UN Bans NGOs At High Level Meetings Of World Leaders — This Leads To Strong Protests


  • by Thalif Deen (United Nations)
  • Inter Press Service

After two years of on and off lockdowns due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the UN Secretariat is back in full swing – but in a virtual high-security war zone.

The week-long high-level meeting is scheduled for September 20-26, but civil society organizations (CSOs) have been banned from the UN premises from September 16-30.

Mandeep S. Tiwana, Chief Programs Officer at CIVICUS, the global civil society alliance, told IPS the note (http://csonet.org/?menu=86) issued by the UN Department’s NGO branch. for Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA). ) states that “according to established practice”, access to the UN building is restricted.

From September 16-30, the circular says, the UN headquarters will only be open to UN personnel and member delegations.

“Suspension of NGOs’ annual and temporary ground passes in consultation with the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) during the UNGA session is not only mind-bogglingly discriminatory, but also counterintuitive, as it deprives the international community of the benefits of the involvement of civil society in times of massive chaos, disruption and struggle worldwide,” said Tiwana.

It is a missed opportunity for UN and State diplomatic delegations to communicate freely with civil society representatives who bring a wealth of expertise, hands-on experience and deep commitment to solving global challenges in accordance with the principles of the UN charter, he argued.

“This arrogant attitude of the UN establishment once again underscores the critical need for civil society to have a champion within the system in the form of a UN civil society envoy,” he noted.

The appointment of such an envoy, he pointed out, could help to remove bottlenecks that hinder civil society involvement in the UN, promote best practices in the participation of people and civil society in throughout the UN and also reaching the UN to foster civil society at the regional level.

Speaking at an event to mark the 75th anniversary of the UN Charter in 2020, Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said civil society was a crucial voice at the San Francisco Conference (where the UN was inaugurated).

“You have been with us for decades, in refugee camps, in conference rooms and mobilizing communities in streets and squares around the world.”

“You are with us today as we face the COVID-19 pandemic. You are our allies in defending human rights and fighting racism. You are indispensable partners in forging peace, pushing for climate action, promoting gender equality, delivering life-saving humanitarian aid and controlling the proliferation of deadly weapons.”

“And the global framework for shared progress, the Sustainable Development Goals, is unimaginable without you,” he said.

Yet all civil society organizations have been barred from the UN building during one of the most politically crucial sessions of the General Assembly.

Louis Charbonneau, UN Director of Human Rights Watch said: “As you know, the UN Secretariat has a futile policy of banning civil society organizations (CSOs) from UN headquarters during the week at a high level, so we will not be the building. But we will be around to answer questions or conduct interviews, if possible, outside UNHQ.”

“We also ask Member States and the UN Secretariat to end the senseless exclusion of civil society during one of the most important weeks on the UN calendar,” Charbonneau said.

In a subsequent email interview, he told IPS: “We have publicly complained in the past about the terms of the UN General Assembly’s ban on NGOs because it is arbitrary and sometimes lasts longer than a week at a high level, which makes no sense.”

“We now call on the UN to end the UNGA period ban altogether.”

He said: “Our experience of the outrageous ban on civil society under the pretext of Covid when everyone – including tourists – was allowed back into the building made us realize that civil society urgently needs to push back against attempts to marginalize NGOs on the UN.”

“The way Covid was used to keep civil society out of the UN when diplomats, UN officials and journalists were reinstated confirmed our belief that it is high time for us to end the high-level ban of the UNGA and other pointless restrictions. ”

He pointed out that the Secretary-General’s “common agenda” is full of language about the importance of civil society.

“Now is the time for the UN to let their actions reflect the rhetoric,” Charbonneau declared.

Jens Martens, director of Global Policy Forum Europe, told IPS that the behavior of the UN and member states towards NGOs is often hypocritical.

“On the one hand, they praise NGOs and declare that involving civil society in the work of the UN is a top priority. On the other hand, they limit or even prevent access for NGOs, as just happened during the high-level week of the UN General Assembly,” he said.

If member states and the UN secretariat take their appreciation of NGOs seriously, they should not see them as potential security risks, Martens said.

“Instead, they should facilitate access and create better working conditions for NGOs at UN headquarters.”

The UN’s measures beg the question: are NGOs considered security risks?

While visiting heads of state, government leaders, foreign ministers, ambassadors and other diplomats are allowed to move freely and avoid security checks, most UN staff, resident UN correspondents and visiting journalists, are considered security risks and their movements are restricted and subject to restrictions — while UN retirees are excluded.

Incidentally, the only “terrorist attack” on the UN came from outside, not from within.

When the politico-charismatic Ernesto Che Guevara, once deputy commander of Cuban leader Fidel Castro, was at the United Nations in 1964 to address the sessions of the General Assembly, the UN headquarters was literally attacked. The speech of the Argentine-born Marxist revolutionary was briefly drowned out by the sound of an explosion. The anti-Castro forces in the United States, backed by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), had mounted a treasonous campaign to prevent Che Guevara from speaking.

A 3.5-inch bazooka was fired at the 39-story Secretariat Building on the East River, while a noisy CIA-inspired anti-Castro, anti-Che Guevara demonstration took place outside the UN building on First Avenue and 42nd Street. in New York City.

But the rocket launcher — which apparently wasn’t as advanced as today’s shoulder-fired rockets and rocket-propelled grenades — missed its target, rattled windows and fell into the river about 200 yards from the UN building.

A newspaper report described it as “one of the wildest episodes since the United Nations entered its East River headquarters in 1952.”

As longtime UN staff recall, the failed 1964 bombing of the UN building took place when Che Guevara launched a scorching attack on US foreign policy, denouncing a proposed denuclearization pact for the Western Hemisphere. It was one of the first known politically motivated terrorist attacks on the United Nations.

After his speech in the assembly, Che Guevara was asked about the attack aimed at him. “The explosion added flavor to the whole thing,” he joked, munching on his Cuban cigar.

When a reporter told him that New York police had arrested a woman, described as a Cuban anti-Castro exile, who had pulled a hunting knife and jumped the UN wall with the intent to kill him, Che Guevara said: ” It is better to be killed by a woman with a knife than by a man with a gun.”

As a long-retired former UN official jokingly noted last week: “This must be the first known case of gender empowerment at the UN.”

Report of the IPS UN Office

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© Inter Press Service (2022) — All rights reservedOriginal source: Inter Press Service

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