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Govt of India "blocks" Dalit solidarity network's move to seek recognition at UN for 18th time in a row

Rikke Nohrlind
By Our Representative
In a move that has not surprised non-government organizations (NGOs), the Government of India has ensured that the International Dalit Solidarity Network (IDSN), the apex body of all Dalit rights organizations across India and elsewhere in the world, does not get the consultative status as the United Nations Economic and Social Council (UN ECOSOC).
Noting the development, the IDSN has said in a statement, “For the 18th time since 2008, the Committee on NGOs has deferred IDSN’s application – the longest pending one of its kind – for UN ECOSOC consultative status. Two more questions from India have yet again delayed the process.”
IDSN’s Executive Director, Rikke Nohrlind, said, “India’s harassment of IDSN is part of global trend which in India itself has led to an increasingly shrinking space for human rights defenders.”
She added, “India acts against the interests of its 200 million Dalits. By blocking discussions on caste discrimination in international fora, it effectively lets down one sixth of its own population and also harms the aspirations for a better life for tens of millions of people subjected to caste discrimination in other countries.”
In its statement, IDSN has called the UN Committee on NGOs an “infamous” tool of states that “do not respect human rights and civil society”. It adds, “The Committee’s practice of repeatedly deferring NGO applications for consultative status with the UN has reached such an alarming extent that it undermines global human rights.”
Last week, 230 NGOs took the unprecedented step of calling for reforms of the way that the UN deals with NGOs. In a joint letter to UN ECOSOC member states, they described the practice of the Committee as “reflective of growing restrictions on civil society globally”, and sought recognition of IDSN's and other NGOs' status.
Meanwhile, the UN Special Rapporteur on the exercise of the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, Maina Kiai, sharply criticized the Committee on NGOs, saying it has been “hijacked” by governments that aim to “take away NGOs’ voices on the international stage” by “arbitrarily deferring applications for consultative status.”
He urged the Committee to stop “pandering to considerations that undermine the ability of the United Nations to fulfill its mission.”
Calling the the case of the IDSN, “an international NGO focusing on caste-based discrimination”, especially troubling, Kiai said, “It has received 75 written questions from the Committee since 2008, all raised by one country, India. It is now the longest pending application before the Committee.”
“The deferral means that IDSN and its members, many of whom are human rights defenders from caste-affected countries, are effectively barred from associating freely with the UN”, IDSN says, adding, “Without ECOSOC status, NGOs cannot present statements or organize side events at UN fora. This means a loss of opportunities to discuss the horrific human rights violations caused by caste discrimination.”
Interesting though it may seem, the move comes close on the heels of a top non-profit organization the Committee for the Protection of Journalists (CPJ), having been denied accreditation. The states which voted against CPJ's accreditation are Azerbaijan, Burundi, China, Cuba, Nicaragua, Pakistan, Russia, South Africa, Sudan and Venezuela.

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