Opening Coordination, Management Session, Economic and Social Council Adopts Two Resolutions, Including on Non-Self-Governing Territories, Israeli Occupation
Body Also Adopts Nine Decisions Recommended by NGO Committee
Opening a three-day coordination and management session today, the Economic and Social Council considered a range of issues — from urbanization in the context of sustainable development to support for the world’s least developed countries — and adopted two resolutions and nine decisions submitted to it by its committees on Non-Self-Governing Territories, the repercussions of Israeli occupation and non-governmental organizations.
The Council adopted resolutions on “Support to the Non-Self-Governing Territories by the specialized agencies and international institutions associated with the United Nations”, by a vote of 19 in favour to none against with 25 abstentions, and on “Economic and social repercussions of the Israeli occupation on the living conditions of the Palestinian people in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and the Arab population in the occupied Syrian Golan”, by a vote of 42 in favour to 2 against (Australia, United States) with 2 abstentions (Honduras, Panama).
On the latter text, Simon Poni Marobe (South Africa), on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, introduced the text, saying that the ongoing occupation by Israel continued to devastate the Palestinian people. Negative trends associated with that occupation had worsened, causing high rates of unemployment, health problems and aid dependency, among other problems, and had been exacerbated by the 2014 military aggression in the Gaza Strip.
With regard to the former text, Non-Self-Governing Territories faced numerous challenges in the context of sustainable development given their specific social, economic and environmental vulnerabilities, said Desra Percaya (Indonesia), Vice-Chair of the Special Committee on Decolonization (Special Committee of 24), who presented the related draft resolution and a report of the Secretary-General on the implementation of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples by the specialized agencies and the international institutions associated with the United Nations. Such challenges should be addressed comprehensively, he said, with the support of the international community, as well as in the framework of the post-2015 development agenda.
More broadly, concerns about the post-2015 agenda were raised by a number of speakers as the Council took up reports covering implementation of and follow-up to major United Nations conferences and summits, human settlements, least developed countries and other areas. Yamina Djacta, Head of the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat) New York Office, who introduced her organization’s report, said that approximately 3 billion new dwellers were expected to live in cities and towns by 2050, making it impossible to achieve sustainable development without harnessing the power of urbanization.
Likewise, Chandra Acharya, Under-Secretary-General and High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States, introduced a report on the implementation of the Programme of Action for the Least Developed Countries for the Decade 2011-2020, indicating mixed success with regard to the Millennium Development Goals. With that in mind, Jean-Francis Régis Zinsou (Benin), speaking on behalf of least developed countries, said that unless the challenges facing least developed countries were placed at the forefront of the post-2015 agenda, the agenda would suffer globally.
Turning to the Committee on Non-Governmental Organizations, one of its main subsidiary bodies, the Council adopted eight decisions contained in its 2015 report and a decision granting special consultative status to the organization Freedom Now by a recorded vote of 29 in favour to 9 against with 11 abstentions. It voted down a decision which would have denied the organization Palestinian Return Centre special consultative status by a vote of 13 in favour to 16 against with 18 abstentions.
In that connection, a discussion emerged about the working methods of the Committee on Non-Governmental Organizations, with several speakers voicing concerns that there had been increasing deviations from the Committee’s guiding principles. The representative of the European Union, for one, regretted that some members of the Committee continued to use tactics to defer applications, such as asking repetitive questions, and that the withdrawal of consultative status might be used as a form of reprisal for the activities of non-governmental organizations.
Economic and Environmental Questions: Human Settlements
Presenting the report of the Governing Council of the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat) at its twenty-fifth session from 17 to 23 April (document A/70/8) and the report of the Secretary-General on the coordinated implementation of the Habitat Agenda (document E/2015/72) was YAMINA DJACTA, Director of UN-Habitat’s New York Office, speaking on behalf of UN-Habitat Deputy Executive Director Aisa Kacyira.
