11 May 2006

Opening Resumed 2006 Session, NGO Committee Recommends 22 Organizations for Consultative Status with Economic and Social Council

NEW YORK, 10 May (UN Headquarters) -- As it opened its 10-day resumed 2006 session today, the Committee on Non-Governmental Organizations decided, by a vote, not to reconsider its previous decision to withdraw consultative status of the Islamic African Relief Agency, and recommended 22 non-governmental organizations (NGOs) for consultative status with the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC).  One organization was recommended for roster status.

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 Economic and Social 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.

By a roll-call vote of 8 in favour (China, Cuba, India, Iran, Pakistan, Senegal, the Sudan, Zimbabwe) to 9 against (Chile, Colombia, France, Germany, Peru, Romania, Russian Federation, Turkey, United States), with 2 abstentions (Cameroon, Côte d'Ivoire), the Committee rejected a motion by the Sudan to reconsider the draft decision on the withdrawal of status of the Islamic African Relief Agency that was taken in January.  The decision will be included in the report of the Committee to be sent to the Economic and Social Council.

The vote followed an intense discussion in connection with the information that the Sudan-based NGO, claiming to provide assistance to disadvantaged populations worldwide, presented, under paragraph 56 of ECOSOC resolution 1996/31, according to which an NGO has a right to present its response for proper consideration.

The representative of the Sudan asked the Committee to reconsider its decision, as the NGO had sent a large number of documents to refute the allegations against it by the United States.  Since its inception, the NGO had never been accused of such offences as money-laundering, terrorism or corruption.  Withdrawal of status would affect the NGO's activities, as well as contracts it held with a number of Governments and United Nations funds and agencies.

The documents presented by the NGO would prove that the accusations were baseless, she continued.  The NGO was providing humanitarian assistance in a number of countries, including the Sudan.  It had ongoing projects to eradicate poverty and generate income, ran orphanages in rural areas of Africa, and was engaged in the provision of health services and education.  The NGO was also involved in relief efforts and humanitarian assistance in several countries in the Middle East, including Iraq.  Had any links of the NGO to terrorist organizations been known, her Government would not have allowed it to continue working in the Sudan.

The representative of United States insisted that the Committee had already taken a decision by consensus, based on the facts presented by his delegation.  According to the rules, that decision could not be reconsidered at the same session, unless the Economic and Social Council so decided.  While involved in humanitarian activities, the NGO supported terrorism and participated in money-laundering.  The NGO had been placed on the list of terrorist organizations by his country, because of its links with Al-Qaida and terrorist financing activities.  Several of its associates had appeared on the Consolidated List maintained by the Security Council's Al-Qaida and Taliban Sanctions Committee.

China advocated extreme caution, saying that it was necessary to avoid politicizing counter-terrorism efforts, and hurting innocent parties in the process.  The submissions before the Committee proved humanitarian activities of the NGO, which were supported financially and politically in many countries.  In view of the allegation of connections with terrorist organizations, it was important to study the response.

Several members of the Committee said that more time was needed to study the NGO's case.  Colombia's representative said the activities of the NGO looked legal, but it needed to further clarify its possible connections with terrorist organizations.  The representatives of Iran and Zimbabwe said they had joined the consensus in the last session, because there had been no reply from the NGO, and they were not sure it still existed.  Now that the response had been provided, more time was needed to study it.  Zimbabwe added that, from the responses, it was clear that the NGO was involved in humanitarian work, with the support and encouragement of a number of Governments.  That should be taken into account.

Cuba's representative, in several interventions, said the response provided by the NGO was rather substantive, containing letters from Western diplomats who expressed their satisfaction with the activities of the NGO.  He would have preferred to receive more information, so that the Committee could take its decision.

Responding to a question by Pakistan, the United States representative said that his country was in the process of presenting the NGO's case to the Sanctions Committee.  The NGO Committee dealt with ECOSOC accreditation, and it was within its competence to withdraw or suspend the status, as it had already decided.

After the vote, the representative of the Sudan expressed regret over the Committee's "unfortunate decision" on an NGO that was carrying out extremely important work to benefit the needy people in Africa and Asia.  She hoped that the NGO would soon be able to reapply for consultative status with the ECOSOC.

The representatives of India and Pakistan said that any NGO should have an opportunity to be heard, particularly when serious allegations were levelled against it.  An NGO "should not be convicted without a proper trial", Pakistan's representative said.  Besides, the NGO Committee should not be making pronouncements on such important issues as terrorism, which was the prerogative of the Security Council.  During the debate, that position was supported by Chile, whose representative said that the Committee did not have the competence to decide to what extent the serious terrorism accusations were pertinent.

