19 May 2006

Committee on NGOs Recommends Three Organizations for Consultative Status with Economic and Social Council, Postpones Eight Applications

NEW YORK, 18 May (UN Headquarters) -- During the course of two meetings today, the Committee on Non-Governmental Organizations recommended three non-governmental organizations (NGOs) for consultative status with the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), postponed a decision on eight applications and took note of one quadrennial report.

A standing committee of the Economic and Social 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 enjoying general and special consultative status can attend ECOSOC meetings 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 it adequate for the fulfilment of that obligation.  In exceptional circumstances, when there has been a complaint, for instance, the Committee can request a "special report".

The Committee recommended special consultative status for:  the Drug Free America Foundation, an international organization with headquarters in the United States that is committed to developing, promoting and sustaining global strategies, policies and laws that would reduce illegal drug use, drug addiction, drug-related injury and death; and the West Africa Network for Peacebuilding, an international organization based in Ghana, which serves as a coordinating structure for collaborative peacebuilding in West Africa with the goal of building sustainable peace and thereby creating an enabling environment for development.

Also recommended for special status was the application of the Asociación Civil Consorcio Desarrollo y Justicia, a national organization in Venezuela concerned with social sustainable development, democracy, human rights, education and judicial reform.  The recommendation followed the restatement by the observer for Venezuela of his objections on the grounds that the NGO was dependent on the United States Congress, through aid from the National Endowment for Democracy, and on European organizations.  It did not receive donations from individuals and Venezuela would remain vigilant regarding its conduct in ECOSOC and the United Nations.  The representatives of the United States expressed gratitude for the flexibility shown by the observer, while Cuba's representative expressed his support for Venezuela's position.

The Committee postponed a decision on the applications of the Religious Freedom Coalition, an international organization with headquarters in the United States, which seeks to expose repression of religious freedom at the governmental and private levels.  The postponement followed a query by Pakistan's representative regarding the NGO's stance on "Islamophobia".  Cuba's delegate asked about the organization's cooperation with the United States Department of State with respect to trafficking in persons, while China's representative requested more time to study the answers it had provided.  The representative of the United States noted that the NGO's work comprised important elements of concern for ECOSOC concerning human rights, freedom of religion, tolerance and discrimination.

Also deferred were decisions on the applications of:  the Ambedkar Centre for Justice and Peace, an international organization headquartered in the United States that focuses on marginalized peoples in South Asian countries, after India's representative sought to submit more questions; and the Vali-Asr Rehabilitation Institute, an Iranian national organization dedicated to rehabilitation of the disabled, especially those suffering from neurological deficit or mental retardation, because, according to Committee members, the NGO had not sufficiently answered a question about income from contracts.

The Committee also postponed a decision on the application of the Centre for Human Rights and Environment, an Argentina-based national organization that strives to build awareness of the importance of addressing human rights and environmental protection in all development processes.  Cuba's delegate requested more information about its international Advisory Board, while the representatives of Chile and the United States voiced their support for the NGO.  Also deferred was a decision on the application of Nonviolent Peaceforce, an international organization headquartered in Belgium that seeks to implement proven non-violent peacekeeping techniques, since China's delegation was in direct communication with the organization to clarify certain issues.  The representative of the United States delegate expressed the hope for a positive conclusion to those contacts, as well as support for the NGO.

Other postponements involved Udisha, an India-based national organization that strives towards "upliftment of the society" through promotion of art and culture and the development of education and employment, which saw its application deferred as the representative of Pakistan sought clarification regarding its achievements so far and the role of serving Government officials on its executive body; Africa Action, a United States-based national organization working for political, economic and social justice on the African continent, and striving to change United States foreign policy, as well as those of international institutions in support of African struggles for peace and development, after the Sudan's delegate asked about its political activities aimed at his Government.

Responding to a question from the representative of the United States, the Sudan's delegate said that just yesterday, the NGO had organized a demonstration in front of his country's Permanent Mission in New York.  According to its website, the organization still described events in Darfur as ethnic cleansing, even though a peace agreement had been signed.

A final deferral concerned the Coalition gaie et lesbienne du Québec, a national organization in Canada that aims to promote, represent and defend the rights of the homosexual community, and was a result of the NGO's having provided answers only in French.  France's representative took note "with regret" in that regard, of the fact that some delegations could not take the floor because of the absence of a translation from French into English.

Concluding the day's business, the Committee took note of the quadrennial report of the National Association of Negro Business and Professional Women's Clubs and, under "Other matters", of a communication from the International Committee for European Security and Coordination, informing the Committee that it had ceased to exist.  The Committee also took note of the name change of the Research Institute for Rehabilitation and Improvement of Women's Life to the Research Institute for Enhancing Women's Life.  It further acknowledged the submission of statements to the high-level segment of the 2006 substantive session of ECOSOC by 36 organizations in consultative status with the Council.

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

The Committee will meet again at 10 a.m. Friday, 19 May, to conclude its session.

* *** *