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Summary: 20 July 2015, New York – EU Statement – United Nations ECOSOC: Coordination and Management Meeting, 20-22 July 2015, Item 17: Non-governmental organisations, general discussion, delivered by H.E. Ms. Sylvie Lucas, Permanent Representative of Luxembourg to the United Nations.

Mr. President,

I have the honour to intervene on behalf of the European Union.

The Candidate Countries, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia*, Montenegro*  and Albania*, the country of the Stabilisation and Association Process and potential candidate Bosnia and Herzegovina, and the EFTA country Liechtenstein, member of the European Economic Area, as well as Ukraine, the Republic of Moldova and Armenia align themselves with this statement.

The Council is about to consider the report of the resumed session of the NGO Committee of this year. At this time, I 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.

Mr. President,

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 Economic and Social Council. We attach great importance to their contribution towards open, strong and democratic societies. We all stand to gain from a variety of views being expressed, and being expressed openly. These views have continued to contribute to more informed decisions being made by us as UN Member States on a broad variety of issues. These considerations were explicitly affirmed by this Council in its resolution 1996/31.

The EU remains 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, whose aims and purposes are in conformity with the spirit, purposes and principles of the UN and who support the work of the UN and promote knowledge of its principles and activities.

Mr. President,

Over the past years, we have seen increasing deviations from the guiding principles laid down in the ECOSOC resolution 1996/31. Let me highlight our main concerns in this regard.

First, the EU regrets that some Members of the Committee continue to use delaying tactics to defer applications, such as asking repetitive questions, including those that go beyond the information the NGOs are required to submit under the 1996/31 ECOSOC resolution. In 2014, the Committee recommended granting consultative status to 383 NGOs, while deferring 345 applications. In 2015, it recommended consultative status to only 284 NGOs and deferred 376 applications – 176 applications at its regular and 200 at its resumed session. This practice can leave NGOs in a state of limbo for several years at a time.

With regard to many NGOs, the Committee has simply balked at taking a decision during several consecutive sessions, leaving those organizations in the void of some sort of permanent deferral. On any given application, the Committee should live up to its responsibility to take a decision within a reasonable time.

Opposition to granting consultative status for organizations is often based solely on the fact that they are critical of some members’ human rights records or simply because of the views expressed by these organizations are different to those of Governments, or their views on human rights issues, such as the human rights of women and girls. 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.

In this regard, we would like to draw attention to the organisation, Freedom Now, whose application has by now been pending for over five years with almost 60 questions posed and responded to by the organisation. Its application was reviewed again in 2015, with the Committee members given ample opportunity to pose further questions. We strongly believe that organisations which have an established record of work in pursuing the goals of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in conformity with the UN Charter and meet the criteria of resolution 1996/31, should not be subject to procedural measures that subject them to permanent deferral.

We would also point out an additional strong concern: that the withdrawal of consultative status may be used as a form of reprisal for the activities of NGOs. We underline that ECOSOC has set down clear criteria in resolution 1996/31, particularly in its paragraphs 56 and 57, for any decisions on withdrawal of status that the Committee needs to follow. Paragraph 57 of the ECOSOC resolution clearly delineates the cases where the status may be suspended or withdrawn – it is intended to allow this in case the organisations in questions are engaged in a pattern of acts contrary to the purposes and principles of the Charter. If these provisions, set by the parent body of the NGO Committee, are not followed, the decisions of the Committee become arbitrary and unfounded on the criteria set out by this Council. Furthermore, these cases should be subject to a free, fair and transparent discussion that allows for a full assessment of any case by all Committee members. The withdrawal of consultative status is the most serious course of action foreseen in 1996/31 and it can by no means be thoroughly assessed within the limited time of a single session of the Committee. We disagree on principle with attempts to use the Committee procedures to undermine its very purpose. 

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, these and other cases reflect a negative trend in the functioning of the NGO Committee, giving again 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 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.

Thank you.

 


* The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Albania continue to be part of the Stabilisation and Association Process.

  • Ref: EUUN15-115EN
  • EU source: 
  • UN forum: 
  • Date: 20/7/2015

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