The Committee on Non-Governmental Organizations opened its 2022 session today, recommending 92 entities for special consultative status with the United Nations Economic and Social Council and deferring action on 32 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.
At the meeting’s outset, the Committee elected as Vice-Chair Mine Ozgul Bilman (Turkey), who said the subsidiary body had received 266 new applications for consultative status from 71 countries. It has 320 applications deferred from previous sessions, bringing the total number of applications for consideration to 586. In addition, the Committee has before it 610 new quadrennial reports and 80 reports deferred from previous sessions.
Offering an overview, Marion Barthelemy, Director of the Office of Intergovernmental Support and Coordination for Sustainable Development, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, said the United Nations is making arrangements to resume issuance of the full the number of ground passes to non-governmental organizations with consultative status at the pre-pandemic level. Only with the participation of non-governmental organizations will countries be able to recover from the pandemic and achieve the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
“The role of non-governmental organizations will need to be promoted, expanded and strengthened at all levels,” she said, welcoming the Committee’s 27-28 April discussions in which delegates decided to hold consultations with non-governmental organizations in consultative status later in 2022 and noting that her Office will work to include organizations from around the world in these discussions.
Despite the limits posed by the current technology platforms, the Office provided support to non-governmental organizations throughout the process of applying for consultative status. In 2021, it presented 816 applications for consultative status and 935 quadrennial reports to the Committee for its review. It also carried out “robust” outreach: 396 written statements by non-governmental organizations were submitted to the 2021 high-level segment on “sustainable and resilient recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic” — a 110 per cent increase from 2020.
Explaining that the development of an enhanced information and communications technology (ICT)-based system to replace the three platforms managed by the NGO Branch has been delayed due to the complexity of integrating the system, she said the Office is facing severe resource constraints. There are 6,110 organizations with consultative status that depend on the NGO Branch to facilitate their participation in the United Nations. She appealed for adequate resources, stressing that “the situation has really become unmanageable” with implications for the number of applications the Office is able to process, as well as for the staff who work under “extreme pressure”.
Also today, the Committee approved its agenda (document E/C.2/2022/1/Rev.1), its work programme, as outlined in Working Paper 1, and its tentative schedule, as contained in the annex of that document.
The Committee on Non-Governmental Organizations will meet again at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, 18 May, to continue its session.
The representative of Mexico said civil society has been an important partner in achieving the United Nations goals since the founding of the Organization. She underscored the Committee’s great responsibility in helping non-governmental organizations create stronger ties with the United Nations, noting that Mexico will continue to support an impartial position. “We will not take political stances,” she affirmed. “All voices should be welcome.” She called for greater opportunities for dialogue.
The representative of the United States acknowledged the challenges civil society faced over the last two years in having its voices heard in the Committee and other United Nations bodies. “We must actively re-engage with civil society to ensure inclusivity,” she stressed. It does not make sense that civil society organizations have yet to be given their full allotment of United Nations badges, especially as visitors are again welcome. She urged the Committee to reaffirm its commitment to hold transparent meetings, including by adhering to resolution 96/31 to hold consultations with non-governmental organizations in consultative status. Noting that the Committee must use technology to facilitate participation, she said the United States will continue to push for a hybrid format for non-governmental organizations that might not have the means to travel to New York.
The representative of Turkey said the participation of non-governmental organizations in the work of the Economic and Social Council and at United Nations conferences is imperative. In seeking consultative status, they aim to share their expertise, provide ideas for tackling issues at the international level and amplify the effectiveness of their work. He expressed full support for the establishment of consultative relations with non-governmental organizations, in line with the Charter of the United Nations and framework set by resolution 1996/31, noting that the increased number of new applications and quadrennial reports impacts the Committee’s workload and calling for outcomes that allow it to make better use of its time.
The representative of Estonia, associating himself with the European Union, expressing solidarity with Ukraine and denouncing the aggression perpetrated against it by the Russian Federation, expressed strong support for the participation of civil society in the work of the United Nations. Pointing to a lack of transparency and objectivity, he said the Committee can do better in fulfilling its mandate. Its work methods must not lead to unjustified delays in evaluating applications or abused as an unsurmountable barrier. The Committee must uphold the principles outlined in resolution 1996/31, as its interactions with organizations is an essential element of its work. He strongly agreed on the need to explore all options to facilitate their participation, using the digital tools at its disposal.
