Opening its regular session for 2020, the Committee on Non-Governmental Organizations today recommended 66 entities for special consultative status with the United Nations Economic and Social Council and deferred action on the status of 34 others.
The 19-member Committee vets applications submitted by non-governmental organizations (NGOs), recommending general, special or roster status on the basis of such criteria as the applicant’s mandate, governance and financial regime. Organizations enjoying general and special status can attend Council meetings and issue statements, while those with general status can also speak during meetings and propose agenda items. Those with roster status can only attend meetings.
At the meeting’s outset, the Committee adopted its agenda (document E/C.2/2020/1) and programme of work. It re-elected Mohamed Awadalla Sallam Adam (Sudan), on behalf of the Group of African States, as Chair, and elected Mine Ozgul Bilman (Turkey), on behalf of the Group of Western European and Other States, as Vice-Chair and Rapporteur.
Mr. Sallam, in opening remarks, said a sharp increase in the number of NGOs from around the world applying for consultative status reflects their strong interest in contributing to the work of the United Nations and to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. In 2020, the Committee has an unprecedented number of applications and reports before it, he added, including 360 new applications for consultative status from 81 countries. That brings the total number of applications under consideration to 637, including deferred requests for reclassification and merger. The number of deferred applications is higher in 2020 because the Committee was unable to complete the second review of new applications at its last session. The Committee also has before it 616 new quadrennial reports, 75 reports deferred from previous sessions, one new request for reclassification and several requests for change of name, he said.
Marion Barthelemy, Director, Office for Intergovernmental Support and Coordination for Sustainable Development, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, said that as the international community engages in a decade of renewed efforts to implement the 2030 Agenda and achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, the role of civil society as a partner of the United Nations has never been more important. By 1 June 2019, the Office had received 860 new applications for consultative status, an absolute record number, representing a four-fold increase compared to 2010. The high number of deferred applications, meanwhile, calls into question the Committee’s capacity to review its programme of work in full. “Given current trends, with prospects for more than 300 new applications at each session and a similar number of deferred applications, the Committee cannot hide from a revision of its current practice”, she said. While the NGO Branch has made every effort to cope with the increased workload, it must be ensured an appropriate level of resources to sustain its high level of performance, she said, stressing the need for Member States to provide financial support for a new integrated information and communications technology-based system to replace the three platforms currently being used by the Branch.
The Committee on Non-Governmental Organizations will meet again at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, 21 January, to continue its session, which runs from 20 to 29 January and 7 February.
The representative of Mexico, speaking on behalf of a cross-regional group of Committee on Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) members, said the international community must create an enabling environment for civil society both within countries and in the United Nations system. “Civil society plays an important role in bringing new perspectives to [United Nations] discourse”, he said, stressing that such groups remain vital to hold Governments accountable to their international commitments. Welcoming the fact that the number of NGOs applying for consultative status continues to increase each year, he also noted the need to address certain aspects of the Committee’s work to render it more effective and efficient. In that regard, he spotlighted unnecessary accreditation delays that hinder the work of some organizations. “Members of the Committee should not use the review process as a method to stymie the participation of civil society organizations that express views with which a Government disagrees”, he said.
The representative of the United States said her delegation has serious concerns with any Committee member that insists that NGOs use so-called correct United Nations terminology as a condition for receiving consultative status. NGOs should be free to refer to “Taiwan” or to special administrative or autonomous regions such as “Hong Kong”, “Macau” and “Tibet”. Insisting on the use of alternative terminology would have the effect of censoring NGOs and stifling civil society voices at the United Nations. Citing the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Committee’s mandate as set out in Economic and Social Council resolution 1996/31 and an opinion from the Office of Legal Affairs, she said NGOs can use any terminology they choose without their commitment to the Charter of the United Nations being impugned.
The representative of Turkey said that, with their expertise and on-the-ground experience, NGOs have the ability to understand and convey the needs and concerns of the people. Expressing full support for the establishment of consultative relations between the Economic and Social Council and NGO groups, she said the surging number of applications for consultative status nevertheless impacts the Committee’s workload. In that vein, she underlined the need for members to keep in mind their duty to be diligent in evaluating applications in accordance with Economic and Social Council resolution 1996/31 and commended steps taken towards enhanced transparency and efficiency.
