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Share The World's Resources granted consultative status with UN ECOSOC

25 February 2009

After a lengthy and in-depth application process, Share The World's Resources (STWR) was recently granted consultative status with the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) of the United Nations (UN).

Consultative status allows STWR to engage with ECOSOC on a formal level as it considers a range of economic and social issues, and formulates and presents recommendations to UN member states. In addition, STWR will be able to attend UN conferences, appoint UN representatives, participate in coalitions with other NGOs working on specific ECOSOC issues, as well as garner wider support from other organisations and the general public. The accreditation also opens channels for lobbying with governments, and increases networking opportunities with NGOs and coalitions.

Application Stage

To comply with the technicalities of the application process, soon after submitting the initial document to the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA) at the end of May 2008, STWR's Council of Members adopted a new Governing Document which established a more transparent and democratic constitution for the Non Governmental Organisation.

Although informed by DESA that the Committee was unlikely to consider the application until June 2009, STWR was contacted as early as September 2008 by Ms Hanifa Mezoui, Chief of the NGO Section, and asked for further clarification on a number of points.  Member states posed additional questions in October and the Committee informed STWR that they would review the application during its January 2009 session.

When the Committee invited a representative to attend their meetings between January 19th and 28th at the United Nations in New York, the Board of Directors agreed that it would be in the organisation's best interest to be present in order to facilitate the application process and answer any further questions which might arise.

NGO Committee Process

The NGO application process at the UN gives an instructive example of the frustrations and complexities characterising NGO and UN relations.

The Committee Meetings took place in Conference Room 1 at the UN Headquarters in New York, a large auditorium where the 20 permanent member states of the Committee and numerous observer delegations considered all applications. The process was frustratingly slow as delegates positioned themselves politically by approving or obstructing applications according to their national interests.

Numerous procedural and political disagreements emerged over the course of the meetings, which often took days to resolve - delaying the application process. The procedure also appeared to lack transparency - with UN figures providing little or no information to NGO representatives about when their application would be considered.

Having initially read through our application, a number of delegates posed further questions about our activities, intentions and our accounts. In response, STWR submitted detailed and lengthy responses to these questions, largely drawing upon the UN Charter and ECOSOC Resolution 1996/31 to the UN Secretariat, and the Committee reconsidered our application on the evening of Monday 26th. Upon being called to the podium and being asked further questions by the Committee - chiefly by the delegate from Sudan, STWR's representatives responded satisfactorily and the Committee agreed to accredit STWR with Roster Consultative Status. 

Experience Gained

The experience in New York allowed the STWR's representatives to gain a clearer understanding of policy-making at the UN level and to study UN-NGO interaction.

Contact was also made with a number of prominent individuals in the NGO and policy community, including James Paul - the director of the Global Policy Forum, an influential NGO based at the UN, which amongst other activities, facilitates dialogue between international NGOs and the Security Council. STWR also made contact with Peter Mann, the International Director of World Hunger Year (WHY), a long established NGO at the forefront of the food security movement in the US. 

Through these contacts, STWR has been connected to other high profile NGOs and individuals including Brother David Andrews of Food and Water Watch, and Thomas Forster of the International Partners for Sustainable Agriculture who has asked STWR to participate in a high-level food coalition at the forthcoming UN Commission on Sustainable Development.

STWR also met several other key contacts, including the Chief UN Liaison of the Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO), and Sharon Brennan-Haylock who gave advice on how to advocate effectively at the UN. Further to this, constructive meetings were held with Barbara Adams, a well-respected figure within the UN system and former high-level representative at the UN NGLS and UNIFEM; and representatives from the UN Foundation, World Federalist Movement, Medecins Sans Frontiere and the UN Development Program.

Moving Forward

Since Roster Status is only the first of three levels of accreditation, STWR intends to apply for Special Consultative Status in May 2010. Special Consultative status is a higher category, usually reserved for international organisations, which allows for even greater participation with ECOSOC. Given the experience of attending and understanding the nuances of the application process, STWR is confident that this further application will also be approved, and that the organisation will be able to engage fully on the international level.