Approximately 3 billion new dwellers were expected to live in cities and towns by 2050, she said, stressing that it would be impossible to achieve sustainable development without harnessing the power of urbanization. At its twenty-fifth session, the Governing Council had called upon Member States to help do that and had adopted seven significant resolutions to guide UN-Habitat’s work over the next years. Those resolutions, including ones on the “Contribution of the United Nations Human Settlements Programme to the post-2015 development agenda in order to promote sustainable urban development and human settlements”, “Strengthening national ownership and operational capacity” and “International guidelines on urban and territorial planning”, addressed UN-Habitat’s strategic plan for 2014-2019 and its work programme and budget for 2016-2017.
The report of the Secretary-General titled “Coordinated implementation of the Habitat Agenda” provided a description of the activities that UN-Habitat had undertaken in cooperation with other United Nations agencies and organizations at global, regional and national levels, she said. In that regard, UN-Habitat had increased its engagement at the global level and had worked with numerous United Nations agencies, funds, programmes, Governments and a wide range of partners, contributing to a number of important processes. A major milestone ahead in 2016 was the third United Nations Conference on Housing and Sustainable Development (Habitat III) to be held in Quito, Ecuador. That meeting should result in a global commitment to sustainable urbanization and human settlements through a “New Urban Agenda”.
UN-Habitat also continued to chair the High-level Committee on Programmes’ Working Group on a new United Nations Urban Agenda, established in July 2014, and cooperated with United Nations system organizations and partners in implementing a range of activities, including the “Delivering as One” initiative. It also worked at the national and subnational levels in areas including: urban legislation, land and governance; urban planning and design; urban economy and municipal finance; housing and slum upgrading; risk reduction and .rehabilitation; and research and capacity development.
The report concluded with five recommendations: to continue to give appropriate consideration to the role of urbanization in sustainable development in discussions on the post-2015 development agenda and sustainable development goals; to adopt integrated approaches that engaged all key stakeholders and levels of subnational Government in order to produce innovative solutions to foster economic, environment and social sustainability; to ensure the alignment of ideas on cities and human settlements across current consultations on major global issues, including on the post-2015 development agenda and the sustainable development goals, climate change and Habitat III; to establish or strengthen national urban policies in order to provide for the coordinated development of urban settlements of all sizes and to fully harness the potential contribution of urbanization to sustainable development; and to make use of the international guidelines on urban and territorial planning approved by the UN-Habitat Governing Council in April 2015 as a framework for improving policies, plans, designs and implementation processes that fostered sustainable development and resilience, including through effective climate change mitigation and adaptation measures.
Action on a draft resolution entitled “Human settlements” (document E/2015/L.17) was postponed to a later date.
Implementation of and Follow-up to United Nations Conferences and Summits
Presenting the report of the Secretary-General on the main decisions and policy recommendations of the Committee on World Food Security (CFS) at its forty-first session (document A/70/92-E/2015/82), GERDA VERBURG, Chair of the Committee, said that after a two-year multistakeholder approach of negotiations and consultations, the Principles for Responsible Investment in Agriculture and Food Systems had been endorsed in October 2014. The Principles represented the first time that Governments, the private sector, civil society organizations, United Nations agencies, development banks, foundations, research institutions and academia had agreed on what constituted responsible investment in agriculture and food systems.
The Committee was also reflecting on its effectiveness as the foremost inclusive intergovernmental platform to address policy issues relating to food security. An opinion survey had been conducted to seek information from various stakeholders on the Committee’s influence, decision-making process and other matters. Providing useful insights, the survey’s overall message was that “we are on right track, but not yet there”, she said. Further, an external evaluation was planned for 2016 to assess its performance since the 2009 reforms, she said, adding that the Committee was committed to the aim of fully playing its role in the implementation of the post-2015 agenda and the vision of a “zero hunger” world.
Programme of Action for Least Developed Countries
Next, the Council took up the report of the Secretary-General on the implementation of the Programme of Action for the Least Developed Countries for the Decade 2011-2020 (document A/70/83-E/2015/75). Introducing that report, GYAN CHANDRA ACHARYA, Under-Secretary-General and High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States, provided an overview, including that the economies of least developed countries had grown more slowly in 2014 compared with the average annual growth rate over the last decade. Agriculture continued to account for the largest proportion of the labour force and the outlook for 2015 looked a little brighter with a rebound in commodity production and several large infrastructure projects. At the same time, the uncertain prospects of the global economy could cause shortfalls in aid flows. The Ebola outbreak had affected several African least developed countries severely while the cyclone and earthquake that hit Vanuatu and Nepal had reversed significant development gains.