The representative of the European Union said NGOs speak truth to power and often give voice to those most excluded. It is therefore disappointing that groups from the global South continue to be underrepresented compared to their Northern counterparts, he said, voicing concern that the current accreditation process lacks transparency, objectivity and efficiency. Spotlighting instances of repetitive questioning and unjustified delays that disproportionately affect groups that work on such issues as human rights, he said such organizations often face what often amounts to “de facto rejections”. Allegations against NGO groups should be supported by evidence and shared with them in sufficient time as to allow a reasonable chance to respond. In that regard, he called upon all members not to hijack the Committee for national or politicized objectives and to guarantee an enabling environment for NGOs domestically.
The representative of the United Kingdom, associating herself with the European Union, underscored her country’s commitment to championing the work of civil society globally, including at the United Nations. “Sadly, we don’t always give civil society the platform they deserve”, she said, adding that the Committee’s role is to facilitate access to the Organization by civil society, not to impede it with bureaucracy. She added that it was a shame that the Committee held no consultations with civil society in 2019, as it did in 2018. Hopefully, those consultations will be reinstated this year.
The representative of China, pointing to article 2 of resolution 1996/31, said any application for consultative status should abide, first of all, by the purposes and principles of the Charter, including the national sovereignty and territorial integrity of Member States. In China’s view, using correct terminology is a basic criterion for applying for NGO status, he said, adding that such organizations should not put forward applications merely on the basis of their own charters or articles of association. Using correct terminology has nothing to do with freedom of speech, he said, adding that China does not agree at all with a certain member’s “jungle-law philosophy”.
The representative of India, speaking on the Committee’s methods of work, welcomed its decision to include additional screening questions on connections that applicants might have with entities on the Security Council’s sanctions lists. She noted two instances in which applications referred by the Committee to the Economic and Social Council were reversed due to links to terrorism.
Special Consultative Status
The Committee recommended that the Economic and Social Council grant special consultative status to the following 64 organizations:
A 11 - Initiative for Economic and Social Rights (Serbia);
AID Foundation (Bangladesh);
Aalem for Orphan and Vulnerable Children, Inc. (Liberia);
Action Lab for Development (Cameroon);
Action for Pune Development (India);
Aden Center to raise awareness of the risk of drugs (Yemen);
African Radio Drama Association (ARDA) (Nigeria);
African Youth Employment Initiatives (AYEI) (Ghana);
Africommunity Technology Development Centre, Abia State (Nigeria);
Afrique Esperance (Benin);
Agence Internationale Pour Les Formations Et Le Developpement (Togo);
Agir Contre les Maladies Non Transmissibles au Niger (ACMNT-NIGER) (Niger);
All India Senior Citizen's Confederation (AISCCON) (India);
Angel Support Foundation (Nigeria);
Apostle Padi Ologo Traditional Birth Centre (Ghana);
Asian Venture Philanthropy Network Limited (Singapore);
Asociación Forjando Futuro para Todos (Colombia);
Association APEDDUB (Tunisia);
Association Aicha pour le Développement de Proximité et Environnement (Morocco);
Association Avocats Sans Frontière Humanitaires du Cameroun (Cameroon);
Association Féminine la Lumière (Togo);
Association de Developpement Agricole, Educatif et Sanitaire de Manono (Democratic Republic of the Congo);
Association des Femmes du Secteur des Industries Extractives du Niger (AFSIEN) (Niger);
Association d’Études et de Recherches pour le Développement (Morocco);
Association of Community Social Volunteers International, Lagos (Nigeria);
Association-Santé-Education-Démocratie (ASED) (Niger);
Bridgers Association (Cameroon);
CLEEN Foundation (Nigeria);
CTECO – KIZOTA (United Republic of Tanzania);
Cameroon Development and Education Foundation (CADEF) (Cameroon);
Cameroon Gender and Environment Watch (Cameroon);
Campaign for Human Rights and Social Transformation Nepal;
Caribbean Natural Resources Institute (Trinidad and Tobago);
Catholic Youth Network for Environmental Sustainability in Africa (Kenya);
Center for Integrated Rural and Child Development (Ghana);
Centre de Recherche et d'Ingénierie Sociales du Togo (Togo);
Chaplain Ambassadors Peace Mission (Nigeria);
Charity Society for Supporting Patients Suffering from Cancer (Iran);
China Foundation for Human Rights Development (China);
Chunhui Children's Foundation (China);
Club Ohada Thies (Senegal);
Corporacion Kimirina (Ecuador);
Cœur d'Afrique - Fondation Roger MILLA (Cameroon);
Defensores do Planeta (Brazil);
Edunet Foundation (India);
Elizabeth Foundation (Nigeria);
Entraide Et Action Sans Frontiere (Togo);
Environmental Compliance Institute (Kenya);
Ethel Amawhe Charity Foundation (Nigeria);
Ethio-Africa Diaspora Union Millennium Council Limited (Jamaica);
Fundación Charles Darwin para las Islas Galápagos (Ecuador);
Fundación de Música y Artes NAIOT (Colombia);
Gerakan Nasional Anti Narkotika (Indonesia);
Geriatic Care and Vulnerable Support Initiative (Nigeria);
Global Appreciation and Skills Training Network (Ghana);
Global Women for Quality and Sustainable Development Initiative (Nigeria);
Govardhan Ecovillage Trust (India);
Green Crescent Health Development Initiative (Nigeria);
Green Crescent Indonesia Foundation;
Grikob Foundation Ghana;
Her Choices Trust (India); and
His Marvellous Grace Support Foundation (Nigeria).
