1 June 2016, New York – 1 June 2016, New York – European Union Statement in the United Nations NGO Committee
Mr Chair, I speak on behalf of the European Union and its Member States.
It is vital that, when discharging its duties, the NGO Committee holds true to the foundations of its mandate, including ECOSOC resolution 1996/31 which foresees the provision of consultative status to organisations 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. It is also vital to keep in mind the reasons why the voice of civil society is prized in the context of the UN and beyond. NGOs are the lifeblood of open, democratic societies. They play a crucial role on so many fronts – as the breadth of issues covered by the NGOs considered at this session testifies. They will also make an indispensable contribution to realizing the Sustainable Development Goals – and should be seen as partners in such global endeavours. NGOs are not in the business of paying lip-service to any government or regional or international organization – they are rather in the business of speaking sometimes uncomfortable truths and holding those in power to account. That is partly why the space accorded to civil society in many countries is being restricted and imperiled.
The decisions of the present NGO Committee have not always done justice to these considerations. It is perfectly proper for this Committee to scrutinize applications and make decisions based on a fair application of the rules. It is not proper to seek to thwart the aspirations for consultative status on spurious, petty or political grounds. Any analysis of the outcome of the Committee’s deliberations – including the disproportionate rejection of NGOs engaged on human rights concerns and repeated rejections of applicants – raises strong concerns in this regard. In addition to the harm incurred with respect to civil society itself, this also risks real damage to the image of the NGO Committee and the United Nations as a whole. It is time for the NGO Committee to fulfil its core mandate as set down by ECOSOC and to become an enabler of civil society and the enrichment of the work of the UN that civil society engagement brings. It is also time to consider further possible measures to instil confidence in the NGO Committee, including its transparency. One such step which has been suggested by others would be to webcast the Committee’s proceedings, which would have the added advantage of providing a medium for those NGOs who are unable to be present at the Committee itself.
Thank you Mr Chair.
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