As the UN’s NGO Committee is about to embark again on the examination of applications from Non-Governmental Organisations for consultative status with the UN and to review a number of quadrennial reports, the European Union welcomes the opportunity to highlight the importance of this task and the Committee’s responsibility. In as much as civil society at home plays an essential role in strengthening the democratic process and fostering good governance, civil society organisations provide much-needed impulse to the work of the UN – sometimes supportive, sometimes critical, but always helpful by broadening the scope of discussion and perspective. Their expertise and presence is in fact indispensible. The European Union therefore encourages the Committee to act as a strong promoter of NGO participation in the UN, and to enable ECOSOC to decide on pending applications without undue delay.
ECOSOC resolution 1996/31 sets out the principles and rules for the work of the Committee. These principles clearly state that “conformity with the spirit, purposes and principles of the Charta of the United Nations” is the main substantive criterion for granting the establishment of consultative relations. And although the resolution lists a number of organisational and structural requirements that have to be met, the question of whether states, beyond the parameters of resolution 1996/31, agree or disagree with the activities or views of an applicant organisation is neither a matter for the committee’s consideration, nor should its members, in pursuing their examination of any given application, be guided by such considerations. The European Union therefore regrets an increasing tendency within the Committee of questioning applicants well beyond these parameters, and thus to cause unnecessary delays in the process. In some instances, the scope and number of questions has by far exceeded both the spirit and letter of resolution 1996/31. We would therefore wish to see the Committee adopt a practice that is more in line with this resolution.
Under its agenda item 6, the Committee will again have an opportunity to review its methods of work. In view of the European Union, some of the following proposals deserve to be considered for the benefit of improving and facilitating the Committee’s work:
– The establishment, through the Secretariat, of a scheduling system for NGOs to attend the Question and Answer session, as well as of an on-line application system that provides for 15-minute time slots for NGOs. In the same vein, NGOs should be made better aware of the criteria and requirements of resolution 1996/31;
– We would also propose a measure of clear benchmarking in the work of the Committee. For example, the Committee should stick to its agenda and regularly assess whether it has proceeded as far as it was supposed to do;
– We encourage members of the Committee to also submit their questions in writing. Questions should be submitted prior to the regular session, and NGOs should have sufficient time to respond to the Committees questions. Written questions should be consistent with those that have been read out;
– Finally, applications from Non Governmental Organisations should only be deferred for a maximum of two years, after which, as a rule, a vote should be taken and a decision be made.
These are, Mr. Chairman, but a few ideas and suggestions, and we are looking forward to discussing these and other proposals. In closing, let me reiterate the importance the EU places in the Committee’s work, as well as our hope that it meet the expectations placed in it.