Spokesperson for the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) Rupert Colville, High Commissioner Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, and UNSG Ban Ki-moon lamented that freedom is under threat under the auspices of the Committee on Non-Governmental Organizations and that international debate is being deprived of important civil society contributions.
Established by the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) in 1946, the Committee on Non-Governmental Organizations reports directly to them, has 19 members elected on equitable geographical representation: (5 members from African States; 4 members from Asian States; 2 members from Eastern European States; 4 members from Latin American and Caribbean States; and 4 members from Western European and other States) who hold office for four years. One of its primary responsibilities is the consideration of applications for consultative status and requests for reclassification submitted by NGOs. Today, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has again been denied consultative status. The CPJ is headquartered in New York City and made up of about 40 worldwide experts.
“Mr. Colville noted that CPJ is a ‘key and respected voice’ on the issues of protecting journalists and press freedom, and said the statistics it provides on killings, attacks and imprisonment of journalists around the world are “widely viewed as among the most reliable in existence.”
Members of the NGO Committee include: Azerbaijan, Burundi, China, Cuba, Greece, Guinea, India, Iran, Israel, Mauritania, Nicaragua, Pakistan, Russian Federation, South Africa, Sudan, Turkey, United States of America, Uruguay and Venezuela (Bolivarian Rep.) Of these, ten voted against: Azerbaijan, Burundi, China, Cuba, Nicaragua, Pakistan, Russian Federation, South Africa, Sudan, Venezuela; three abstained: India, Iran, Turkey; and six voted in favor of CPJ consultative status: Greece, Guinea, Israel, Mauritania, Uruguay, United States.
“Mr. Colville said OHCHR also has strong concerns about the recent refusal of permission by Member States for 11 civil society organizations representing lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people and other marginalized communities to attend the High-Level Meeting on Ending AIDS taking place from 8 to 10 June at UN Headquarters in New York.”
“The High Commissioner fully shares that concern, as we see more and more evidence of more and more States clamping down on the freedoms of expression association and assembly, with the media and human rights defenders in the frontline,” Mr. Colville stressed.
“While this may be in the interests of authorities wishing to crush criticism and retain power, it is clearly not in the interests of their populations. This unfortunate episode involving CPJ is emblematic of this unfortunate and very negative trend,” he added.
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