Remarks at the Regular Session of the UN Committee on Non-Governmental Organizations

Mordica Simpson
Advisor for Economic and Social Affairs
New York, New York
May 17, 2021


Thank you, Chairperson.

We welcome our fellow Committee members, observer states, and civil society representatives to this regular session and look forward to our work together in the coming days.

The Biden-Harris Administration has announced the U.S. recommitment to a foreign policy centered on democracy, human rights, and equality. Our continued engagement and advocacy for non-governmental organizations and civil society is part of this commitment and is critical now, more than ever.

The COVID-19 pandemic has created new challenges for civil society and forced all of us to quickly adapt to changing realities. Unfortunately, for this Committee, that has meant not convening since the January 2020 regular session. The record number of more than 500 new applications the Committee will review over the next nine days is testament to the significance and impact that ECOSOC consultative status has for civil society organizations worldwide. We urge our fellow Committee members to conduct our work efficiently during this session to prevent further backlogs.

The Committee’s work should be open, transparent, and accessible to civil society around the globe. Webcasting the Committee’s public sessions was an important step in this regard and our delegation would welcome additional measures, including virtual platforms and digital tools, to ensure this Committee and the United Nations are more accessible for civil society organizations.

We continue to voice concern about the practice of deferring the quadrennial reports of NGOs. Several NGOs have quadrennial reports from multiple years pending before this Committee – a practice that unduly burdens NGOs and slows down our work. This is particularly true of NGOs focused on human rights and humanitarian issues. This practice risks politicizing the work of the Committee and is not in line with ECOSOC resolution 96/31.

The members of this Committee, like all UN member states, have committed to uphold the rights enshrined in the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, including the rights to freedom of expression and freedom of association for everyone, including members of NGOs. These freedoms underpin a diverse and thriving civil society, which helps to solve problems, mitigate conflicts, and otherwise contribute to our rich social fabric. By respecting these freedoms for members of NGOs, we foster the open exchange of ideas that is essential to innovation and creative solutions in multilateral bodies. As affirmed in ECOSOC Resolution 96/31, civil society’s participation is vital to the work of the UN. This Committee should carry out its work with the purpose of ensuring that NGOs have a voice at the UN.

We request that this statement be reflected in the report of the Committee.

Thank you, Chairperson.