The representative of Greece, associating himself with the European Union, said the drawn-out screening of applications has led to hundreds of groups being blocked from receiving consultative status. Reform is long overdue. Groundless deferrals and asymmetric practices, such as duplicative questioning, especially for organizations working on human rights, compromises the Committee’s reputation. The Council must systematically review the Committee’s status determination of non-governmental organizations, and when misjudgments are identified, ensure they are reversed. He called on the Committee to enhance the participation, online and in person, of non-governmental organizations, building on lessons learned during the pandemic and fortifying the representation of organizations from all regions. Greece interacts closely with civil society to guarantee the highest level of inclusion and will continue to do so, he affirmed.
The representative of Armenia reiterated full support for the engagement of civil society at the United Nations, underscoring the importance of impartiality in the application review process, which must be free from any political agenda.
The representative of the European Union, speaking in its capacity as observer, congratulated new Committee members on their election at a time when the Russian Federation’s unjustified, unprovoked aggression against Ukraine continues. He expressed hope to make progress on the thorough composition of the Committee, with more Member States open to civil society and less hostile to organizations that could monitor — and possibly denounce — gross human rights violations. He expressed extreme concern over the application and report backlog preventing hundreds of groups from receiving consultative status in due time. One reason for this is the number of deferrals by means of repetitive questioning, in some cases without credible justification.
He called on all Committee members to be guided by the sole consideration of general interest when reviewing applications, and to refrain from using resolution 1996/31 for deleterious purposes. The Council must systematically review the Committee’s status determination of non-governmental organizations, and when misjudgments are identified, reverse those decisions. Noting that non-governmental groups with consultative status are currently granted only two grounds passes, whereas before the pandemic, they were granted seven, he said this decrease is less understandable now that the visitor programme has resumed.
“The United Nations should not contribute to the shrinking of civil society space,” he stressed, calling on the NGO Branch of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs to return to pre-COVID-19 work methods. He pressed the Committee to organize consultations with the non-governmental organizations, and the United Nations to provide resources to the Secretariat, including for the upgrading of its technological tools. Finally, he expressed great concern that Government-affiliated organizations continue to ask for consultative status, opening the way for biased discussions at United Nations events. “This is simply not acceptable,” he said. There is also no justification for the long delay on applications from European Union-based organizations, including the International Solidarity Network, which has been deferred for 15 years, among others.
The representative of the United Kingdom, expressing solidarity with Ukraine and condemning the Russian Federation for its breach of the Charter of the United Nations with its invasion of that country, recalled that the Committee exists because it recognizes civil society as essential to the work of the Organization. He expressed regret that some Member States hope to stifle civil society voices, afraid of the scrutiny that they provide, noting that the Committee’s politicization is a demonstration of this fact. Citing a worrying increase in the number of reprisals against groups engaging with the United Nations, he said that for the last three years, the United Kingdom has led a joint statement against such reprisals.
He said that in October 2021, in the Third Committee (Social, Cultural and Humanitarian), 80 States from across all regional groups joined the most recent statement. Stressing that the United Kingdom opposes hostile attempts, including modalities resolutions, to restrict civil society’s participation, he urged the Committee to address its backlog of deferred applications fairly and transparently and said the 18-month gap between application filing and review is unacceptable. Dozens of groups have been deferred for eight or more sessions, three quarters of them human rights groups, which are two-thirds more likely to be deferred than those without such a focus. The United Kingdom intends to use its membership in 2023 to improve the Committee’s work methods by making them less susceptible to arbitrary deferral.
Pakistan’s representative, on the topic of special reports, recalled that on 13 May, her delegation had requested the Committee to defer consideration of a certain case.
