Global Policy Forum

NGOs are Side-Lined from


Franciscans International
March 16, 2004

Franciscans International says the United Nations has marginalized independent lobby groups from the world's most important human rights conference under the pretext of security concerns. In an open letter to UN officials in Geneva, FI and eight other non-governmental organisations (NGOs) say a new seating arrangement that keeps them from interacting with government delegations risks destroying the credibility of the Commission on Human Rights (CHR). When the annual six-week session of the CHR opened on 15 March NGOs were surprised to find themselves blocked from accessing the plenary floor. It was the first time in the Commission's 57-year history that NGO's were not able to interact with the diplomats. "We do understand and share the security concerns," the nine NGOs said in a 16 March letter. But they say they cannot do their work properly under the new circumstances. "Civil society is prevented from interacting with governmental delegates, which is crucial to the advocacy role," the groups say. More than a hundred NGOs attend the CHR each year. Those with consultative status – such as Franciscans International – have the right to address the assembly in the course of its meetings. "Effective participation of NGOs is key to the working and credibility of the commission," the open letter says. Franciscans International represents the hundred of thousands of friars, sisters, and lay Franciscans present in more the 180 countries around the world. FI, with offices in Geneva and New York, speaks on behalf of the poor and marginalized at the United Nations.

The other NGOs to sign the letter:

Association for the Prevention of Torture (APT)
Baha'i International Community
Human Rights Watch (HRW)
International Commission of Jurists (ICJ)
International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH)
International Service for Human Rights (ISHR)
Special Committee of NGOs on Human Rights (Geneva)
World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT)

More Information on NGOs
More Information on NGO Access at the UN
More Information on NGOs and the UN

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