Posts Tagged ‘ECOSOC’

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

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 »

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.

Jean-Daniel Vigny hopes to improve NGO participation at the UN

May 4, 2015

Getting ‘consultative status’ with the UN is for many NGOs a nightmare and a subject that does not attract the most attention. Hopefully this opinion piece written by Jean-Daniel Vigny, Swiss human rights expert and member of the Board of the International Service for Human Rights (27 April 2015) will help to change this:

ISHR-logo-colour-high

He makes 5 recommendations in relation to the ECOSOC Committee on NGOs (shortened version):

  1. Ministries of Foreign Affairs positively inclined to civil society and the big international NGOs represented in New York should actively participate in each session of the ECOSOC Committee;
  2. The EU and the rest of WEOG and other friendly States of civil society from the East European Group, GRULAC, the African Group and the Asian Group and national and international NGOs should join the campaign for improved membership and modalities of the NGO Committee;
  3. The status quo of quasi permanent membership to the NGO Committee by some States not favourable to civil society should be broken;
  4. (a rather difficult one) ECOSOC could develop an ‘interpretative guide’ for the Committee on the application of ECOSOC resolution 1996/31 (or get agreement on a paragraph calling for all applications for consultative status to be forwarded to ECOSOC for decision within a 3 years limit, thereby short-circuiting the present practice of repeated deferral of many applications);
  5. Share cases of denial or repeated deferral of consultative status as reprisals with the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Association and Assembly and to pursue implementation of his recommendations to strengthen NGO participation at the UN and in other multilateral fora. We could also encourage the Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders to study, report and make recommendations as to the reform of the NGO Committee, including in relation to the misapplication of ECOSOC resolution 1996/31.

The full text of the piece entitled “NGO participation at the UN: A roadmap for reform” follows:

Read the rest of this entry »

International Service for Human Rights rings alarm bell over composition of UN Committee on Civil society

May 1, 2014

Civil society loses as repressive States win election to regulate NGO access to UN” is the headline of a rightly alarming report on 23 April 2014 by the New York desk of the International Service for Human Rights [ISHR]. It calls on States that value and respect a vibrant civil society should do more to support non-governmental organisations to have their voices heard at the United Nations. The call comes after very few such States stood for election to an important UN committee that regulates civil society access to the UN, leaving the field to repressive States whose intolerance for civil society at home looks set to further restrict NGO access to the UN.ISHR-logo-colour-high Read the rest of this entry »

11th Human Rights Film Festival starts 1st March in Geneva with a bang that upsets Sri Lanka

February 26, 2013

Since 2003, the Geneva Human Rights Film Festival (with the more complicated French name and abbreviation: le Festival du film et forum international sur les droits humains – FIFDH) takes place in parallel to the UN Human Rights Council. Based on the concept “A film, a subject, a debate”, the FIFDH features documentary as well fiction, on themes linked to human rights such as: violence against women, poverty, torture, international justice and even climate change.  During 10 days the public is invited to watch the films, meet film makers, actors, experts and victims of human rights violations. There are special screenings for students, and teachers are issued with thematic material.  This year a total of 40 films will be screened. New this year is the competition for international fiction. The Jury includes filmmakers and human rights defenders such as:  Ai Weiwei, Patrick Chapatte, Romain Goupil and Fadwa Suleiman, Syrian actress in exile. The longstanding festival director is Leo Kaneman: for the programme see: http://www.fifdh.org/

In the meantime, a big controversy has erupted about the showing of the documentary  “No Fire Zone: The Killing Fields of Sri Lanka”  in what is called in UN terminology a ‘side event’, organised by Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and the above-mentioned FIFDH, on the premises of the UN. As reported by AP on 25 February, the Sri Lankan Ambassador has sent a letter to the whole Human Rights Council denouncing the film as “discredited, uncorroborated and unsubstantiated” and warning that the Council would be violating its own rules if the film is screened March 1 in Geneva as planned.

The 90-minute documentary alleges government troops and Tamil Tiger rebels engaged in war crimes during the final stages of the conflict in 2009. The film shows interviews with eyewitnesses and original footage of alleged atrocities against civilians including summary execution, sexual violence and torture. The film director Callum Macrae denied that it distorted the facts: “We believe that our film contains very important evidence about the terrible events in the last few months of this war and we believe we have a duty to make that evidence available to the diplomats and country missions at the U.N. Human Rights Council who must make important decisions about how to ensure accountability and justice in Sri Lanka“. See:  http://abcnews.go.com/International/wireStory/sri-lanka-opposes-screening-critical-film-18590958. The Sri Lankan Ambassador’s letter which certainly will help to attract a larger audience is to be found on: http://dl.dropbox.com/u/465065/Letter-to-the-President-Human-Rights-Council-2.pdf.