17 May 2005

NGO Committee Recommends Four Organizations for Special Consultative Status with Economic and Social Council, Defers Four Applications

In Addition to Considering Quadrennial Reports Submitted by NGOs, Committee Discusses Working Methods, Conduct of NGO Representatives

NEW YORK, 13 May (UN Headquarters) -- The Committee on Non-Governmental Organizations today recommended four organizations for special consultative status with the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), as it continued its 2005 resumed session.

The Committee deferred the applications for consultative status of four other organizations.  It noted the withdrawal, from such status, of one organization, and also took note of the quadrennial reports of 11 organizations, deferring four others, as well as considering various matters related to its working methods.

The 19-member Committee uses various criteria to recommend general, special or roster status with ECOSOC, including the applicant’s mandate, governance and financial regime.  Organizations that have general and special consultative status can attend meetings of the Council and circulate statements of a certain length.  Those with general status can, in addition, speak at meetings and propose items for the Council’s agenda, while NGOs with roster status can only attend meetings.  Non-governmental organizations with general and special consultative status must submit a report to the Council every four years.  “Taking note” of a quadrennial report implies that the Committee finds the report adequate for fulfilment of that obligation.

The Committee recommended special consultative status for:

-- UNANIMA International, based in New York, which is concerned with economic and social progress;

-- 50&PIU Fenacom, an international organization based in Italy, which aims at the improvement of the condition of elderly persons;

-- Tamana Association, a national organization from India, which aims to create services and a culture of rights for individuals with disabilities; and

-- Generations United, an international organization based in the United States concerned with intergenerational issues.

The Committee deferred applications from:

-- Federation of Islamic Medical Associations, an international organization based in the United States involved in medical care and health education, training and research, because Colombia’s representative asked how the organization could have such wide-ranging activities on the small budget they had indicated.  During the discussion, the Observer of the Organization of the Islamic Conference testified to the value of the organization and explained its coordination role and some of its financial arrangements.

-- Political and Ethical Knowledge on Economic Activities, an international organization based in France, whose purpose is the development of such knowledge towards the goal of a more humane world.  Cuba’s representative requested information about its activities in the Caribbean.

-- BADIL Resource Centre for Palestinian Residency and Residency Rights, an organization based in Bethlehem which provides professional analysis and information on the situation of Palestinian refugees.  Delegations said they needed to study its replies further.

-- International Police Commission, based in the United States, which addresses problems affecting human rights and economics, after a number of delegations found its explanations unsatisfactory, particularly regarding budgetary matters and intelligence activities.

The Committee took note of the quadrennial reports of the following:

International Buddhist Relief Organization, Soroptimist International,  World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts, Youth for Unity and Voluntary Action, International Association for Religious Freedom, International Trustee Fund of the Tsyolkovsky Moscow State Aviation Technology University, Armenian Assembly of America, Association for the Prevention of Torture, International Jurists Organization (Asia), Peace Education Foundation and the Word of Life Christian Fellowship.

It deferred the reports of the following organizations, whose reports had already been deferred in previous sessions:

-- International Press Institute, after the representative of Cuba objected to the manner in which the group baulked at the questions it had been asked.  Germany’s representative countered that his delegation had also objected to many of the questions, which he said included value judgements that were not completely consensual within the United Nations -- such as the assumption of certain biases in the news media.

-- Islamic Relief, after India’s representative requested details on partner organizations in her country;

-- International Service for Human Rights, because Russia’s representative said that the group seemed to object to answering his delegation’s previous questions, due to a strange claim of confidentiality; and

-- Transnational Radical Party, because its replies to questions had not yet been received.

The Committee also took note of the removal of the consultative status of the Oceans Institute of Canada, which ceased to exist on 13 January 2005.

In the discussion of its working methods this morning, the Committee considered the status of its informal working group.  Noting that the working group had evolved into more of an intersessional informal meeting of the Committee, several members asked for clarification on the functioning of that body including the scope of its agenda.  Some supported open-ended membership in the working group, stressing also the need to be kept informed of the items before it.

The Chief of the ECOSOC NGO Section, Hanifa Mezoui, noted that, when the informal working group had begun, it had had much to do of a technical nature, including report formats.  Another matter had been so-called “grey area” NGOs.  Little by little, the group had grown.

Following the discussion, Committee Chairperson Paimaneh Hastaie (Iran) asked the Secretariat to provide the Committee with information on the working group, including its membership and agenda.  The Committee then decided to return to the matter next week.

Also as part of the discussion of the Committee’s working methods, the representative of Cuba expressed his extreme concern about violations of the accreditation process for NGO representatives to ECOSOC subsidiary bodies, in particular the Commission on Human Rights.  A lack of discipline by NGOs was becoming increasingly frequent.  It was important for the Committee and ECOSOC to take specific action to combat disruptive behaviour.  While the vast majority of NGOs made a real contribution to the United Nations work, the question of violations had to be addressed in some way, either in formal meetings or in the working group.  Another issue was that of merging organizations.  It was important to look at the characteristics of merging organizations and provide adequate information on them.

The Chief of the NGO Section, Ms. Mezoui noted that the Committee had decided a few years ago that the informal working group would draft a letter reminding NGOs of their responsibilities regarding accreditation.  That letter had been widely disseminated and was part of the documentation before the Commission on Human Rights.  It was an active letter used all the time.

The United States representative noted that there was a mechanism for recourse.  Debate of resources was not pertinent to the issue of the Committee’s working methods.  The issue of merging organizations was an important topic, which had already been partially discussed.  The United States was a strong supporter of freedom of expression and thought that NGOs or accredited representatives were aware of the possibility of recourse if they misbehaved, including the possibility of suspension.

Germany’s representative said his impression of the Commission on Human Rights was a little different.  He did not believe there was a trend towards increasing lack of discipline or willingness to breach the rules.  Compared to previous sessions of the Commission, this year’s session had been calmer.  The working group was an informal group, and as such, not suitable for discussing issues with a strong political connotation.

In other business, the Committee heard the introduction of a draft decision, which would have the Committee decide to request the Secretary-General to examine the causes for persistent delays in the availability of documentation to the Committee and take measures to address the problem.

Introducing the draft, the representative of India said the Committee was of particular importance to the United Nations, facilitating interaction between the United Nations and civil society through the formal accreditation of NGOs.  In a sense, it was a unique body with a unique function.  Adherence to the six-week rule for issuance of documents in all official languages would greatly facilitate the Committee’s work.  She hoped the decision could be adopted early next week.

The representatives of France and Colombia decided to co-sponsor the draft decision, which the representatives of Cuba, China, Cameroon, Peru, Germany, Romania, Senegal and the Russian Federation also supported.

The Committee members are:  Cameroon, Chile, China, Colombia, Côte d’Ivoire, Cuba, France, Germany, India, Iran, Peru, Pakistan, Romania, Russian Federation, Senegal, Sudan, Turkey, United States and Zimbabwe.

The Committee will meet again on Monday, 16 May to continue consideration of applications for consultative status with ECOSOC.

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