United Nations: The UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) has voted to grant special consultative status to nine non-governmental organisations, including one that advocates for Dalit human rights, despite objections raised by several countries including China, Russia and India over the accreditation process of these NGOs.
The ECOSOC, one of the six principal organs of the United Nations that deals with economic and social issues, voted on a US draft decision on Wednesday on 'Applications of non-governmental organisations for consultative status with the Economic and Social Council', granting special consultative status to the nine groups.
The NGOs granted accreditation
These NGOs include -- the International Dalit Solidarity Network (IDSN); the Arab-European Center of Human Rights and International Law; Bahrain Center for Human Rights; Coptic Solidarity Gulf Centre for Human Rights; interregional non-governmental human rights organisation Man and Law; The Andrey Rylkov Foundation for Health and Social Justice; The World Union of Cossack Atamans and World without Genocide.
The decision was adopted by a recorded vote of 24 in favour to 17 against, with 12 abstentions.
The accreditation applications of the nine NGOs were rejected in September this year by ECOSOC's 19-member Committee on Non-Governmental Organisations, which considers accreditation applications for consultative status and requests for reclassification submitted by NGOs. Once an application has been reviewed and approved by the Committee, it is considered recommended for consultative status.
According to a release on the meeting's coverage on the UN website, the representative of the United States, introducing the text, expressed concern about the work of the Committee on Non-Governmental Organisations, and pointed out that it has deferred the applications of a large number of entities.
The US delegate said that not agreeing with their views does not mean they must be punished by withholding accreditation and added that it is necessary to welcome more diverse organisations into consultative status.
Russia's argument on the decision
The Russian representative noted that the Committee on Non-Governmental Organisations had in September decided to not provide consultative status to several organisations, including some of those included in the draft decision. Russia said the US was not pleased with this and called the draft decision an attempt to violate the Committee's rules, in a selective approach to bring in an organisation that was close to Washington, DC.
Oman's delegate, speaking on behalf of the Arab Group, stressed the need to respect the accreditation process of the Committee. "Several delegates, including the representatives of Bangladesh, India, Syria and Sri Lanka expressed concern that the draft decision seeks to undermine that body's work by overturning its decisions in a summary manner," the release said.
Louis Charbonneau, UN Director at Human Rights Watch (HRW), had said on Tuesday in a statement that UN member countries in the Economic and Social Council "should vote to accredit nine human rights and other civil society organisations whose UN applications have been stuck in limbo due to several countries including China, Russia, and India obstructing the accreditation process." He noted that these nine groups are among hundreds whose applications have been on hold due to "interminable questioning" from some members of the UN Committee on Non-Governmental Organisations.
"India has been instrumental in blocking IDSN, which advocates for the elimination of caste discrimination and other forms of discrimination around the world," Charbonneau said in the statement.
He added that according to the International Service for Human Rights, IDSN's application was deferred for 15 years - a "record for blocking an organisation". The IDSN says it received over 100 questions from the committee, and despite responding promptly to all of them, was always deferred, Charbonneau said.
At the September meeting of the NGO Committee, the consideration of a request for Special Consultative Status for the International Dalit Solidarity Network was postponed after India asked about the procedures for selecting NGO ambassadors and their role. India had said that the procedure for examining applications from NGOs must be carried out with due diligence.
UN accreditation opens new doors for organisations: HRW
Charbonneau said that accrediting these nine groups would send a "strong signal" to UN member countries about the importance of civil society organisations at the UN.
"But more rights-respecting governments should seek seats on the NGO committee to tip the balance against abusive ones. Abusers currently have the upper hand on an anti-NGO committee that has become the UN's merciless gatekeeper. Governments should keep working to shift the balance in favour of those that support civil society," he said.
As the HRW pointed out, the "only way out of this limbo" is if individual member countries rescue the applications from the NGO committee and force a vote in a plenary meeting of the 54-nation body, where civil society groups stand a better chance of success.
The HRW noted that UN accreditation gives organisations access to many UN buildings, officials, and agencies - and to formally participate in numerous UN activities. Organisations which are granted general and special status can attend meetings of the Council and issue statements, while those with general status can also speak during meetings and propose agenda items.
According to its website, The International Dalit Solidarity Network (IDSN) was founded in March 2000 to "advocate for Dalit human rights and to raise awareness of Dalit issues nationally and internationally. IDSN is a network of international human rights groups, development agencies, national Dalit solidarity networks from Europe, and national platforms in caste-affected countries."
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