To: Member States of ECOSOC

Cc: Chair of the Committee on NGOs, President of the General Assembly, President of the Human Rights Council, Member States of the UN General Assembly, UN Secretary General.

 

Excellencies,

We write to you regarding the ECOSOC Committee on NGOs (the Committee), which recommends approval of consultative status for non-governmental organisations, enabling access to and participation in a range of UN bodies and processes. ECOSOC Resolution 1996/31—which provides the mandate for the work of the Committee— acknowledges ‘the breadth of non-governmental organisations’ expertise and the capacity of non-governmental organisations to support the work of the United Nations.’

We are concerned about recent actions taken by the Committee suggesting it functions in a politicised manner, particularly in regard to its consideration of applications for consultative status from human rights organisations. We therefore call on UN Member States to ensure that the Committee upholds and respects the rights to freedom of expression and association and accords due process to all applicants for consultative status.

Several States have criticised the practice of the Committee in ECOSOC meetings. In 2015, Chile, Mexico and Uruguay, as well as the European Union, expressed strong concerns about the recent politicisation of the work of the Committee, in which some Committee members use procedural tactics to block certain organisations from being granted consultative status. The European Union noted that withdrawal of consultative status might be used as a form of reprisal for the activities of NGOs. Chile, Mexico and Uruguay called for greater transparency in the work of the Committee, recommending webcasting of Committee sessions.

In his 2014 report to the General Assembly (A/69/365), UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights to Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and of Association, Mr. Maina Kiai criticised the multiple deferrals and perpetual questioning of some applications by Committee members. He noted that ‘(m)ember States and the UN have a legal obligation to strengthen civil society participation in the UN, including by ensuring that people can exercise their rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association in multilateral arenas.’

At its most recent session in January 2016, the Committee voted to close an NGO’s application on the basis that its work was contrary to the UN Charter, and then voted to deny the organisation the right to engage in dialogue with the Committee and address the allegations. This was condemned in ECOSOC by US Ambassador Mendelson who said that Committee members were using the body ‘to subvert the purpose of the Committee by further restricting civic space at the UN and blocking or deferring NGO applications on non-substantive grounds’.

Recommendations:

  • As the parent body, ECOSOC must ensure that the practice and procedures of the Committee are in keeping with the principles, spirit and purpose of ECOSOC resolution 1996/31, and in strict compliance with international human rights standards.
  • The practice and procedures of the Committee should thus be uniformly applied, apolitical, fair, transparent, non-discriminatory, consistent and expeditious. The practice and procedures should not be used to block accreditation through repeated questioning and persistent deferrals. ECOSOC must not allow its Committee's procedures and powers to be abused by imposing de facto restrictions on freedom of opinion and expression or freedom of association in violation of international human rights standards.
  • ECOSOC, and its NGO Committee, should demand that States fully respect the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, GA res 53/144 (1998), which affirms “the right, individually and in association with others, to unhindered access and communication with international bodies.” Instead, far too many of the Committee's actions appear themselves to pose an unacceptable hindrance to such access, whether by design or in their impact.
  • ECOSOC should explicitly affirm the need for the NGO Committee to make sure that its own processes fully respect international human rights standards, including by ensuring full respect for the right of NGOs at risk of adverse decisions to be heard by the Committee, by excluding any decision motivated by discrimination of any kind, and by committing itself to upholding the right of everyone to unhindered access to international human rights bodies.
  • Specifically, ECOSOC should take into account the recommendations set forth by Chile, Mexico and Uruguay and institute webcasting sessions of the Committee to encourage transparency in its operations and enable NGOs whose applications are being considered by the Committee to follow proceedings.
  • Furthermore, when putting themselves forward for membership of the Committee, Member States must fulfill their responsibility to comply with international human rights standards, including obligations to uphold the rights to freedom of association and expression.

Unfortunately, the practice of the Committee is reflective of growing restrictions on civil society globally at the very time restrictions at the national level make access to the UN all the more crucial. The members of ECOSOC should take into account the recommendations above in order to promote a safe, transparent and enabling environment for civil society at the UN. By fostering such an environment, the UN can take full advantage of the particular expertise and insights provided by NGOs while protecting the legitimacy and credibility of its work.