Access to information and communications technologies, he said, continued to expand. There was also growing commitment to rail and road expansion. However, maritime and air infrastructure services continued to be marginal compared with other countries. Challenges were daunting in the energy sector with only 1 in 3 persons connected to a power supply. Progress towards securing human and social development had also been mixed. While high numbers had been achieved in school enrolments at the primary level, enrolments in secondary and tertiary levels remained low. In its 2015 review, the Committee for Development Policy had recommended Angola for graduation from the least developed countries category. Congratulating that country, he emphasized that his office would continue to support the graduation aspirations of other countries.
The Council then decided that action on the draft decision concerning the report would be held another day.
JEAN-FRANCIS RÉGIS ZINSOU (Benin), speaking on behalf of least developed countries, commended the Office of the High Representative for the excellent analysis of the issues concerning those States. Though their economies had made some achievements, “the recovery was not moving in linear direction”. His group was especially concerned that, as per the midpoint update, the least developed countries were expected to see a growth of 4.9 per cent in 2015, which was a further deceleration from 2014. That reversal was the impact of various kinds of crises. Poverty was still widespread and many countries were not likely to reach their target goals in a timely manner. Despite remarkable progress in accomplishing the Millennium Development Goals globally, those achievements had not been spread equally across countries. Unless the challenges facing least developed countries were placed at the forefront of the post-2015 agenda, the agenda would suffer globally.
SALVADOR DE LARA RANGEL (Mexico) said his country had sought to contribute to the support of least developed countries through various South-South cooperation activities. The implementation of social projects in those countries needed to be in line with the building of national capacities, with a focus on strengthening institutions and creating an appropriate environment suitable for sustainable development. As recipients of development cooperation, the least developed countries, small island developing States and landlocked nations must play a central role in their own development and work hand in hand with those that had provided cooperation. At the same time, they needed to direct their own development process while maintaining mutual credibility with cooperation partners. As co-President of the Global Alliance for Effective Cooperation for Development, a new platform dedicated to development efforts, Mexico stressed that aid provided by the country to middle-income States in no way sought to increase the flow of cooperation towards those countries to the detriment of least developed countries.
The Council then took note of the report of the Secretary-General on mainstreaming of the three dimensions of sustainable development throughout the United Nations system, contained in document A/70/75-E/2015/55, and the report of the Chair of the Committee on World Food Security on the main decisions and policy recommendations as well as results achieved by the Committee in the area of food security and nutrition, contained in document A/70/92-E/2015/82 and corrigendum 1.
Declaration on Granting Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples
DESRA PERCAYA (Indonesia), Vice-Chair of the Special Committee on Decolonization (Special Committee of 24), presented the report of the Secretary-General on the implementation of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples by the specialized agencies and the international institutions associated with the United Nations (document A/70/64) and a report of the President of the Economic and Social Council on consultations with the Special Committee on Decolonization (document E/2015/65). As reflected in the latter, during the 2014-2015 period, two United Nations organizations — the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Food Programme (WFP) — had provided information concerning their activities carried out for the benefit of the Non-Self-Governing Territories in accordance with their respective mandates. However, it was regrettable that the rate of replies received from relevant organizations was the lowest in the past 15 years.
At the Special Committee’s Regional Seminar held in Managua, Nicaragua, in May, the representative of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) had delivered a statement elaborating its recent activities, covering seven Non-Self-Governing Territories in the Caribbean, namely Anguilla, Bermuda, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Montserrat, Turks and Caicos Islands and the United States Virgin Islands, which were its associate members. Participating Members of the Special Committee had stressed that relevant United Nations bodies and specialized agencies needed to strengthen their efforts, in accordance with United Nations resolutions and through the appropriate mechanisms, in providing assistance to the Non-Self-Governing Territories.
The 17 territories on the United Nations list of Non-Self-Governing Territories faced numerous challenges in the context of sustainable development given their specific social, economic and environmental vulnerabilities. Those challenges should be addressed comprehensively, with the support of the international community, as well as in the framework of the post-2015 development agenda, he said.
