I have the honour to speak on behalf of the European Union.
The Candidate Countries Croatia* and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia*, the Countries of the Stabilisation and Association Process and potential candidates Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, and the EFTA country Norway, member of the European Economic Area, as well as Ukraine and Armenia align themselves with this declaration.
The Council is about to take action on the reports of the NGO Committee of January and May of this year. At this time, I take the floor on behalf of the European Union for a general statement to register some concerns which the EU has with regard to the functioning of the NGO Committee.
Non-governmental organisations continue to contribute to the diversity of the debate in ECOSOC and other United Nations fora. The UN is a democratic institution built on principles of diversity, non-discrimination and frank and respectful dialogue. We all stand to gain from a variety of views being expressed, and being expressed openly. Over time, the views expressed by non-governmental organisations have contributed to more informed decisions being made by us as UN Member States.
The EU is committed to the overall aspiration of ECOSOC resolution 1996/31, which is to provide consultative status to organisations whose activities fall within the realm of ECOSOC and its subsidiary bodies, and whose aims and purposes are in conformity with the spirit, purposes and principles of the UN.
However, over the past few years we have seen more and more deviations from those guiding principles in the handling of applications before, and in recommendations made by the NGO Committee. States are increasingly opposing consultative status for organisations which have been critical of their human rights record, or whose views a particular States do not agree with. Moreover, with regard to some organisations, the NGO Committee has conspicuously failed, during several consecutive sessions, to reach a decision on whether or not status should to recommend. This failure is explained by an alleged need to ask more, often repetitive, questions of the organisations representatives.
This year, three disputed recommendations of the NGO Committee will be challenged in ECOSOC. This statement is not made for the purpose of supporting these particular organisations per se. It is not for States to say which organisations contribute more or less to the work of the UN. However, some of the concerns the EU has with the work of the NGO Committee are reflected in these recommendations.
There has been a resistance of some member states of the NGO Committee to the granting of status to organisations which promote the rights of persons based on their sexual orientation and gender identity. Such applications have been delayed in the Committee through several rounds of questioning where the same questions are repeated. Proposals to grant status have been called to a vote and, with one positive exception, rejected by a narrow margin. This also happened to the Brazilian NGO ABGLT which we will be addressing later today.
With regard to other organisations, some Member States have argued that they do not meet the criteria since they have been critical of certain member States. This was the case of the organisation Democracy Coalition Project. Its criticism of some States performance on human rights was described as politically motivated acts against member States with reference to paragraph 57 a) of the ECOSOC resolution. This goes way beyond the intention of this paragraph, which is intended to allow suspension or withdrawal of status for organisations which have engaged in a pattern of acts contrary to the purposes and principles of the Charter. As States, we will never agree with all the views expressed by all organisations. However, that does not mean that we should exclude them from the opportunity of expressing their views at the UN in accordance with the criteria of resolution 1996/31.
Furthermore, this year, one organisation, the Dynamic Christian World Mission Foundation, had its application closed by the NGO Committee through a vote since it had not replied fully to the questions asked by one State in the Committee. However, the outstanding question was a request by a State for a list of the names and addresses of all its members in that State. There is no obligation for NGOs to answer such a detailed question. The refusal to provide this information is justifiable based on reasons of privacy and should not be a basis for closure of application.
Finally, a case of suspension during the January session based on an alleged association to terrorism clearly demonstrated the need for appropriate procedures in cases where such serious allegations are made.
In the view of the European Union, these and other cases reflect a negative trend in the working of the NGO Committee, giving cause for concern that the guiding principles for granting ECOSOC consultative status are gradually being undermined. The arrangements for consultations with NGOs were not designed to forward the interests of States; on the contrary, they were designed to allow civil society actors to support and enrich the work of the UN by providing a perspective which very often differs from that of States. The EU values this, at times challenging, contribution and would therefore respectfully urge States on the NGO Committee to work together to defend and uphold the guiding principles agreed by us the Member States in resolution 1996/31.
* Croatia and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia continue to be part of the Stabilisation and Association Process.