The U.N.’s human rights officers work hard at allowing NGOs to speak, but today the system failed. Theoretically, NGOs were to form a line outside the Human Rights Council chamber, to sign up to speak at tomorrow’s adoption of reports on the human rights situations in Cuba, Saudi Arabia and other countries. With only ten available slots for NGOs speeches on each country, queuing began at the early hours of the morning, though the sign-up only officially opened at 2:45 PM. Unfortunately, a series of mishaps raised serious questions about the fairness of the process in the eyes of several NGOs. Some claimed they had been told not to arrive at the U.N. before 8 AM (when NGOs are allowed to enter the building), yet reportedly found a line of GONGOs (“Government-backed NGOs,” i.e., front groups) already waiting by the desk long before. If Cuba’s GONGOs manage to take up the whole alloted time, the Castro regime will have blocked the voices of its victims.  There was also a process of “pre-inscription” or early sign-up for NGOs lining up in the morning hours that some NGOs claimed not to be aware of. Just before 2:45 PM, rather than a neat queue, there was a crowd of eager NGOs waiting to push and shove to get a spot on the speaker’s list. Shortly before, one NGO representative had tried to organize the group by having NGOs sign-up, roughly based on when they seemed to have showed up, and establish an order on a sheet of paper. Some 23 NGOs signed up on that list, which was passed around as an official sign-up sheet. However, when the secretariat arrived, several NGOs rushed to the front of the desk. Some of them claimed not to be aware of the sign-up sheet. The secretariat did not accept the unofficial list. In any event, most spots had already been secured through “pre-inscription.” The pre-inscribed NGOs had to be there just to claim their spots when their names were called. The rest of the spots were awarded randomly based on who was first to win the attention of the secretariat. Clearly, some order and explanation is needed.



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