ECOSOC Committee: 349 NGOs call for States to take NGO participation at UN seriously

11 February 2022 –

The UNCAC Coalition and numerous of its member organizations are among 349 national, regional and international NGOs that have signed an open letter calling for States to take NGO participation at the United Nations seriously and vote accordingly. 

The letter, coordinated by the International Service for Human Rights, calls on UN Member States with an interest in facilitating and safeguarding civil society access to and participation in UN processes to stand for election to the ECOSOC Committee on Non-Governmental Organisations for the 2023-2026 term.

The ECOSOC Committee effectively decides on granting civil society organizations consultative status that allows for participation in many UN fora, including the Conference of the States Parties (CoSP) of the UN Convention against Corruption (UNCAC), the Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice (CCPCJ), the conferences of the Vienna-based conventions on drugs and transnational organized crime (UNTOC).

While governments, under the UNCAC CoSP, can object to the participation of non-governmental organizations that do not have ECOSOC consultative status – which has resulted in politically motivated and arbitrary actions against NGOs from some governments – a State cannot veto the participation of NGOs that hold ECOSOC consultative status.

It is thus essential that the members of the ECOSOC Committee are committed to fulfilling their tasks fairly and judiciously. Decisions over awarding ECOSOC Consultative status to numerous leading NGOs working to promote anti-corruption, government accountability, human rights, among other issues, have been effectively blocked by certain states in the ECOSOC Committee.

The signatory organizations request that:

  1. “States with an interest in facilitating and safeguarding civil society access to and participation in UN processes stand for election to the Committee.
  2. Candidates make public the reasons for their candidacy and their commitment to fulfil their responsibilities as members of the Committee, as per ECOSOC Resolution 1996/31.
  3. All regions put up competitive slates, as the Asia-Pacific and GRULAC regions did in the last elections for the Committee in 2018. Competitive elections are important to create buy-in to the process and encourage states to be accountable for their commitments.
  4. All regions make public candidacies at least two months before the elections to allow for proper consideration of candidates.
  5. All ECOSOC members vote (and be encouraged to vote) only for candidates with positive track records in regard to civil society access and participation. Candidates could be assessed in regard to indicators such as support for relevant UN resolutions, such as those on civil society space and human rights defenders; on responses to cases of intimidation and reprisals; and on national level initiatives to safeguard civic space, press freedom – online as offline – and the right to defend human rights.
  6. ECOSOC members should consider introducing term limits for membership of the Committee on NGOs, among other reforms encouraging openness and accountability. As with other UN bodies, states should be required to leave the Committee for a specific interval of time after serving for a maximum agreed period. Term limits would encourage greater diversity in membership over time and encourage states to step up as candidates.”

For more information on the efforts to strengthen the UN Committee on NGOs, see this article by ISHR.

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