Introducing a draft resolution titled “Support to the Non-Self-Governing Territories by the specialized agencies and international institutions associated with the United Nations” (document E/2015/L.24), he said the text’s goal was to facilitate cooperation between the specialized agencies of the United Nations and the administering Powers so as to allow the Non-Self-Governing Territories to benefit from the assistance and other support activities provided by the United Nations, in accordance with relevant resolutions of the United Nations and on a case-by-case basis. The draft would have the Council reaffirm, among other issues, the mandate of the specialized agencies and other organizations of the United Nations system to take all appropriate measures, within their respective spheres of competence, to ensure the full implementation of General Assembly resolution 1514 (XV) and other relevant resolutions.
The draft resolution would also have the Council stress the importance for the small island Non-Self-Governing Territories of securing the continuing cooperation and assistance of the specialized agencies and other organizations of the United Nations system, in light of their limited development options, their often fragile economies and their vulnerabilities to natural disasters. By the text, the Council would urge those specialized agencies and organizations that had not yet provided assistance to the Non-Self-Governing Territories to do so as soon as possible, and requested the administering Powers to facilitate, when appropriate, the participation of the Non-Self-Governing Territories in the relevant meetings and conferences of the specialized agencies and other organizations of the United Nations system. Similarly, the text would have the Council recommend that all Governments intensify their efforts within the specialized agencies and other organizations of which they were members to give priority to the question of providing assistance to the peoples of the Non-Self-Governing Territories.
TARIK ALAMI, Director of the Emerging and Conflict Related Issues Section of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA), introduced the report of the Secretary-General on assistance to the Palestinian people (document A/70/76-E/2015/57). Offering an overview of the situation, he said Israeli policies and practices continued to violate international human rights and humanitarian law, as well as the right to self-determination and the principle of non-discrimination. Its 51-day offensive against Gaza in July 2014 had led to an unprecedented loss of life and had triggered concerns about war crimes. Palestinians lived under harsh military rule and Israel had created two separate legal systems in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, one for Israelis and one for Palestinians. In addition, Israel had de facto exiled some 250,000 Palestinians from their land, including 14,000 from East Jerusalem.
Describing several pressing concerns, he said that on the excessive use of force in the summer of 2014, seven United Nations schools that had been designated as shelters had been shelled and Palestinians had been used as human shields. Arbitrary arrests and detentions had continued unabated. During that conflict, some 19,000 Palestinian homes had been destroyed. They had continued to face displacement due to home demolitions, revocation of residency permits and harassment. Referring to a number of other issues, he said Government-sanctioned expansion projects had violated the Palestinian right to self-determination, the West Bank Wall’s continued construction had been declared illegal by the International Court of Justice, and the Gaza blockade, in place since 2007, had amounted to collective punishment. In addition, Israeli settlers in the West Bank had continued to freely exploit natural resources. Meanwhile, high food insecurity rates - 19 per cent in the West Bank and 57 per cent in Gaza, the latter having deteriorated after the 2014 offensive – had persisted, as did the illegal Israeli occupation of the Syrian Golan.
During the general discussion on that item, FEDA ABDELHADY-NASSER, observer for the State of Palestine, said that, regrettably, the situation of the Palestinian people under Israeli occupation remained dire due to Israel’s repressive, destructive and colonial policies and practices. The socioeconomic, humanitarian and human devastation sown by the occupation for nearly five decades had gravely affected the living conditions of the Palestinian people, severely undercutting any efforts towards sustainable development despite the assistance provided to the Palestinian people by the international community, including United Nations agencies on the ground. The illegal occupation violated the principles of international law, she stressed.
Recalling the horror and devastation inflicted by the occupying Power on the Palestinian people in the besieged Gaza Strip in 2014, she underlined that Israel had killed 2,251 Palestinians and the ensuing humanitarian crisis had impacted every aspect of life, both short- and long-term. That included rampant abject poverty rates, reaching an unpresented 43.9 per cent, with youth unemployment at 60 per cent, as well as widespread food insecurity, with some 80 per cent of Gazans dependent on aid. The deliberate, systematic nature of the Israeli crimes constituted grave breaches of international law, for which it must be held accountable. In order to end the suffering of the Palestinian people and make tangible progress towards peace, security and prosperity, Israel must end its prolonged occupation and comply with international law without exception, she said, calling on the members of the Economic and Social Council to fully support the draft resolution on the matter.