Special Consultative Status
The Committee recommended that the Economic and Social Council grant special consultative status to 92 organizations, with 2 of them granted during the interactive discussion:
İnformasiya Təşəbbüslərinə Dəstək” ictimai birliyi (Azerbaijan);
African Confederation of Co-operative Savings and Credit Association (Kenya);
Aleradah Organization for Talented People with Disability (Saudi Arabia);
All Africa Community Development and Environmental Protection Agency (Nigeria);
Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the Environment (India);
Association du Centre des Études et des Recherches en Sciences Sociales (Morocco);
Association for the Rights of Children in Southeast Asia (ARCSEA) Inc. (Philippines);
Association on Development of Civil Society of The Republic of Kazakhstan “ARGO” (Kazakhstan);
CEDAW Committee of Trinidad and Tobago (Trinidad and Tobago);
Center For Gender Economics Initiative (Nigeria);
Centre de formation professionnelle femmes et jeunes (Democratic Republic of the Congo);
Charitable Organization "Charitable Fund ‘League of Tolerance’" (Ukraine);
Citizens Intervention & Accountability Network (Nigeria);
Co-operation Arena for Sustainable Development in Africa-Kenya (Kenya);
Coordenação das Organizações Indígenas da Amazônia Bras (Brazil);
Dignity Initiative (Nepal);
Direction for Children and Youth (Colombia);
Dynamique des femmes juristes (Democratic Republic of the Congo);
Empowering Women for Excellence Initiative (Nigeria);
Engineers Without Borders (Sierra Leone);
Equipo Latinoamericano De Justicia Y Género Asociación Civil — ELA (Argentina);
Evangelização Geral de Ajuda aos Necessitados (Mozambique);
Eye Care Foundation (China);
Food and Livestock Initiative “FLI asbl” (Democratic Republic of the Congo);
Fundación Retorno a La Libertad (Colombia);
Global Care Rescue Mission (Nigeria);
Global Initiative on Substance Abuse (Nigeria);
Independent Living Center for Persons with Disabilities, Kathmandu (Nepal);
Institute for Financial Management and Research (India);
Instituto Brasileiro de Qualidade de Vida — IBQV (Brazil);
Instituto Caminho do Meio (Brazil);
Int'l Centre for Peace Charities and Human Development (Nigeria);
Ivy League Consult Limited (Ghana);
Jeunes en action pour le développement durable (Cameroon);
Jordan Youth Innovation Forum (Jordan);
KTDA Foundation Limited (Kenya);
La Proteccion de la Infancia, Inc. (Philippines);
La grande puissance de Dieu (Benin);
Leadership Development Association Albania (Albania);
Lift Saxum Ltd/Gte (Nigeria);
Ligue Camerounaise des droits de l'homme (Cameroon);
Maasai Indigeneous Projects (Kenya);
Mathare Environmental Conservation Youth Group (Kenya);
Nanjing World Youth Development Service Center (China);
National Union of Somali Journalists (Somalia);
New Nigeria Foundation (Nigeria);
Ngece Rinjeu Foundation (Kenya);
One Voice Initiative for Women and Children Emancipation (Nigeria);
Pallium India (India);
Pan African Climate Justice Alliance (Kenya);
People's Action for Learning Network (Kenya);
Public Health Foundation of India (India);
Reseau Camerounais des Organisations des Droits De L'homme (Cameroon);
Rozaria Memorial Trust (Zimbabwe);
Réseau Accès aux Médicaments Essentiels (Burkina Faso);
SEWA Bharat (India);
Shikshit Yuva Sewa Samiti (India);
Sonmaz Mashall Cultural Relations Public Union (Azerbaijan);
South Asian Association of Pediatric Dentistry (India);
Sristi Foundation (India);
Strategic Initiative for Women in the Horn of Africa (SIHA) (Uganda);
Sustainable Development Policy Institute (Pakistan);
Takween Organization for Social & Economic Development (Libya);
Thai Green Crescent (Thailand);
The Eagle Eye Behavioural Reorientation Initiative (Nigeria);
The Great Rift Centre for Research & Development (Kenya);
The Healthy Real Initiative for Valued Entrepreneurship, Warri Delta State (Nigeria);
The Red Crescent National Society of the Kyrgyz Republic Public Association (Kyrgyzstan);
The Senema Love Foundation (Nigeria);
The Women's Crisis Centre (Bahamas);
Vie Médicale (Cameroon);
Visible Impact (Nepal);
Yerwa Aid and Relief Foundation (Nigeria);
Ženska mreža Hrvatske (Croatia);
ASeS — Agricoltori Solidarietà e Sviluppo (Italy);
Adelphi Research gemeinnützige GmbH (Italy);
Agence européenne pour l'information et le conseil des jeunes (Luxembourg);
Aham Education Inc. (United States);
American Zionist Movement, Inc. (United States);
Arengukoostöö Ümarlaud (Estonia);
Atlantic Council for International Cooperation — Conseil atlantique pour la coopération internationale (Canada);
Australian Graduate Women Inc. (Australia);
Canadian Autism Spectrum Disorder Alliance (Canada);
Centre International de Conseil, de Recherche et d'Expertise en Droits de l'Homme (Switzerland);
Centre for health sciences training research and development [Chestrad] International (United Kingdom);
Centrs Marta (Latvia);
Chernobyl — Hibakusha Support, Kansai (Japan);
Children and Young People with Disability Australia (Australia);
Collaborative For Children (United States); and
Darwin Animal Doctors Inc. (United States).