The Committee postponed consideration of the following 35 organizations:
Action contre les Violations des Droits des Personnes Vulnerables (Democratic Republic of the Congo) — as the representative of Cuba asked what percentage of its budget is earmarked for its awareness-raising projects on sexual violence and tribal hate speech;
Adivasi Yuva Seva Sangh (India) — as the representative of India requested details about its research activities;
African Projects for Peace and Love Initiatives Inc. (Nigeria) — as the representative of Nigeria asked that it explain a discrepancy between its name as it appears on the application and on its certificate of incorporation;
Anciens Esclaves Nouveaux Citoyens (Mauritania) — as the representative of Burundi requested to know how its leadership was appointed or elected;
Arab Organization for Arabization and Communication (Morocco) — as the representative of Libya requested details in English about the nature of the activities it has undertaken since its creation;
Asociacion Conciencia - Asociacion Civil (Argentina) — as the representative of Cuba requested more details about its decision-making process and clarification of the number of members on its directive commission;
Association for Community Awareness (Ascoa) (Cameroon) — as the representative of India asked if a project it undertook in 2014 with Mission Bhartiyam is continuing and whether it is carrying out other projects with that same organization;
Association culturelle pour le développement social (ACDS) (Chad) — as the representative of Nicaragua asked what its planned projects would be;
Association for Dalit Women Advancement of Nepal — as the representative of India, noting that it gets almost all its funds through grants from other NGOs, requested details about the sources of grants it has received in the past two years, as well as details about the projects undertaken with those grants;
Associação Nacional de Juristas Evangélicos (ANAJURE) (Brazil) — as the representative of China, noting that the organization has three individual members from Jordan, Portugal and the United States, asked whether it has activities in those three countries and, if so, could it provide details about such activities undertaken in 2019;
Baghbaan (Pakistan) — as the representative of India requested to know why its total expenditures exceeded its income by $179,000;
Banjara Seva Samithi (India) — as the representative of Pakistan requested details about the objectives, funding and outcomes of the Children Movement for Climate Justice project;
Beijing People’s Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries (China) — as the representative of the United States requested a list of the more than 220 organizations in more than 70 countries with which it says it has relationships, as well as a description of those relationships;
Caritas India — as the representative of India requested details about its activities in the area of peacebuilding and as the representative of China requested that it use the proper terminology for Taiwan on its website.
Center for Health and Development (CHD) (India) — as the representative of Pakistan requested details about the financing of its projects.
Centre Mauritanien des Droits de l'Homme (Mauritania) — as the representative of Burundi requested an explanation of how it intends to close the gap between its revenues and expenditures;
Centre for Environmental Justice (Guarantee) Limited (Sri Lanka) — as the representative of Burundi requested details about the relationship it has with international organizations referred to in its application;
Centro de Apoio aos Direitos Humanos "Valdício Barbosa dos Santos" (Brazil) — as the representative of Cuba requested more information about the way it funds its projects.
