Trains and International Diplomacy

I start this piece with my travel from DC to NYC where because I have some time I decided to take the Northeast Regional from Washington DC Union Station, pictured in the header of the last post to NYC Penn Station. My first time taking such a train which was comfortable and had everything needed (except fully functioning wifi) but certain train companies in the UK can take note of this and improve accordingly!

During my time in NYC I will be meeting with representatives from the local level in the mayors office but I will mainly be focusing on the international level whether that is the UN secretariat who manage the system, civil society organisations engaging with the system or the individual member states who make the system they each play a different yet important role. This will expand to the role that civil society also plays in other areas such as in the UN Security Council or through the Youth Envoy. This is why I felt that it was important to provide a background of what the system already was in order to be able to work with the posts coming next week. 

So what is the UN NGO Committee (according to the UN)? 

The Committee on Non-Governmental Organizations is a standing committee of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). It reports directly to ECOSOC, and the two reports of its annual regular session (usually at the end of January) and resumed session (in May) include draft resolutions or decisions on matters calling for action by the Council. The Committee has 19 members who are elected on the basis of equitable geographical representation: 5 members from African States; 4 members from Asian States; 2 members from Eastern European States; 4 members from Latin American and Caribbean States; and 4 members from Western European and other States. The term of office of its members is four years. The membership for the Committee for the four-year term beginning on 1 January 2015 and expiring on 31 December 2018, includes, in alphabetical order:  Azerbaijan, Burundi, China, Cuba, Greece, Guinea, India, Iran (Islamic Republic of), Israel, Mauritania, Nicaragua, Pakistan, Russian Federation, South Africa, Sudan, Turkey, United States of America, Uruguay and Venezuela (Bolivarian Republic of). (As you can see the committee is made up of a range of states some of which support civil society fully and some which are less supportive.) 

The current terms of reference of the Committee are set out in Resolution 1996/31 of 25 July 1996. In its proceedings, the Committee is guided by the Rules of Procedure of the. Council. The main tasks of the Committee are:

  •  Consideration of applications for consultative status and requests for reclassification
    submitted by NGOs;  
  •  Consideration of quadrennial reports submitted by NGOs in General and Special
  •  Implementation of the provisions of Council resolution 1996/31 and the monitoring
    of the consultative relationship;  
  •  Any other issues which ECOSOC may request the Committee to consider.  

Reference and more information is avaliable here

The reason why the international setting and the UN specifically has been chosen is because there has been a range of criticisms at the body such as the politicisation of the body by some members, it not being transparent in its workings or it restricting civil society space in the international system. However the body is also facing it’s own challenges through lack of funding to be able to adequately process applications. While the system may not be perfect there are currently moves by states and others to reform it. 

Overal this week in NYC will explore both local initiatives but also the international system and the way that civil society is being ever more engaged (even thought at times it may not seem it) in the work of the United Nations from receiving accreditation to being involved in UN Security Council sessions. I hope that this information has been able to provide a background to what exists and it’s mandate already. 

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