Further Resources

Departments and Agencies

Legal Documents

Press Releases

STWR Approved for Consultative Status by the UN Non-Governmental Organisations Committee

26 January 2009, Press Release, Economic and Social Council - ECOSOC/6380, NGO/663 

Committee on NGO, 11th & 12th Meetings (AM & PM)

Also Approves Three for Roster Status, Leaves 11 Applications Pending 

As the Committee on Non-Governmental Organizations began its second week of a shortened session that concludes on Wednesday, it approved nine organizations for special consultative status with the Economic and Social Council, three for roster status, and deferred or left pending 14 more.

The 19-member Committee uses various criteria to recommend general consultative, special consultative or roster status with the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), including the applicant’s mandate, governance and financial regime.  Organizations that have general and special consultative status can attend meetings of the Council and circulate statements of a certain length.  Those with general status can, in addition, speak at meetings and propose items for the Council’s agenda, while non-governmental organizations (NGOs) with roster status can only attend meetings.

Non-governmental organizations with general and special consultative status must submit a report to the Council every four years.  “Taking note” of a quadrennial report implies that the Committee finds the report adequate for fulfilment of that obligation.  In exceptional circumstances, for instance, when there has been a complaint, the Committee can request a “special report”.

Three of the NGOs approved for special consultative status today, in the Committee’s ongoing effort to step up civil society participation from developing countries, were from Africa.  The International Network of Alternative Financial Institutions (INAFI) (document E/C.2/2009/R.2/Add.14), based in Dakar, Senegal, seeks to propose alternative finance that is pro-poor, holistic and sustainable.  Another, African Wildlife Foundation (document E/C.2/2009/ R.2/Add.4), an international organization based in Nairobi, Kenya, works to ensure that Africa’s wildlife and wild lands will endure forever, and believes that Africans are the greatest stewards of their land and natural resources.

A third organization hailing from Africa, Servitas Cameroon (document E/C.2/2009/R.2/Add.13) was also granted special status today.  Based in Akwa, this national group seeks to encourage the participation of women in governance at all levels and, among other things, to achieve equal participation by women and men in all sectors of society.

Other civil society groups approved for special or roster status dealing with providing humanitarian assistance through educational and charitable works; improving lung health worldwide; furthering women’s equality in the field of career development; advancing the status of women in the legal profession; defence of the fundamental rights of detainees in France; psychoanalysis and the training of its practitioners; and advancing education and information about why and how sharing the world’s resources can end poverty and create a sustainable economy.

Among those NGOs whose applications were deferred or left pending today was that of Muslim Aid Australia (document E/C.2/2009/R.2/Add.15), owing to questions posed by the Committee members from the United States and Israel.  This national organization is primarily mandated to undertake overseas aid work, including the welfare of orphans, widows and refugees, and, among other things, development assistance to communities in cycles of poverty and emergency assistance to those struck by civil and natural calamities.

A national organization based in Hiroshima, Peacebuilders, (document E/C.2/2009/R.2/Add.17) was also deferred.  It aims to make modest contributions in peacebuilding through working with people in conflict-affected countries who are struggling to build lasting, just peace, with its circles of “peacebuilders”.  Egypt’s member asked if it advocated a certain lifestyle or certain sexual orientation in countries emerging from conflict.  He also asked for examples of the “in-kind support” it received, and whether those were voluntary.  He wanted to know if the NGO was involved in any peacebuilding activities in the Middle East, and whether it could list its patrons, including members of its honorary board.

The Committee member from Pakistan sought more information about the membership in All India Christian Council (document E/C.2/2009/R.2/Add.7), a national NGO based in India, which is self-described as leading the fight for religious freedom for all and the emancipation of Dalit-Bahujans, existing to protect and serve the interests of the Christian community, minorities and the oppressed castes.  India’s Committee member asked what was meant in the applicant’s responses to previous questions about gifts and donations.  The delegate also asked the candidate to clarify precisely to whom the NGO was referring in its application when it used the term “oppressed castes”.  Also, if the NGO did not accept the terms Dalit Muslim and Dalit Christian, why had it used them in its application?

