UN Committee on NGOs: failure to hold mandated meetings undermines relationship with civil society

ICJ has joined other leading NGOs in calling on the UN to ensure its NGO Committee fulfils its duties of constructive dialogue with NGOs, after the Committee has failed to convene regular meetings with NGOs as required by its mandate.

Civil society has long held concern that certain political dynamics and working methods of the NGO Committee, including lack of transparency and dialogue, are serving more to obstruct rather than facilitate civil society engagement with the UN, particularly on human rights issues.

The letter therefore begins by welcoming the recent decision of the NGO Committee’s superior body, the ECOSOC, requiring the Committee to webcast its sessions.

As a next step towards improving the situation, the letter notes that the resolution that provides the mandate for the NGO Committee (ECOSOC resolution 1996/31), provides that the NGO Committee is ‘responsible for regular monitoring of the evolving relationship between NGOs and the UN’. The resolution specifically requires that the Committee ‘shall hold’ meetings with accredited NGOs before each of its sessions and at other times as necessary, to discuss ‘questions of interest to the Committee or to the organizations related to the relationship between NGOs and the United Nations.’ The resolution specifies that a report on such consultations is to be transmitted to ECOSOC for appropriate action.

As far as is known to the NGOs, no such meetings have been held, in recent years.

The letter affirms that regular meetings between the Committee and accredited NGOs are essential to build a more constructive relationship between the Committee (as well as the ECOSOC) and NGOs. They could help to address the wide range of challenges faced by NGOs in engaging with the UN.

The letter emphasises that, in the absence of formal opportunities to engage with the Committee, including during the meetings envisaged in resolution 1996/31, on issues of general concern, NGOs have sought to address the NGO Committee briefly at the start of Committee sessions. However, on the two most recent occasions these attempts have been rejected. The letter underlines that the Committee’s refusal to engage with NGOs on general topics of concern is in contradiction to its responsibilities outlined in resolution 1996/31.

Affirming ECOSOC’s duty to ensure that the Committee fulfils its responsibilities fully and effectively, the NGOs therefore request that the ECOSOC remind the NGO Committee of its responsibility to convene at least one meeting with NGOs before each session, beginning with its next session in January 2018.

The full letter may be downloaded in PDF format here: UN-OpenLetter-ECOSOC-NGOCommittee-2017


(photo credit: UN Photo/Manuel Elias, 20 April 2016, creative commons licence, https://www.flickr.com/photos/un_photo/26772166976)

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