UN: EU Statement at the ECOSOC Resumed Substantive Session

ECOSOC Resumed Substantive Session, 46th Meeting;
Agenda Item 12: Non-governmental organizations

General Statement by Mr. Janne Jokinen, First Secretary, Permanent Mission of Finland to the UN, on behalf of the European Union

New York, 11 December 2006

Mr. President ,

I have the honour to speak on behalf of the European Union.

The Acceding Countries Bulgaria and Romania, the Candidate Countries Turkey, Croatia* and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia*, the Countries of the Stabilisation and Association Process and potential candidates Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Serbia, and the EFTA countries Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway, members of the European Economic Area, as well as Ukraine and Moldova align themselves with this declaration.

*) Croatia and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia continue to be part of the Stabilisation and Association Process.

As we stated when the Council commenced its consideration of this item five months ago, the European Union strongly believes that every non-governmental organization is entitled to treatment which is in accordance with the ECOSOC Resolution 1996/31 on the Consultative relationship between the United Nations and non-governmental organizations, and follows the standard practice of the Committee on Non-Governmental Organizations, regardless of the nature of the organization. The principles of non-discrimination and diversity are very dear to us.

ECOSOC Resolution 1996/31 on the Consultative relationship between the United Nations and non-governmental organisations explicitly confirms the need to take into account the full diversity of non-governmental organisations. It sets out that NGOs shall be granted consultative status if they (a) are concerned with matters falling within the competence of ECOSOC and its subsidiary bodies, (b) have aims and purposes that are in conformity with the spirit, purposes and principles of the UN Charter, and (c) undertake to support the work of the United Nations and to promote knowledge of its principles and activities.

The EU believes that the NGOs whose applications we are considering today,  namely the Danish National Association for Gays and Lesbians; the Lesbian and Gay Federation of Germany; and the International Lesbian and Gay Association - Europe, fulfil these criteria.  Much of the work they do is in support of UN activities - e.g. in the fields of health, gender, development and human rights.  A number of similar organisations participated in the recent High-Level meeting on HIV/AIDS, for example, without complaint and in recognition of the contribution they can make to those discussions.  These three organizations are also keen to use accreditation to promote the work of the UN.

To date, over 2,800 NGOs have been granted consultative status based on the principles contained in ECOSOC resolution 1996/31 which sets out the relationship between the UN and NGOs. Of these, undoubtedly many espouse views or policies that are not necessarily shared by EU Governments.  But we would still argue that they have a right to make their views known at the UN.  We may disagree with them, but that does not mean that we should exclude them.

In recent years, the NGO Committee has rejected applications for or withdrawn the consultative status only in cases of organisations that have carried out activities against a Member State or that have been involved in or connected to terrorist activities. The organisations whose applications we are considering today obviously do not fall into this category.

It is the firm belief of the European Union and other delegations that the representatives of the three NGOs whose applications for consultative status are before us, provided fully satisfactory answers to all questions asked by members of the NGO Committee when their applications were considered by that body. No credible reasons were presented for refusing them the consultative status that they are seeking.

The Economic and Social Council is the parent body of the NGO Committee. As stated in OP15 of ECOSOC Resolution 1996/31, and I quote "The granting, suspension and withdrawal of consultative status, as well as the interpretation of norms and decisions relating to this matter, are the prerogative of Member States exercised through the Economic and Social Council and its Committee on Non-Governmental Organizations", end quote.

At the Substantive Session in Geneva in July, the Council duly rejected the draft decisions recommended by the NGO Committee regarding the applications of the three NGOs. The Council also adopted a decision not to send the application of the Danish organization back to the NGO Committee. In our view, the will of the Council has already been clearly expressed especially in the last case: these three organisations are entitled to the consultative status that they are seeking.

It was the strong preference of the European Union to have the Council bring its consideration of the item to a successful conclusion in July. During the proceedings, we listened carefully to the views of other delegations, including those that expressed a wish to have more information on the three cases under consideration before making their decisions. For this purpose, the European Union agreed to join consensus on deferring further consideration of Item 12 to the Resumed Session. We would like to express our appreciation to the Secretariat for having provided the Member States of ECOSOC with the materials that the Council requested in July. We trust that all delegations are now ready to complete the work started in July.

Mr. President,

At the time when the decision for deferral was made, the European Union expressed the wish that at the Resumed Session of the Council, its Members would be allowed to focus on the substance of the Item: the applications of the three NGOs. That time has now come. For our part, we stand ready to complete the work. Our proposals are on the table.

Thank you, Mr. President