The Committee postponed consideration of the following 32 organizations, with 4 of them deferred during the interactive dialogue:
Abuelas de Plaza de Mayo (Argentina) — as Turkey’s representative requested details about a bank mentioned in its application and whether the legislative ground for the bank has been laid;
Afghanistan Green Crescent Organization (Afghanistan) — as Turkey’s representative requested information about the term “agricultural services” in reference to the group’s community development activities;
Association Green Crescent (Croissant Vert-Mali) de Sikasso (Mali) — as Greece’s representative asked about activities undertaken with the Government;
Association for Promoting Sustainability in Campuses and Communities (India) — as Pakistan’s delegate asked about its water management projects and costs incurred;
BOOSTGREEN Association (Cameroon) — as China’s representative asked about its affiliates;
Centre for Participatory Democracy (India) — as India’s representative asked about the organization’s participation in Economic and Social Council meetings over the last five years;
Global Forum for the Defence of the Less Privileged (Cameroon) — as China’s representative asked for the name of a United Nations conference referenced in its application;
Housing and Land Rights Network (India) — as India’s representative asked about the organization’s address on its application, which is different than that recorded in its trust deed and listed on its website;
India Youth for Society (India) — as Pakistan’s delegate requested it provide audited financial statements for 2020 and 2021;
International Rice Research Institute (Philippines) — as Cuba’s representative asked how it maintains its independence from the entities financing it;
Jan Lok Kalyan Parishad (India) — as Pakistan’s representative asked about the countries in which it works and about its projects in them;
Nagrik Foundation (India) — as Pakistan’s representative asked the organization to provide audited financial statements for 2020 and 2021;
OXFAM South Africa (South Africa) — as Cuba’s representative requested information about its affiliates, projects and countries in which it has a presence;
OxYGen Foundation for Protection of Women and Youth Rights (Armenia) — as Turkey’s representative requested clarification about whether a 2019 project was funded by a Government;
Pro Rural (India) — as Pakistan’s representative asked how it generates income from contracts;
Sustainable Development Foundation (Yemen) — as Bahrain’s representative requested the names of the international non-governmental organizations providing its income;
Tamdeen Youth Foundation (Yemen) — as India’s representative asked about its strategic partnerships;
The Asia Justice and Rights Foundation (Indonesia) — as India’s representative asked how the organization maintains its independence with a substantial amount of its income coming from various Governments;
Time to Help Foundation (United Republic of Tanzania) — as Turkey’s representative asked the organization for details about the recruitment of its volunteers and how it monitors their work;
Uttarakhand Jan Jagriti Samiti (India) — as Pakistan’s representative requested audited financial statements for 2020 and 2021;
Y S Makhdoomi Memorial Educational Trust (India) — as Pakistan’s representative requested financial statements for 2020 and 2021;
Youth Development Center (Cameroon) — as China’s representative requested a list of activities over the last four years;
“Garmoniya” Samara Center for Youth Employment, Socialization and Cultural Development Autonomous Non-profit Organization (Russian Federation) — as Estonia’s representative asked about its activities over the last three years;
Alma Mater Studiorum - Università di Bologna (Italy) — as Turkey’s representative asked about its academic senate;
Autonomous Non-Profit Organization "Research Center Minority Report" (Russian Federation) — as Estonia’s representative requested an overview of the minorities covered by the group;
Cilvēktiesību Līgu Starptautiskās Federācijas Latvijas Cilvēktiesību komiteja (Latvia) — as Estonia’s representative requested financial reports for 2020 and 2021;
Copernicus Berlin e.V. (Germany) — as Turkey’s representative asked about the organization’s strategies; and
DXC Technology Company (United States) — as China’s representative requested that the organization use the correct terminology of “Taiwan, province of China”; “Hong Kong, Special Administrative Region of China”; and “Macau Special Administrative Region of China” on its website.
During a question-and-answer session in the afternoon, six NGO representatives addressed the Committee, with two being granted special consultative status.
