The Committee on Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) today completed the substantive part of its resumed 2021 session, recommending that the Economic and Social Council close without prejudice the applications of 65 groups that had not responded to its questions after three reminders, and deferring action on the fate of 11 others.
In closing remarks, Committee Chair Mohamed Sallam (Sudan) said it had considered 780 new applications and more than 600 deferred applications, as well as recommended more than 700 organizations for status and took note of almost 1,000 reports — all at time when intergovernmental bodies were highly disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Such progress would not have been possible without strong engagement by all delegations and an ambitious work programme. He thanked all delegations for bringing the Committee “back on track”, noting that the 2020 regular and resumed sessions were marked by various improvements. He said the pace was steady and faster than usual, allowing for efficient use of conference services, a second review of all applications and interaction with 18 NGO representatives. “The Committee will build on these improvements,” he assured.
Among the areas for improvement, he said delegates recommended exploring the feasibility of holding virtual question-and-answer sessions with those seeking consultative status and setting a timeframe for the consideration of NGO responses to Committee questions. “The constructive tone of discussions on these matters bodes well for the productivity of future sessions,” he emphasized.
Following an intense debate and separate roll-call votes, the Committee also recommended that the Council withdraw the consultative status of nine Sudanese NGOs, at the request of Sudan’s delegation which accused them of “breaching the law governing the voluntary and humanitarian work” and “serving the mere political agenda of the former regime”: AL BIRR & AL TAWASUL Organization; AL ZUBAIR Charitable Foundation; Global Health Foundation; International Peace and Development Organization; MAARIJ Foundation for Peace and Development; SANAD Charity Foundation; Society Studies and Consultations; Sudanese Women General Union; and Women Research Center.
The Committee also closed without prejudice the request for reclassification for Widows for Peace through Democracy, after the group failed to respond after three reminders.
The NGO Committee began the afternoon by adopting the provisional agenda for its 2022 session (E/C.2/2021/L.1), deciding that its regular session would be held from 24 January to 2 February, and 14 February 2022, and that its resumed session would be held from 17 to 25 May and 7 June 2022.
The Committee also adopted the report of its 2021 resumed session (E/C.2/2021/CRP.47), introduced by the Rapporteur, who noted that it will be updated to include substantial details on 17 September.
The 19-member Committee considers applications for consultative status and requests for reclassification submitted by non-governmental organizations. Once an application has been reviewed and approved by the Committee it is considered recommended for consultative status. Organizations which are granted general and special status can attend meetings of the Council and issue statements, while those with general status can also speak during meetings and propose agenda items. Organizations with roster status can only attend meetings.
Special Consultative Status
Bahrain Center for Human Rights (Denmark) — as Bahrain’s delegate asked the organization to provide information on its partnerships, besides those previously provided to the Committee;
Ceasefire Centre for Civilian Rights (United Kingdom) — as the Russian Federation’s delegate requested a full list of countries in which it works;
Eurazijos žalos mažinimo asociacija (Lithuania) — as the Russian Federation’s delegate requested details about the financial support provided by the Open Society;
European Foundation for South Asian Studies (Netherlands) — as China’s delegate asked for a list of its partners;
European network on cultural management and policy (Belgium) — as China’s delegate requested an update on its plans;
Global Detention Project (Switzerland) — as China’s representative asked whether the funding the group receives from a certain Government is recurring, and whether it receives funding from other Governments;
Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) Limited (Ireland) — as China’s delegate asked about the nature of its activities in Lebanon and Demark, countries not included on the list of 10 countries in which it operates;
International Human Rights Commission La Commission Internationale des Droits de l'homme Mezinárodní komise pro lidská práva - nadační fond, ve zkrácené formě IHRC - nadační fond (Czech Republic) — as Estonia’s representative asked on what legal basis it undertakes its activities, and whether it operates more like an international organization; and as the representative of the Russian Federation requested clarity on what basis the Government of Chad recognized the group as an international organization, as well as for a copy of the documents presented to that Government in order to confirm its status as an intergovernmental organization;
Interregional non-governmental human rights organization “Man and Law” (Russian Federation) — as China’s representative requested a list of projects realized in 2020, along with indications of costs and partnerships;
Social Progress Imperative, Inc. (United States) — as Cuba’s representative requested details on its activities in Latin America and the Caribbean, sources of funding used in each case and a list of local partners engaged; and
The Center for Bioethics and Culture (United States) — as China’s delegate requested details on the group’s potential contributions to the work of the Economic and Social Council, and whether the international experts cited in the application come from partner institutions.
As the Committee turned to Sudan’s request to withdraw the consultative status of 9 non-governmental organizations, the representative of the United States requested more time to discuss this matter. Two organizations replied, one on behalf of 7 others claiming they are unable to enter their offices or access information. It is unclear that the Committee has assurances that they received its questions. “We should give the NGOs more time to respond,” he said, and defer the decision to the next session.
The representative of Sudan said her delegation had submitted its complaint in May, during the Committee’s regular session, providing evidence at that time on ways these groups violated the Charter of the United Nations and resolution 96/31, notably paragraphs 55 and 57 (a) and (b). “We have had to wait, given the desire of one delegation to receive supplementary information,” she said, recalling that Sudan then submitted additional information, proving that these groups are violating the Charter and resolution 96/31. The Committee took note of this information and sent it to the groups on 30 August.
The Committee received responses on 7 September, she continued, and for the last three days, Sudan repeated its request for withdrawal of consultative status. Sudan has shown sufficient flexibility in order to preserve consensus. In view of this fact, and that the Committee’s practice is to take decisions on a consensual basis, she requested the Committee to take a decision now and vote in favour of withdrawing consultative status. “The Committee has all the necessary information,” she said. “That should be sufficient.” Requesting a deferral is unjustifiable.
Following a lengthy debate on procedure, involving the representatives of Cuba, Estonia, Pakistan, Russian Federation, China and Brazil, as well as a Secretariat official who laid out the relevant rules of procedure guiding any action, the Committee then rejected the United States proposal to defer action on the withdrawal of consultative status in a roll-call vote of 5 in favour, 11 against, 1 abstention (Israel), with 2 absent.
It then conducted separate roll call votes to determine whether each of the nine organizations should be stripped of their accreditation, recommending in each case that the Economic and Social Council should withdraw consultative status.
The representative of Mexico, explaining her country’s vote, underscored the importance of civil society’s participation at the United Nations. At the same time, organizations must respect resolution 1996/31. Mexico takes seriously any concern over consultative status and would have preferred to have further data in order to take an “enlightened decision”. As such, her delegation abstained from the nine votes.
The representative of the United States said his country is a strong supporter of civil society participation at the United Nations and takes seriously its role on the Committee to protect civic space at the Organization by advocating for the application of clear, transparent procedures providing for a group’s participation or withdrawal. He disagreed that there was enough evidence of the circumstances as listed in resolution 1996/31 to warrant such a decision today.