Ciudadano Inteligente (Chile) — as the representative of Cuba requested more information on its work in the Caribbean, including the countries in which it works and any partnerships that it might have;
Comité de lutte et d'orientation sur les conséquences du divorce (Mauritania) — as the representative of Burundi requested that it explain how it can achieve its aims when it appears to have no financing for its projects;
Confederation of NGOs of Rural India — as representative of India requested details about the activities it undertakes on its “journeys to spread the message of development” and how such journeys contribute to its objectives;
Cosmos Ndukwe Foundation (Nigeria) — as the representative of the United States requested more information about its “empowerment events”, including their scope, funding and outcomes;
Denis Miki Foundation (Cameroon) — as the representative of Burundi requested to know the international organizations that account for 74 per cent of its financing;
Dialogue and Development Forum (Yemen) — as the representative of Libya requested that it explain its significant financial deficit;
Dr. B R Ambedkar Sports Foundation (India) — as the representative of Pakistan requested more details about its advocacy projects that target social evils such as dowry, girl child killings, rape, discrimination and other immoral acts;
Dr. Kalam Smriti International (India) — as the representative of Pakistan requested a list of all the international conferences it has conducted on the topic of rural innovation;
Empowering Humanity (India) — as the representative of Pakistan, noting that it is running a deficit, requested details about the funding of its “smart classes for kids”.
Envision Global Care Foundation (Nigeria) — as the representative of the United States asked whether its IMPACT-H Improving Access to Health project in 2019 was successfully carried out and whether it achieved the outcomes expected;
Excel Multi-Purpose Co-operative Society Limited, Warri (Nigeria) — as the representative of Nigeria requested that it provide evidence of incorporation with the appropriate national entity;
Feekr Organization for Dialogue and Human Rights Defense (Yemen) — as the representative of China, noting that the entity describes itself as an international organization yet lists projects inclusively in Yemen, asked whether it has ever carried out projects outside Yemen and, if so, could it provide details;
Fields of Green for All NPC (South Africa) — as the representative of the Russian Federation requested clarification of any differences between its donors and members;
Fourth Wave Foundation (India) — as the representative of Nicaragua asked for details about its work with parents and the community and evidence of the results of such work;
Generations for Peace (Jordan) — as the representative of India asked if it has ever conducted any programmes in India or plans to do so. The representative of Nigeria requested that it explain its financial deficit and details of its projects in different countries. The representative of Libya requested information about its projects in North Africa, including his country. The representative of Pakistan requested details about its projects in his country and also asked that the NGO use United Nations-recognized maps on its website;
Green Voice International (India) — as the representative of Pakistan, noting that it describes itself as an international organization, asked that it provide details of projects it has undertaken outside the country of its registration; and
Hazrat-e Fatemeh Zahra Charity Institute (Iran) — as the representative of Bahrain asked that it provide more details regarding its projects, including their outcomes.
During a question-and-answer session in the afternoon, NGO representatives faced questions from Committee members.
A representative of the Escuela del Estudio de la Intuición Enseñanza de Valores, Asociación Civil Sin Fines De Lucro (Argentina) said that since its inception in 1990, her organization has — through its own unique methods — taught more than 13,000 to develop their intuition and become aware of the consequences of their conduct. Everyone has intuition lying dormant within them, but they ignore it, believing that teaching can only be done with a blackboard and chalk. Through the teaching of intuition, negative consequences such as climate change and hunger can be avoided, she said.
The representative of Cuba asked whether the organization has been able to measure the results of its work and to explain the four values it describes in its application. He also requested to know more about its funding.
The representative of Nigeria said that as a student of philosophy, he is impressed by the organization’s pedagogy. It is quite enlightening and refreshing to listen to such a new perspective, he said.
She replied that anyone can learn intuition whether they are literate or not. Her organization teaches the idea that people must be in touch with their instincts, which in turn leads to nobility. If you think well, you act well, she said. Regarding funding, she said moral goods cannot be exchanged for other things, and so there is no need for a budget.
The representative of Cuba said he was satisfied with the answers and wished the organization every success.
The Committee then decided to recommend the organization’s application.
A representative of Banjara Seva Samithi (India), whose application had been deferred by the Committee earlier in the day, provided an overview of its work, including its Children Movement for Climate Justice project, saying it is active in 49 villages and funded by children who typically contribute 20 rupees. The project is not connected with any other climate change movement.
The Committee then decided to recommend the organization’s application.