UN: Improve transparency of body which regulates civil society

02.06.2014

A coalition of leading non-governmental organisations has successfully called on the UN to reinstate press coverage of UN meetings so as not to undermine the right to information and participation for civil society organisations. 

(New York) –  A coalition of leading non-governmental organisations has successfully called on the UN to reinstate press coverage of UN meetings so as not to undermine the right to information and participation for civil society organisations. The UN Department of Public Information (DPI) had previously decided to suspend coverage of meetings of a UN body that regulates civil society access to the UN, the ECOSOC Committee on NGOs. 

'NGOs were deeply concerned regarding the DPI decision to discontinue meeting coverage of the Committee on Non-Governmental Organizations,' ISHR's New York Manager Michelle Evans said.

'The availability and accessibility of public information on the Committee’s meetings is essential to ensure the transparency and accountability of the Committee, and of the process of review of NGOs seeking consultative status to the UN,' Ms Evans said.

The joint letter - sent by ISHR on behalf of 11 NGOs including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch - emphasises that the decision to halt coverage was particularly concerning as NGOs have criticised the Committee in the past for lack of transparency, fairness and due process in its work. 

The joint letter also highlights that the coverage is particularly vital for NGOs that are not based in New York, including national and regional organisations working across the globe, which do not have resources to attend meetings of the Committee.  

'ECOSOC Resolution E/1996/31, which is the legal framework governing the work of the Committee on NGOs, calls on the  Secretary-General to provide “wide and timely dissemination of information on meetings” and  “distribution of documentation” in order to facilitate the broad-based participation of civil society,' the letter says.

'NGOs are clearly entitled to have access to information about the consideration of their applications for consultative status or the review of their status by the Committee. We therefore respectfully request that DPI reinstate consistent meeting coverage of the Committee on NGOs immediately.'

As a result of this letter, and member States' expression of concerns, the DPI agreed to continue meeting coverage for the session in May, but only on an ad-hoc basis, and 'to the best of our capacity.' At the same time, the Department said it would be able to provide live webcast coverage of the work of the Committee, should the Committee require it.

Contact: Michelle Evans, Representative in New York, International Service for Human Rights, on m.evans@ishr.ch.