as Burundi’s delegate asked about it’s affiliations, Cuba’s delegate queried membership and finances, and China’s speaker wanted information about projects in the Republic of Korea and Thailand, and how they were funded.

Centre for International Sustainable Development Law — an international organization based in Canada with the mission to promote sustainable societies and the protection of ecosystems by advancing the understanding, development and implementation of international sustainable development law — because Burundi’s delegate asked for information about Government funding.

Ecumenical Federation of Constantinopolitans — an international organization with headquarters in Greece working towards the strengthening of relations, exchange of ideas and solidarity between all world Greek Constantinopolitans and particularly the Greek Constantinopolitans of the diaspora with their fellow countrymen currently living in Istanbul — when Turkey’s delegate asked about the group’s membership and affiliations, as well as about its Government funding and philanthropic donations.  Bulgaria’s delegate, seconded by Belgium’s delegate, expressed support for consultative status, as the organization was widely and internationally recognized.

First Nations Summit — a national organization in Canada which represents 51 First Nations governmental or political bodies throughout the province of British Columbia — because Pakistan’s delegate asked whether the organization was a national or regional group, and requested information about its organizational structure.

Global Life Focus Network — a national organization in Canada, with the mission to help children from around the world grow in a healthy environment by restoring the family spiritually, physically, economically and socially — as Venezuela’s delegate asked for more time to consider the application and answers provided.

Homosexuelle Initiative Wien — a national organization in Austria which fights for the human rights of gays and lesbians, combats all forms of discrimination based on sexual orientation, works for equality and equal rights of gay men and lesbian women in all areas, and strengthens the self-esteem of gays and lesbians, among other activities.

The representatives of Senegal and Morocco raised the question of the date of the certificate of registration, saying the English translation of the certificate mentioned 2010.  Queried by Belgium’s representative, the Secretariat said it had checked with the Member State regarding the authenticity of the certificate.  Peru’s delegate noted the English translation gave 1980 as the date of foundation, thus, he would have no problem accepting that accreditation.

Burundi’s delegate asked for the organization’s definition of sexual orientation and what age group was the focus of its educational opportunities.  She also asked for clarification of the title and function of one of its officers.  Morocco’s delegate wondered whether membership was limited only to gays and lesbians.

Pakistan’s delegate asked how the organization viewed the human rights of its members.  Were the rights of lesbians and gays different from those of “normal” men and women; if so, how?  Also, the organization stated it sought the rehabilitation of gay and lesbian victims of State suppression, and he requested details about the nature of such State suppression, and about what efforts had been made to recover the rights of the victims.

The representative of Belgium asked Pakistan’s delegate to reformulate the question as there was no difference in application of human rights to lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgender (LGBT) persons or heterosexuals.  He simply wished to see the question “be proper” vis-à-vis reference to LGBT people.  Bulgaria’s delegate asked that the question from Pakistan be reformulated in a more respectful way.

In response, Pakistan’s delegate said he had never said gays and lesbians were not normal human beings.  He believed they were normal human beings.  That was precisely why the human rights of normal men and women were the same as those with another orientation.  He wondered what “extra” human rights they enjoyed.

The representative of Austria, observer to the Committee, confirmed the organization was well known, active since 1979 and was in excellent standing.  The certificate of registration was correct.  The organization worked in the area of discrimination and had done most valuable work on rehabilitation of homosexual Nazi victims.  The organization would provide invaluable input on the Council’s work.  It fulfilled the criteria of resolution 1996/31 and should be granted consultative status.  Regarding the question if human rights of LGBT people were different, she said that issue had not been mentioned in the application.  The organization worked to end discrimination and ensure the universality of human rights for all people.  She asked how the question might be worded and transmitted to the organization.

In the ensuing debate, Bulgaria’s delegate, seconded by the representatives of the United States and Israel, asked how exactly Pakistan’s question — to be sent to the organization by the Secretariat — would be formulated.  When Pakistan’s delegate answered that he would provide a written question in due course, the representative of the United States objected, saying that questions should be raised in open session.

In response, Pakistan’s delegate said the problem appeared to be “somewhere else” and “most of us know where”, but that he would provide the written question to the Committee, stipulating that while Committee members had the right to know what was being asked, they did not have the right to judge or change questions asked by one delegation.  He was supported in that regard by the representatives of Senegal and Burundi.

