The current accreditation process is managed by the Committee on NGOs, a subsidiary body of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). The Committee reviews applications made by NGOs – including domestic and international organizations – for consultative status and issues recommendations to ECOSOC.
In recent years, the membership of the Committee has included many countries whose human rights records are poor and their authorities’ response to domestic civil society activists especially harsh. To block certain NGOs from obtaining status and going on to consideration by ECOSOC, Committee members are known to use obscure procedural rules and to ask endless and often repetitive questions of some NGOs, all with the ostensible aim of seeking consensus with all member states.
Freedom Now spent nearly six years going through this process. We submitted responses to over 60 questions, addressed the Committee on several occasions, and met with Committee members individual. We only received accreditation after ECOSOC voted to overturn the Committee’s recommendation to deny us consultative status.
The letter issued this week outlined the deficiencies in the current system and recommended several reforms, including that the process respect international human rights standards, that the practice of repeated questions and deferrals should end, and Committee proceedings should be webcast. A representative of International Service for Human Rights attempted to address the Committee on Tuesday to read the contents of the letter. Committee members debated for 45 minutes before they allowed the representative to proceed.
On Wednesday, the Committee postponed consideration of 66 applications. The session ended with South Africa requesting that one NGO provide an itemized list of every donation it had received.