The June 2018 Committee on Non-Governmental Organisations consultations: Input for consideration submitted submitted by Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom

Duration: 
Friday, June 22, 2018 - 11:00
Kind of WILPF Initiative/Event: 
WILPF/PeaceWomen events

The Committee on Non-Governmental Organizations consultations with NGOs in consultative status with ECOSOC 

regarding the evolving relationship between NGOs and the United Nations. 

 

Input for consideration submitted submitted by Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom

 

1. How can NGOs further contribute to the work of ECOSOC and its subsidiary bodies? What are the most efficient modalities for NGOs to contribute to the United Nations policy-making, be recognized and be influential in these processes? 

 

Without the experiences of women being reflected in UN debates and policy outcomes, their needs, views, and ideas would remain hidden and not conveyed to decision-makers, creating significant obstacles for sustaining peace. Women-led civil society’s participation in UN meetings is its primary channel of involvement and bringing about transformative change on the local level.

While multilateral fora provide an opportunity to bring local voices to the international level, preparations to attend these fora, including the visa application process, are both resource- and time- consuming. Also, procedures followed by embassies are sometimes inconsistent; denial of visas marginalises and isolates human rights defenders, as it effectively prevents them participating at the international level. Travel bans, imposed by host countries pose further obstacles to women's freedom of movement and ability to participate. 

Good Practice: The European Union Guidelines on Human Rights Defenders set out that Permanent Missions should receive and support human rights defenders and ensure their visible recognition through the use of, inter alia, invitations.

To support good practices and ensure meaningful participation of women-led civil society in UN debates, representatives of UN agencies and programmes should:

  • facilitate access to UN decision-making bodies for civil society through accessible venues, flexible translation, and expanded financial support for UN civil society speakers;
  • provide political, financial, and technical support for platforms enabling civil society participation that build on the Major Group and Other Stakeholders system at local, national, and regional levels to ensure space for civil society's public participation and procedural justice;
  • provide support to women in their visa applications, for example, through timely letters of invitation;
  • recognise and engage with women as experts of their own national contexts, including in areas that go beyond those conventionally understood as “women’s issues”, including in disarmament fora;
  • work in partnership with women-led civil society organisations beyond providing them with an opportunity to deliver a statement,  including by engaging them in developing policies and shaping strategies;
  • allow mothers who need to take their young children with them to UN meetings to do so;
  • apply expansive models of NGO participation in international UN meetings that ensure the participation of women's grassroots with or without ECOSOC consultative status;
  • ensure respect, protection and enabling of the work of human rights defenders and whistleblowers, with specific and enhanced protection mechanisms for women human rights defenders to make the environment in which they operate a safer, more enabling and supporting one.

2. What in your organization's view should be done to provide better support to NGOs during the process of obtaining consultative status with ECOSOC? 

The Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) accreditation procedure is a considerable obstacle to the involvement of women-led civil society in the UN forums and debates. Various reports suggest that, of these repeatedly deferred applications, a majority are NGOs that work on sexual orientation and gender identity issues, women’s rights, reproductive and sexual rights, minority rights, caste, and human rights more generally.

In this vein, a number of concrete recommendations for ECOSOC to better facilitate NGO participation and accreditation at the UN includes the following steps: 

  1. Revisit accreditation models and the criteria for NGOs qualifying for ECOSOC status;
  2. Evaluate NGOs' merit to be accredited based on whether they advance the Charter;
  3. Encourage greater positive engagement by members of the Committee, observer States and international NGOs in ECOSOC NGO Committee sessions, particularly to support NGO applications through the process;
  4. Encourage States supportive of civil society participation in the UN to consider seeking election to the Committee;
  5. Report statistics, including on deferrals, application denials, and suspensions or withdrawals of the status of accredited NGOs, to relevant special procedure mandate holders and mechanisms, including the Special Rapporteur on the rights of freedom of peaceful assembly and association, the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, as appropriate;
  6. Seek to expand to all regions support for improving the working methods of the Committee, including by:

-  limiting the length of Committee membership to a fixed term, without the possibility of multiple re-elections;

-  considering and referring all applications for consultative status to ECOSOC for determination within three years of their initial submission. 

3. How can the participation of NGOs from developing countries and countries with economies in transition in UN's work be increased? 

Civil society’s meaningful participation in multilateral institutions is firmly rooted in international law and numerous international instruments. Moreover, women’s  groups and organisations best understand the concerns and opportunities on the ground and can identify, design and implement practical strategies to overcome the challenges.

Meaningful participation is about ensuring that women-led civil society organisations can engage based on their experience and expertise with impact. It requires removing on-going obstacles to participation and enabling women to speak for themselves, rather than be spoken for. It is not just about counting women—rather, it is about making women count.

Various UN bodies, including human rights bodies, and instruments have emphasised the need to include women-led civil society actors at all levels in order to ensure that gender-sensitive conflict analysis informs decision-making processes. 

Good practice: Civil society representative, Ms. Razia Sultana, Senior Researcher at Kaladan Press, addressed the UN Security Council on behalf of the NGO Working Group on Women, Peace and Security to provide a grassroots perspective. As the first Rohingya to ever brief the Council, she shared the findings of her work on the political and humanitarian situation of women and girls in Myanmar, which brought further political attention to the situation in Myanmar, including through increased engagement of the Office of the Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict. 

It is high time that effective measures within the UN system be taken to give effect to the following recommendations:

  • strengthen access for women in the Global South by rotating the host country for important convenings, such as the yearly Commission on the Status of Women (CSW), and ensure that the host country is one that will not create additional challenges of access;
  • ensure that civil society actors, including in rural areas have access to tools and information about opportunities and possibilities to engage with the multilateral system;
  • include women-led civil society in formal leadership positions within working groups, consultations, and steering committees;
  • ensure that independent civil society actors are not put at risk by being involved in UN-sponsored consultations involving organisations that are not independent of the government.

4. Once the consultative status is granted to organizations, how best can NGOs access the opportunities given to them to take part in UN processes? 

Engaging with the UN, including through submitting shadow reports to the CEDAW Committee or participating in the UN Security Council meetings, requires women's organisations to have significant financial and human resources. The travel costs associated with participating in a UN meeting are unaffordable for many grassroots activists. Often, because of scarce funding, participants suggest that they are faced with the choice between engaging with the UN or continuing their day-to-day work. Such challenges are heightened for marginalised groups, or groups that face multiple forms of discrimination—such as indigenous women and LBTQI individuals. 

In this regard, representatives of UN agencies and programmes should:

  • substantially increase funding for grassroots women human rights defenders and peace activists;
  • provide technical assistance and support to civil society organisations instead of competing with them for funding;
  • make sure that funding goes to organisations that holistically address the needs of women on the ground;
  • be willing to be trained by local organisations on local priorities, and adapt funding priorities accordingly;
  • implement a unified, obligatory monitoring and evaluating system that follows UN agencies' funding to INGO programmes, analysing how much of it reaches the beneficiaries, and women in particular;
  • consult with local women's organisations and women community leaders on developing the most secure ways to channel funding for civic and humanitarian activism into conflict areas.