The Economic and Social Council adopted three decisions related to the Committee on Non-Governmental Organizations and postponed a decision today, stemming from COVID-19 pandemic-related changes to its working methods, on whether to reopen its 2020 session to reconsider the draft ministerial declaration of its high-level political forum on sustainable development, held in July.
Marissa Edwards (Guyana), speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, requested the postponement to allow further consultations on the draft decision “Reconsideration of the draft ministerial declaration of the high-level segment of the 2020 session of the Economic and Social Council and the high-level political forum on sustainable development, convened under the auspices of the Council” (document E/2021/L.8/Rev.1).
The high-level political forum, which meets every year, is the core United Nations platform for follow-up and review of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its 17 goals, which the General Assembly adopted in 2015 at the start of its seventieth session.
But, like other United Nations organs, the work of the Council and its subsidiary bodies has been severely disrupted since mid-March by the global COVID‑19 pandemic — with the 2020 high-level political forum held from 7 to 16 July, and a follow-up ministerial meeting from 14 to 16 July, taking place in a virtual format.
The 54-member Council convened the first plenary meeting of its 2021 session on 14 September, but it failed at that time to agree on the draft ministerial declaration. (See Press Release ECOSOC/7026.)
Stressing the need to reopen the 2020 session, Guyana’s representative said that on the eve of the Decade of Action to deliver on the Sustainable Development Goals, the Council must take collective action to step up the pace of implementation of the 2030 Agenda. That is even more critical in light of the multidimensional challenges brought on by the pandemic. While the Group of 77 prefers that the ministerial declaration be adopted by consensus, it was requesting the postponement of a decision on “L.8/Rev.1” to allow for more consultations with the Council President and other delegations, she said.
Ulrich Georg Nicklas (Germany), speaking on behalf of the European Union, said the bloc supported the draft ministerial declaration when it was under silence procedure, but when silence was broken, there was clearly no longer an opportunity to revisit the text. Emphasizing that the Council is now in its 2021 session, he said that retroactive divisions would run counter to the modalities established by the General Assembly for the high-level political forum. With the onset of the holiday period and given the implications for the United Nations budget, he said the Council should focus on making the 2021 high-level political forum a success.
Munir Akram (Pakistan), Council President, acknowledging Germany’s formal request for an opinion from the Office of Legal Affairs on procedural and legal questions arising from the situation, said he “has no stakes in this game” and called the issue a ghost of the past. From the start, he said, his aim was to find a solution that circumvents the problems that were created in July and he was reticent to air the issue in a public way. Faced with a draft decision put forward by the Group of 77, he felt obliged to bring it to the Council for consideration. Going forward, Council members must find a solution that is not divisive and fulfils the positions and concerns of all, he said, adding that there are delegations well-placed to be honest brokers in negotiations.
In other business, the Council, acting without a vote and on the recommendation of the Committee on Non-Governmental Organizations, adopted the following three draft decisions: “Suspension of the consultative status of non-governmental organizations with outstanding quadrennial reports, pursuant to Council resolution 2008/4” (document E/2021/CRP.2); “Reinstatement of the consultative status of non-governmental organizations that submitted outstanding quadrennial reports, pursuant to Council resolution 2008/4” (document E/2021/CRP.3); and “Withdrawal of the consultative status of non-governmental organizations, pursuant to Council resolution 2008/4” (document E/2021/CRP.4).
Through those texts, the Council respectively suspended the consultative status of 187 non-governmental organizations, reinstated the status of 56 others and immediately withdrew consultative status from 147 groups.
Also speaking today were representatives of Canada (also on behalf of Australia and New Zealand), United States, Russian Federation, Japan, Ukraine, Mexico and the Republic of Korea.