Posts Tagged ‘accredited NGOs’

The saga of the “anti-NGO” committee in the UN continues

February 9, 2018

This blog has several times paid attention to the rather weird situation that the UN “NGO Committee” (at NY level) has a rather negative attitude towards the very NGOs that it is supposed to assist. See e.g.:

https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/06/01/ngo-committee-of-the-un-shows-its-bizarre-bias-against-human-rights-ngos/

https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/05/04/ishr-starts-campaign-to-monitor-committee-that-throttles-ngo-access-to-the-un/

https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/02/08/un-committee-on-ngos-denies-ngo-the-right-to-speak/

https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2015/06/07/uns-ngo-committee-seems-not-very-fond-of-ngos/

https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2015/05/04/jean-daniel-vigny-hopes-to-improve-ngo-participation-at-the-un/

Now, on 29 January 2018, the International Service for Human Rights (ISHR) came out with the video above as well as the following statement:

A group of regional and international human rights NGOs was blocked from making a statement at the UN NGO Committee session today.  Despite a precedent set two years ago for the delivery of a general statement, all requests since have been refused.  Read here the NGOs’ call for leadership and reform:

Today a group of NGOs sought to deliver a general statement  urging the Committee to embrace the principles of transparency, accountability and accessibility in its work to ensure its practice is fair, expeditious and apolitical. The ECOSOC NGO Committee reviews applications for accreditation, providing a gateway for NGOs into the UN.  It has been much criticised – by States, UN officials and NGOs – for practices including repeated questioning of applicants and multiple deferrals of applications for no good reason. The NGOs’ attempt to speak was blocked.

ISHR along with Amnesty International, Civicus, Conectas Diretos Humanos, Human Rights Watch, Jacob Blaustein Institute for the Advancement of Human Rights, International Commission of Jurists and Outright Action International came with two key calls for Committee and observer States, related to participation and membership.

1/  The NGO Committee must provide for remote participation by accredited NGOs:

ECOSOC recently requested the NGO Committee to institute regular meetings with accredited NGOs in regard to the ‘evolving relationship’ between NGOs and the UN. Despite the fact that these have been required since 1996, the meeting scheduled to take place in the next months, will be the first. The NGOs urge that provision be made for remote participation by accredited NGOs unable to travel to New York for the meeting. ‘Clearly, access to UN conversations should not be limited to those who have resources to travel to New York or Geneva or other major UN hubs.  A diversity of voices should be heard,’ they note.  ‘We hope that States will ensure that the principle of accessibility to UN processes will be applied when defining working methods for the upcoming meeting.’

2/  States with good records on key freedoms should stand for membership of Committee:

Safeguarding civil society space at the UN is an essential component in the struggle to protect civil society space globally.  With this in mind, the NGOs call on all States with a commitment to defending the work of civil society to put themselves forward as candidates for the elections to the Committee in April. ‘Action to defend civil society space at the UN starts here at this very Committee’, say the NGOs.

Uruguay invokes ‘right to be heard’ as statement is blocked:

In response to China and Russia’s objections to the presentation of the NGO statement, Uruguay spoke forcefully in favour of hearing from civil society.  Opposition to the NGOs’ ‘right to be heard’ went against the principle of transparency in Committee practice, Uruguay said.  It also represented a step back by a Committee whose very mandate speaks to strengthening links between NGOs and the UN system.

Through their statement, civil society could provide insights that contribute to improving the work of the Committee,’  Uruguay noted. Hearing the statement ‘would allow the Committee to understand civil society’s ideas, experiences and expectations.’ The EU, UK and US also made statements of support.  These were not enough to overcome the opposition.

As we were not permitted to deliver our statement to the Committee today, we shall now request a written version be circulated to all ECOSOC members,‘ said ISHR’s Eleanor Openshaw, reflecting on the morning’s events. ‘We shall also look into ways to ensuring NGOs can make general statements at the Committee in future.

https://www.ishr.ch/news/ngo-committee-ngos-blocked-delivering-statement

Reprisals reach even an international NGO attending the Human Rights Council in Geneva

June 13, 2016

This blog has always had a keen eye out for reprisals against human rights defenders as I believe strongly that this issue is one of the most crucial facing the human rights movement. See e.g. https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2014/03/13/zero-tolerance-for-states-that-take-reprisals-against-hrds-lets-up-the-ante/. Now it turns out that Florian Irminger, Head of Advocacy at the Human Rights House Foundation (HRHF), received a death threat during the 31st session of the UN Human Rights Council (in March). Evidence strongly suggests that a diplomat working for the Russian Federation in Geneva and attending the Human Rights Council made this threat [see confirmation in link at the end of this piece]. Read the rest of this entry »

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”  (https://thoolen.wordpress.com/tag/ecosoc/) 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” (https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2016/05/04/ishr-starts-campaign-to-monitor-committee-that-throttles-ngo-access-to-the-un/). 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: Read the rest of this entry »

2016 Annual Report of the International Service for Human Rights is out

May 15, 2016

Today the International Service for Human Rights (ISHR) announced the publication of its annual report which highlights key developments during 2015 and its vision for 2016 and the years ahead.