The Committee member from Pakistan, who had led the informal discussions during lunch on the complaint by Algeria about an NGO with consultative status reported to the Committee this afternoon that, while several Member States were ready to take action, some had requested time to seek instructions from their capitals.  The working group had decided that enough substantive information had been provided by Algeria on the complaint; the Committee wished to take action on the complaint during this session; it was important to maintain consensus on the subject; those delegations requiring more information would seek to do so informally with Algeria; and the Committee would take up the item first thing on Wednesday, in order to take action, as proposed by Algeria.

The observer delegation for Algeria, once again, described the complaint against the Arab Commission for Human Rights.  (For details, see Press Release ECOSOC/6379).  Elaborating, she said that, in its response, the NGO confirmed that it was informed of the legal situation of the individual and aware there was an international arrest warrant sent out against him by Interpol.   His entrance to the United Nations Palais des Nations in Geneva had been facilitated by the NGO, which had requested that a badge be issued to him.

Continuing, she said this was a case where an NGO had been awarded consultative status by ECOSOC and NGO Committee members, and owing to that consultative status, an individual had been allowed to enter Palais des Nations and sit across from a country that had found him guilty and take the floor on behalf of the NGO.  The list of speakers had indicated another name.  It was only when the floor was given to him that he had revealed himself to be Rachid Mesli instead.  Perhaps the purpose had been to disrupt the discussion on Algeria.  This was a flagrant violation of resolution 1996/31, which established a framework for the withdrawal or suspension of NGOs with consultative status.  She called for a suspension of its status.  That would put all NGOs on notice that they not only had rights, but they had duties, as well.

The Committee member from the United States requested the Algerian Government, “if possible”, to provide some of the court documents related to the case to help him make a more informed decision.  The NGO’s response, he pointed out, stated that the individual in question had refugee status in Switzerland.  He noted that the observer delegation for Switzerland was in the room.  The United States asked if he could confirm or deny the point about refugee status.

A lengthy debate ensued, centred mostly on adherence to, and interpretation of, what had been agreed among Committee members during the informal session at lunchtime.  Cuba’s delegate said he understood the working group’s decision to mean that any request by a Committee member for more information would be dealt with on a bilateral basis, since the Committee had sufficient information.  Most members seemed to feel that the information provided was sufficient and that “we are already well-situated to take a decision in this regard”.  Egypt’s representative felt that requesting information about how a domestic court of a sovereign State had arrived at its judgment was interfering in the domestic affairs of that State.

Finally, Committee Chairman Hassan Hamid Hassan ( Sudan) said his understanding was that the Committee would return to the item on Wednesday.  The United States representative said he hoped he would be ready to take action on Wednesday and he hoped he would have the necessary information -- “all the facts” -- in front of him to be able to do so.  Cuba’s speaker reiterated that all delegations that had participated in the informal discussion should respect the decision to work on Wednesday on the basis of what had been described, and that if any additional information was sought, it should be requested informally.

Also approved for special consultative status today were:

American Society of the Italian Legions of Merit (document E/C.2/2009/R.2/Add.8), a United States-based national organization providing humanitarian assistance through educational and charitable works;

World Lung Foundation (document E/C.2/2009/R.2), a United States-based international organization aimed at improving lung health worldwide by strengthening community capacity to prevent and manage lung diseases;

Academy for Educational Development (AED) (document E/C.2/2009/R.2/Add.12), a United States-based international organization working globally to improve health, civil society, economic development and education -- the foundation of thriving societies;

Associazione Casa Famiglia Rosetta (document E/C.2/2009/R.2/Add.12), permanently headquartered in Caltanissetta, Italy, a national organization that aims to manage services for the welcoming, treatment and rehabilitation of people who are in discomfort, including persons with disabilities, drug addicts and HIV-affected persons;

Association for Women’s Career Development in Hungary (document E/C.2/2009/R.2/Add.15), a national organization in Budapest, which aims to further women’s equality in the field of career development and provide support to women in order to reach senior leadership positions by communicating and promoting the realization of the objectives set out in Article 55 of the United Nations Charter and the Treaty Establishing the European Community; and

Women’s Bar Association of the State of New York (E/C.2/2009/R.2/Add.16), a United States-based national organization, seeks to promote the advancement of the status of women in society and of women in the legal profession.  (This approval followed an interaction this afternoon with a representative of the NGO.)

