Opening its regular session for 2021, the Committee on Non-Governmental Organizations today recommended 54 entities for special consultative status with the United Nations Economic and Social Council and deferred action on the status of 15 others.
The 19-member Committee vets applications submitted by non-governmental organizations (NGOs), recommending general, special or roster status based on 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.
Due to constraints related to the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2021 regular session of the Committee, which was initially slated to convene from 18 to 29 January and on 10 February 2021, was rescheduled to take place from 17 to 27 May and on 7 June.
At the meeting’s outset, the Committee re-elected as Chair Mohamed Sallam (Sudan), endorsed by the Group of African States, and elected Michael Baror (Israel), endorsed by the Group of Western European and Other States, as Vice-Chair and Rapporteur.
Mr. Sallam said the Committee received an unprecedented number of applications for this session — 516 new applications from 90 different countries and 339 applications deferred from previous sessions, for a total of 855. In addition, the Committee has before it 697 new quadrennial reports and 77 deferred from previous sessions. It also has two new requests for reclassification, three deferred such requests and seven requests for change of name. The overall number of applications and quadrennial reports is notably high this year, he explained, because the 2020 resumed session was considerably shortened, due to the pandemic. The Committee has, therefore, taken the exceptional measure to reschedule and extend both its regular and resumed sessions in 2021, allowing it adequate time to address the accumulated workload. He urged Committee members to consider the applications efficiently, reminding them that there is limited time to spend on each one.
Marion Barthelemy, Director, Office for Intergovernmental Support and Coordination for Sustainable Development, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, said the Committee is “at the heart of efforts to build a more inclusive and networked multilateralism”. Its work has many implications for the Economic and Social Council and the wider United Nations community in New York, Geneva and other duty stations, as well as for civil society within and outside the Organization. By 1 June 2020, her office had received 883 new applications. “This is an absolute record number,” she said, stressing that applications have increased fourfold since 2010.
Expressing concern over the high number of deferred applications before the Committee, with 339 facing the current session alone, she pointed out that this volume makes it difficult for the Committee to review its work programme in its entirety. She commended the Committee for requesting an extension of its two sessions in 2021, thereby demonstrating its commitment to make up for the time lost at the peak of the health crisis in the spring of 2020. While the use of technology has allowed for stronger civil society participation during the pandemic, many non-governmental organizations still lack safe and easy access to these tools. The time has come to switch to a new system, which could be implemented during one of the Committee’s sessions in 2022, she explained.
In other business, the Committee adopted its agenda (document E/C.2/2021/Rev1) and programme of work.
The Committee on Non-Governmental Organizations will meet again at 3 p.m. on Tuesday, 18 May, to continue its session.
The representative of Mexico stressed the importance of participation by non-governmental organizations in the work of the United Nations. Civil society organizations have relevant and vital roles to play, assisting States in their affairs while also bringing proposals and ideas to the table. She emphasized the importance of using digital technology to facilitate the Committee’s work.
The representative of the European Union welcomed the live web streaming of the current session and the detailed meetings coverage, as they ensure transparency of the Committee’s work and provide important information for those who cannot attend Committee meetings. Stressing the crucial role played by human rights organizations and underscoring the need to listen to civil society voices, he warned of reprisals against human rights organizations and defenders. The Committee must be guided by genuine principles, rather than national interests, he said, urging an end to the practice of asking repetitive questions to defer applications by human rights organizations.
The representative of the United States said the Government’s foreign policy is based on values, such as democracy and human rights, stressing the vital importance of civil society participation at the United Nations. Given the record number of applications, she urged Committee members to conduct work efficiently over the next nine business days to prevent further backlogs. Expressing concern over the undue burden of quadrennial reports on human rights and humanitarian organizations, she underscored the need to ensure freedom for the members of these groups, as enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
The representative of Turkey, welcoming that the Committee is able to meet in person again, said civil society organizations play a key role in international efforts to achieve agreed global goals. More than 5,000 entities with Economic and Social Council consultative status make significant contributions to the United Nations, and while an increase in new applications is a welcome trend, the workload must be handled in a timely and effective manner, including through the rationalization of the Committee’s work methods.
The representative of the United Kingdom said it is worth recalling why the Committee exists, emphasizing that civil society organizations bring their unique experiences and are “the eyes and ears on the ground”. Some States, however, dislike the lights these organizations shed on certain issues. In the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural), the United Kingdom led the adoption of a resolution aiming to prevent reprisals against civil society organizations. The United Nations should not fall into the same category as those States. If elected to the Committee, the United Kingdom will work to ensure that non-governmental organizations applying for consultative status are less susceptible to arbitrary deferrals.
The representative of Egypt expressed satisfaction about the resumption of the Committee’s work, which has been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. He joined others in calling for a reduction in the backlog of applications and welcoming the use of technology to advance the Committee’s work.
The representative of Estonia, associating himself with the European Union, pointed out that the Committee’s current work methods lack transparency. He denounced delaying tactics, calling upon members to avoid politics and stressing that the Committee’s question-and-answer sessions are essential.
