United Nations: The Committee on Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) today recommended 13 entities for consultative status with the Economic and Social Council, postponed its consideration of 31 applications and recommended a two-year suspension for another, Interfaith International.
General, special or roster status is granted in accordance with such criteria as the applicant’s mandate, governance and financial regime. Organizations enjoying general and special status can attend meetings of the Economic and Social Council and circulate statements, while those with general status can, in addition, address meetings and propose agenda items. Roster-status non-governmental organizations can only attend meetings. Organizations with general and special status must also submit a report every four years.
The Committee took up a complaint lodged by the representative of Pakistan, on 25 January (see Press Release ECOSOC/6404-NGO/684) against Interfaith International, a Geneva-based non-governmental organization with special status. The delegate explained that, by its actions during Human Rights Council meetings, it had violated the United Nations Charter and Economic and Social Council resolution 1996/31 by trying to undermine Pakistan’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. That was no minor infraction as the territorial integrity of a sovereign State could not be called into question, he said, adding that there were limits to freedom of expression.
He said the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights had told the organization that it had a persistent tendency to continue its violations. Even the President of the Human Rights Council had intervened at one time to stop the non-governmental organization’s speaker from continuing. The delegation of Pakistan had approached the organization for discussions, but had not received an appropriate response, he said, adding that, as a last resort, he now turned to the Committee with a request that it withdraw the group’s status. The organization had also organized events within United Nations facilities under a name other than the authorized one, and had brought in people with doubtful credentials. It should be held accountable, he stressed.
Expressing their support for the request were the representatives of Burundi, Cuba, China, Egypt, Angola, Qatar, Sudan and Guinea. Egypt’s representative said the organization was clearly involved in a pattern of activities against a Member State, which contravened resolution 1996/31 as well as the principles and provisions of the Charter. Turkey’s representative said the non-governmental organization had violated the resolution, implementation of which was the Committee’s responsibility.
However, the representative of the United States said that despite all the information provided, it was not clear what rules had been violated and what evidence there was of any violation. Before the Committee took the “very dire” sanction of withdrawal, those matters should be clear. There might be small technical violations of minor rules, warranting some sort of sanction, but no evidence had been seen that would substantiate the sanction of withdrawal of consultative status.
Emphasizing that the purpose of civil society was to provide critical assessments of Government actions, he said the non-governmental organization in question had not advocated overthrowing a Government or changing the territorial integrity of a sovereign State. Those two issues were different from the right to self-determination, which was enshrined in the Charter, he said, adding that he had not seen evidence of the group’s involvement in any violent action against any Member State.
The United Kingdom’s representative echoed that statement, stressing that non-governmental organizations had a right to express their opinions freely.
Dominica’s representative, supported by those of Romania, Peru and Switzerland, agreed that the non-governmental organization had committed some violations, which warranted not withdrawal of consultative status, but a suspension for some time. That would send a message that in order for the organization to regain its status, it must respect the territorial integrity of a sovereign State.
Following an informal meeting, the Committee considered a recommendation to suspend the organization’s consultative status for two years.
The representative of the United States said he would “reluctantly” support that sanction, although it was not commensurate with the minor violations that the non-governmental organization had committed, and on the understanding that it would be automatically reinstated after two years, without further stipulations. The representatives of the United Kingdom, Israel, Dominica and Peru expressed support for the compromise, adding, however, that they would have preferred a one-year suspension.
Egypt’s representative joined the consensus “in the spirit of compromise”, and requested the Secretariat to provide information about previous cases of suspension and the procedures for reinstatement.
The representatives of Cuba, Russian Federation, China, Sudan and Qatar also joined the consensus, although they would have preferred a withdrawal of the organization’s consultative status. The representatives of Guinea and Colombia also agreed to the proposal.
Pakistan’s representative said his priority remained the withdrawal of consultative status because there had been clear violations of the provisions and principles of the Charter, which required a greater sanction than suspension. In the spirit of compromise, however, he would reluctantly join the consensus.
The Committee then decided to recommend that the Economic and Social Council suspend Interfaith International’s consultative status for two years.
Source: Baloch Warna