India’s delegate felt that the representative of Pakistan should be given time to formulate a question in a manner to be conveyed to the organization, a point of view which was supported by the representatives of Israel, the Russian Federation and Morocco.  Agreeing, the United States delegate appreciated the way forward proposed by India.  As questions should be delivered in a transparent process, she agreed that more time be given to formulate the question before it was read out in open session.

Later, the representative of Pakistan read out the following formulation of the question:  Could Homosexuelle Initiative Wien explain what are the particular human rights of homosexuals which are different from those of heterosexuals?

Returning to the list of applications, the Committee postponed consideration of the following:

Human Rights League of the Horn of Africa — an international NGO based in Canada working to raise awareness of human rights among citizens in that region, detect, monitor, investigate, verify and report on human rights violations, and conduct research on human rights issues with a view to disseminating their findings and/or conclusions, among other things — when Burundi’s delegate asked if the organization had offices in the Horn of Africa and how it worked with Governments in that region.

Human Rights Now – a Japan-based international organization which takes action for the promotion and protection of human rights worldwide, through research, advocacy and education; contributes to the development of international human rights standards and norms through the United Nations human rights bodies; and promotes the incorporation of such  standards within the domestic framework in Japan — as China’s representative wanted more information on fact-finding missions and asked about partnerships with other organizations or local governments in Asia, while Venezuela’s delegate asked what actions the organization had carried out to contribute to the development of international human rights standards.  She also asked for clarity regarding donations by Japan.

International Center for Alcohol Policies — an international organization based in the United States which promotes understanding of the role of alcohol in society and help reduce the abuse of alcohol worldwide — as Cuba’s delegate asked which low- and middle-income countries it worked in and why only in certain countries.  China’s delegate wanted to know whether the organization was indeed registered as a non-profit organization.

Iran Human Rights Documentation Center — a United States-based international organization, which establishes a comprehensive and objective historical record of the human rights situation in Iran since the 1979 revolution, and on the basis of that record, establish responsibility for patterns of human rights abuses — after several delegates, including from Cuba, Venezuela, Russian Federation and Nicaragua, questioned the organization’s independence given its 85 per cent Government funding.

Venezuela’s delegate asked for more information on the report on human rights violations in Iran since the 2009 presidential elections and for the motivations behind such an investigation, while the representatives of China, Pakistan and Russian Federation asked how the organization would contribute to the work of the Council if it only focused on the human rights situation in one country.

The representative of Iran, observer to the Committee, said his country was the “exclusive target of a North-based NGO”, and expressed surprise that the Centre had applied for consultative status as a non-governmental organization.  The organization defined itself as an autonomous civil society initiative.  However, its genesis and financial resources, its stances, plus the background of its founders caused serious doubt about its nature, making it hard to believe it was an independent NGO.  Some 85 per cent of its budget was granted by the host State, inconsistent of paragraph 13 of resolution 1996/31, which posed serious questions about the independence of the entity.  The Government financing the organization had a clear record of hostile policies against Iran.  He asked: How could such a centre with a “special attitude” manage to act free from political biases?

Lawyers for Lawyers — a Netherlands-based international organization which actively supports lawyers who are hindered or threatened in practicing law — as Venezuela’s delegate asked why the organization was interested in setting up a more institutionalized monitoring mechanism for Latin America, and Cuba’s delegate asked how the organization could finance individuals in certain countries;

OceanCare — a national organization in Switzerland working to achieve the sustainable protection of the marine environment and its cohabitants, i.e. of threatened marine mammals and their cohabitants, as well as the flora and fauna in the oceans and coastal regions — because China’s delegate requested that the correct terminology regarding “Taiwan Province of China” be used on the organization’s website.  Switzerland’s delegate, observer to the Committee, expressed support for consultative status as the NGO was a politically and financially independent non-profit organization.

