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Govt of India "blocking" international Dalit network to freely associate with UN for eight long years: NGO letter

By Our Representative
More than 230 NGOs have called on members of the UN’s Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) to reform the practice of the Committee of NGOs that prevents certain human rights organisations, including the International Dalit Solidarity Network (IDSN), from associating freely with the United Nations (UN).
IDSN, posting a statement on its website, said, “This practice has turned the ECOSOC Committee on NGOs from a largely administrative body into a stumbling block for NGO access to the UN." 
It added, "One of the most extreme examples of obstruction is IDSN’s application for consultative status with ECOSOC. It has been effectively blocked for the past eight years by India, which has asked more than 70 questions in order to delay the process”.
Executive Director of IDSN, Rikke Nohrlind, has been quoted as saying that there is “huge importance to NGOs of being granted access to participate in UN discussions”.
Nohrlind said, “For eight years, we have been barred from freely associating with the UN. With ECOSOC status, we can present statements, get accreditation for our group, for example to the Human Rights Council, and organise side-events at UN fora.”
“Without it, opportunities to discuss the impact of and solutions to the horrific human rights and development challenges brought about by caste discrimination will be lost,” she added.
The joint letter was timed to coincide with the second 2016 session of the ECOSOC Committee on NGOs in New York, which will run until June 2.
Eleanor Openshaw of the International Service for Human Rights (ISHR) has called the letter “a powerful statement of concern by NGOs from around the world about restrictions to their participation in the UN and in solidarity with those whose participation is being restricted.”
Openshaw said, there were “widespread NGO concerns regarding the practices of the Committee on NGOs”, adding, “The meeting room was filled with NGO representatives keen to demonstrate their concerns, and Observer States were also in greater attendance than is usually the case.”
Openshaw noted, “Unfortunately, in too many instances the Committee is reflective of the growing restrictions on civil society at the very time restrictions at the national level make access to the UN all the more crucial.”
“We request that the Committee redouble its efforts to promote a safe, transparent and enabling environment for civil society at the UN. By fostering such an environment, the UN can take full advantage of the particular expertise and insights provided by NGOs and enhance the legitimacy and credibility of its own work,” she pleaded.
The letter, signed by 230 civil society groups, sent to member states of ECOSOC, with copies to Chair of the Committee on NGOs, President of the General Assembly, and President of the Human Rights Council, said, they were “concerned about recent actions taken by the Committee suggesting it functions in a politicised manner, particularly in regard to its consideration of applications for consultative status from human rights organisations.”
Calling on UN Member States to “ensure that the Committee upholds and respects the rights to freedom of expression and association and accords due process to all applicants for consultative status”, the letter said, already, several several States have “criticised the practice of the Committee in ECOSOC meetings.”
“In 2015, Chile, Mexico and Uruguay, as well as the European Union, expressed strong concerns about the recent politicisation of the work of the Committee, in which some Committee members use procedural tactics to block certain organisations from being granted consultative status”, the letter said.

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