Russia: Voted off UN ECOSOC’s Committee on NGOs after 75 years

News update: On 13 April 2022, the UN’s Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) elected 19 members of the UN Committee on NGOs, a body mandated to accredit NGOs to the UN. Russia was voted off the Committee after being a member since the establishment of the Committee in 1947. There are no term limits.

On 10 February, LRWC had joined a group of 349 national, regional and international NGOs calling for States to take NGO participation seriously and vote accordingly. A number of NGOs around the world have direct experience of having their applications for accreditation deferred by the NGO Committee – often for many years. This blocks them from participating fully in UN meetings. The Committee on NGOs includes several States that have demonstrated a practice of using their membership to stop NGOs from becoming accredited.

At the 13 April election, the group of Eastern European States was the only regional group to present a competitive slate. Three candidates, Armenia, Georgia, and Russia, were presented for two available seats. Armenia received 47 votes, Georgia 44, and Russia 15 votes.

Other regions presented uncompetitive slates. The results of the election mean that the NGO Committee for 2022 to 2024 will comprise:

  • African States: Algeria, Cameroon, Eritrea, Liberia and Mozambique;
  • Asia-Pacific States: Bahrain, China, India and Pakistan;
  • Latin-American and Caribbean States: Chile, Costa Rica, Cuba and Nicaragua;
  • Western European and other States: Israel, Turkey, the United Kingdom and the United States;
  • Eastern European States: Armenia, Georgia.

The International Service for Human Rights (ISHR) has been among the leaders of the NGO campaign to encourage States to engage in meaningful elections to the Committee. ISHR notes that despite Russia’s departure from the Committee,

“the incoming NGO Committee still includes members with deeply problematic records on safeguarding human rights and civil society participation. According to the CIVICUS Monitor, 60% of the incoming members are currently characterised as being ‘closed’ or ‘repressed’ civic spaces. This includes all members for the Asia-Pacific region. Civic space is ‘obstructed’ or ‘narrowed’ within the remaining 40%.”