The representative of Greece, associating himself with the European Union and citing the opening phrase, “We the peoples”, in the Charter of the United Nations, joined others in expressing commitment to increasing the participation of civil society organizations in the work of the United Nations. He also called for transparency.
The Committee then received a request from the representative of Pakistan to seek information from nine entities suspected of targeting her country through disinformation campaigns. The representative of India demanded that the Committee not be politicized, arguing that accepting such a request would open a “Pandora’s box” of issues. The Committee then heard various opinions of its members on this procedural matter. The representative of Sudan then filed complaints against nine organizations, requesting that they be transmitted to the organizations in question.
Special Consultative Status
The Committee recommended that the Economic and Social Council grant special consultative status to 54 organizations, with six of them granted during the interactive discussion:
Abnaa Al Mahrousa Foundation for Development and Participation (Egypt);
Action Works Nepal, Kathmandu-10, Baneshwor (Nepal);
Action pour la Protection des Droits de l’Enfant (Chad);
Action pour la promotion des initiatives locales (Burkina Faso);
Africa Alliance for Health, Research and Economic Development (Kenya);
African Council on Narcotics (Nigeria);
African Heritage and Global Peace Initiative (Nigeria);
African Parks Network (South Africa);
African Women Lawyers Association, Nigeria Chapter (Nigeria);
Alhaj-ShamsulHoque Foundation (Bangladesh);
Alliance against Trafficking in Women and Children in Nepal (Nepal);
Alliance pour le contrôle du tabac en Afrique (Togo);
Anti-Corruption Trust of Southern Africa (Zimbabwe);
Arab African Council for Integration and Development (Egypt);
Arise From Ashes (AFA) Incorporated (Liberia);
Asaba Home-Diaspora Development Initiative (Nigeria);
Ashaolu Lawrence Alexandre Foundation (Nigeria);
Asia Pacific Down Syndrome Federation (India);
Asociación Nacional para el Desarrollo Social (Colombia);
Asociación de Trabajadoras del Hogar a Domicilio y de Maquila (Guatemala);
Asociatia Patronala Uniunea Transportatorilor si Drumarilor din Republica Moldova (Republic of Moldova);
Aspire Coronation Trust LTD/GTE (Nigeria);
Association Alter Ego (Cameroon);
Association Internationale Kofi Annan pour la Promotion et la Protection des Droits de l’Homme et la Paix (AIKAPPRODHOMP) (Cameroon);
Association Liaison Universelle pour le Bien-être des enfants et des Jeunes (Burkina Faso);
Association Not 4 Trade (Tunisia);
Association Song-Taaba des Femmes Unies et Développement (Burkina Faso);
Association des Utilisateurs des Technologies de l’Information et de la Télécommunication “ASUTIC” (Senegal);
Association des femmes et filles de l’Adamaoua (AFADA) (Cameroon);
Association des femmes pour la promotion des initiatives locales (Democratic Republic of the Congo);
Association pour la Justice, l’Egalité, l’Insertion professionnelle et la Paix en Afrique (Cameroon);
Associação Engenheiros sem Fronteiras - Brasil (ESF-Brasil) (Brazil);
Associação Nacional das Defensoras e Defensores Públicos (Brazil);
Associação de Pais e Amigos dos Excepcionais de S Paulo (Brazil);
Awaj Foundation (Bangladesh);
Aztech FZ-LLC (United Arab Emirates);
Badabon Sangho (Bangladesh);
Bahrain Jurists Society (Bahrain);
Bahrain Public Relations Association (Bahrain);
Global CEO Alliance Foundation Inc. (United Kingdom);
Cmax Foundation Inc. (United States);
United Umuada Igbo Club International (UUIC) Inc. (United States);
CorpsAfrica (United States);
International Cancer Expert Corps (United States);
ActAsia (United Kingdom);
Baylor College of Medicine Children’s Foundation Uganda Limited (by Guarantee) (Uganda);
Beijing Greenovation Institute for Public Welfare Development (China);
Beijing Pengmen International Trade Co., Ltd (China);
C-Sema (United Republic of Tanzania);
C.A.S.E.S. International (Ukraine);
Catholic Caritas Foundation of Nigeria (Nigeria);
Centre de Recherche sur l’Anti-Corruption (Democratic Republic of the Congo); and
Centre for Human Rights & Governance — SOLACE (Democratic Republic of the Congo).
