ISHR NGO Handbook coverInternational Service For Human Rights (ISHR) has launched its Practical Guide to the UN Committee on NGOs (esta publicación también está disponible en español) – an essential resource for all non-governmental organisations looking to ‘get past the gatekeeper’ and obtain UN consultative status as a means to engage effectively with its human rights system.

The UN Committee on NGOs is the body through which all NGO applications for Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) accreditation with the UN human rights system must pass. This Committee is one of the least transparent and accountable bodies in the UN. ISHR has witnessed first-hand the difficulties that many human rights organisations face in navigating this process.

The handbook is a response to an intense need for information and explanations about decision-making in the   Committee and the overall process of obtaining ECOSOC accreditation. Scores of NGOs have requested help from ISHR with the application and review process. Others have approached ISHR in cases when the NGO has been accused of infraction and is faced with losing or having its status suspended. ISHR receive questions regularly on, among others, filling out the application for accreditation, appearing in front of the Committee, managing constant delays and deferrals of an application, and how to respond to cases of blatant reprisals.

The handbook provides logistical information, strategic advice, and guidance to human rights organisations that wish to obtain UN consultative status. The first chapter provides an overview of accreditation options with the UN, with a focus on obtaining consultative status with ECOSOC. The second and third chapters provide information on the application and review process. Chapter IV dives into the political dynamics in the Committee, while Chapter V provides advice for those NGOs whose applications are constantly deferred. Chapter VI covers key obligations for NGOs once consultative status is received, and highlights the disciplinary sanctions if requirements are contravened.

The effective and active participation of NGOs in the UN human rights bodies and mechanisms is instrumental to the system’s functioning and integrity. NGOs have played a major role in the Human Rights Council and former Commission on Human Rights. They have been essential in the creation of international instruments, the approval of resolutions, and the creation of special procedures, among other advances. This body of work has been produced on the basis of first-hand information and testimonies, which only civil society can provide.

The handbook is a small contribution to assist those NGOs that wish to participate in the work of the UN. Without them, the UN human rights system would simply no longer function.

Download the Practical Guide to the UN Committee on NGOs

See the agreed summary of proposals for enhancing NGO participation at the UN arising from the event here

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