The Council then, by a recorded vote of 19 in favour to none against with 25 abstentions, adopted draft resolution E/2015/L.24.
After the vote, a number of delegates took the floor to explain their delegation’s position. The representative of the United States said her delegation had abstained from the vote despite agreeing in principle that United Nations agencies and organizations could provide support to Non-Self-Governing Territories. Expressing concern that the terms of the resolution could infringe upon domestic arrangements of her country, her delegation could not support it in its current state.
The Russian Federation’s speaker said her country’s approach to the principle of decolonization remained unchanged, calling for the effective implementation of the right of people in Non-Self-Governing Territories to self-determination and independence. Consideration of that very political question in the Council, however, was diverting the body’s attention from its major work of coordinating the work of the United Nations in the socioeconomic sphere. As such, the Russian Federation, as in previous years, had abstained from voting on the text.
The delegate from Argentina stated that his country had abstained from voting because the text just adopted needed to be in line with the relevant texts of the United Nations and the Decolonization Committee.
Economic and Social Repercussions of Israeli Occupation
SIMON PONI MAROBE (South Africa), speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, then introduced a draft resolution titled “Economic and social repercussions of the Israeli occupation on the living conditions of the Palestinian people in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and the Arab population in the occupied Syrian Golan” (document E/2015/L.22). The continuing Israeli occupation was devastating the Palestinian people, with worsening negative trends that had seen high unemployment rates, health problems and aid dependency among other problems that had been exacerbated by the 2014 military aggression in the Gaza Strip.
By the draft text, the Council would reiterate the call for the full opening of Gaza’s border crossings, in line with Security Council resolutions. The text was based on the 2014 resolution with updates to reflect the situation on the ground as well as emerging issues. The Council would, by the draft, call upon Israel, the occupying Power, to cease all settlement in the Occupied Palestinian Territories and to end its illegal practices there. Further by the draft, the Council would call on the occupying Power to end the construction of the wall and to remove obstacles to critical environmental projects necessary for addressing health issues and providing access to sanitation and other basic services. By the draft resolution, the Council would stress the urgency of achieving an end to the Israeli occupation without delay, and would urge the need for increased international efforts in that regard.
Syria’s representative, aligning himself with the “Group of 77”, said the relevant reports showed an increase in the suffering of the Palestinian people and in Israel’s illegal actions. There had been “zero” response from the occupying Power, which had disregarded the hundreds of decisions of the United Nations, he said. In addition, Israel was using terrorist groups in the zone of separation as a way to intimidate Syrian citizens and had also provided food and other support to the Al-Nusra Front and other groups, facilitating attacks in Syrian towns, he said, calling on ESCWA to include such facts in its future reports. Today, the picture in the Syrian Golan was more tragic than ever before, with the population being subjected to a systematic Israeli campaign to force them to abandon their lands. European and American companies had helped Israeli companies steal the natural resources of the Syrian Golan, including oil, he said, stressing that Israel and those supporting it financially and militarily must be held accountable.
By a recorded vote of 42 in favour to 2 against (Australia, United States) with 2 abstentions (Honduras, Panama), the Council adopted draft resolution E/2015/L.22.
Speaking in explanation of position after the vote, the representative of the United States said she was disappointed by the presentation of a one-sided and biased resolution, which her delegation could not support. The resolution failed to take a constructive approach to the conflict and did not help to advance the aspirations of the Palestinian people for a more peaceful future. The United States was the largest bilateral donor to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), which provided education, health care and other social and relief services to Palestinian refugees. It remained committed to UNRWA’s critical humanitarian mission. Sharing the international community’s concern over the dire humanitarian situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, she said the United States remained committed to achieving a just and lasting peace in the Middle East in line with a two-State solution, which would result in a viable State of Palestine alongside a safe and secure Israel.
