I have the honour to intervene on behalf of the European Union.
The Acceding Country Croatia*, the Candidate Countries the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia*, Montenegro*, Iceland† and Serbia, the Countries of the Stabilisation and Association Process and potential candidates Albania and Bosnia and Herzegovina, and the EFTA country Liechtenstein, members of the European Economic Area, align themselves with this declaration.
The Council is about to consider the reports of the regular and resumed session of the NGO Committee of this year. I now take the floor on behalf of the European Union for a general statement in order to voice our concerns regarding the functioning of the Committee.
The EU considers the involvement of civil society and non-governmental organizations as an essential part of the work of the United Nations in general, including the ECOSOC. We attach great importance to their contribution towards open and democratic societies. We all stand to gain from a variety of views being expressed, and being expressed openly. Over time, these views 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 organizations 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.
This year, the Committee made an effort to handle more swiftly some NGO applications and to reduce its traditional backlog, working in a more constructive manner. For instance, at its resumed session the Committee recommended granting consultative status to 129 NGOs. The EU commends the progress achieved but remains concerned that the aforementioned quantitative increase obscures a gloomy situation.
Over the past few years, the Committee continued to deviate from the guiding principles of ECOSOC resolution 1996/31. Let me highlight our three main concerns.
First, the EU regrets that Members of the Committee continue to use delaying tactics to defer applications such as asking repetitive questions that go beyond the information the NGOs are required to submit under the 1996/31 ECOSOC resolution. In May of this year, the NGO Committee deferred a total of 130 requests for consultative status; this practice leaves NGOs in a state of limbo for several years at a time. On any given application, the Committee should live up to its responsibility to take a decision within a reasonable time.
Second, with regard to many human rights related NGOs, the Committee simply balked at taking a decision during several consecutive sessions, leaving those organizations in the void of some sort of permanent deferral, often only because they are critical of some members’ human rights records or simply hold views which are different to those of Governments. Of particular concern is the resistance of some member States of the NGO Committee to grant status to organizations which promote and defend the rights of persons based on their sexual orientation.
Thirdly, another serious concern is the refusal of some Committee Members to take note of the quadrennial reports of various human rights organizations which already have status. It is clear that the systematic deferral of these activity reports is used as a form of reprisal against human rights defenders. The EU regrets this unfair treatment.
Mr. President, in view of the above, the EU would like to recall that the core mandate of the committee is to determine whether an organization’s activities fall within the competence of ECOSOC and whether the aims and purposes of the organization are in conformity with the spirit, purposes and principles of the U.N. Charter, nothing more, nothing less.
In the view of the European Union, our concerns reflect the fact that the guiding principles for granting ECOSOC consultative status are being undermined. The arrangements for consultations with NGOs were not designed to foster 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 often differs from that of States.
The EU values this contribution, even if it can be sometimes challenging, and would therefore respectfully urge the Members of the NGO Committee to work together to defend and uphold the guiding principles agreed by us the Member States in resolution 1996/31.
* Croatia, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia continue to be part of the Stabilisation and Association Process
† Iceland continues to be a member of the EFTA and of the European Economic Area