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Opinions of Tuesday, 26 July 2016

Columnist: kwaku badu

Rejoinder: Should the Rawlingses and their children own everything in Ghana?

This article seeks to confute Mr Sangaparee’s somewhat specious claims in his article captioned:‘Should the Rawlingses and their children own everything in Ghana?’) which appeared on ghanaweb.com on Monday 25 July 2016.

Mr Sangaparee writes: “For almost 8 years, the 31st December Women’s Movement worked towards making the Movement a member of the Economic and Social Committee (ECOSOC) of the U.N, the NGO Section and it takes a long time as they go through your books, they look for what you are doing and you have to go and defend it.”

“When they finally agreed in 2 years’ time, to admit the 31st December Women’s Movement in the ECOSOC as a member, Nana Akuffo Addo who was then Foreign Minister in the NPP government sent a letter to the Embassy that they should NOT ALLOW the 31st December Women’s Movement to be a member of the ECOSOC.”

“The NPP government sent another letter to the ambassador and to the UN that the Movement is only a political group even though they are a Social and Economic group trying to better the lives of the women in Ghana”. “Do you see how dishonest and wicked the NPP government was? Do you see how dishonest and wicked Nana Akuffo Addo is – Do you see how ex-President Kofour is dishonest and wicked up to date 2016?”

“When the UN received those false letters, the ECOSOC boss called Nana Konadu Agyeman Rawlings and said that he had received a letter from her government that 31st December Women’s Movement are just a political group creating problems in the country, so they should not be allowed to be a member of ECOSOC.”

Actually, Mr Sangaparee cannot be entirely correct for claiming that Nana Addo and former President Kuffour managed to block 31st December Movement’s ECOSOC consultative status application. Even though I have little knowledge (only Masters degree)on Politics and International Human Rights Law, I would like to believe Mr Sangaparee’s claim is sophistic.

It is worth stressing that United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) is a Charter-based body. Charter-based bodies draw their strength from the provisions of the Charter of the United Nations and have broad human rights mandates.

The UN Charter-based bodies also focus on unlimited audience and often base their actions on majority voting (UN 1945).

More importantly, ECOSOC brings people and issues together to promote collective action for a sustainable world.

And at the centre of the UN development system, ECOSOC conducts cutting-edge analysis, agrees on global norms and advocates for progress. ECOSOC’s collective solutions advance sustainable development.

It must also be noted that the Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA) is NGO Branch with the focal point within the UN Secretariat for non-governmental organizations in consultative status with the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) and for NGOs seeking status.

DESA’s aims include among other things, support to NGOs: informing them in a timely fashion on events and opportunities to collaborate with the United Nations; intergovernmental support: DESA services the Committee on NGOs, which meets twice a year to discuss accreditation of NGOs to the UN Economic and Social Council; undertakes conference registration: through CSONet, facilitates participation of NGOs to most of the intergovernmental processes taking place at United Nations headquarters and beyond.

Currently there are 3187 NGOs in consultative status with the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), and some 400 NGOs accredited to the Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD), a subsidiary body of ECOSOC. NGOs in the CSD roster need to contact the NGO Branch of DESA in order to apply to consultative status.

What is consultative status?

Non-governmental, non-profit public or voluntary organizations may be admitted into a mutually beneficial working relationship with the United Nations by attaining consultative status with the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). This status is based on Article 71 of the Charter of the United Nations and on ECOSOC Resolution 1996/31 adopted in 1996.

The rights and privileges enumerated in detail in ECOSOC resolution 1996/31, enable qualifying organizations to make a contribution to the work programmes and goals of the United Nations by serving as technical experts, advisers and consultants to governments and Secretariat.

Sometimes, as advocacy groups, they espouse UN themes, implementing plans of action, programmes and declarations adopted by the United Nations. In concrete terms, this entails their participation in ECOSOC and its various subsidiary bodies through attendance at these meetings, and also through oral interventions and written statements on agenda items of those bodies.

In addition, organizations, qualifying for General Category consultative status, may propose new items for consideration by the ECOSOC. Organizations granted status are also invited to attend international conferences called by the U.N., General Assembly special sessions, and other intergovernmental bodies. (The participation modalities for NGOs are governed by the rules of procedure of those bodies).

What are the procedures for obtaining consultative status with the ECOSOC?

In order to obtain consultative status, an organization's application must be reviewed by the Committee on NGOs of the ECOSOC which meets twice a year. The Committee, composed by 19 States members of the United Nations, recommends to the ECOSOC which organizations should be granted one of three categories (General, Special, and Roster).

The recommendation then goes to the ECOSOC meeting, with the full ECOSOC making the final decision.

To begin the process for applying for such status, an organization must contact in writing the NGO branch of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs. This letter of intent should be on the organization's letterhead and signed by its secretary-general or president.

Once the NGO section receives the letter of intent, an application package containing the questionnaire and all the background materials is mailed to the organization.

The deadline for receiving completed applications is June 1 of each year. For example, complete applications, (which include a completed questionnaire and all the required supporting documentation) received by the NGO Branch before 1 June 2003, will be taken up by the Committee on NGOs in the year 2004.

What are the requirements for obtaining consultative status? Non-governmental, non-profit voluntary organizations may be admitted into consultative status with the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). The types of NGOs that can apply for consultative status, the requirements for obtaining status, as well as duties and responsibilities of the NGOs in consultative status are enumerated in detail in ECOSOC Resolution 1996/31.

Among other requirements, the organization's activities must be relevant to the work of ECOSOC.

The NGO must have a democratic decision making mechanism. The NGO must be in existence (officially registered with the appropriate government authorities as an NGO/non-profit) for at least 2 years in order to apply. The basic resources of the organization must be derived in the main part from contributions of the national affiliates, individual members or other non-governmental components.

What is the difference between General category, Special category and Roster?

Organizations wishing to apply for General Category must be "concerned with most of the activities of the ECOSOC and its subsidiary bodies". These tend to be fairly large, established international NGOs with a broad geographical reach. Special Category is granted to NGOs "which have a special competence in, and are concerned specifically with, only a few of the fields of activity covered by the ECOSOC".

These NGOs tend to be smaller and more recently established. Organizations which "can make occasional and useful contributions to the work of ECOSOC or its subsidiary bodies" are included in the Roster. These NGOs tend to have a rather narrow and/or technical focus.

Let us remind Mr Sangaparee that the United Nations believes: “the recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world”.

More so, UN places emphasis on “the dignity and worth of the human person and the equal rights of men and women”.

Thus, ECOSOC, the Charter body charged to promote and protect the interdependence, indivisibility, inter relatedness and universality of human rights cannot and would not at any point in time refuse a consultative status application of a qualified International Non-Governmental Organization (INGO).

Credit:

The UN (1945) The Charter of the United Nations

The UN (1945) The Working Procedures of the Economic and Social Council