Yours sincerely,

Access Now

Acción Solidaria en VIH/SIDA

Action Canada for Sexual Health and Rights

ActionAid International

African Centre for Democracy and Human Rights Studies (ACDHRS)

Ain o Salish Kendra

Akahatá AC

Albanian Helsinki Committee

Alkarama Foundation

American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU)

American Counseling Association

American Association of University Women

Amis des Etrangers au Togo (ADET)

Amnesty International

ARC International

Ariel Foundation International

Article 19

Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA)

Asian Legal Resource Centre

Association de Lutte Contre la Dependance (ALCD)

Association for the Prevention of Torture

Association for Women's Rights in Development (AWID)

Association of Scientists, Developers and Faculties

Association of Women for Awareness & Motivation (AWAM)

Association Promotion of Sustainable Development - India

Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights

British Humanist Association

Brot für die Welt

Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS)

Castan Centre for Human Rights Law

CAP Liberté de Conscience

Center for Constitutional Rights

Center for Development of International Law

Center for Egyptian Women's Legal Assistance (CEWLA)

Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria

Center for Inquiry

Center for Reproductive Rights

Center for Women's Global Leadership

Centre d'Etudes Juridiques Africaines (CEJA)

Centre for Civil and Political Rights

Centre for Sustainable Development and Education in Africa

Centre for the Development of Democracy and Human Rights

Centro de Documentación en Derechos Humanos “Segundo Montes Mozo S.J.” (CSMM)

Centro de Estudios Legales y Sociales (CELS)

Child Rights Connect

Child Rights International Network (CRIN)

Choice for Peace Gender and Development - Nigeria

Christian Solidarity Worldwide

CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation

CIVILIS Derechos Humanos

Coalition for the rights to health and to life (CODEVIDA)

Coalition Ivoirienne pour la Cour Pénale Internationale (CI CPI)

COC Netherlands

Colectivo de Abogados José Alvear Restrepo (CCAJAR)

Community Self Reliance Centre (CSRC)

Concern for Environmental Development and Research

Cooperation for Peace and Development (CPD)

Craddes ONG

Defend Defenders (East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project)

Development Alliance

Dimension Humaine

Diverse Voices and Action (DIVA) for Equality – Fiji

DSW (German Foundation for World Population

Due Process of Law Foundation

East Timor and Action Network (ETAN)

Edmund Rice International

Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights

Emonyo Yefwe International

ENDA Tiers Monde

End Impunity Organization

European Environmental Bureau

FAWCO

FIAN

Finnish NDGO platform to the EU (Kehys)

Forum for Women and Development (FOKUS)

Forum Suape Social and Environmental Space

Foundation for Aboriginal and Islander Research Action (FAIRA)

Foundation for Human Rights Initiative (FHRI)

Foundation for Socio-Economic Justice - Swaziland

Four Freedoms Forum

Freedom House

Freedom Now

Frente de Mujeres Defensoras de la Pachama - Ecuador

Fundamental Human Rights & Rural Development Association (FHRRDA)

Gender Empowerment and Development (GeED)

Geneva Infant Feeding Association (GIFA)

Gestos HIV and AIDS, Communication and Gender

Girls Education Mission International

Global Fund for Women

Global Initiative for Economic, Social & Cultural Rights

Global Justice Center

Graduate Women International

Green Advocates

Group Thematique Droits de la Femme et Violences Sexuelles – Democratic Republic of Congo

Gulf Centre for Human Rights

Helsinki Citizen´s Assembly, Vanadzor

Human Rights Movement: Bir Duino – Kyrgyzstan

Humanitaire Plus

Human Rights Council of Australia

Human Rights Defenders Network – Sierra Leone

Human Rights First

Human Rights House Foundation - Geneva

Human Rights Law Centre

Human Rights Watch

Human Rights Without Frontiers International

Hungarian Civil Liberties Union

HURISA

International Federation of Business and Professional Women (IFBPW)

IBFAN –Zambia

Ifafunke Home of Hope-Africa Foundation

Institute for Reporters’ Freedom and Safety

Institute on Statelessness and Inclusion

International Alliance of Women

International Association of Lawyers Against Nuclear Arms

International Association of World Peace Advocates

International Baby Food Action Network (IBFAN)

International Centre for Justice and Human Rights (ICJHR)

International Center for Not-for-Profit Law

International Commission of Jurists

International Council of Jewish Women

International Council of Women

International Dalit Solidarity Network

International Disability Alliance

International Federation of Action by Christians for the Abolition of Torture (FIACAT)

International Federation for East Timor (IFET)

International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH)

International Federation of Settlements

International Federation of Social Workers

International Humanist and Ethical Union

International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA)

International Movement Against All Forms of Discrimination and Racism (IMADR)

