More NGOs gain access to the UN, but arbitrary blockades remain for many


(New York) – The UN Committee on Non-Governmental Organizations, which acts as the gatekeeper to NGO access to the UN, continues to wrongly delay, deny and reject access to credible human rights NGOs.

(New York) – The UN Committee on Non-Governmental Organizations, which acts as the gatekeeper to NGO access to the UN, continues to wrongly delay, deny and reject access to credible human rights NGOs.

At its most recent session in New York, from 21 to 30 January and 7 February 2014, the Committee approved 265 NGOs for access (or ‘consultative status’[1]) to the UN, but deferred a further 192 applications for further consideration at its session in May. [2]

This represented an overall improvement in the rate of NGO approval from previous sessions. The Committee approved 66 percent of new applications and 55 percent of previously deferred applications, [3] compared to 48 percent[4] and just 28 to 29 percent respectively over the previous 11 sessions.

However, despite these positive signals, States continued to oppose NGOs that hold views they do not agree with or that have been critical of governments’ human rights records.

‘NGO accreditation should be accessible, expeditious and based on fair, transparent and non-discriminatory criteria,’ said ISHR’s New York Advocacy Manager, Michelle Evans.

‘But, States that are not supportive of civil society engagement at the UN continue to use strategies to control the review process and defer applications, such as asking irrelevant or repetitive questions that go far beyond the scope of what NGOs are required to submit with their applications.’

ISHR’s research reveals that the NGOs that are most frequently and persistently delayed or deferred include those that work on sexual orientation and gender identity issues, women’s rights, reproductive rights, minority issues, caste, and freedom of expression and association, and human rights more generally.

It is widely accepted that State membership of the Committee lies at the root of these negative trends, with the balance of the Committee’s membership tending towards States that do not support a vibrant civil society at the UN. The current members of the NGO Committee are: Belgium, Bulgaria, Burundi, China, Cuba, India, Israel, Kyrgyzstan, Morocco, Mozambique, Nicaragua, Pakistan, Peru, Russian Federation, Senegal, Sudan, Turkey, United States of America, and Venezuela.

Some of the organisations whose applications were once-again blocked by the Committee were: Allied Rainbow Communities International,[5] Collectif des Families de Disparu(e)s en Algerie,[6] the Global Network for Rights and Development (GNRD),[7] the Geneva Institute for Human Rights (GIHR),[8] International Dalit Solidarity Network (IDSN),[9] International Partnership for Human Rights,[10] Iran Human Rights Documentation Center,[11] Institute for Human Rights and Business Limited,[12] International Federation of Liberal Youth,[13] and Youth Coalition for Sexual and Reproductive Rights (YCSRR).[14]

Meanwhile, the Committee recommended status to the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute (CFAM), a socially conservative Christian group. CFAM claims to engage in work to protect human rights but is actually singularly focused on opposition to safe and legal abortion and family planning.

‘The accreditation of such groups, which aim to undermine sexual and reproductive health, LGBT rights, and comprehensive sex education, pose a threat to the progressive development and implementation of international policies,’ said Ms Evans.

‘It is unsettling that the Committee is able to recommend such an organisation, while it continues to shamelessly block legitimate organisations working to protect sexual and reproductive rights, and the rights of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender persons.

‘We call on members of the Committee to stop inappropriately targeting these organisations, and to promptly recommend them for consultative status to the UN,’ said Ms Evans.

The Committee also continued to exert its pressure on human rights NGOs that already have consultative status by deferring the required quadrennial reports of some organisations.

It took note of 279 new quadrennial reports, while deferring 11 reports, including that of Human Rights Watch due to questions from Cuba and Russia. All 23 previously deferred quadrennial reports were again deferred, including those of Amnesty International, Freedom House, Human Rights First and International PEN.

In more positive developments, the Committee recommended consultative status for several human rights NGOs that had previously been deferred, including Le Centre pour les Droits Civils et Politiques - Centre CCPR,[15] and the Asia-Eurasia Human Rights Forum.[16]

The May resumed session will be held in New York City from 19 to 28 May and 6 June 2014.

Contact: Michelle Evans,, Programme Manager and New York Advocacy Coordinator

Contact: Michelle Evans,, Program Manager and New York Advocacy Coordinator

[1] Consultative status provides NGOs with access to a range of fora at the UN, including the Human Rights Council, ECOSOC and its subsidiary bodies, UN conferences, and special events organized by the President of the General Assembly.

[2] See advanced unedited report of the Committee at

[3] Deferred applications are those that have been reviewed by the Committee at previous sessions but on which the Committee has not come to an agreement.

[4] Approval rates for new applications have fluctuated significantly in the last five years: 49% at the 2013 resumed session, 60% at the 2013 regular session, 59% at the 2012 resumed session, 56% at the 2012 regular session, 50% at the 2011 resumed session, 36% at the 2011 regular session, 18% at the 2010 resumed session, 34% at the 2010 regular session, 33% at the 2009 resumed session, 56% at the 2009 regular session, 80% at the 2008 resumed session, and 62% at the 2008 regular session.

[5] ARC is a Canadian-registered NGO that seeks to conduct research, educate and disseminate information in connection with human rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered people internationally. It has received 11 questions since its application in 2013.

[6] CFDA is a France-based NGO whose principal aim is to locate victims of forced disappearances and to shed light on all victims of forced disappearances in Algeria. CFDA has received 75 questions since its application for status in 2008.

[7] GNRD is a Geneva-based human rights organisation, focusing on the protection and recognition of society's most vulnerable, including women and children. Since 2011, it has received 9 questions.

[8] The GIHR is a Geneva-based NGO geared to train Arabs in the field of human rights and the laws and mechanisms of human rights. It has received 20 questions since its application in 2011.

[9] IDSN is a Denmark-based NGO that aims to contribute to the elimination of caste-based discrimination worldwide. Since its application for consultative status in 2007, IDSN has received 61 questions.

[10] IPHR is a Belgium-based NGO that promotes human rights worldwide by aiming to empower local civil society groups and assisting them in making concerns heard at the international level. The NGO focuses on advancing the rights of women, children, migrants and minorities in Central Asia. It has received 16 questions since its application in 2011.

[11] IHRDC is a US-based organisation whose mission is to establish a comprehensive and objective historical record of the human rights situation in Iran since the 1979 revolution, and on the basis of that record, establish responsibility for patterns of human rights abuses. Since its application in 2011, the Center has received 48 questions.

[12] The Institute for Human Rights and Business Ltd, a UK-based organisation, seeks to raise corporate standards and strengthen public policy to ensure the activities of companies do not contribute to human rights abuses, and lead to positive outcomes. Since applying in 2012, it has received 9 questions.

[13] IFLY is a Belgium-based umbrella organisation for liberal and student youth organisations oriented towards the promotion of active citizenship, respect for human rights and the rule of law. Since its application in 2006, the IFLY has received 48 questions.

[14] YCSRR, based in Canada, is an international organisation of young people committed to promoting adolescent and youth sexual and reproductive rights at the national, regional and international levels. It applied for status in 2010 and has received 26 questions.

[15] The Centre focuses on the implementation and respect of all human rights proclaimed in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and facilitates NGO access to the UN Human Rights Committee. It had been deferred since 2011.

[16] The Asia-Eurasia Human Rights Forum is a non-governmental organisation aimed at promoting the Universal Declaration on Human Rights throughout the region with a focus on India. The application has been deferred since 2002 with over 20 questions asked since then.

Photo: UNOG