ISHR sheds light on the attempts by Chinese diplomats to exert undue influence over the UN expert bodies that oversee compliance with major international human rights treaties and covenants, and makes recommendations for how stakeholders can strengthen the system’s ability to fight back.
Members of the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) voted today to elect 19 members for the next 4 year term (2022-2025) of the ECOSOC Committee on NGOs. The 19 members of the Committee, elected from five regional groups, are the gatekeepers for civil society at the UN as they decide which NGOs receive UN accreditation participation rights.
In today’s election, the Eastern European States was the only regional group which presented a competitive slate, as three candidates, Armenia, Georgia and Russia, contested for the two available seats. Armenia, Georgia and Russia received 47, 44 and 15 votes respectively. As a result, Russia, a member of the Committee since its establishment in 1947, has been voted out. This result comes one week after a historic resolution of the UN General Assembly to suspend Russia’s Human Rights Council membership.
As the other regional groups did not put up competitive slates, members were elected without a vote. These additional 17 countries are now members of the NGO Committee:
African States: Algeria, Cameroon, Eritrea, Liberia and Zimbabwe.
Asia-Pacific States: Bahrain, China, India and Pakistan.
Latin-American and Caribbean States: Chile, Costa Rica, Cuba and Nicaragua
Western European and other States: Israel, Turkey, the United Kingdom and the United States
Despite Russia’s departure, the incoming NGO Committee still includes members with deeply problematic records on safeguarding human rights and civil society participation. According to the CIVICUS Monitor, 60% of the incoming members are currently characterised as being ‘closed’ or ‘repressed’ civic spaces. This includes all members for the Asia-Pacific region. Civic space is ‘obstructed’ or ‘narrowed’ within the remaining 40%.
“Members of the NGO Committee are the primary decision makers on which NGOs can access UN bodies and processes,” said Maithili Pai, Programme Officer and ISHR focal point for civil society access and participation. “States must fulfil their fundamental mandate under ECOSOC Resolution 1996/31 by acknowledging the breadth of NGO expertise and their capacity to support the work of the UN, and ensuring just, balanced, effective and genuine involvement of NGOs around the world.” she added.
ISHR is aware of 352 currently deferred organisations seeking UN accreditation, at least 40 which have faced over four years of deferrals, and one that has been deferred for 14 years. In response, ISHR sought to campaign for states to engage in competitive and meaningful elections that could produce positive outcomes for civil society. We urge incoming members of the Committee to open the doors of the UN to civil society groups from around the world.
In solidarity with SouthernDefenders, ISHR supports the urgent call for an immediate investigation into the assassination of human rights lawyer Thulani Maseko in Eswatini, as well as the appeal for swift action by the Southern African Development Community (SADC) amid a mounting political crisis in the country.
Over 200 NGOs with consultative status with the UN Economic and Social Council provide strong recommendations to enhance access and participation of NGOs with the UN.