NGO LOSES CONSULATIVE STATUS WITH ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL COUNCIL
NGO LOSES CONSULATIVE STATUS WITH ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL COUNCIL19991026
Sudan Charges Collusion with Terrorists
The Economic and Social Council decided this morning to revoke the consultative status of Christian Solidarity International (CSI) on the basis of a complaint filed against that non-governmental organization (NGO) by the Government of Sudan.
It took that action by a roll-call vote of 26 in favour to 14 against, with 12 abstaining (for details of the vote, see annex). With that vote, it approved a recommendation of its Committee on Non-Governmental Organizations.
The focus of the Sudanese complaint against CSI was that it had allowed a Sudanese rebel leader, John Garang, to represent it before the Commission on Human Rights at Geneva in March of this year. Sudan said Mr. Garang was a terrorist who had been promoting the agenda of the Sudanese Peoples Liberation Army.
The NGO Committee had previously recommended withdrawal of the organizations consultative status with the Council, but the Council had asked it to reconsider in light of additional information presented by Christian Solidarity International. The Committee had done so in September, and had reaffirmed its previous recommendation.
In the Committee and in the Council this morning, the representative of the United States urged a more lenient attitude towards the transgression of the NGO, proposing a three-year suspension of consultative status as an alternative. As the President of the Council noted, that proposal drew significant support, but consensus was not achieved.
Among those who supported a compromise was the representative of Lesotho, who noted that the NGOs actions in the Sudan were not at issue; it was being punished solely for what it had done in Geneva. Others suggested that its activities worldwide deserved greater consideration. Sudan, however, insisted that CSIs flagrant violations had been noted by many States. The representative of Algeria said that NGOs had been given the message that they must abide by United Nations rules. Also explaining their votes were the representatives of Canada, Japan, Lesotho, Comoros, New Zealand, Norway, Syria, Venezuela, Turkey, Djibouti and Lebanon. Finland, while not a Council member, explained the position of the European Union.
Also this morning, the Council decided to postpone a decision on whether to graduate the Maldives from its list of least developed countries. It also decided
Economic and Social Council - 1a - Press Release ECOSOC/5876 48th Meeting (AM) 26 October 1999
to reconfigure the Committee of Experts on the Transport of Dangerous Goods as the Committee of Experts on the Transport of Dangerous Goods and on the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals.
The Council also took a number of procedural decisions. It decided to meet on 27 January 2000 to elect a new President. It postponed consideration of the following topics until its 15 November meeting: the report of the Commission on Human Rights on the Commission's fourth special session; implementation of the advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice regarding immunity from legal process of a Special Rapporteur of the Commission on Human Rights; and international cooperation in tax matters.
The Council will meet next on Monday, 15 November, at a time to be announced.Council Work Programme
The Economic and Social Council met this morning in a resumed substantive session to consider issues related to economic and environmental questions and a report of the Committee on Non-governmental Organizations (NGOs). It would also consider its agenda and other organizational matters.
Before the Council was the 1999 report of the Committee on Non-Governmental Organizations (document E/1999/109 and Add.1), recounting in detail the proceedings in which the Committee reconsidered its earlier decision to recommend that the Council withdraw the consultative status of an organization called Christian Solidarity International (CSI). The Council had requested, in decision 1999/268, that the Committee take into account further information submitted by the NGO in question before finalizing its recommendation.
The recommendation to withdraw consultative status had been made in response to a complaint by the Government of Sudan, which had charged that the NGOs actions constituted both a threat to the sovereignty and national security of Sudan and a flagrant violation of the regulations governing the relationship between the United Nations and NGOs.
There had been a history of conflict between CSI and the Sudanese Government, due to the NGOs controversial slave-redemption programme in Sudan, and its repeated testimony before the Commission on Human Rights alleging massive violations of the human rights of children and women in that country. However, the Sudanese complaint stemmed primarily from the fact that the organization had allowed a Sudanese rebel leader, John Garang, to represent it before the Commission on Human Rights in March of this year.
According to the report, the representative of CSI apologized before the NGO Committee. He explained that Mr. Garang, although accredited by CSI, had appeared as a witness to the situation in southern Sudan, not as a representative of the organization. He apologized for procedural errors made in that connection, including the distribution of Mr. Garangs statement on Sudanese Peoples Liberation Army letterhead. He asked that the Sudanese complaint be considered in the light of its human rights and poverty- and disaster-relief programmes around the world.
Questions were raised in the Committee about CSIs slave-redemption programme, on the grounds that it supported the idea that human beings were purchasable. The CSI representative stated that the programme was being carried out at the request of the local people, and that his organization would gladly abandon it when the international community succeeded in eradicating slavery.
The representative of the Sudan, however, was not satisfied, according to the report. He called the CSI apology nominal and partial, explaining that Sudans complaint related not only to the accreditation of the well-known secessionist, terrorist rebel leader, but also to the contents of his speech. He said that CSI had committed serious substantive mistakes and insisted on justifying them rather than admitting their gravity.
The United States stated that CSI should not have allowed Mr. Garang to speak in his own capacity and deliver an intemperate speech before the Human Rights Commission, but suggested that this transgression did not rise to a level that warranted withdrawal of consultative status. Although we believe that inappropriate behaviour by non-governmental organizations should not be tolerated, we should not send non-governmental organizations a message that they will be expelled by virtue of one mistake. It proposed that the Council withdraw consultative status for a period of less than three years.