The United Kingdom’s delegate, speaking on behalf of the European Union, said that the group supported the resolution, but wanted to place on record that the term, “Palestinian Government” in the text referred to the Palestinian Authority. Further, the use of the term “Palestine” could not be taken as recognition of the State of Palestine, she said.
The speaker from Japan said his country had supported the draft and called on both parties to take serious action to resume talks. Last year’s crisis in Gaza had resulted in a tremendous loss of life for both parties. Further efforts were necessary to prevent such crises, he said.
Israel’s representative expressed her delegation’s disappointment at the resolution for not reflecting the reality on the ground. The text had failed to mention the Palestinian leadership’s refusal to take responsibility for the future of its people. Regarding humanitarian aid, Israel was making sure that the United Nations reconstruction mechanism was implemented on a daily basis, she said, asking how the resolution could be taken seriously when it failed to mention the destructive role of Hamas in promoting terrorism. The same one-sided approach used in the resolution was also reflected in the ESCWA report, which had a tendency to ignore the terrible human rights violations in other parts of the Middle East, especially Syria. The Commission’s obsession with Israel had undermined its own credibility. Further, the current resolution did not enhance cooperation between Israelis and Palestinians. All it had done was to perpetuate the current situation.
The representatives of France and China amended their votes on the resolution regarding support to Non-Self-Governing Territories (E/2015/L.24). France would have abstained and China would have voted in favor.
The Council then took note of the report of the Secretary-General on assistance to the Palestinian people (document A/70/76-E/2015/57).
Prior to the general discussion on non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and action on draft texts, the representative of Ghana said his Government was not able to vote in favour of draft resolution L.24 from this morning. The President of the Council, in response to his statement, said the record of voting could not be changed, but the statement would be reflected in the records.
Starting the discussion, Luxembourg’s delegate, speaking on behalf of the European Union, said that with regards to the functioning of the Committee, civil society and NGOs were an essential part of the work of the United Nations, including the Council. Over the past years, there had been increasing deviations from the guiding principles laid down in Economic and Social Council resolution 1996/31. The Union regretted that some Members of the Committee continued to use tactics to defer applications, such as asking repetitive questions. Such practice, she noted, could leave NGOs in a state of limbo for several years at a time.
The withdrawal of consultative status might be used as a form of reprisal for the activities of NGOs, she said. If the provisions were not followed, the decisions of the Committee could become arbitrary and unfounded on the criteria set by the Council. Recalling the core mandate of the Committee, she highlighted that such cases reflected a negative trend in its functioning and urged all Committee members to work together to defend and uphold the guiding principles agreed upon by Member States.The representative of Mexico, speaking on behalf of Chile and Uruguay, said in the face of the global challenges, civil society played a role in tackling issues that States could not or did not wish to handle. Non-governmental organizations had more than shown their usefulness. In order to maintain an environment in which civil society can contribute to the work of the United Nations, the Committee’s work must be carried out in a transparent manner. The criteria for granting member status had been distorted and there were cases that seemed to have indefinite deferrals, which amounted to a denial of the NGO’s legitimacy. Urging greater transparency, he suggested webcasts to open up the proceedings for member organizations. Such improved transparency would encourage the applications from all regions and all subjects and insure well-balanced representation of all of the United Nations objectives.Turning to the report of the Committee, Iran’s speaker said it was clear that the Palestinian Return Committee had fully complied with international humanitarian law, serving its homeland. It was a cause of concern that one delegation was misleading the Committee, which should give its valuable support to Palestinian Return Centre.
Introducing a draft resolution titled “Application of the non-governmental organization Freedom Now for consultative status with the Economic and Social Council” (document E/2015/L.21), the representative of the United States said the group had worked for the defense of freedom of expression of political prisoners in the world. Its application had been on the agenda of the Committee’s for five years, with more than 60 questions put to its approval and it deserved status with the Economic and Social Council.
The speaker from Albania said that Member States had the obligation to defend human rights and the work of the NGOs. Accordingly, he noted that Freedom Now should have the same status with other NGOs.
The Council then, by a recorded vote of 29 in favour to 9 against with 11 abstentions, adopted draft resolution E/2015/L.21.
