Remarks at the Opening of the Resumed May 2018 Session of the UN Committee on Non-Governmental Organizations

Mordica Simpson
ECOSOC Advisor
United States
New York City
May 21, 2018


Thank you very much, Mr. Chair. And thank you also to the Secretariat for the work and effort that has gone into planning for this 2018 resumed session. And good morning, colleagues.

The United States strongly supports both the participation of civil society and faith-based organizations in the work of the United Nations and giving them a voice in the UN system. For this reason, we look forward to the long overdue consultation with NGOs in consultative status on June 22. This provision of ECOSOC resolution 1996/31 must become a regular practice. The NGO Committee should hold these consultations before each Committee session, as the resolution mandates. It is essential that civil society be able to engage with the body mandated with reviewing their applications. Specious attempts to restrict civil society’s participation here at the UN go against this Committee’s mandate.

We also commend ECOSOC’s decisions to accredit two U.S.-based NGOs, the U.S. Committee for Human Rights in North Korea and the Iran Human Rights Documentation Center, during the ECOSOC Coordination and Management meeting in April. We applaud all member states who supported these decisions. While these were positive outcomes, the process for getting these immensely qualified NGOs consultative status highlights an ongoing issue – the NGO Committee’s continued failure to effectively fulfill its mandate.

The NGO Committee is mandated to review the applications of NGOs, but must do so under the framework of ECOSOC resolution 1996/31. Far too frequently, this body asks civil society questions about their registration in countries of operation, the reasons for choosing to focus their work in a particular country, or the reasons for choosing the area or focus of their work. These, and many other questions, are unacceptable, and are not in line with resolution 1996/31. This body blocks far too many qualified NGOs from receiving consultative status as a result. This is particularly true of groups focused on human rights and humanitarian issues. It is for this reason the United States has taken action to move the applications of qualified NGOs forward. We call upon all members of the Committee to reaffirm their commitment to upholding resolution 1996/31, and to act accordingly.

We are also increasingly concerned that NGOs receiving any government funding are blocked and labeled as government-organized non-governmental organizations or GONGOs, while actual GONGOs, organizations that operate wholly at the direction of a Member State’s authorities, have proliferated. There is no provision of ECOSOC resolution 1996/31 preventing NGOs from receiving multiple sources of funding, including from government sources. What should concern us in this Committee is effective government control over these organizations.

We are pleased to see that the number of NGOs applying for ECOSOC consultative status continues to grow, an indication of the significance and impact that this status has for NGOs worldwide. We urge our fellow Committee members to work towards reviewing and accrediting as many of these qualified NGOs as possible. 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 practice will continue.

Finally, in the 2019 to 2022 term we look forward to working with new members, as well as those Committee members who were re-elected.