United Nations member countries in the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) should vote to accredit nine human rights and other civil society organizations whose UN applications have been stuck in limbo due to several countries including China, Russia, and India obstructing the accreditation process.
On December 7, ECOSOC’s 54 members will vote on whether to grant UN consultative status to the Gulf Centre for Human Rights, the International Dalit Solidarity Network (IDSN), the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, Coptic Solidarity, the Arab-European Center of Human Rights and International Law, the Andrey Rylkov Foundation for Health and Social Justice, the World Union of Cossack Atamans, Man and Law, and World Without Genocide. These nine groups are among hundreds whose applications were on hold due to interminable questioning from some members of the UN Committee on Non-Governmental Organizations (the “NGO committee”). UN accreditation gives organizations access to many UN buildings, officials, and agencies – and to formally participate in numerous UN activities.
At its September session, the NGO committee rejected the nine groups’ accreditation applications and deferred action on 319 other organizations’ applications.
India has been instrumental in blocking IDSN, which advocates for the elimination of caste discrimination and other forms of discrimination around the world. According to the International Service for Human Rights, IDSN’s application was deferred for 15 years – a record for blocking an organization. The IDSN says it received over 100 questions from the committee, and despite responding promptly to all of them, was always deferred.
The only way out of this limbo is if individual member countries rescue the applications from the NGO committee and force a vote in an ECOSOC plenary meeting, where civil society groups stand a better chance of success. That is what will happen on December 7.
Accrediting these nine groups would send a strong signal to UN member countries about the importance of civil society organizations 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 favor of those that support civil society.