Open Letter to Members of the UN’s General Assembly Regarding the ECOSOC Committee on NGOs
We are five months out from elections to the ECOSOC Committee on Non-Governmental Organisations for the 2023-2026 term. These are key elections for all those who value the expertise of civil society and seek to ensure the UN can benefit from it.
The Secretary General has called civil society the UN’s ‘indispensable partners’. Member States recently committed to boosting partnerships ‘to ensure an effective response to our common challenges’. In recommending approval of the participation of non-governmental organisations in a range of UN bodies and processes, the Committee on NGOs plays a key role in facilitating such partnerships. It is essential that the members of the Committee are committed to fulfilling such a task fairly and judiciously.
With this in mind, we would like to request the following, that:
- States with an interest in facilitating and safeguarding civil society access to and participation in UN processes stand for election to the Committee.
- Candidates make public the reasons for their candidacy and their commitment to fulfil their responsibilities as members of the Committee, as per ECOSOC Resolution 1996/31.
- All regions put up competitive slates, as the Asia-Pacific and GRULAC regions did in the last elections for the Committee in 2018. Competitive elections are important to create buy-in to the process and encourage states to be accountable for their commitments.
- All regions make public candidacies at least two months before the elections to allow for proper consideration of candidates.
- All ECOSOC members vote (and be encouraged to vote) only for candidates with positive track records in regard to civil society access and participation. Candidates could be assessed in regard to indicators such as support for relevant UN resolutions, such as those on civil society space and human rights defenders; on responses to cases of intimidation and reprisals; and on national level initiatives to safeguard civic space, press freedom – online as offline – and the right to defend human rights.
- ECOSOC members should consider introducing term limits for membership of the Committee on NGOs, among other reforms encouraging openness and accountability. As with other UN bodies, states should be required to leave the Committee for a specific interval of time after serving for a maximum agreed period. Term limits would encourage greater diversity in membership over time and encourage states to step up as candidates.
The Committee on NGOs is entrusted with the task of facilitating civil society access so that the expertise and experience of civil society partners can enrich and inform UN debates. It needs members that are committed to fulfilling the Committee’s mandate in a fair, transparent, non-discriminatory, expeditious and apolitical manner. It falls on all member states – as potential candidates and / or electors – to ensure that the Committee membership is fit for purpose. Please elect to stand up for civil society!
Top photo: ishr.ch