Introducing a draft resolution titled “Application of the non-governmental organization Palestinian Return Centre for consultative status with the Economic and Social Council” (document E/2015/L.25), which would have the Council decide not to grant special consultative status to the group, Israel’s delegate emphasized the involvement of NGOs as crucial for the functioning of civil society and that his delegation had been proud to promote the granting of consultative status to many NGOs working to promote human rights. However, the Palestinian Return Centre was not what it had claimed to be; it was not only affiliated with Hamas, but it was also an essential part of the Hamas network. It was well known that the Centre operated throughout Europe, calling for the annihilation of Israel, and that it was funded by well-known terrorist organizations. The Centre had constantly denied any connection with Hamas, but this denial was deceitful, he said, quoting a conversation he saw between the Hamas Prime Minister and one of the leaders of the Centre. Israel urged the Economic and Social Council to not grant consultative status to the group, an organization that was in clear violation of the charter of the United Nations to maintain international peace and security. If the application was not handled correctly, it would pave the way for other terrorist organizations, such as Jabra al-Nusra and ISIS, to receive NGO status under humanitarian names and gain a foothold at the United Nations, he said.
Making a statement before the vote in connection with the draft decision, the speaker from the United States said her delegation would vote in favour of the draft due to serious concerns about the Palestinian Return Centre, its background and activities. It was unfortunate that some delegations had pushed the voting “prematurely”, however, and several questions related to the organization remained unanswered.
The Council then took action on “L.25” with a recorded vote of 13 in favour to 16 against, with 18 abstentions.
Speaking after the vote, several delegations relayed their positions.
The United Kingdom’s delegate said the involvement of NGOs was an essential part of the United Nations and attached great importance to open, strong and independent societies to support the work of the Organization. Questions, however, had been raised about the Centre as to whether its objectives were compatible with the work of the United Nations and, as such, the United Kingdom had voted in favour of the proposal.
The delegate from Germany said her delegation had followed the issue very carefully. Echoing the previous statement about unanswered questions, she said that her country could not vote for the Palestinian Return Centre to become an affiliated NGO.
Responding to the speaker from Congo’s statement that his delegation was unable to press the voting button, Council President OH JOON (Republic of Korea) said the records would reflect that point.
The Council then took up the “Report of the Committee on Non-Governmental Organizations on its 2015 resumed session” (document E/2015/32 Part II). At its 2015 resumed session, held from 26 May to 3 June and on 12 June, the Committee had considered 388 applications for consultative status, including applications deferred from earlier sessions. Of the NGOs submitting those applications, the Committee recommended 160 for consultative status, deferred 200 for further consideration at its regular session in 2016, closed consideration without prejudice of 27 applications that had failed to respond to queries over two consecutive sessions and recommended that 1 not be granted consultative status.
The Council then adopted, without a vote, the eight draft decisions contained in the report.
By draft decision I, the Council (a) granted consultative status to 160 non-governmental organizations; (b) reclassified the consultative status of four non-governmental organizations; (c) noted that the Committee decided to take note of the change of name of three non-governmental organizations; (d) noted that the Committee took note of the quadrennial reports of 168 non-governmental organizations, including new and deferred reports; (e) closed without prejudice consideration of the requests for consultative status made by 27 non-governmental organizations following the failure of the organizations to respond to queries over the course of two consecutive sessions; (f) closed without prejudice consideration of the request for reclassification of status by one non-governmental organization following the failure of the organization to respond to queries over the course of two consecutive sessions; (g) decided not to grant consultative status to the non-governmental organization Freedom Now.
By draft decision II, the Council decided to withdraw the consultative status of the non-governmental organization African Technical Association.
By draft decision III, the Council decided to withdraw the consultative status of the non-governmental organization African Technology Development Link.
By draft decision IV, the Council decided to suspend, for a period of one year, the consultative status of 165 non-governmental organizations with outstanding quadrennial reports.
By draft decision V, the Council decided to reinstate the consultative status of 24 non-governmental organizations that had submitted their outstanding quadrennial reports.
By draft decision VI, the Council decided to withdraw the consultative status of 85 non-governmental organizations with continued outstanding quadrennial reports.
By draft decision VII, the Council approved the provisional agenda of the 2016 session of the Committee.
By draft decision VIII, the Council took note of the present report.