26 January 2006

NGO Committee Recommends One Organization for Consultative Status with Economic and Social Council

Also Considers Request for Withdrawal of NGO's Status, Request for Status Reinstatement; Takes Note of Reports

NEW YORK, 25 January (UN Headquarters) -- The Committee on Non-Governmental Organizations today decided to recommend one non-governmental organization (NGO) for consultative status with the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), as it continued its 2006 regular session. 

A standing committee of the Council, the 19-member body uses various criteria to recommend general, special or roster status with the Economic and Social Council, 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.

When the Committee took up applications of NGOs in consultative status which have merged with organizations not in consultative status, it recommended special status for Catholic Organization for Relief and Development Aid (CORDAID), an international organization based in the Netherlands, working to alleviate poverty.

The Committee began its work today by hearing a request for withdrawal of consultative status for Islamic African Relief Agency, an NGO headquartered in Khartoum, Sudan. It decided to contact the NGO and await its response before taking a decision on the request before the end of the Committee's current session, which ends on Friday.

  Presenting the complaint, the representative of the United States said that, since 2004, the NGO had been placed on the list of terrorist organizations by the United States Department of the Treasury, in light of its links with Al-Qaida and terrorist financing activities. Also, several associates of the NGO appeared on the Consolidated List maintained by the Security Council's Al-Qaida and Taliban Sanctions Committee.  He urged the Committee to take a decision before the end of the current session.

Saying that a decision to suspend the NGO at the current stage was premature, Sudan's representative felt the Committee should take note of the complaint, and defer any decision until a reply was received from the NGO.

India's representative stated that the Committee should adopt a uniform standard in dealing with such cases, and should take immediate action against any NGO which violated ECOSOC resolution 1996/31 or whose activities were contrary to the principles of the Charter. The representatives of China, Iran, Cuba and Pakistan stated that, while the Committee should act vigorously on the basis of such complaints, it was important to give the NGO an opportunity to respond, and to study the reply before taking a decision on the matter.

With regard to the request from Tupaj Amaru for reinstatement of consultative status, the Committee decided to include in its final report a statement to the effect that the NGO Committee takes note and acknowledges that the one-year suspension of that NGO came to an end on 23 July 2005.

Cuba's representative said automaticity of reinstatement should never apply in the case of a suspended NGO.  The Committee should have the opportunity to review such cases and then decide on reinstatement.  There was general consensus in the Committee that the NGO in question could obtain consultative status again without a problem. The ECOSOC would analyse the Committee's report at the first opportunity and then the NGO would be able to recover its rights.

However, the representative of France noted that an NGO could have its status reinstated without any specific procedure. The statement to be included in the Committee's report implied that there was no specific procedure for an NGO to regain its status once its suspension ended. Noting the difference between a suspension and a withdrawal of status, Germany's representative added that a suspension meant that an NGO's consultative status was automatically reinstated at the end of the suspension period.

Also today, the Committee took note of the quadrennial reports of the following NGOs in consultative status with the Council: Greek Orthodox Archdiocesan Council of North and South America; International Council on Management of Population Programmes; International Shinto Foundation; Jaime Guzman Errazuriz Foundation; International Women's Rights Action Watch; Asian Federation of Laryngectomees Association; Canadian Environmental Network; Centre Africain de Recherche Interdisciplinaire; The Chinese People's Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries; and Fundación de Ayuda contra la Drogadicción.

It also took note of the quadrennial report of Transnational Radical Party, following a dialogue with its representative. A number of concerns were raised by the representative of the Russian Federation, who said that, judging by its website, the NGO seemed to have changed its name. He wondered whether that implied any change in the organization's status. Also, the NGO had begun a campaign to initiate an interim United Nations authority in Chechnya, information on which could be found on the main page of the NGO's website.  How could the NGO refer to a transitional administration in Chechnya, which had held its own elections and had its own officials?

Responding, the representative of Transnational Radical Party said the NGO had not changed its name, although the president of one of its organs had proposed doing so. A decision on that matter had not been taken. The NGO's website was currently being restructured. The campaign mentioned by the Russian representative was no longer being carried out, and the link on the website would be discontinued. That campaign had sought to find a negotiated political solution, possibly under the auspices of an international organization, such as the United Nations or the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).