The Committee postponed consideration of the following 15 organizations:
“Mission Armenia” Charitable Non-governmental Organization (Armenia) — as the representative of Turkey, citing the organization’s response to question 18, raised questions about its affiliations with other groups;
“The Awakening” A Society for Social & Cultural Development (Pakistan) — as the representative of Pakistan asked about the breakdown of foreign funding and how those resources are used;
“Turan Information Agency” Limited Liability Company (Azerbaijan) — as the representative of Pakistan asked how the group can be considered a limited liability company if it is indeed a non-governmental organization, and requested that it provide a financial breakdown;
Al-Mada Organization for Development and Strategic Studies (Iraq) — as the representative of India asked about the diplomatic status of one of its members, and whether that affects the free expression of the organization’s views;
All Ukrainian Charitable Organization “All Ukrainian Network of People Living with HIV/Aids” (Ukraine) — as the representative of the United States asked for detailed information on how much money the organization received, what projects were funded and the outcomes;
Anukulan (India) — as the representative of Pakistan asked for details of projects and programmes from the last five years;
Asociación CAREF (Comisión Argentina Para Los Refugiados) — as the representative of Turkey asked the organization to elaborate on its record on human mobility and human rights;
Asociación Civil Grupo SURES — as the representative of the United States asked for detailed information on other organizations with which it had coordinated;
Association for Social Solidarity and Empowerment Training Trust (ASSET) — as the representative of Pakistan asked for breakdown of foreign funding and the projects which received it;
Association of Iranian Short Statured Adults — as the representative of Bahrain asked about its activities from 2019 to 2021;
Association pour le développement économique et social du LAC (ADESOL) — as the representative of the United States asked about education projects for girls, regions implemented, success and partnerships;
Aurosikha Welfare Centre for Rural & Social Development — as the representative of Pakistan asked how its plans will be translated into tangible actions;
Bishop Dennis Ng Victory Ministries Foundation Limited — as the representative of India asked for details on its activities in that country;
Central Board of Computer & Technical Education — as the representative of Pakistan asked for details on technical computer programmes and how learning is measured; and
Centre for Rights Education and Awareness (CREAW) — as the representative of Nicaragua asked about the organization’s large deficit and how it manages to function.
During a question-and-answer session in the afternoon, six NGO representatives addressed the Committee, with one facing questions, and all six subsequently being granted consultative status and included in the list above.
The representative of Global CEO Alliance Foundation Inc said its chairman believes sustainability takes real work, and there is no single formula for delivering it. The group recognizes the importance of scaling up the means of implementation and engaging all stakeholders, as it aims to be a catalyst for systemic change. For the private sector to engage, there must be impact investment and education, he said, expressing confidence the organization will play a pivotal role in shifting the narrative for private entities.
The representative of Cmax Foundation Inc. said a background of extreme poverty motivated him to deliver a university thesis dealing with issues related to the COVID-19 pandemic. His foundation aims to bring innovation to all of humanity, using strategies to build resilient cities and products. He cited the development of 3D-printed hands and arms for poor disabled people among a number of initiatives. The organization is active in more than 15 countries, he noted, seeking to improve quality of life and live in harmony with the planet.
The representative of United Umuada Igbo Club International (UUIC) Inc. said her group has tried to follow the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, assisting girls and women in the Igbo area of Nigeria. The organization is also active in the United States, working to foster health education and help those with cerebral palsy in the Bronx area of New York City. It has distributed blood pressure machines in Nigeria, she noted, and is raising funds to treat people with HIV/AIDS.
The representative of CorpsAfrica said she launched the group in 2011 to help idealistic young Africans to make an impact. Now active in Morocco, Senegal, Malawi and Rwanda, 300 young people have served its mission, undergoing a month of intensive training before living with local people in remote villages for 10 months. Projects have included building wells, schools and women’s cooperatives, she said, highlighting a basketball court constructed in Malawi with funding from the United States National Basketball Association. She noted that every volunteer chose to remain in place during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The representative of International Cancer Expert Corps said her group is a United States NGO aiming to improve cancer treatment for those lacking resources, providing sustainable cancer care at world class standards. It was launched because the World Health Organization (WHO) realized the burden of cancer often falls on low- and middle-income countries and impacts not only patients and families but entire communities. The group calls upon academia, those in private practice and even retirees, whose wisdom is often overlooked, and features contributions by world-renowned experts. She noted that cancer care is embedded in the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.
The representative of ACTAsia said it was launched in 2012 to correct a “blind spot” in international agencies working in education and sustainable development. The group seeks to “create, conduct and disseminate” research-based educational programmes with and for Asian cultures, he said, noting its largest programme is the “Caring for Life Curriculum” now active in over 100 schools.
The representative of Pakistan asked the ACTAsia representative to elaborate on programmes undertaken in that country, and to name the other Asian countries in which it will operate.
He responded that ACTAsia is working with the Sindh Education Foundation in Pakistan, and with Switzerland-based NGO Join Hands. The group has visited schools in Karachi for feedback in adapting its programme and has also reached out into rural Sindh areas. ACTAsia is aiming to work with “master trainers” in Sindh education, he said, contacting teachers to explain pedagogic strategies, and is also active in the Republic of Korea, Singapore and Sri Lanka among other Asian nations.
The representative of China asked about a website mention of offices in that country, to which the speaker replied that ACTAsia does not have offices there, rather volunteers who work for them.
The representative of Pakistan then requested information on other projects to which the speaker responded that there are several main avenues of educational programmes, including efforts in elementary grades, courses for veterinarians, for those in fashion institutes as clothing is crucial to sustainable development, and for responsible consumption.