Webcasting the open sessions of the NGO Committee is on the agenda of the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) next week. A draft resolution for webcasting was tabled on Thursday, in name of 32 States. This step comes after many years of calls by States and civil society to make the process for getting accreditation to the UN more transparent and accessible to NGOs.
All eyes will be on the ECOSOC on Wednesday as it considers a resolution - to be introduced by Chile - on webcasting the open sessions of its subsidiary body, the NGO Committee. The Committee considers requests by NGOs for consultative status with the UN, in particular those from the global south. The lack of webcasting of NGO Committee open sessions, has meant that NGOs that cannot travel to New York to follow the consideration of their case in person, are at a great disadvantage.
States such as Chile, Mexico and Uruguay have made statements at ECOSOC in favour of webcasting. Last year 230 NGOs called for webcasting of sessions.
‘Webcasting sessions would help the working of the Committee become better known and – critically – assist all NGOs the world over to follow the consideration of their applications', said ISHR’s Eleanor Openshaw. 'We urge all 54 ECOSOC members to support this resolution.’
In addition to the draft resolution on webcasting, ECOSOC will consider a draft resolution granting accreditation to the UK-based NGO, Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW). CSW has had its application for accreditation deferred by the Committee for 8 years. In January, a vote was called at the NGO Committee to grant CSW accreditation but it was defeated. A vote in favour by ECOSOC next week, would overturn the Committee decision.
CSW is supported by five UN Special Rapporteurs. In their letter of the 5 April, the independent experts expressed ‘deep concern at the current working methods of the Committee, in particular the arbitrary deferral by the Committee of applications for consultative status of NGOs’. The experts are the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression; the Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association; the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, the Special Rapporteur on minority issues and the Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief.
It is still to be seen what action ECOSOC members may take related to NGO Committee recommendations to close applications of and withdraw accreditation from a group of Turkish NGOs or NGOs recently working in the Turkey. A group of NGOs expressed grave concern about the lack of due process afforded to these organisations through the practice of the NGO Committee, and have called on ECOSOC to reverse the Committee recommendations.