NGO Committee of the UN shows its bizarre bias against (human rights) NGOs

June 1, 2016

I have written several times about the worrying trends in the ‘obscure’ “ECOSOC Committee on NGOs”  ( which is supposed to consider applications by NGOs for ECOSOC accreditation and, as such, is a key gateway for NGOs to gain access to the UN. The International Service of Human Rights (ISHR) recently came out with a statement that the “practice of the Committee is wholly unacceptable and must change” ( As if it was necessary to illustrate the bias of this UN NGO Committee against NGOs here are two recent cases decided on 26 May 2016:

  • The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) consultative status application, first made in 2012, was again deferred. The CPJ is an NGO that promotes press freedom worldwide, headquartered in New York and is made up of about 40 experts from around the world. See several older posts re the CPJ:
  • International Dalit Solidarity Network (IDSN), the coordinating body of all Dalit rights organizations across India and elsewhere in the world, did even better as its application was deferred for the 18th time since 2008 (the longest pending one of its kind). See also:

To underline how problematic and bizarre this issue is, even the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights issued on 31 May 2016 a statement expressing concern over the behaviour of this Committee, which is after all another UN body:

Rupert Colville, spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR). UN Photo
The focus of the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights OHCHR is on the CPJ case: “We believe the decision not to allow this well-established NGO to take part in UN meetings, including those of the Human Rights Council here in Geneva, is unwise, unfair and arbitrary, and flies in the face of other initiatives by UN Member States to offer better protection to journalists worldwide,” said spokesperson Rupert Colville. “While this may be in the interests of authorities wishing to crush criticism and retain power, it is clearly not in the interests of their populations. This unfortunate episode involving CPJ is emblematic of this unfortunate and very negative trend,” he added.

The spokesperson said that, as High Commissioner Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein notes in a report that has just come out and will be formally presented to the Human Rights Council on 20 June, “the deferral of a large number of NGO applications for consultative status, sometimes for years on end, and apparently for arbitrary reasons, has deprived international debate of important civil society contributions.”  Colville also noted that Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon had made an important speech on the subject yesterday lamenting that “freedom is under threat, including at the last place this should happen: at the United Nations.”


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