International Partnership for Human Rights

International Peace Bureau

International Platform against Impunity

International Service for Human Rights

International Volunteer Organisation for Women Education Development

International Women's Development Agency

International Women’s Anthropology Conference

International Women's Rights Action Watch Asia Pacific

International Youth Human Rights Movement (YHRM)

Iranti-Org

JASS (Just Associates)

Justice and Peace Netherlands

Jubilee Debt Campaign

Karapatan Alliance Philippines

Kazakhstan International Bureau for Human Rights and Rule of Law

L'Observatoire Ivoirien des Droits de l'Homme (L'OIDH)

La Brique – Burkina Faso

Lawyers Rights Watch Canada

Legal Resources Centre

Lesbian and Gay Federation in Germany (LSVD)

Liberia Coalition of Human Rights Defenders

Light for the World

Lutheran World Federation

Marag

Mexican Commission for the Defence and Promotion of Human Rights

Mityana Rural Sustainable Farmers Organisation

Mongolian Gender Equality Center

Montage Initiative

Nagorik Uddyog (Citizen's Initiative) - Bangladesh

National Alliance for Right to Food - Nepal

Nazra for Feminist Studies

Network of Rural Women Producers Trinidad and Tobago

New Future Foundation

NGO Federation of Nepal

NGO Working Group on Women, Peace and Security

Niger Delta Women's Movement for Peace and Development

Nigerian Women Agro Allied Farmers Association (NIWAAFA)

Nonviolence International

Omonijuku Foundation

Organization for Refuge, Asylum & Migration (ORAM)

OT Watch Mongolia

Outreach Scout Foundation (OSF)

PacificWIN/Pacific Womens Indigenous Networks

Palestinian Consultative Staff for Developing NGOs

Panzi Foundation

Penal Reform International

People's Watch

Plataforma Interamericana de Derechos Humanos, Democracia y Desarrollo (PIDHDD)

Plataforma Mulheres em Acção

Positive Vibes Trust

Programme Against Custodial Torture and Impunity (PACTI)

Promo-LEX Association

Protection International

Physicians for Human Rights

REDHAC Réseau de Défenseurs des Droits Humains de l'Afrique Centrale

Refugee Council of Australia

Réseau Equitas Côte d'Ivoire (REQCI)

Réseau des Femmes pour le Développement des Savanes (REFED/S)

Rivers without Boundaries

Rural Sahrawi Association of Victims of Grave Human Rights Violations Committed by the Moroccan State (ASVDH)

Scholars at Risk Network

Socialist International Women

Society for Threatened People

Society for International Development (SID)

SOS Sexisme

Southern Africa Litigation Centre

South Sudanese Women Voice for Peace (SSWVP)

 Sri Lanka Nature Group

SUARAM

Terra de Direitos

Terra Nuova

The Association for Progressive Communications

The Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights

The Egyptian Organization for Human Rights

The European Centre for Democracy and Human Rights (ECDHR)

The Federation of American Women’s Clubs Overseas (FAWCO)

The Global Alliance for LGBT Education (GALE)

The Jacob Blaustein Institute for the Advancement of Human Rights

The Norwegian Human Rights Fund

The Tandem Project

Think Centre

Tibetan Community UK

Togolese Coalition of Human Defenders Rights

Umuada Igbo Nigeria

Unidad de Protección a Defensoras y Defensores de Derechos Humanos - Guatemala (UDEFEGUA)

Unión Latinoamericana de Mujeres (ULAM)

Unión Patriótica de Cuba (UNPACU)

United Religions Initiative

United Sikhs

UPR Info

Urgent Action Fund for Women's Human Rights

USA Refugees and Immigrants

USC Canada

US Human Rights Network

Verein zur Förderung der Völkerverständigung

West African Human Rights Defenders' Network/Réseau Ouest Africain des Défenseurs des Droits Humains (ROADDH/WAHRDN)

Wild Migration

Women Environmental Programme

World Assembly of Youth

World Federalist Movement- Institute for Global Policy (WFM-IGP)

Women’s Freedom Forum

Women's Global Network for Reproductive Rights (WGNRR)

Women's International Democratic Federation

Women Living under Muslim Laws

Women's UN Report Network (WUNRN)

World Federalist Movement-Institute for Global Policy

World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT)

Women NC/NC Committee for CSW

Women Thrive Worldwide

World Uyghur Congress

Yemen Organization for Defending Rights & Democratic Freedoms

Y-Fem|The Young Feminists Movement Namibia

Zimbabwe United Nations Association