C-Fam Statement at Consultations of the Committee on NGOs with NGOs in Consultative Status with ECOSOC
3-minute statement delivered at the ECOSOC NGO Forum on June 22, 2018
The Center for Family and Human Rights has been working with the UN for two decades, engaging in advocacy, holding events, and taking part in NGO consultations. We are grateful for the opportunity to participate in today’s discussion.
NGO participation in the work of ECOSOC and its subsidiaries has taken place since the founding of the United Nations. The modalities of participation decided by member states should leverage the knowledge and experience of NGOs through both NGO-specific consultations and opportunities for NGOs to lend their voices to official debates through written and oral statements once UN member states have fully participated.
The purpose of NGO participation should be first and foremost to give a voice to civil society interests not already represented in the positions of governments and international organizations. Therefore, the modalities of participation should reflect the need to give a voice to the voiceless, not to merely amplify those positions already well represented and promoted by wealthy donor organizations and governments.
NGOs, including those from developing regions, represent diverse views and areas of work. Locally supported NGOs in developing countries often face great limitations in building their capacities and resources. Meanwhile, there is a growing trend of wealthy donor governments and philanthropists supporting NGOs in developing regions that share their positions, amplifying their voices and facilitating their engagement in UN processes.
It is therefore essential that ECOSOC consider not only the national origin of NGOs seeking accreditation and the opportunity to contribute, but also the need to welcome a diversity of views. In addition to providing specific opportunities for NGOs from developing countries and economies in transition, the UN should distinguish participation in UN debates by NGOs that can be said to authentically and independently represent the interests of civil society, and those that represent the interests of foreign donors whose extensive resources risk making them into de facto gatekeepers. Independent grass-roots organizations that do not receive subsidies from governments already represented in UN debates should be given priority when NGO participation is called for.
Finally, ECOSOC and other UN bodies must ensure that the voices of civil society, including those speaking out on behalf of human life and the family, are not censored or silenced. Barring extreme cases such as incitement to hatred and violence, it is essential that the UN remain a place where all voices are heard and debates on issues that affect all of us can continue in a spirit of good faith.