Speaking as an observer, the representative of Viet Nam said that the Transnational Radical Party did not deserve consultative status in ECOSOC. The NGO had engaged in separatist and terrorist activities against Member States, among them his own, while espousing non-violence. In 2004, the Committee had recommended suspension of the NGO's status. Unfortunately, due to political pressure, ECOSOC did not take that decision. As long as the NGO continued to engage in such activities and failed to give satisfactory answers to questions posed to it, it did not deserve consultative status with ECOSOC.

The Committee left pending the quadrennial report, deferred from previous sessions, of Centrist Democratic International, an organization about which the representative of Cuba had expressed concerns in the past, and which he said seemed to be a grouping of political parties. Was it a political party or an NGO under ECOSOC resolution 1996/31, he wondered. The NGO's explanations did not answer the questions posed. He wanted to know if the NGO, during the period covered by the report, was the subject of allegations by Governments that it had defended activities against certain States, or took part in such activities. Also, was the NGO ready to cease contact with groups or individuals promoting activities going against the territorial integrity of States?  It could not carry out politically motivated activities against States.

Germany's representative expressed concern that the NGO's report had been languishing before the Committee for almost five years, and urged the Committee not to defer the matter further.  Doing so might discourage other NGOs from submitting their reports on time, and reflect poorly on the Committee itself. If the Committee did not take note of the report during the current session, it would be derelict in the responsibilities conferred on it by ECOSOC.

In addition, the Committee left pending the application of Nonviolent Peaceforce, whose representative responded to the Committee's questions. The representative of the Russian Federation asked if the NGO had any links with an organization of a similar name -- Non-Violence International, which operated in the Russian Federation. Also, what role did the NGO's member organizations play within the NGO?

While strongly supporting the NGO, the representative of Germany asked whether the NGO would ever develop a project onsite without the approval and concurrence of the host Government. Along the same lines, Cuba's representative asked if the NGO cooperated with countries in which it carried out its activities, and which Governments provided funds for the NGO.

The representative of Nonviolent Peaceforce replied that his NGO was not the same organization as the one mentioned by the Russian Federation. His organization was founded in 2002, and had among its members an organization called Non-violent International, which had its headquarters in the United States.  It was not responsible for the activities of its member organization, he added.

His organization was a non-partisan, independent and non-violent group, which meant that it had to have contact with all sides in a conflict, he continued. Its budget last year was $2 million, less than 10 per cent of which came from Governments; more than half of its funding was derived from individuals. It had received funds from Germany for a project in Sri Lanka, as well as some funds from the United States. It was important for the NGO to have relationships with the authorities of countries in which it was active.

Also today, the Committee was briefed by the representative of Romania, who served as coordinator of the Committee's informal working group, established in 2000 to review its working methods. Cuba's representative said the Committee should deal with those NGOs that did not submit their quadrennial reports, despite the fact that they were required to do so under ECOSOC resolution 1996/31. Germany pointed out that roster NGOs, who were not required to submit quadrennial reports, should not be put under any pressure if they did not reply to surveys, as that might blur the lines between the categories of status. The NGOs in general and special status, added Turkey's representative, should be reminded of their obligation to submit quadrennial reports.

On a related matter, the Committee decided to postpone, pending further clarifications, taking note of a report submitted in accordance with ECOSOC decision 2005/240, by which the Council requested the Secretary-General to examine the causes for persistent delays in the availability of documentation for the NGO Committee, take measures to address the problem and submit a report to the Committee at its 2006 regular session.

Several representatives expressed concern with the report, including Germany's representative, who called the report "disappointing".  He said that, while the issuance of documentation had improved, he had expected something more substantial in the report. The core issues were the reasons for delays and measures taken to redress the situation. The report had only referred to measures taken by the Committee, and lacked information on what steps the Secretariat had taken.

At the outset of the meeting, the Committee elected Octavian Stamate of Romania as its Rapporteur.

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 tomorrow, 26 January, at 10 a.m. to consider all pending matters.

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