16 May 2006

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

NEW YORK, 15 May (UN Headquarters) -- The Committee on Non-Governmental Organizations, in two meetings today, recommended four non-governmental organizations (NGOs) for consultative status with the Economic and Social Council and took note of 22 quadrennial NGO reports.  It also discussed a number of responses from organizations, whose applications and reports had been left pending or deferred from previous sessions and addressed some administrative items.

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.

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.  In exceptional circumstances, for instance, when there has been a complaint, the Committee can request a "special report".

Recommended for special consultative status with ECOSOC were:

-- Youth Empowerment Alliance, a national organization based in the United States, which wants to assist large organizations, such as United Nations agencies, in developing youth programmes that empower youth to become more informed about the world around them;

-- International Association of Y's Men's Clubs, an international organization based in Switzerland, which is a worldwide fellowship of persons of all faiths that strives to develop, encourage and provide leadership to build a better world for all (after China's representative expressed the hope that in the future, the NGO would adhere to United Nations principles and terminology);

-- HELIO International, an international organization headquartered in Paris, France, which maintains an ongoing watch on the application of international agreements concerning energy and sustainable development; and

-- Associación Conciencia, a national organization in Argentina, which promotes and spreads the "principles of the republican and democratic way of life".

The Committee postponed a decision on the application from Macedonian Centre for International Cooperation, a national organization based in Skopje, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, operating in the areas of sustainable development, awareness-raising and social-humanitarian assistance, after a lengthy discussion about the title of the NGO and about its use of the word "Macedonian".  The Observer for Greece asked that the NGO add the following phrase in its title:  "of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia".  Chile's representative, while not objecting to recommending status, noted that all references to Macedonia should be corrected.

Other Committee members, among them representatives of Romania, Turkey, France and the United States, as well as the observer of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, countered that asking an NGO to change its name was beyond the Committee's mandate.  They noted that the organization had changed all reference to "Macedonia" into the correct United Nations terminology of "former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia".  "Macedonian" was an adjective, referring to a people in a region and not to a country, and, therefore, not covered by United Nations terminology.  The NGO would be asked to correct its application.

The application from Religious Freedom Coalition, an international organization headquartered in the United States, a purpose of which is to expose repression of religious freedom at the governmental and private levels, was postponed pending answers to questions asked by the representative of China, among other things, about its publications, fact-finding missions, and statements regarding "fascist" Governments of some Member States.

A decision on the application of Nonviolent Peaceforce, and international organization headquartered in Brussels, Belgium, that works to implement proven non-violent peacekeeping techniques, was also deferred as China's representative asked for written answers to questions it posed.  He asked if the NGO could explicitly state whether it would abide by the principle of territorial integrity and sovereignty of countries, which was an important United Nations principle.  He also asked what measures the NGO would take if a member was in violation of those principles.

Giving an oral answer, Eric Backman, Member of the Board, said the NGO "of course" respected the territorial integrity and sovereignty of all countries.  It would only go to a country with the permission of the Government.  Currently, it had only one project, namely in Sri Lanka.  All staff members had legal visas.  Its code of conduct listed, among other things, respect for the laws of the country in which it worked.

As for what measures the NGO could take against members that violated the principle, he said the organization could not control the behaviour of members, as member organizations had founded the NGO with the purpose of creating a non-violent peace force.  However, the NGO was responsible for the behaviour of the people that worked for the organization.  Also, if a member organization did not follow non-violent ways, Nonviolent Peaceforce would ask that organization to leave.  The NGO could not "police" the activities of all its members.

The Committee took note of the quadrennial reports for the period 2001-2004 the reports of:  Christian Children's Fund; Fundación Intervida; Inter-African Committee on Traditional Practices Affecting the Health of Women and Children; Islamic Relief; Covenant House; Foundation for International Training; International Association of Democratic Lawyers; International Centre for Ethnic Studies; Mediterranean Council for Burns and Fire Disasters; ORBICOM - Réseau des chaires UNESCO en communication; Oxfam America; Tebtebba Foundation; and World Evangelical Alliance.

It also took note of the 2001-2004 quadrennial reports of:  International Association of Impact Assessment; International Save the Children Alliance; Law Association of Asia and the Pacific; League of Kenya Women Voters; International Road Transport Union; Mani Tese '76; Rural Reconstruction Nepal; World Movement of Mothers; and World Vision International.  The reports were contained in documents E/C.2/2006/2/Addenda 8, 9, 10, 11 and 12.

Consideration of the report of International Press Institute was deferred pending answers to questions from China, Cuba and Iran.  China's representative asked for more information on a special seminar held in India in January 2001.  Iran's representative asked, among other things, for more information on a conference held on democracy in the Arab world, while Cuba's representative asked whether the organization had taken measures to promote the safety of journalists in areas of conflict, in particular where there had been many losses among the media.

The Committee also took note of the quadrennial reports deferred from previous sessions of:  International Service for Human Rights; Women's World Summit Foundation; Latin American Human Rights Association; and Qatar Charitable Society.

The Committee deferred a decision on the quadrennial report of Centrist Democratic International to later in the session, as the representative of Colombia wanted more information on noted "threats to democracy in Colombia", and Cuba's representative asked if any measure had been taken against any member who could be considered to be in violation of international law or the United Nations Charter.  The representative of the United States pointed out that the report had been under consideration since 2001.

The Committee also kept pending a decision on the deferred quadrennial report of the International League for the Rights and Liberation of Peoples, as Turkey's and Colombia's representatives said the activities of the organization during the reporting period had been subject to a complaint and that more time was needed to study the report.

Reporting on informal consultations regarding quadrennial reports that were long overdue, the representative of Turkey said the Committee had considered sending a letter of caution to all NGOs that were behind, reminding them of their reporting obligations.  That letter would also be sent to Committee members, so that they could communicate with certain organizations on an individual basis.  The NGO Secretariat would try to communicate by registered mail with NGOs that had been sent two or more reminders.  There had also been suggestions to benefit from the NGO website to remind NGOs of their reporting obligations.

Cuba's representative noted in that regard that a considerable number of NGOs never had submitted a report.  He asked that the list be updated and that the NGOs concerned be urged to submit reports.

In a short discussion, the Committee also addressed the problem of NGOs with consultative status that merged with other NGOs, as had been the case with three organizations:  International Spoke Mandeville Wheelchair Sports Federation; International Association of Women Judges; and Centre for Health, Population and Social Welfare.  The representative of the United States said in that regard that if a large NGO with consultative status merged with a small NGO, it more or less absorbed that smaller organization and would continue to do substantively the same work as for which it had received status.  The NGO should, therefore, not lose its consultative status.

China's representative noted that there were two situations.  One situation was where two NGOs with consultative status merged.  In that case they could retain their status.  Another situation was where an NGO with consultative status merged with an NGO without status.  In that case, the NGO would lose its consultative status and needed to re-apply.

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 Tuesday, 16 May, at 10 a.m. to continue consideration of deferred and new applications.

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