The annual July session of ECOSOC, the UN Economic and Social Council, featured the usual malicious attempts to deny UN accreditation to legitimate non-governmental organizations.
Applications for accreditation are considered by the 19-nation Committee on NGOs, which includes such NGO-friendly governments as China, Cuba, Egypt, Pakistan, Russia and Sudan. The committee spends most of its time harassing or barring groups that speak out for individual freedom. Its rulings, however, must be approved by the 54-nation ECOSOC, where Western democracies are stronger.
In January, the NGO Committee denied consultative status to the Federación Estatal de Lesbianas, Gays, Transexuales y Bisexuales (FELGTB), a group from Spain. When the recommendation went before ECOSOC, France on behalf of the EU expressed regret at the “discriminatory trend towards lesbian, gay, bisexual and transsexual groups in the [NGO] Committee for many years.” Spain and the United States also noted with concern the ongoing intolerance against such groups.
On a motion from France, ECOSOC overruled the NGO Committee, and voted to accredit FELGTB. A Saudi call for a revote, supported by Pakistan and Cape Verde, led to naught, and the Spanish gay rights group maintained its newly-won accreditation. Spain warmly thanked the countries that defended FELGTB, and regretted the efforts to block its participation.
In a separate controversy, the NGO Committee had recommended to deny consultative status to the Human Rights Foundation (HRF). The United States asked ECOSOC to reconsider, noting that the HRF board included such distinguished human rights activists as Nobel Peace Prize laureate Elie Wiesel. Also noted was that HRF is chaired by Armando Valladares, recognized by Amnesty International as a prisoner of conscience for his years of incarceration in Cuban prisons.
The Cubans replied that Mr. Valladares is a “terrorist” and “a clown and a member of a criminal gang.” Cuba, Egypt for the Islamic Group, Russia, Bolivia, Venezuela, Sudan, and Belarus spoke out forcefully against HRC. Ecuador said it had “carried out activities that promoted subversion,” and labeled the group a “terrorist organization.”
Chavez, Castro, Mubarak, Lukashenko, al-Bashir, Morales, and Putin-Medvedev won. ECOSOC upheld the decision to bar the the Human Rights Foundation from the UN. Not the best way for ECOSOC to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.