FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
July 20, 2015
Contact: Maran Turner
NEW YORK – Today, the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) of the United Nations officially awarded – by vote – Freedom Now special consultative NGO status. Of the 54 ECOSOC members present, 29 countries voted in favor of a resolution sponsored by Albania, Australia, Estonia, France, Germany, Japan, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, the United States, and Uruguay. This status is important not merely as acknowledgement of Freedom Now’s important work but to provide the organization, its imprisoned clients, and their families a platform to address the UN Human Rights Council, ECOSOC, and the General Assembly during relevant discussions.
“Today’s vote is the culmination of a six year application process unnecessarily prolonged by politics,” said Freedom Now Executive Director Maran Turner. “We thank the members of ECOSOC – and especially the United States and co-sponsoring states – for granting Freedom Now special consultative status and in so doing recognizing the value of our work and contribution to the spirit and mission of the UN. We intend to use this status to improve attention and global efforts to address human rights violations and arbitrary detention. Following this experience, we would like to bring forth greater discussion about reforming the NGO accreditation process and making the UN a more welcoming place for civil society.”
“Members of ECOSOC are mandated to ensure that NGOs accredited to the UN are dedicated to the promotion and protection of human rights in accordance with the UN Charter. I applaud the diverse, cross-regional group of ECOSOC member states that stood up for the vital voices of civil society today,” said U.S. Permanent Representative to the UN Ambassador Samantha Power in a statement.
The vote by ECOSOC taken today overturned the recommendation
made by the UN Committee on Non-Governmental Organizations to reject Freedom Now’s application by a vote of 11 to 4 on May 29, 2015. Members of the NGO Committee, which is a subsidiary body of ECOSOC and tasked with approving applications from NGOs for consultative status, blocked Freedom Now’s application for more than five years by using procedural rules and deferring tactics, such as repetitive questioning. Governments opposing Freedom Now notably included China, Russia, Cuba, Venezuela, Iran, Sudan, Pakistan, and South Africa. After Freedom Now answered more than 60 questions and sought in good faith to engage with the Committee over the course of five years, the United States called for a vote at the most recent session, ending a stalemate. China reportedly led the lobbying effort against Freedom Now and it publicly called for the vote today because of the organization’s work representing Liu Xiaobo, the imprisoned 2010 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, and other Chinese dissidents.
NGOs are an essential resource on which UN members and bodies rely for vital information about the health and order of member states. NGOs have provided formal consultations to UN bodies since 1946, as set out in Article 71 of the UN Charter. Currently, more than 4,000 NGOs have consultative status with the UN.
Freedom Now is a U.S.-based non-partisan, non-governmental organization that works to free individual prisoners of conscience through focused legal, political, and public relations advocacy efforts. The organization applied for consultative status with the UN in May 2009.