Overseas Development Institute — a United Kingdom-based international NGO informing policy and practice which lead to the reduction of poverty, the alleviation of suffering and the achievement of sustainable livelihoods in developing countries — as Kyrgyzstan’s delegate asked how the group operated without having an individual member, and Venezuela’s delegate asked in which countries the organization worked and requested information about a workshop held in Latin America.  India’s delegate asked for information on planned activities, the independence of its decision-making and on contracts for payment.  The representative of Morocco asked whether the NGO had worked with United Nations specialized agencies.

Real Medicine Foundation — a United States-based international organization which provides humanitarian support to people living in disaster, post-war and poverty-stricken areas, continuing to help communities long after the world's spotlight has faded — when China’s delegate requested that the NGO use the proper United Nations terminology of “Taiwan Province of China” on its website.  Peru’s delegate testified to the important work of the NGO and supported consultative status.

Second Amendment Foundation — a national organization in the United States which defends the right to keep and bear arms, through its publications, public education programmes and legal action projects — because Cuba’s delegate said the agenda the organization promoted was controversial.  It was difficult to see it in the context of the work of the United Nations.  He asked whether the organization promoted firearm use in schools and how it could contribute to the Economic and Social Council’s agenda.  Supporting Cuba, Peru’s delegate said the topic had no place in the Council or its subsidiary bodies.  Venezuela’s delegate said the NGO did not conform at all with the Council’s work and there was no reason to give it status. T he delegate of the Russian Federation added that the group’s position was contrary to international efforts to strengthen control on arms trade and wondered whether its application should be considered at all.

Training for Women Network — a national organization in the United Kingdom aiming to advance, promote, develop and coordinate the provision of accessible, high-quality vocational and prevocational education and training for women in Northern Ireland leading to sustainable employment — because Venezuela’s delegate, unsatisfied with answers provided, requested more information.

United Help for International Children — international organization in the Republic of Korea created by youth to show compassion for children in developing countries by improving living conditions and educational progress — as India’s delegate asked how the NGO intended to find more funding.

Fundación Argentina a las Naciones Camino a la Verdad — a national organization in Argentina which defends and diffuses the principles, purposes and warranties known at date, by the Charter of the United Nations as to reaffirming fundamental rights of humankind, their dignity and the value of the human person and of every living being.

While the representative of the Russian Federation was satisfied with answers received, Peru’s delegate said the organization’s objective was, despite lengthy answers, still vague and broad as it talked about environment and even philosophical concepts.  He did not see how a group of that nature would have a clear objective.  He also asked why two people on the Executive Committee had the same name.  The answer provided was that it was a permanent executive body and was not going to be changed.  He saw no elements that could contribute to the Economic and Social Council’s work.  Belgium’s delegate agreed and asked for clarification to the answers provided.

Human Rights Association for Community Development in Assiut — a national organization in Egypt working to enhance and protect human rights; enable people’s leadership potential, address human rights violations and present any such cases in Assuit Governorate to the Government, along with suggestions to prevent them — as China’s representative requested that the organization provide more information regarding the monitoring of elections.

The Committee also considered newapplications for reclassification:

It decided to recommend that Economic and Social Council reclassify the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award International Foundation — an international non-governmental organization in the United Kingdom with roster status asking for special consultative status as its reach had expanded considerably and it had entered into many more partnerships — from roster to special consultative status.

It recommended reclassification from special to general consultative status for the following organizations:

International Federation for Family Development, an international organization based in Spain which currently has special consultative status and requested general consultative status because it had grown professionally, geographically and covered most ranges of Economic and Social Council activities and the Millennium Development Goals;

International Indian Treaty Council, an international organization with headquarters in the United States, which currently has special consultative status.  As it now covered most of the aspects the Economic and Social Council addressed, it had applied for general consultative status; and

Sulabh International Social Service Organisation, a national organization in India working in the area of sanitation and enjoying special consultative status and wanted general consultative status as it had grown substantially and had organized the seventh World Toilet Summit.

The Committee then postponed action on reclassifying the status of the following non-governmental organizations:

Covenant House — an international, United States-based organization with special consultative status that had requested reclassification as it had grown exponentially, currently having comprehensive crisis centres in 20 cities in five countries across two continents.  India’s delegate said that if general status was granted, how would that impact the organization’s future plans?  Also, 80 per cent of its income came from philanthropic sources and he wondered who the main donors were and how the budget deficit would be bridged.