The Committee recommended that ECOSOC grant special consultative status to:

Federation of Western Thrace Turks in Europe, a German-based international NGO with 7 individual and 29 organization members in two countries, with the proclaimed goal of securing the rights of the Turkish minority in Greece by means of democracy and peace;

Humanity First, a London-based international NGO, seeking to provide relief to people suffering as a result of natural disaster or human conflict worldwide;

Leadership Watch, a Nigeria-based NGO, seeking to promote democracy, good governance, human rights, rule of law and equitable development, as well as ethical management of the economy;

MotherCare International, a Canada-based international group of obstetricians, gynaecologists, midwives and allied professionals, formed in response to the World Health Organization's (WHO) "Call to Action" that was made at the 1987 Safe Motherhood Conference in Nairobi;

AIDS Alliance in Nigeria, a national organization with some 8,700 individual members;

Fondation Chantal Biya, a Cameroonian organization, seeking to assist indigent people;

Save Africa Concerts Foundation, a United States national NGO, helping to spread the message on HIV/AIDS through music;

Rooftops Canada, an NGO of cooperative and social housing organizations in Canada;

International Forestry Students' Association, an international NGO, based in Germany, which unites 52 organizations in 31 countries;

Russian Peace Foundation, an international organization, aiming to promote peace, friendship and accord between national and ethnic groups;

National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws, a United States organization, which comprises more than 350 lawyers, judges and law professors;

Business Council for Sustainable Energy, a United States NGO, focusing on market-based approaches to reducing pollution and diverse mix of energy resources;

World Peace and Economic Development Organization, an international NGO based in Bangladesh, which aims to expand services in the areas of health and primary education and raise awareness of terrorism;

African Youth Movement, an international organization based in Nigeria, supporting the efforts to conserve natural resources, ecosystems and sustainable food production and mobilizing youth for action on the Millennium Development Goals, among other things;

Union pour la Promotion de la Femme Nigerienne, a national NGO, based in Niger;

Brazilian Foundation of America, an international NGO, which aims to provide services to Brazilian communities in the United States and help other non-profit organizations from Brazil;

International Committee for Arab-Israeli Reconciliation, which is based in the United States;

EUROSOLAR Turkey, a national organization, promoting the use of solar energy;

Canadian Association of Elizabeth Fry Societies, a national association of self-governing, community based societies that work with and for women and girls in the justice system;

China Education Association for International Exchange, a national NGO; and

European Union of Jewish Students, a Belgium-based international organization, representing 34 national unions.

The recommendation regarding the Global Alliance Against Traffic in Women, an international organization based in Thailand, was granted after its representative assured the representative of China that corrections would be made on its website and in its documentation.  China's representative had noted that the NGO had listed Hong Kong special administrative region, as 1 of 29 countries where it was represented.

Roster status was recommended for AIGA, a United States-based NGO, seeking to further excellence in communication design.

Applications of several NGOs were left pending, awaiting receipt of additional information, including those of Deniz Feneri Yardimlasma ve Dayanisma Dernegi, Fundacion para Estudio e Investigacion de la Mujer, International Relations Students' Association of McGill University, Asociacion Conceincia, Association El Houda pour l'action feminine, Viet Nam Family Planning Association, Pro-femmes/ Twese Hamwe, Mujer para la Mujer A.C., and Foundation for Research and Support of the Indigenous Peoples of Crimea,

The application of the Association of European Parliamentarians for Africa was left pending, after the representative of Cuba wondered how the NGO maintained its independence, if 95 per cent of its financing came from Governments.

As the Committee took up the application of the Macedonian Center for International Cooperation, the representative of Greece, supported by Chile, urged the NGO to use the only name agreed upon in the context of the United Nations -- the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.  The application was left pending.

Also left pending was an application from The Tandem Project, an international organization based in the United States, whose stated purpose is to advocate the freedom of thought, conscience and religion.  Responding to questions from the floor, a representative of that organization said that the project sought to promote the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the 1981 United Nations Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Intolerance and Discrimination Based on Religion and Belief.  The NGO did not collect data and challenge nations.  Instead, it sought to devise methods where belief issues could be resolved within communities.  It was also trying to build a model for dialogue for people of different believes. The focus was on the promotion of values and teaching of religious rights to students. 

The Committee will hold its next meeting at 10 a.m. tomorrow, 11 May.

* *** *