UN Council accredits Christian group after years of deferrals
United Nations | The accreditation will allow the group more advocacy access within the UN
by Onize Ohikere
Posted 4/21/17, 10:56 am
The United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) accredited global religious freedom advocacy group Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) on Wednesday after a UN committee deferred the group’s application for eight years and denied it in February.
The consultative status will give the Britain-based nonprofit access to attend open meetings and present at the UN. Human rights advocates described the Committee on Non-Governmental Organizations’ repeated denial as a political game by member countries with a bias against human rights groups.
ECOSOC’s 54-member council voted 28-9 with 12 abstentions.
Kiri Kankhwende, the CSW’s senior press officer, said the status will allow the group to bring in people from the ground to give testimony to UN groups. CSW will also have access to hold side events when the Human Rights Council and General Assembly have their meetings. The group’s ongoing advocacy includes seeking the release of a pastor and an activist both wrongly jailed in Sudan.
Kankhwende said the NGO committee often blocks nonprofits that work on controversial issues such as human and minority rights. “We know that the right to religion or belief is one of the underrepresented rights within the UN system,” she said, noting that their new accreditation “allows us to provide this right more.”
Some of the member countries that voted against the application in February, including Pakistan, Vietnam, Turkey, India, and Burkina Faso, argued ECOSOC should not override its decision since CSW failed to respond to all the committee’s questions. But Britain’s UN Ambassador Matthew Rycroft said CSW met all the requirements for accreditation and responded to more than 80 questions the committee leveled against it.
“The conclusion we draw is that the NGO Committee’s decisions have not been based on the merits of CSW’s application,” Rycroft said in his opening remarks to ECOSOC.
The NGO committee similarly rejected the application of the Committee to Protect Journalists last year, but ECOSOC overturned that decision as well.
In a letter signed by the UN Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Religion or Belief and other global dignitaries, including South Africa’s Archbishop Desmond Tutu, the leaders said that the committee’s ruling undermines the promotion of religious rights at a time when religious narratives are increasingly influencing political and social order.
In a move to provide more transparency, ECOSOC also voted to webcast all public meetings of the NGO committee.
“This change will bring to light those countries that seek to block United Nations organizations that defend press freedom, that provide legal counsel for political prisoners, that document human rights abuses committed by their governments, and that call out discrimination of all kinds,” said the United States mission to the UN, which co-sponsored the resolution.