15 May 2006

Committee on NGOs Recommends Seven Organizations for Consultative Status with Economic and Social Council

NEW YORK, 12 May (UN Headquarters) -- The Committee on Non-Governmental Organizations, in two meetings today, recommended seven non-governmental organizations (NGOs) for consultative status with the Economic and Social Council and discussed a number of responses from organizations, whose applications had been left pending or deferred from previous sessions.

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.

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.

Recommended for special consultative status with ECOSOC were:

-- LatCrit, Inc. (Latina and Latino Critical Theory, Inc.), a United States-based NGO designed to highlight the Latin community's concerns in legal discourse and social policy;

-- Mental Disability Rights International, an advocacy organization based in the United States;

-- The Tides Center, a United States-based NGO seeking to promote creative non-profit activity and manage philanthropic resources dedicated to social change;

-- Population Services International, an NGO based in the United States that deploys commercial marketing strategies to promote health products, services and healthy behaviour to "enable low-income and other vulnerable people to lead healthier lives";

-- Henry Dunant Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue, a Switzerland-based independent foundation, whose purpose is to prevent human suffering caused by war;

-- International Organization for Peace, Care and Relief, based in Libya; and

-- Associazione Comunita Papa Giovanni XXIII, an Italy-based international NGO seeking to help its members to realize their Christian vocation, "trying to do the will of God throughout their whole life".

The Committee left pending the application of Coalition gaie et lesbianne du Quebec, with whose representative it had a dialogue, having received the written answers today.  The Coalition is a Canada-based national organization with 337 individual and 13 organizational members, whose mission is to promote, represent and defend the rights of the homosexual community.

Among other things, questions had previously been raised regarding the fact that the organization had children among its strategic target groups and also announced the fight against paedophilia among its strategies.  To this, the Coalition -- in responses provided in French and translated during the meeting -- responded that most offences against children were perpetrated by heterosexuals and that paedophilia must not be confused with homosexuality.  The NGO advocated protection of children and youth from all forms of abuse, including sexual abuse.  It also believed that everyone must be treated equally, regardless of their sexual orientation.

Representatives of Senegal, Pakistan, Iran and Colombia posed questions to the NGO's representative in connection with its written response.  The queries related to the NGO's statement that education involved not only school environment, but also general knowledge; its claim that the organization's "experience with sexual orientation might prove useful" to Member States and others; its definition of gender identity; and child protection programmes carried by the Coalition.  Pakistan's representative also wanted to know how the NGO would contribute to the work of ECOSOC on HIV/AIDS if the activities it promoted were more likely to put people in danger of getting AIDS.  The representative of Colombia had some doubts with regard to the definition of gender identity that the organization promoted among students.

Another question from the representative of Pakistan related to the organization's financial statement, which showed that some 95 per cent of its funding came from Government sources.  According to the rules, to receive consultative status, the NGO needed to prove its independence from the Government.  To that, the representative of Germany said that Government funding did not necessarily mean influence exercised on an NGO.

In that connection, a representative of the NGO said that that the Government provided funding in accordance with its policy of assisting human rights organizations so that they could devote themselves to their activities.  The Government could not impose its position on the NGO.

On education, he said that in some schools, persons with sexual orientation differing from others were subjected to violence, and the NGO provided them with information that could help them to deal with the situation.  The goal was not to promote homosexuality -- on the contrary, the NGO believed that everyone should be treated equally.  Speaking about general knowledge, the Coalition meant open-mindedness and acceptance of others.  The NGO's work could be of interest to Member States, and it wanted to have consultative status to share its experience.  For instance, it had experience in collaborating with the police force in protecting children that it could share.  While not trying to impose its point of view on others, the NGO was also prepared to participate in the exchange of research, on request from Member States.

On HIV/AIDS, he said that the NGO was engaged in the fight against homophobia as a consequence of the pandemic.  It also advocated precautions to avoid transmission and promoted education on the dangers of the disease.  In its educational efforts, the organization targeted not only the homosexual community, but the heterosexual community as well, because HIV/AIDS presented danger for everybody.

As they engaged in a dialogue with Ma Qualcuno Pensi ad Abele -- an Italy-based international organization -- members of the Committee heard that the NGO was a humanitarian and apolitical organization that financed its own activities.  In general, the Association concerned itself with victims of injustice, abuse of power and civil rights violations.  Among other things, the NGO dealt with issues of prisoners of war and people who had suffered as a result of medical malpractice.  The Charter of the United Nations was the organization's Bible.  Cuba and the situation there was of no concern to the NGO -- it was involved with other issues.

Cuba's representative asked for clarification regarding a conference in Rome that the NGO had organized last October on the topic of human rights violations in Cuba.  He also had questions in connection with the NGO's statement that, at the session of the Human Rights Commission in Geneva last year, the organization had also "requested intervention against human rights violations in Popular Front for the Liberation of Saguia el-Hamra and Rio de Oro (POLISARIO Front) prisoner camps in Tindouf, the protection of rights of women and children to put an end to the indoctrination of Saharian children in Cuba and advocated the right of free movement for residents of POLISARIO camps".  He also asked for examples of the NGO's assistance to victims of abuse of power.  In fact, the NGO's position seemed highly politicized, he said.

Several speakers, including the representatives of France, Germany, Romania and Chile, supported the application of the NGO, with the representative of Romania saying that it should be represented in ECOSOC as soon as possible.

Regarding the human rights conference, the representative of the NGO said that his organization had not addressed the situation in Cuba.  Rather, it was interested in the situation of prisoners in Tindouf.  In fact, as a result of the contacts during the conference, it had been possible to obtain the release of many prisoners.  The NGO dealt with human rights, trying to help people.  Ma Qualcuno Pensi ad Abele did not have political aims.

The application was left pending.  The Committee was also informed that Venezuela had presented a letter on the work of the Association, which could be provided to the Committee on Monday.

Pakistan's representative questioned the credentials of the International Centre for Peace Studies, an India-based NGO, saying that he was not satisfied with that organization's previous answers.  He also expressed doubt that the organization could contribute to the work of ECOSOC, as its activities appeared to be highly politically motivated.  As part of its activities, the NGO claimed to contribute to the culture of peace through education, but the articles in its publications contained numerous attacks on his country.  As an option before the Committee, he suggested withdrawal of the NGO's application, giving it time "to reapply with better credentials".

Following a remark from the representative of India, who said it would be useful to pose questions to the NGO before rushing to the conclusion, Pakistan's representative said that, in fact, his delegation had been patient for many years.  Unfortunately, there was no change in the organization's attitude and tone towards his country.  His delegation was willing to seek clarification once again, but he would expect answers during this session.  He wanted to know the objective of such constant criticism and questioning of the very existence of his country, as well as continuous attacks on the Islamic teachings and values.

Questions were also raised concerning the Lesbian and Gay Federation in Germany, including queries about the organization's financial statement, which revealed that most income from membership dues was spent on administrative charges.  Pakistan and Colombia also wanted to know about the NGO's position on the age for consensual sexual activities.  Iran's representative asked about the reports the organization had provided to the Human Rights Commission and the educational programmes in which it was engaged.

Another application that was left pending was that of ILGA-Europe, with Pakistan and Iran posing questions regarding the NGO's membership outside of Europe.  The representative of Pakistan also asked about the NGO's intended contribution to the work of ECOSOC and its position on "human rights based on sexual orientation".  Iran's representative wanted to know about the NGO's possible affiliation and differentiation from ILGA International; and the funding it received from international organizations.  Colombia's representative wanted to know the NGO's position on the age of consent for sexual relations.

As the Committee took up the application of Argentina-based Center for Human Rights and Environment, Cuba wondered about the role of the organization's international advisory board, which had no legal connection with the organization.

Also left pending, while the Committee awaited responses to members' questions, were applications of AIDS Action, American Conservative Union, Vali-Asr Rehabilitation Institute, Angel Foundation, Conflict Management Group, Africa Action, Kashmiri American Council, Mountain Women Development Organization, World Sindhi Institute, and Social Alert.

During the consideration of the International Crisis Group, whose application was also left pending, China's representative stressed that the United Nations recognized only one China.  Therefore, he hoped the NGO should follow the United Nations terminology as far as Taiwan Province of China was concerned and make its position on that matter clear.

India had terminology concerns in connection with the application of Sahara for Life Trust.  The NGO had previously been asked to provide clarification regarding references to some territories in its application and had tried to do so, but had still used several references to places that did not agree with the United Nations language.

The Committee also decided to close the case of Human Rights International Alliance as there had been no contact with that NGO for four consecutive sessions, on the understanding that the decision would not prevent the organization from presenting a new application, should it decide to do so.  A similar decision was taken regarding New Millennium Peace Foundation.

The Committee will continue its work at 10 a.m. Monday, 15 May.

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