A speaker from Zam Zam Foundation, noting that the organization’s mission is “humanity beyond religion”, said it was founded almost 10 years ago. It focuses on six areas under the Sustainable Development Goals and aligns with the national development priorities of Sri Lanka. He said he met today with Sri Lanka’s Ambassador, who acknowledged the group’s contribution to the country. It was founded by Sri Lankan donors within the country; the beneficiaries are of various ethnic, religious and social backgrounds.
China’s representative asked why it took four years for the organization to register itself, in 2017, to which the organization’s representative replied that there is a requirement in Sri Lanka to be in operation for three years or more before registration. After three years of solid financial performance and registration as a non-profit, it decided to request consultative status with the Economic and Social Council.
To a question from Pakistan’s representative, who asked about projects focused on reconciliation, the speaker described work with religious leaders and efforts to address misconceptions about various communities. For example, the organization builds hospital facilities and water treatment plants in mixed communities, then helps to establish a committee comprised of people from various ethnic or religious backgrounds, who can take on the project and engage with one another.
A speaker from IFMA Foundation said the organization is a non-profit international facilities management association working to build the facilities management professional workforce. It is renowned for reaching into underserved communities and providing opportunities for people to join the workforce.
The Committee then granted special consultative status to the IFMA Foundation.
A speaker from Omega Psi Phi Fraternity Inc. said that since its establishment in 1911 on Howard University, in Washington, D.C., the organization has focused on “service and uplift”. It provides opportunities for the advancement of communities through, among other efforts, mentorship programmes, disaster relief and participation in political, social and humanitarian activities, with a focus on diasporic and marginalized communities around the world.
The representative of India asked about the difference between its founding in 1911 and its incorporation in 1914, to which the speaker replied that the organization initially had a local focus. However, as it grew and began to see the impact of its efforts, it sought incorporation in 1914.
The Committee then granted special consultative status to Omega Psi Phi Fraternity Inc.
A representative of the Life Bliss Foundation said the organization, founded in Singapore in 2006, provides a holistic approach, per Vedic civilization and culture, through workshops and other educational activities, notably the provision of free food to local communities. Consultative status will help it bring its services to more people and contribute to the Council’s work of fostering peace, harmony and a conflict-free life.
India’s representative said 90 per cent of the organization’s spending is of an administrative nature, with programme expenses at 11 per cent. He asked how it conducts its activities with a deficit, to which the speaker replied that the organization is entirely volunteer run: all expenses are fully funded by volunteers. Due to the pandemic, most of its programmes are conducted online. She will follow up on a discrepancy in the organization’s address.
A speaker from Nithyananda Dhyanapeetam TCD Trust said the group is a grassroots volunteer organization founded in 2006 to offer people in India with lectures, workshops, symposia and meditation classes, among other areas of focus. It also has focused on responding to COVID-19 by providing preventive quarantine care.
The United States representative asked about the organization’s connection to Swami Nithyananda, who faces charges of kidnapping and other abuses, to which the speaker replied that the group is inspired by his spiritual teachings but has no other affiliation. The United States representative then asked the group to provide written documentation on how those ties with Swami Nithyananda were severed, and for a list of all affiliated organizations in India and abroad, and of joint affiliations.
A speaker from Merciful Souls (Al-Qolub Al-Rahima) said the organization focuses on humanitarian relief, capacity-building and international advocacy, serving orphans, refugees and victims of disasters, among other communities, particularly the Palestinian community. It strives to achieve global justice, working in line with the Sustainable Development Goals, especially as related to the right to housing, eradication of poverty, food security and access to education.
The representative of Nicaragua asked the speaker to clarify financial matters, to which the organization’s speaker replied that Israel’s law states that each organization must submit its information according to spending, income and assets, among other categories. The financial statement is prepared by a certified public accountant and sent to Israel’s registrar for organizations. The organization has particular focus on Israel and the Gaza Strip, while in Turkey, it works with Syrian refugees.
The Russian Federation’s representative asked about criteria for leadership positions and about the mechanism for selecting leaders, to which the speaker replied that there are five main bodies within the organization, based on its by-laws. Citizens who do not have a criminal record can be nominated for chair or director general positions, for example, after which the candidacy is reviewed by the audit committee and voted upon by the General Assembly.
Israel’s delegate took note of the fact that the organization has had a “very positive” impact on the ground.