Source: Our vision and achievements: ISHR’s 2016 Annual Report | ISHR

 

for more posts on the ISHR, see: https://thoolen.wordpress.com/tag/ishr/ISHR-logo-colour-high

ISHR starts campaign to monitor Committee that throttles NGO access to the UN

May 4, 2016

I have written earlier about the worrying trends in the ‘obscure’ “ECOSOC Committee on NGOs”  (https://thoolen.wordpress.com/tag/ecosoc/) 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) – which issued earlier a guide [https://thoolen.wordpress.com/tag/practical-guide-to-the-un-committee-on-ngos/] -has now come out with a statement that the “practice of the Committee is wholly unacceptable and must change”.

 

It has addressed a letter to ECOSOC – the parent body of the Committee – and copied to all Member States, the UN Secretary General, President of the General Assembly, and the President of the Human Rights Council. The letter expresses concern regarding the practice of the Committee. It intends to signal the level of concern NGOs feel about restrictions on civil society participation at the UN. The ISHR hopes that a large number of others will sign.

 

In addition to the letter, on Tuesday 24 May the ISHR encourages all NGOs to join in the public gallery at the upcoming Committee session in New York. Although the sessions are public, few NGOs attend and the sessions are not webcast. It is important that Committee members are aware the sessions are being monitored and reported on.

If you have any questions, please contact the International Service for Human Rights: information@ishr.chISHR-logo-colour-high

 

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

UN’s NGO Committee seems not very fond of NGOs

June 7, 2015

I referred in an earlier post to the undervalued importance of the UN’s ‘NGO Committee‘ [https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2015/05/04/jean-daniel-vigny-hopes-to-improve-ngo-participation-at-the-un/]. Now there is a new case that would seem to underscore the danger of letting human rights unfriendly Governments (such as China, Pakistan, Azerbaijan, Cuba, Iran, and Russia) decide the fate of NGO status.

The article cited below, by Ahmar Mustikhan in the Epoch Times of 6 June, centers on the case of two African NGOs. In the absence of any detail regarding their alleged ‘misconduct’, I cannot say anything about the substantive side but there are certainly important procedural misgivings (exceptionally speedy, no proper hearing of the NGOs) and this may have a chilling effect on NGOs and human rights defenders who want to engage with the UN.

South Africa disappoints terribly in the Human Rights Council: support for China’s silencing the silence

March 27, 2014

A column in the South African City Press under the title “A chilling point of order for SA” written by Juliette De Rivero on 26 March 2014 makes a punchy statement about the disappointment felt all though the human rights movement when South Africa opted to support China’s point of order in the UN Council of Human Rights. In my post about this ‘court drama’ (reference below) I did not list all the countries coming out against allowing a moment of silence for the deceased Chinese human rights defender Cao Shunli and indeed the position of South Africa was in many way the most surprising, in de Rivero’s words: “…The South African delegate took the floor and warned that allowing the activists to proceed with the moment of silence would “create a dangerous precedent” that the council would not be able to sustain in the future.He noted that the action was “irregular and incompatible with the rules of procedure of this council”.South Africa’s choice to stand with the government that prevented Cao Shunli from participating in the UN came as a blow to the activist community – a community that was willing to stand up for Cao just as it had been willing to denounce the injustice of apartheid.South Africa’s concern that the moment of silence – not the death of the activist – was setting a bad precedent in the UN body sent such a chilling message to the human rights community that it should not be ignored…”

Let me add: That silence is a way of speaking should be clear to all, including South Africa, e.g. when on 6 December 2013 the General Assembly held a moment of silence to honour the memory of Nelson Mandela (“Madiba”).

full piece in:  A chilling point of order for SA – City Press.

background in: https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2014/03/20/china-in-the-un-human-rights-council-manages-to-silence-cao-shunli-as-well-as-ngos/

How China cut short Cao Shunli’s remembrance in the UN

March 24, 2014

This is the UN footage from the dramatic session in the UN Human Rights Council of 20 March 2014 where the ISHR asked for a moment of silence to remember Cao Shunli the Chinese HRD who recently died in detention. What happened next I described in my post: https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2014/03/20/china-in-the-un-human-rights-council-manages-to-silence-cao-shunli-as-well-as-ngos/ followed by recalling the precedent setting: https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2014/03/21/who-can-speak-for-ngos-in-the-un-a-precedent-set-in-1982/

 

Who can speak for NGOs in the UN? A precedent set in 1982

March 21, 2014

Yesterday, 20 March 2014, there was a fierce debate in the UN Council of Human Rights where the issue of the right of NGOs to speak came up, more precisely whether accredited NGOs had the right to let speakers mention other NGOs who do not have such accreditation. In this case it was China taking exemption to the FIDH letting its member NGOs (including a pro Tibetan group) take the floor in its name. For more context see my post of yesterday: https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2014/03/20/china-in-the-un-human-rights-council-manages-to-silence-cao-shunli-as-well-as-ngos/.

The Chair and Secretariat rightly spoke of a standing practice in this regards. One such precedent is 30 years old and probably lost to most observers, so I give here my own recollection of this story in the hope that someone with access to the UN files or a better memory can confirm or correct the details.

It is 1982 and the Working group on Disappearances (created in 1980 after a long struggle and with the active support from the then Director Theo van Boven)) is reporting to the Commission on Human Rights (the predecessor of the Council). The International Commission of Jurists (ICJ), of which I was the Executive Secretary at the time, has lined up to speak. Read the rest of this entry »