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Opinion

Growing Influence of Authoritarian States at UN a Threat to NGOs

A demonstration outside the UN in Geneva by the Society for Threatened Peoples.

GOTTINGEN, Germany, Jun 4 2018 (IPS) - Non-Governmental Organizations (NGO’s) are an important partner of the United Nations to implement the UN Charter and to strengthen its values. But in times when authoritarian regimes are increasing their influence in the United Nations, especially human rights groups are coming under pressure in the world organization.

Some authoritarian regimes recently started waging a war on human rights at the UN. They started lobbying to cut funding for human rights monitors of the UNor for senior posts in the world organization dedicated to human rights work. They didn’t stop in deliberately cutting human rights programs.

Nowadays they are using their membership of the NGO Committee of the UN to keep some NGO’s, particularly human rights groups, out of the world organization, or to put them under fire.

The NGO Committee’s antipathy towards independent NGO’s may not be a surprise, because many of its member states are well known for their desperate human rights record.
Sudan, Turkey, Mauritania, Burundi, Pakistan, Russia and China, to cite only a few of these problematic member states, are not famous for their respect of human rights.

Some of these states, like Sudan and China, are members of the Committee since more than 20 years. Others, like Russia, have been on the Committee since decades.

The new world order brings many changes to the UN. The influence of authoritarian states in the world organization continues to grow. Non-governmental organizations must not be silenced just because they draw attention to serious human rights violations.

They only are doing their job in researching and documenting human rights violations around the world. Society for Threatened Peoples is one of hundreds of NGO’s having a consultative status at the United Nations.

Since we got the status 25 years ago, we have been committed to support persecuted ethnic and religious minorities, nationalities and indigenous peoples at the UN. If voices like ours are no longer heard, the UN loses its credibility.

In the last 25 years, some authoritarian states have tried to put pressure on our human rights group to ignore human rights violations. But the intimidations have been increasing in recent time.

Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrovhas labelled us a “terrorist organization” because we have called for an end of genocidal wars in Chechnya and have urged more protection for the civilian population.

Nowadays China has increased its pressure on our association. Only a few hours before the start of this year’s session of the NGO Committee, the Peoples’ Republic officially has called on the Committee not only to suspend the consultative status of our organization for a limited time but permanently to withdraw the NGO status of our human rights organization because of an alleged violation of UN rules.

After protests by democratic states, China finally withdrew its application during the UN’s May 2018 session of the NGO committee in New York.

China had considered the accreditation of our long-time Uighur member Dolkun Isa at a UN conference in April 2018 as a violation of UN rules and called the human rights activist from Munich a “terrorist.”

This view was opposed in the NGO Committee. Dolkun Isa is a German citizen and one of the most important voices of the Uighurs who face serious human rights violations. Such voices must not be silenced.

As governments worldwide shrink the space of civil society, it’s vital that the UN remain a forum of exchange of views between the civil society and governments and a platform to advocate for human rights.

The civil society is a key element in solving global problems. It should not be excluded from the international dialogue on conflict resolution, the protection of the civilian population in armed conflicts and the respect of human rights and dignity.

We are calling for an international discussion on the growing influence of authoritarian states at the UN. NGOs need more support from democratic states so that it continues to be possible to address human rights violations openly at the UN.

 
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  • Erik Van Lennep

    And sadly, we now need to add Trump’s USA to that list of authoritarian states actively suppressing and violating human rights.