Statement on behalf of the EU by H.E. Mr. Sven Jürgenson, Permanent representative Republic of Estonia to the United Nations, at ECOSOC Coordination and Management Meeting, 19 April
Statement on behalf of the European Union and its Member States
H.E. Mr. Sven Jürgenson
Ambassador, Permanent representative
Republic of Estonia to the United Nations
ECOSOC Coordination and Management Meeting
Item 17: Non-governmental organisations
(19 April 2017)
I have the honour to intervene on behalf of the European Union and its Member States.
The Candidate Countries the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Albania, and the EFTA country Liechtenstein member of the European Economic Area, as well as Ukraine, the Republic of Moldova, and Georgia, align themselves with this statement.
It falls to ECOSOC to consider the report and recommendations of the Committee on Non-Governmental Organisations. The scrutiny exercised by ECOSOC over the work of the NGO Committee is an important safeguard. Such scrutiny should pay regard to the manner in which the NGO Committee discharges its functions, including in the context of its compliance with ECOSOC resolution 1996/31 - the resolution that lays down the rules governing the granting of ECOSOC consultative status to NGOs. Under that resolution, the NGO Committee is charged with determining whether an organisation's work falls within the competence of ECOSOC and whether the aims and purposes of the organization are in conformity with the spirit, purposes and principles of the U.N. Charter.
By any measure, the NGO Committee is falling short in the discharge of its duties. The last session of the NGO Committee witnessed the rejection of a significant number of NGO applications on spurious or politically motivated grounds. A case in point is that of Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW). This respected organisation, which focuses on over 20 countries across the globe to advance freedom of religion or belief, has seen its application for consultative status rejected in 14 sessions of the NGO Committee over a period of 7 years. It has responded diligently to over 80, often repetitive, questions about its activities. It now falls to ECOSOC to put right this wrong and we would urge members to give a voice in the UN to CSW through a decision to grant consultative status.
It is not only the outcome of the NGO Committee's work that elicits acute concern. It is the manner in which that work is conducted. Our concerns are threefold.
First, the major shortcomings in procedure that took place at the last session. The NGO Committee must follow the rules that govern its work in a proper fashion. The holding of votes to override established rules on an ad hoc basis undermines key principles and safeguards established by ECOSOC - for example those enshrined in paragraph 56, to be applied in cases where the NGO Committee recommends the withdrawal of consultative status.
Second, the aversion that some members of the Committee continue to show to improved transparency. The NGO Committee must follow the example of other ECOSOC subsidiary bodies and permit the webcasting of proceedings. It is all the more important that a body charged with deliberating over the presence of civil society in the UN is itself seen to be open and transparent. As we have emphasised on previous occasions, webcasting would also ensure that organisations from developing countries who aspire to a greater role in the UN are empowered to witness the deliberations that determine their fate. For these reasons we support the resolution on webcasting placed before ECOSOC.
Third, the inadequate space that is given to the voices of civil society during the NGO Committee's proceedings. It should not be necessary to waste precious time in debating whether NGOs can intervene at certain moments during the Committee’s session. It should be an accepted fact.
To conclude, the European Union strongly encourages steps to restore the credibility and integrity of the NGO Committee, including through the vigilance and oversight of ECOSOC, and through a new spirit amongst members of the NGO Committee to conduct their duties in a fair and transparent manner. NGOs are an essential element of support to the effective and healthy functioning of the UN system, a role that dates back to 1946 and that is enshrined in Article 71 of the UN Charter. The NGO Committee must honour – and be seen to honour – that vital role.
The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Albania continue to be part of the Stabilisation and Association Process.