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:
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:
- 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:
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: