September 27, 2019. Last week, a representative from the International United Nations Watch (IUNW) visited Permanent Missions to the UN in New York City to deliver letters regarding the organization’s concern of corruption at the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). The recipients of the letter were Diplomatic Missions of states currently serving as members of the Council, including the Norwegian Permanent Representative to the UN Mona Juul, who is the current President of the Council. The letter-delivery is part of IUNW’s attempts to raise awareness of the issue of political money and state-controlled NGOs at the ECOSOC and to promote a transparent UN free of corruption.
The letter included the following: “We [at IUNW] believe NGOs play an important role in reporting on human rights violations around the world. Yet as it is the core of the work of the UN to maintain integrity and transparency, including bringing States to account for violating human rights, we believe it is also the responsibility of the UN to stop the flow of political money at the Human Rights Council. We note the increasing presence of NGOs with ECOSOC status receiving funding from Member States with deplorable records of human rights abuses. The result is NGOs who represent State interests rather than keeping the interests of the target populations in mind. Meanwhile, States mostly lacking democratic governments do not provide space or freedom to allow many human rights-focused NGOs to operate on their own soil and have used the UN Human Rights Council as a platform to spread defamation campaigns against credible NGOs.”
“A better more efficient ECOSOC and Human Rights Council need the increased participation of true civil society,” spokesperson for IUNW Maya Garner said. “These efforts should not be blocked by member states or by NGOs accepting political money to act according to the interests of member states at the expense of human rights. Norway, as head of the ECOSOC, has a special responsibility to ensure transparency and combat corruption in the Council. The Human Rights Council additionally has become the site of toxic politicization of human rights rather than being an accessible platform for the promotion of the principles outlined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. We need to open up these platforms to the voices that are silenced.”
The letter outlined obstacles facing those wishing to access the Human Rights Council without an ECOSOC status: “Many NGOs with ECOSOC status will demand a price, such as payment or political favors, in order to allow others access to the Council. In this way, governmentally-organized NGOs end up as a mockery of civil society while access to the Human Rights Council remains restricted to true representatives of civil society.”
The letter-delivery at New York-based Permanent MIssions to the UN follows IUNW’s trip to Geneva in July, 2019. During this trip, IUNW met with representatives of Member States’ diplomatic missions to the UN Human Rights Council in order to discuss the issue of politicization and corruption of NGOs with ECOSOC status. IUNW will continue to raise awareness among diplomats and staff about this issue and intends to publish a report with their findings. Furthermore, IUNW plans to organize a conference in Geneva in 2020 to outline goals for the 2021-26 review of the Human Rights Council. Additionally, IUNW aims to work with NGOs and others to draft an Ant-Corruption Charter for the ECOSOC and Human Rights Council to stop the politicization of NGOs and to increase the participation of civil society.