Liberal International suspended, but gay rights groups win victory
Geneva, July 20, 2007 — Amid a series of rulings today affecting NGOs, the U.N.’s Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) slammed Liberal International with a one-year suspension, blocking the umbrella group of Liberal parties around the world from participating at U.N. conferences and debates. China initiated the retaliation after the group accredited a Taiwanese man as one of its delegates to a Human Rights Council session in March, who spoke in the plenary for the right of Taiwan to join the World Health Organization.
“NGOs at the UN are routinely under assault,” said Hillel Neuer, executive director of the Geneva-based UN Watch. “Today’s actions undermine the world body’s few sources of accountability and human rights protection.”
China told the plenary it “always supported active NGO participation” but “those who enjoy their status must strictly abide by rules and regulations.” The U.S. rejected China’s accusations, saying “Taiwan’s participation in the WHO is good for public health.” Canada “deplored” the decision, which “goes in the wrong direction.”
Pakistan rallied to China’s support, while Cuba praised China’s “spirit of flexibility and compromise” for compromising on its initial demand to permanently strip Liberal International of its credentials, apparently after receiving a letter of regret from the group. Cuba itself would have supported “a more firm punishment.” The European Union, represented by Portugal, expressed its “thanks to all parties for allowing us to reach a consensual outcome.”
Chinese protests were also behind ECOSOC’s approval today of the continued questioning of another NGO, the International Press Institute, for daring to host a recent event with the Dalai Lama. In a January meeting of ECOSOC’s committee on NGOs, China accused the Dala Lama of “behavior that run counter to the UN principles of territorial integrity and sovereignty.” Chinese protests also reportedly led to the International Crisis Group’s recent withdrawal of its application for NGO status.
Today’s session saw the further rejection of applications for NGO status by the Jewish National Fund, which plants trees in Israel, and the World Sindhi Institute, an advocate for the Sindh minority of Pakistan.
However, despite Pakistan’s repeated procedural objections, ECOSOC overruled a lower committee and granted new NGO status to the Quebec Coalition of Gays and Lesbians, and to the Swedish Federation of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Rights. but failed to block the votes.
Neuer welcomed the decisions as a “rare victory at the U.N. of principles over politics. Legitimate organizations in civil society have a right to be heard within the halls of UN.” Neuer saluted Canada for “speaking out forcefully today and fighting against bigotry — by countries like China, Pakistan, Russia, Belarus, Algeria, Saudi Arabia and Sudan — that violates the anti-discrimination principle of the UN Charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.”
“Repressive regimes at the UN have long acted to restrict the participation of NGOs,” said Neuer. “Lately, however, China and others have taken increasingly menacing steps to silence NGOs not only by blocking their participation, but through open intimidation. China, Sudan, Cuba, Libya, and others also subvert the system by creating phony NGOs as front organizations to spout government propaganda and cover up abuses.”