Thank you, Mr. Chair.
I have the honor to deliver this statement on behalf of a cross-regional group including Australia, Canada, Chile, Iceland, Israel, Japan, Liechtenstein, Mexico, New Zealand, Norway, Peru, Switzerland, Uruguay, the European Union and its 28 Member States, and my own country the United States.
We strongly support improving the methods of work of the NGO Committee, enabling it to fulfill its role to give civil society a voice in the United Nations system. Civil society organizations are often the eyes and ears on the ground and an invaluable resource for reporting, yet for many NGOs, including those with well-established international credibility, this Committee continues to hinder their participation. For many NGOs, it takes two or more years to get accreditation. Other applications for credible NGOs are delayed seemingly indefinitely. The current methods of work contribute to these and other challenges, undermining the effectiveness and the reputation of the Committee.
It is important that civil society organizations with consultative status are able to address members during the Committee session, yet this topic remains a source of debate. We are pleased to see that the Committee will hold consultations with organizations in consultative status, in accordance with ECOSOC resolution 1996/31, prior to the May resumed NGO Committee session. We encourage further efforts to make the Committee more accessible.
We are also concerned about the use of excessive and repetitive questions by certain Committee members, which unnecessarily delays the accreditation of credible NGOs that could contribute to ECOSOC’s and the UN’s work. We call upon the Secretariat to reaffirm the mandate of the Committee and the criteria for the establishment of consultative status. We urge Member States to limit their questions to matters directly related to those criteria. This would strengthen transparency and predictability, and streamline the Committee’s work. We would further urge Member States not to repeatedly ask the same questions session after session. Once an NGO answers the question, it should be considered answered.
We continue to voice concern about the practice of deferring the quadrennial reports of NGOs when the role of Committee members is to simply “take note” of an NGO’s quad report. Several NGOs have quadrennial reports from multiple years pending before this committee – a practice that unduly burdens NGOs and slows down the work of this Committee.
Finally, the application process for NGOs is unduly onerous and also contributes to the delay in accreditation. Revising the application questionnaire with clearer questions and guidelines could minimize the length of time for approval of applications and the number of questions asked during the Committee sessions. We propose establishing a working group to take on this task. Our NGO Branch colleagues will be a critical partner in this effort and can provide background from the last working group process to guide us.
We are thankful that in past sessions, the Chair of the Committee has imposed strict time limits to ensure all applications can be considered, and we hope this will continue.
We look forward to working with ECOSOC, members of this Committee, and colleagues in the NGO Branch to improve our methods of work and increase the number of organizations accredited. I kindly request that this statement be made part of the official record of this 2018 regular session. Thank you.