UN Committee on NGOs denies NGO the right to speak

February 8, 2016

In a post last year I referred already to the fears that the NGO Committee of the UN was becoming very NGO-unfriendly [ https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2015/06/07/uns-ngo-committee-seems-not-very-fond-of-ngos/]. Now the ISHR has reported on another case where this UN committee has shown its lack of fair play by refusing let a NGO apply without even wanting to hear the NGO in question. On 1 February 2016 the International Service for Human Rights informed us that the NGO Committee had voted to close the application of the Khmers Kampuchea Krom Foundation (KKF) denying the NGO the opportunity to apply for consultative status.  This came on the back of the Committee’s decision on Thursday to deny the NGO the opportunity to even speak in support of its own application. Only 3 Committee members voted against closure of the application  – Greece, Israel and the US- with Uruguay abstaining. All other Committee members voted in favour.  Vietnam – the State that has consistently objected to the application by the KKF – congratulated the Committee on its decision and its ability – as it described it – to distinguish between ‘genuine’ NGOs and others.

‘The NGO Committee is known for denying NGOs access to the UN through the practice of multiple deferrals of applications.  However, the Committee has hit a new low in denying an NGO the opportunity even to apply for access,’ said ISHR’s Eleanor Openshaw.  ‘Furthermore, it allowed accusations to be made against the NGO during its own session, without allowing the NGO to respond. The NGO Committee has allowed an NGO to be stigmatised and then silenced.  ECOSOC must reverse the decision of its Committee on this case at its next session in April.’

 

The request by Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela to close KKF’s new application was challenged by the US who called the move premature, as the NGO’s application had only been considered once by the Committee. It was agreed the NGO Committee would vote on the application on Friday morning. The members of the Committee then voted on the Chair’s proposal to allow the NGO to speak at the regular Q&A held at the end of each day the NGO Committee sits. Greece, Israel, US and Uruguay voted in favour of allowing the organisation the right to speak. Russia abstained. All other members of the Committee – Azerbaijan, Burundi, China, Cuba, Guinea, India, Iran, Mauritania, Nicaragua, Pakistan, South Africa, Sudan, Turkey, Venezuela – all voted against, except Guinea who was absent.

The US noted that it was essential that the KKF be allowed to speak as this had to date been a one-sided discussion based on Vietnam’s original protest against the NGO. The US noted that ‘a serious allegation of misconduct’ was made against the NGO and the Committee was denying the NGO a chance to respond. They characterised the vote as one between freedom of speech and silencing debate. Committee member Greece rightly noted that one thing is to object to an NGO and another is to silence them’.

Not only has the reputation of the organisation been seriously questioned, but a dangerous precedent set where an UN Committee silences an NGO seeking to engage with the UN. This is plainly incompatible with the rights to freedom of expression and association,’ Ms Openshaw said. ISHR’s view in this regard is strongly supported by the UN’s own expert on freedom of association and assembly, Maina Kiai, who in a report in 2014 said that multilateral institutions have a legal obligation to ensure that people ‘can exercise their rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association in multilateral arena’. In that same report, the Special Rapporteur was particularly critical of the conduct of States on the UN’s Committee on NGOs, resulting in the systematic exclusion of NGOs working on human rights issues. ‘States sitting on the Committee should champion the right to freedom of association and the right to freedom of peaceful assembly,’ said Mr Kiai in his report.ISHR-logo-colour-high

see also: https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2015/05/04/jean-daniel-vigny-hopes-to-improve-ngo-participation-at-the-un/

Source: UN Committee on NGOs: Don’t deny NGO the right to speak | ISHR

One Response to “UN Committee on NGOs denies NGO the right to speak”


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