At the UN General Assembly meeting on the 28th October, The UN Special Rapporteur on the exercise of the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, Maina Kiai, criticised India for arbitrarily blocking the International Dalit Solidarity Network (IDSN) from obtaining UN consultative status calling it “clearly unacceptable, wrong and unfair.”
Mr. Maina Kiai noted that reprisals are an area of the gravest concern and that states repeatedly target organisations, thus obstructing legitimate civil society participation. He highlighted the example of the politicized NGO Committee, which recommends UN consultative status to NGOs, deliberately and arbitrarily deferring the application of IDSN.
“Since 2008, this NGO that focuses on caste-based discrimination has received 64 written questions from the Committee, all raised by India. It is now the longest pending application before the NGO Committee,” Maina Kiai said.
Many States speaking at the UN General Assembly noted concern that the NGO committee, meant to ensure inclusion of civil society at the UN, is acting in a manner contrary to its purpose and the ECOSOC resolution.
Norway specifically highlighted in its statement, “The continued deferral for seven years of the International Dalit Solidarity Network’s application for accreditation as an NGO with the UN … is in our view unacceptable and the situation should be rectified.”
Maina Kiai suggested a reform of the NGO Committee to ensure that unjustified blocks of legitimate human rights organisations such as IDSN do not occur.
The United States representative stated that the US, “Strongly support the Special Rapporteurs call for reform of the Committee on NGOs to prevent Member States from blocking accreditation applications by posing perpetual questions and blocking consensus.”
Meanwhile Russia, China and Bahrain were critical in their response and Russia asked that the issues be resolved through “constructive cooperation with governments” as some NGOs have a “negative impact”.
Other areas of grave concern noted by Maina Kai included reprisals against human rights defenders participating in UN events and processes, the lack of adequate funding for the work of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and the increasingly shrinking space for civil society nationally and internationally. As an example of this shrinking space the Rapporteur warned that,
“The demands of the Financial Action Task Force to regulate NGOs to prevent abuse of such organizations for the financing of terrorism have been followed by a wave of new restrictions worldwide on funding for civil society, many of which do nothing to legitimately advance the fight against money laundering and terrorism.”
Read the full statement of Maina Kiai
See the webcast of Maina Kiai’s statement
Read the open letter to the ECOSOC members sent by IDSN and other affected NGOs being blocked from gaining ECOSOC status