Approved for roster status were:

Observatoire International des Prisons – Section Francaises (document E/C.2/2009/R.2/Add.4), a national organization based in Paris, which contributes to the defence of the fundamental rights of detainees in France and respect for their dignity;

Ecole de la cause freudienne (document E/C.2/2009/R.2/add.10), headquartered in Paris, a national organization that has as its purpose psychoanalysis, the transmission of psychoanalysis and the training of its practitioners; and

Share the World’s Resources (STWR) (document E/C.2/2009/R.2/Add.19), an international organization headquartered in London aimed, among other objectives, at advancing education and information about why and how sharing the world’s resources can end poverty and create a sustainable economy.  (This approval also followed an interaction this afternoon with a representative of the NGO.)

Deferred or left pending were:

Actions solidaires de soutien aux organisations et d’appul aux libertes (document E/C.2/2009/R.2/Add.16), permanently headquartered in Yaounde, Cameroon, this national NGO has as its primary aim to strengthen the role of the three pillars of society and the role of citizens as agents of change and of the promotion of republican, citizen and humanitarian values;

Benin Rural Assistance (document E/C.2/2009/R.2/Add.17), based in Cotonou, the national organization aims, among other things, to improve the situation of abandoned children in rural areas and of needy older persons by establishing a shelter, and to fight against the enslavement of children and women in rural areas, including their trafficking and abuse;

Coalition Nationale De Guinee Pour Les Droits et La Citoyennete Des Femmes (document E/C.2/2009/R.2/Add.1), permanently headquartered in Conakry, this national organization has as its primary aim to promote women’s rights and exercise of citizenship by strengthening partnerships with civil society and social mobilization and by developing strategic partnerships with civil society organizations, with a view to encouraging decision makers and partners to take into account the corners, rights and citizenship of women in the elaboration and implementation of policies and programmes in Guinea;

Fédération Européenne des Centres de Recherche et d’Information sur le Sectarisme (document E/C.2/2009/R.2/Add.17), based in Marseille, France, a international organization dedicated to the protection of human rights and democratic societies against abuses and excesses by organizations whose actions and practices violate the fundamental rights of individuals, families and children;

Organisation pour l’Environnement et la Développement Durable (OPED) (document E/C.2/2009/R.2/Add.4), a national organization based in Yaounde, Cameroon, which seeks to increase awareness of environmental issues and foster the emergence of people-centred development approaches;

Femmes autochtones du Quebec (document E/C.2/2009/R.2/Add.18), a national organization whose mission is to support the efforts of indigenous women to improve their living conditions by promoting health, non-violence and shelters, justice, public safety and equal rights;

International Institute for the Development of the Citizenship (document E/C.2/2009/R.2/Add.7), a national organization in Anapolis City Golas, Brazil, which works to support and assist the principle human development agencies around the work, particularly the United Nations, in realization of their mandates globally;

Magnificat Environment (document E/C.2/2009/R.2/Add.15), a national organization headquartered in Gbadago-Lome, Togo, aims, among other things, to promote environmental education and make the environment viable for all; 

WITNESS (document E/C.2/2008/R.2/Add.30), a United States-based national organization, which uses video and online technologies to open the eyes of the world to human rights violations, empowering people to transform personal stories of abuse into powerful tools for justice, promoting public engagement and policy change.  (A decision was made to return to consideration of this NGO, following an interaction today with its representative.);

Associazione Amici dei Bambini (document E/C.2/2009/R.2/Add.19), permanently headquartered in Milan, Italy, the national organization is a group of adoptive parents devoted to the protection and fostering of children’s rights.  (Technical difficulties caused the Committee to delay consideration of this NGO.); and

Association des Badinga du Congo (document E/C.2/2009/R.2/Add.2), a national organization based in Kinshasa that seeks to reduce poverty by helping the rural population to crate wealth on the basis of land and other locally available resources in order to better meet the basic needs of the community.  (No formal translation of this application resulted in a postponement of its consideration.)

The Committee will meet again at 10 a.m. Tuesday, 27 January, to continue its work.

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Global governance