Family Health International — a national organization in the United States, requesting reclassification for general consultative status, as its programmes and research activities now included issues such as family planning, reproductive health, HIV/AIDS and other infectious diseases, TB and malaria, chronic diseases, and, most recently, broad holistic health and development activities.  Cuba’s delegate said the organization focused on one area and wondered how it intended to contribute to the Council in other areas, as they requested general consultative status.

International Federation of Consular Corps and Associations/ Fédération Internationale des Corps et Associations Consulaires— an international organization based in Belgium with roster status, requested reclassification as its regional committees had been reorganized to answer quickly and closely to the local social, health and educational needs.  India’s delegate asked how, with a limited budget, it intended to carry out its activities.  Moreover, the organization had not contributed very much to the Council since it had acquired roster status.  Peru’s delegate wondered how the NGO would contribute more to the Council.  He did not feel comfortable with granting the request.

Junior Chamber International — an international organization based in the United States, which has had special consultative status since 1954.  It wanted reclassification since it was now a large international non-governmental organization whose area of work covered most of the issues on the agenda of the Economic and Social Council and its subsidiary bodies.  Nicaragua’s delegate asked for more details on how the organization aimed to become an “early warning agent”.  Venezuela’s delegate requested more information regarding finances and wanted details about the Government’s influence.

United States Trademark Association — an international organization based in the United States with roster status.  It had applied for special consultative status as it had evolved in order to adapt to the changes in its membership and to address key emerging issues in the area of intellectual property, specifically on the protection of trademark owners’ rights.  The representative of Cuba wanted to know how they would expand their contribution to the Council.

Before the traditional question and answer session with non-governmental organization representatives could begin, Morocco’s representative reiterated his objection to the participation of the Bureau international pour le respect des droits de l’homme au Sahara Occidental, requesting a ruling on the matter of the certificate of registration, as a number of non-governmental organizations had certificates that dated from 2009 and 2010, contrary to the provisions of resolution 1996/31.  The current organization had submitted a certificate dating from 2009.  In accordance with the resolution, it must wait for two years.

Senegal’s delegate said that question had been raised repeatedly and due attention had not been paid to it.  It was a procedural question that posed no difficulty, as paragraph 61h of resolution 1996/31 said that an organization requesting consultative status must prove it had existed for at least two years.  The justifying documents of certain non-governmental organizations were not available.  One of them was listed with the organizations seeking to participate in the question and answer session.  Either the Committee was going to disregard the resolution — which was the foundation of the body’s work — or it was going to do what it wished.

Andrei Abramov, Chief of the Non-Governmental Organizations Branch, said the organization had provided its statute, which dated back to March 2002.  Usually, organizations based in Switzerland had no other documents justifying their existence.  In the past, the current type of document had been accepted.  Different countries had different laws for registering non-governmental organizations.  Switzerland had been helpful in sorting out the problem of organizations existing in that country.

Switzerland’s delegate, an observer to the Committee, said he was not addressing the issue of the specific organization, as it was up to the NGO to respond to the specific question.  Swiss law stipulated — in articles 60 and 61 of the Civil Code — that non-profit charity organizations existed as soon as they adopted their statute.  Registration was not mandatory but optional.  It was therefore impossible for a non-governmental organization that had not registered to send proof of registration.

The organization should be asked to send a statute with the date the statute had been adopted, he said.  Non-profit Swiss organizations did not pay corporate taxes, so they could not produce a tax status, but they could ask for a declaration of tax exemption, which was an indication that the organization existed.  It was up to the organization to produce the proof that they existed.

Peru’s delegate said the situation was complicated because the internal legislation of a Member State was being questioned.  How to reconcile the requirements of resolution 1996/31 with domestic regulations was the issue.  He had been working under the assumption that the statutes of Switzerland-based non-governmental organizations were enough, as it had been in the past.  He suggested asking for other documentation that would prove the organization existed, such as bills paid.

The delegate of Pakistan said the representative of Switzerland was best placed to guide the Committee on the issue.  However, a concern had been raised and must be addressed appropriately.  Morocco’s objection was valid.  Registration was not a requirement in Switzerland; thus, it was up to the organization to register.  If the NGO “crossed the border” and asked for accreditation with another organization, it should follow the requirements of that organization.

