NGO Committee on Freedom of Religion or Belief

Protecting freedom of thought and conscience at the United Nations in New York City.

Luncheon Event: How Member States Are Obstructing NGO Status at the UN

The UN NGO Committee on Freedom of Religion or Belief and the UN NGO Committee on Human Rights will host a luncheon event Tuesday, July 21, 2015, focused on recent reports that detail problems with the process by which non-governmental organizations gain consultative status with the UN’s Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC).

More than 4,000 non-governmental organizations (NGOs) around the world enjoy consultative status with the UN’s Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), yet little attention has been paid to the process by which NGOs apply for and receive — or else are rejected — official status. Fortunately, that’s changing.

Last month, the Wall Street Journal reported that an ECOSOC committee responsible for handling initial applications by NGOs seeking consultative status had rejected Freedom Now, which provides pro bono legal help to political prisoners around the world, including China’s Liu Xiaobo, Iran’s Abdolfattah Soltani, and Azerbaijan’s Intigam Aliyev. Freedom Now applied for status in 2009, but the ECOSOC committee is dominated by member states like China, Cuba, Iran, Sudan, Russia, Venezuela, and Azerbaijan— which has kept Freedom Now’s application from being approved.

In an effort to shed light on this issue, the NGO Committee on Freedom of Religion or Belief and the NGO Committee on Human Rights will host a luncheon discussion featuring Maran Turner, executive director of Freedom Now, who will share her organization’s experiences in seeking consultative status. We will also be joined by a representative from the International Service for Human Rights, which recently published a report on the process of obtaining ECOSOC accreditation: “Practical Guide to the UN Committee on NGOs.”

This meeting will take place Tuesday, July 21, 2015, from 1:00 to 2:30 p.m., in the Bahá’í International Community United Nations Office, located at 866 UN Plaza (Suite 120), New York, NY 10017. To RSVP, please email unforb@gmail.com with your name and organization.

More on the speaker: Maran Turner is executive director of Freedom Now. Prior to joining Freedom Now, she was a lawyer with the Southern Africa Litigation Centre (SALC) in Johannesburg, South Africa, where she managed a team of lawyers and worked with Southern African jurists on human rights litigation.  Prior to her position with SALC, she was an associate with DLA Piper LLP (US) where she was honored as Pro Bono Attorney of the Year for her international human rights work representing notable human rights defenders such as former Czech Republic President Václav Havel and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Desmond Tutu. Maran holds a B.A. from the University of Texas at Austin and a J.D. cum laude from the University of Miami.

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