Opening its regular session for 2019, the Committee on Non-Governmental Organizations today recommended 70 organizations for special consultative status with the United Nations Economic and Social Council, and deferred action on the status of 40 others.
The 19-member Committee vets applications submitted by non-governmental organizations (NGOs), recommending general, special or roster status on the basis of such criteria as the applicant's mandate, governance and financial regime. Organizations enjoying general and special status can attend Council meetings and issue statements, while those with general status can also speak during meetings and propose agenda items. Those with roster status can only attend meetings.
At the meeting's outset, the Committee adopted its agenda (document E/C.2/2019/1) and programme of work. It elected Nadav Yesod (Israel), on behalf of the Group of Western European and Other States Group, as Vice-Chair, postponing the election of its Chair and remaining Vice-Chairs.
Marion Barthelemy, Director, Office for Intergovernmental Support and Coordination for Sustainable Development, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, said in opening remarks that civil society � having played a significant role in the elaboration of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development � is now at the forefront of practical action for its implementation. Citing strengthened engagement by non-governmental organizations in the United Nations work, she said in 2019, 820 groups applied for consultative status, compared with 440 groups five years ago. Recalling that last session the Committee was not able to review its entire work programme � leaving unfinished business, including 233 deferred applications for consultative status � she noted that several General Assembly resolutions called for more active civil society participation in the United Nations. It also specifically invited the Committee to examine how it can accommodate the growing number of applications.
The strong interest shown by [non-governmental organizations] in consultative status also raises serious concerns as to the capacity of the Office for Intergovernmental Support and Coordination, and its NGO Branch, to keep up to the task, she said. For the third consecutive year, the Committee will consider at its regular session applications for status submitted two years ago, but which could not be reviewed last year as they should have been. That backlog � including 99 applications before the Committee at its current session � is a source of serious concern and is likely to grow even larger, she said. In that context, she stressed the need to ensure an appropriate level of resources, both human and technical, to allow the NGO Branch to support its much-increased workload in a sustainable manner. For example, its technological platforms have aged and must now be replaced by a unique system tailored to the branch's specific needs, covering applications, submissions for quadrennial reports, review by the Committee and other elements.
Marc-Andre Dorel, Acting Chief of the Non-Governmental Organizations Branch of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs, associated himself with the Director's remarks.
Mr. Yesod described this year's session as extremely packed, with 288 new applications for consultative status and 233 applications deferred from previous sessions. Also before the Committee are 438 new quadrennial reports plus 90 reports deferred from previous sessions. In addition, the Committee will address three new and three deferred requests for reclassification, two deferred requests for a merger and several new requests for a change of name. Based on the scope of the agenda before us, the Committee will have to move expeditiously and rationalize the time spent on each agenda item so we can successfully conclude our programme within the allotted time, he said.
The Committee on Non-Governmental Organizations will meet again at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, 22 January, to continue its session, which runs from 21 to 30 January and 8 February.
The representative of the United States, emphasizing the Committee's mandate as set out in Economic and Social Council resolution 1996/31, underscored her country's strong support for the participation of civil society organizations in the work of the United Nations and for giving them a voice in the Organization. Recalling the Committee's first-ever consultations with civil society in June 2018, she stressed that such discussions should continue to be held at the start of each Committee session. The United States is pleased that the number of applications for consultative status continues to grow, and she urged fellow Committee members to review and accredit as many qualified non-governmental organizations as possible.
The representative of Brazil said he looked forward to engaging with Committee colleagues.
The representative of the European Union said the consultations with non-governmental organizations had yielded valuable ideas for ensuring that they had a strong voice within the Organization. There was a clear view, however, that the accreditation process lacks transparency and efficiency, especially for those non-governmental organizations dealing with human rights. All allegations against non-governmental organizations should be supported by evidence, he said, calling also for clear guidelines for assessing applications.
The representative of the United Kingdom, associating himself with the European Union and underscoring the critical role of civil society, said the past year has sadly seen States impeding their efforts. Several key recommendations emerged from last year's consultations and they should guide the Committee's work, he said, stressing the importance of transparency, objectivity and efficiency. He asked the Committee to announce a date for the next consultation meeting and implored it to complete the handling of those applications that have been languishing for far too long. He also drew attention to the challenges faced by journalists and media workers.
The representative of Uruguay said various factors make it difficult for civil society organizations to implement the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Things may change over time, but human problems remain the same and greater efforts are needed to resolve them. Noting the ways in which the Committee has improved its working methods, such as live webcasts of its meetings and consultations with civil society, she suggested the simplification of application forms as well as the reasonable use of time by Member States during question-and-answer sessions.
The representative of Austria said he looked forward to hearing how the Committee will respond to the proposals made during the consultations.
The representative of the United States, expressing regret that some organizations come to the United Nations to perpetrate fraudulent and illicit activities, said her delegation wrote to the Committee last week requesting that the special consultative status granted in 2011 to the China Energy Fund Committee be withdrawn, after one of its officials was convicted by a United States federal court in November 2018 on corruption, money laundering and conspiracy charges. The Committee must take prompt action, she said, adding that if the organization in question wishes to respond, it should do so before 25 January.
The representative of India said non-governmental organizations are granted special consultative status on the premise that they do not abuse that status and that they adhere to impeccable moral and ethical standards. Given the gravity of the case in question, India supports the proposal to give that organization opportunity to explain its position. She went on to propose that, going forward, applications for special consultative status be vetted against the Security Council's consolidated sanctions list.
NADAV YESOD (Israel), Committee Vice-Chair, said the Committee will resume its consideration of Special Reports on 25 January, when it will consider the China Energy Fund Committee's response and take appropriate action.
During a question-and-answer session in the afternoon, NGO representatives faced questions from Committee members.
A representative of the Association for Non-for-Profit Organizations to Facilitate the Drug Prevention and Socially Dangerous Behaviour National Anti-Drug Union (Russian Federation) said it operates throughout the country, taking drug addicts off the street and helping them fully reintegrate into society. Its work is based on a drug-free approach, with a focus on social rehabilitation. She discussed the Association's work in other countries, noting that it would be going to Rwanda in February to explore prospects for a treatment camp there.
The representative of the United States asked about its relationship with the Government.
She replied that the NGO works with specialized agencies of the Government and emphasized its policy of full disclosure about its work, compared with other rehabilitation centres that treat patients horribly. She added that the organization focuses on quality in the rehabilitation, convalescence and resocialization, adding that it receives funding only from charitable institutions, with nothing from the Government.
The Committee then decided to defer the organization's application.
A representative of Israel Trauma Coalition for Response and Preparedness (Israel) said it is an apolitical and non-partisan organization focused on trauma care and building resilience, working in all sectors. The reality in Israel requires the development of innovative and advanced tools for treating victims of psychological trauma, which it shares with other countries dealing with natural disasters and terrorist attacks.
The representative of Pakistan asked how it maintains its independence when it works closely with the Government, and whether it works in the West Bank and Gaza.
He replied that the organization works with the Government on a professional level. The 40 per cent of programmes in which the Government is involved are ones that the organization initiated and developed. He added that it works with Palestinians, adding: We work with anyone in a situation of need.
The Committee then decided to defer the organization's application
Source: United Nations