Nine Committee members - Algeria, Bolivia, China, Colombia, Cuba, Ethiopia, India, Lebanon, Pakistan, Russian Federation, Senegal, Sudan, Tunisia and Turkey - went on record in favour of complete withdrawal of consultative status. The United States voted against, while France, Ireland and Romania, which had also spoken in favour of some form of temporary suspension, abstained. Chile also abstained, explaining that the organization had shown no pattern of systematic abuse. Given the procedural complexities surrounding its decision, the Committee decided to include a full report of the proceedings in its report to the Economic and Social Council.
Consideration of Economic and Environmental Questions
Under its agenda item on sustainable development, the Council decided to postpone action on a request from the Maldives for reconsideration of the recommendation of the Committee for Development Policy to graduate the Maldives from the list of Least Developed Countries. It decided to postpone its consideration of the issue until the report of the Committee for Development Planning had been submitted and the review of the vulnerability index had been completed, as had been done with respect to Vanuatu in 1998.
Next, the Council decided to approve the recommendation of the Committee of Experts on the Transport of Dangerous Goods that the Committee be Reconfigured into the Committee of Experts on the Transport of Dangerous Good and on the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals.
The representative of the United States said he supported the text but had understood there would be no budgetary implications. He objected to the decision being taken before the report on those implications (document E/1999/L.48) was available, and removed himself from the consensus.
The Council took up the report of the Committee on Non-Governmental Organizations (document E/1999/109 and Add.1).
The representative of the United States said that withdrawing the consultative status of Christian Solidarity International was not warranted. Its transgression had not been a flagrant breach of the obligations of its status, nor did it represent a pattern of Charter violations. Punishing CSI would negate the good work it had done around the world. Further, the organization should be given full written notice of the reasons for withdrawal of status.
The representative of Finland, on behalf of the European Union and associated States, said they would not join a consensus on the withdrawal of status.
The representative of Syria called for a roll-call vote.
The representative of Cuba said the matter had been fully discussed.
Explanation of Vote before Vote
The representative of Sudan said the flagrant violations by CSI had been noted by many Member States. It had trampled on the sovereign rights of Sudan. He had shown flexibility, but the NGO had refused to admit its error, and could be expected to continue to act in the same way. The NGO Committee had acted responsibly. It had reviewed over 100 NGOs and had recommended withdrawal of status for only one. He urged Council members to vote in favour of the NGO Committees recommendation.
The representative of Canada, explaining his intention to vote against the text, said human rights NGOs must have the freedom to speak out. On the other hand, they must comply with the rules of the United Nations, which CSI had not done. Some action was warranted, perhaps suspension, but not withdrawal of status.
The representative of Japan would have preferred that the Council send a consensus message on this vote. Withdrawal of status was a serious matter that the Council should consider carefully, but Japan would respect the decision of the NGO Committee, which had undertaken a thorough review.
The representative of Lesotho, explaining that countrys failure to support withdrawal of status, said the NGOs sole error had occurred in Geneva. Its activities in Sudan did not warrant any penalty. Whatever the result of the roll- call vote, the Council should send a clear message to the NGO community that its work was being supported.
The representative of Comoros said he would support the decision of the Committee on NGOs.
Action on Draft
In a roll-call vote, the decision was adopted by 26 in favour to 14 against, with 12 abstentions. (See annex for details.)
Explanation of Vote after Vote
The representative of Algeria, explaining his vote in favour of the text, said the NGOs had been given a clear message. Their efforts were welcome but they had abide by the rules of the United Nations.
The representative of New Zealand said the criteria for withdrawal of status had not been met; he had voted against the draft.
The representative of Norway, speaking also for Iceland, said the Committee had followed due process. The actions of CSI were acceptable, but its behaviour before the Commission on Human Rights was not. They would have preferred a consensus solution, such as suspension, and were voting against the recommendation because withdrawal of status was not warranted.
The representative of Syria supported the recommendation of the Committee; it was necessary to support that body and uphold its credibility.
The representative of Venezuela regretted that a vote had to be taken on the matter but, lacking a consensus, he supported the Committee.
The representative of Turkey also would have preferred a consensus decision, but in its absence, endorsed the Committees recommendation.
The representative of Djibouti, remarking that the NGO had had a fair opportunity to explain its actions, supported the Committees decision.
The President said he had tried hard to ensure that the culture of compromise prevailed over dissension. An honourable compromise had been attempted. Sudan had shown a willingness to compromise. There had been the possibility of suspending the NGO for three years; that compromise had drawn the support of 29 delegations. Such efforts had been to no avail, however, because of the ultimately intransigent attitude of the party concerned.
The representative of Lebanon, explaining that countrys positive vote, said it was difficult to reject the participation of an NGO but this one had made a big mistake. It had been given more than one opportunity to correct its behaviour and it had not changed.
(annex follows) Economic and Social Council Press Release ECOSOC/5876 48th Meeting (AM) 26 October 1999
Vote on withdrawal of Christian Solidarity Internationals consultative status
The Economic and Social Council approved the recommendation contained in (document E/1999/109/Add.1) by a vote of 26 in favour to 14 against, with 12 abstentions as follows:
In favour: Algeria, Belarus, Bolivia, Cape Verde, China, Colombia, Comoros, Cuba, Djibouti, Gambia, Guinea-Bissau, India, Indonesia, Japan, Mexico, Morocco, Oman, Pakistan, Russian Federation, Rwanda, Saudi Arabia, Sri Lanka, Syria, Turkey, Venezuela, Viet Nam.
Against: Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, Czech Republic, Denmark, Germany, Iceland, Latvia, Lesotho, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, United Kingdom, United States.
Abstain: Brazil, Chile, El Salvador, France, Honduras, Italy, Mauritius, Mozambique, Republic of Korea, Sierra Leone, Spain, Zambia.
Absent: Democratic Republic of the Congo, Saint Lucia.
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