On Wednesday 7 December, ECOSOC Member States will be asked to vote on the accreditation of 9 NGOs that have been arbitrarily blocked from UN participation, including one that has been blocked for 15 years - the longest in the history of the institution.
349 national, regional and international NGOs have called for States to take NGO participation seriously and vote accordingly.
In April, elections will be held to the UN Committee on NGOs, a body mandated to accredit NGOs to the UN.
‘Members of the UN Committee on NGOs control who comes in or stays out. We need States to create a fit for purpose body. Ensuring it is populated by States that want to promote civil society is the place to start’, said ISHR’s Maithili Pai.
NGOs around the world have direct experience of having their applications deferred by the NGO Committee – often for many years – which blocks them from participating fully in UN meetings. The Committee is composed of several members that use their membership to stop NGOs getting accredited.
‘This practice is counterproductive and deeply problematic. The UN loses vital expertise due to the political interests of States’, said Pai. ‘Human Rights Defenders are vital for the promotion of a more just and inclusive world. Their inclusion in UN processes is key to meeting the enormous challenges we all face,’ she added.
The group of NGOs have three main calls on UN members. Firstly, that States with positive records to civil society make evident their interest in promoting their participation by standing for elections. Of known candidates so far, 60% are countries considered to have ‘closed’ or ‘repressed’ CSO space, according to the assessment of NGO Civicus.
In addition, the NGOs call for competitive elections. Each of the five UN regional groups provide candidates for a specific number of seats. From what is known of candidates so far only one regional group is providing a choice to electors.
‘There is still plenty of time for States to stand as candidates and for regional groups to encourage competition and a real election that offers choice,’ said Pai.
Finally, the NGOs call on the 54 members of ECOSOC – the parent body of the NGO Committee – to commit only to vote for States that they believe will fulfill the mandate of the Committee honestly.
‘It’s time for States to vote with integrity in April,’ said ISHR’s Eleanor Openshaw. ‘They must elect to promote civil society.’
See here for more on the ISHRGlobal campaign for positive elections for membership of the Committee on NGOs.
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