The U.N. Economic and Social Council, ECOSOC, meets in New York. (UN Photo, File)
(CNSNews.com) – After having its application slapped down more than a dozen times by a committee often dominated by repressive regimes, a Christian non-governmental organization advocating religious freedom finally won official U.N. accreditation on Wednesday.
The case of Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) once again has turned a spotlight on the U.N. Economic and Social Council’s 19-member NGO Committee, long accused of arbitrary or politically-motivated decisions.
Meeting in New York on Wednesday, the 54-member ECOSOC voted to overturn the committee’s earlier decision refusing accreditation to CSW.
Wednesday’s ECOSOC vote passed by 28-9, with 12 abstentions. Leading the “no” votes, again, were countries with poor records on religious freedom, including China, Russia, Pakistan, India, Turkey and Vietnam.
And, in a decision hailed by advocates for more transparency at the U.N., ECOSOC also voted to require live webcasting of future NGO Committee deliberations.
U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley, who has made human rights a focus for the U.S. presidency of the Security Council this month, said the webcasting decision would bring increased transparency and accountability.
“Now all of these meetings and votes will be open for the world to see,” she said, adding that this would “greatly assist organizations that stand up to oppressive governments around the world.”
The negative influence of such “oppressive governments” has long been evident at the NGO Committee, whose current membership includes just six countries (Greece, India, Israel, South Africa, United States and Uruguay) ranked “free” by Freedom House, the Washington-based democracy watchdog.
Of the rest, eight (Azerbaijan, Burundi, China, Cuba, Iran, Mauritania, Russia and Sudan) are “not free” and five (Guinea, Nicaragua, Pakistan, Turkey, Venezuela) are ranked “partly free.”
When the committee last February once again turned down CSW’s application for “consultative status” at the U.N., most of the countries voting “no” were “not free” or “partly free.”
After that committee vote the British mission to the U.N. spearheaded an effort to get ECOSOC to overturn the decision. Also speaking out on behalf of CSW, a group of U.N. human rights experts (“special rapporteurs”) in a letter of support criticized what they called the committee’s “continuous and arbitrary deferral of applications or accreditation.”
“When a serious and credible NGO such as Christian Solidarity Worldwide is kept waiting in limbo for seven years, the system is clearly not working as it should,” British ambassador Matthew Rycroft told the meeting.
After the vote CSW chief executive Mervyn Thomas said the group was pleased with the outcome, but added that “the questions raised regarding the NGO Committee’s tendency to repeatedly defer and deny the applications of human…