Morocco’s representative said there was a certificate of registration with Switzerland authorities that was dated 8 December 2009.  There were a number of Swiss non-governmental organizations with consultative status that had registered well before 2009.

Israel’s representative said paragraph 61h stated that the organization had to be “in existence”, not “in registration”.  There had to be evidence that the organization existed and the form of evidence was up to the Committee to determine.

Morocco’s delegate said that if one wanted to expand on proof of existence, a 2010 Swiss Com bill had been delivered to the Human Rights Bureau, not to the Bureau International.  He suggested the Committee base itself on the certificate provided.

Pointing a way forward, Committee Chairperson Aydan Karamanoğly (Turkey) said the solution was to ask the organization for additional documents proving its existence for more than two years.  Until such proof was provided, the organization should not be invited to the question and answer session.

Morocco’s delegate said there seemed to be two organizations, which should be clarified as well.

Opening the question and answer period, arepresentative of Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact, a national organization from Thailand, in response to a question, said that recent activities in Asia had focused on the Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD) and REDD+ programmes, in, among other countries, Indonesia and Lao People’s Democratic Republic.  The organization had also been active on the issue of women’s empowerment in the Philippines, Indonesia, Nepal and Malaysia.  It also had addressed issues of indigenous peoples in various countries.

Asked by India’s delegate what definition of indigenous peoples the organization used, he said that in the absence of an internationally accepted definition, the organization used the working definition developed by a United Nations expert, the key element of which was self-identification.  He was aware that Governments in Asia saw indigenous people as those who had been left behind when colonizers left.  The International Labour Organization (ILO) had made a clear distinction between indigenous and tribal people, and that the definition based on self-identification was still a matter of discussion in Asia.  His organization, however, used the United Nations working definition.

Answering another question, he said his organization had not earlier applied for consultative status with the Council, but had submitted — on the invitation of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) — an application for accreditation with that organization.

Next, Cuba’s delegate drew attention to an operational problem, seconded by Nicaragua’s and Peru’s delegates, about the application of Collectif des familles de disparu(e)s en Algérie, in that it had been written in French and was difficult for him to understand.  He asked the Secretariat to provide a translation of that organization’s responses in order to ask questions to the representative.

The Chairperson said he understood there might be a problem, but the working languages were English and French, and the Committee would be in a predicament if it were to ask an organization to provide responses in English.  Meanwhile, the Committee could invite the organization’s representative.

Cuba’s delegate reiterated that he had not asked that the organization send its responses in English; simply that the Secretariat prepare an informal translation of the responses.  That would be useful before starting the discussion.

Belgium’s delegate asked what the customary procedure was.  He did not wish to see one NGO dealt with differently than others.

Mr. Abramov said that past practice was that answers had been received in their original languages, either French or English, and they had never been translated.

Next, a representative of Collectif des familles de disparu(e)s en Algérie, responding to questions, said the organization was an association of families, particularly mothers, whose children had disappeared by Algerian authorities.  Her child was arrested in 1997.  She was a founding member of the group, which was involved in the protection and promotion of human rights so that the crime of disappearance was not repeated.

The families were based in France and the organization was governed by rule 1901, she said, adding that its activities were multifaceted.  It organized conferences, recently on the issue of the establishment of the truth, and had held a “week of partnership” related to the ratification of the International Convention against Forced Disappearances.  It was also active in Geneva and, further, had held conferences in Belgium.

The scope of its activity was international in nature, she explained, with work carried out to help the families of the disappeared.  It prepared files on disappeared persons, provided support — sometimes lawyers — to families, and organized training for lawyers in Algeria working with those families.  It also held training sessions on the Convention, as well as on the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

Going forward, she said her organization, with partners in Algeria, would organize a training session on economic and social rights.  It worked with civil society in Algeria, believing that if human rights were respected, families would not suffer from forced disappearances.  She hoped to raise awareness of those practices.  “No mother should experience the pain that we have experienced,” she said.  Her organization worked to ensure that the practice of forced disappearance was eliminated.

The Committee will meet again tomorrow, 3 February, at 10 a.m. to continue consideration of deferred applications.

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