NGO Committee | Opportunity in upcoming elections to stand up for civil society partnership


In April 2022 elections will be held for membership of the UN’s Committee on NGOs.  A group of national, regional and international NGOs have come together to call on States – as candidates and electors – to use these elections as a means to make real the UN’s commitment to partnership with civil society. #OpenDoorsToNGOs

The ECOSOC Committee on NGOs plays a key role in opening doors to NGOs at the UN by recommending NGOs for consultative status.  The Committee on NGOs has regularly been criticised for a failure to fulfil its mandate and for carrying out reprisals against NGO applicants by denying them accreditation. Elections will be held next April for the 19 seats on the Committee. This is the time for States to fufil their responsibility to ensure NGO access to and participation in UN bodies, as called for in the following open letter to States from NGOs from around the world: 


To: Member States of the UN General Assembly                            

Cc: President of ECOSOC, President of the General Assembly, President of the Human Rights Council, UN Secretary General.                                  


We are one year out from elections to the ECOSOC Committee on Non-Governmental Organisations for the 2023-2026 term. These elections provide states with a commitment to ensuring civil society access and participation, with the opportunity to stand as candidates for membership. They are also the moment for members of ECOSOC to vote with integrity, ensuring the new membership of its subsidiary body is fit to fulfil its mandate.

To coincide with the 75th Anniversary of the founding of the United Nations, Member States recently committed to boost partnerships – to make the UN more inclusive and engage with all relevant stakeholders ‘to ensure an effective response to our common challenges’.  In recommending approval of the participation of non-governmental organisations in a range of UN bodies and processes, the Committee on NGOs plays a key role in facilitating such partnerships.  A membership of states committed to fulfilling such a task fairly and judiciously is essential. 

With this in mind, we would like to make the following recommendations:

1/ States with an interest in facilitating and safeguarding civil society access to and participation in UN processes should stand for election to the Committee.

2/ Candidates should make public the reasons for their candidacy and their commitment to fulfil their responsibilities as members of the Committee, as per ECOSOC Resolution 1996/31.

3/ All regions should put up competitive slates, as the Asia-Pacific and GRULAC regions did in the last elections for the Committee in 2018.  Competitive elections are important to create buy-in to the process and encourage states to be accountable for their commitments.

4/ All regions should make public candidacies at least two months before the elections to allow for proper consideration of candidates. 

5/ All ECOSOC members should vote (and be encouraged to vote) only for candidates with positive track records in regard to civil society access and participation.  Candidates could be assessed in regard to indicators such as support for relevant UN resolutions, such as those on civil society space and human rights defenders; on responses to cases of intimidation and reprisals; and on national level initiatives to safeguard civic space, press freedom – online as offline – and the right to defend human rights.

6/ ECOSOC members should consider introducing term limits for membership of the Committee on NGOs, among other reforms encouraging openness and accountability.  As with other UN bodies, states should be required to leave the Committee for a specific interval of time after serving for a maximum agreed period.  Term limits would encourage greater diversity in membership over time and encourage states to step up as candidates.

The Committee on NGOs is entrusted with an important task in opening the door of the UN to the expertise and experience of civil society partners. It requires members that are committed to fulfilling the Committee’s mandate in a fair, transparent, non-discriminatory, expeditious and apolitical manner. It falls to all member states – as potential candidates and / or electors – to ensure that the Committee membership is fit for purpose.

Yours sincerely,

Access Now

Alliance for Democracy in Laos

Alliance for Equality and Diversity

Asian Legal Resource Centre

Asociación Española para el Derecho Internacional de los Derechos Humanos

Association de Solidarite Aide et Action Enfance Mali-Jiguiya Ton

Association for Community Research & Action

Association of War Affected Women

Bahrain Center for Human Rights

Botswana Watch Organization

Child Rights International Network


Christian Solidarity Worldwide CSW

Collectif Sénégalais des Africaines pour la Promotion de l’Education Relative à l’Environnement

Colonie des Pionniers du Développement CPD

Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative

DefendDefenders (East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project)

Digital Empowerment Foundation

Edmund Rice International Ltd.

Equal Rights for Persons with Disabilities International, Inc.

Families of the Missing

FIDA Nigeria

FOKUS – Forum for Women and Development

Freedom Now

Global Bersih

Global Justice Center

Global Peace and Development Organization

Graduate Women International

Guyana RainBow Foundation (GuyBow)

Helpline Foundation for the Needy Abuja

HIV Legal Network

Human Rights Defenders Network-SL

Human Rights House Foundation

Human Rights Watch

International Alliance of Women

International Dalit Solidarity Network

International Disability Alliance

IFBPW (International Federation of Business and Professional Women)

International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF)

International Planned Parenthood Federation Western Hemisphere Region (IPPFWHR)

International Service for Human Rights

Light Organization for Relief and Development Africa (LFORD AFRICA)

Jerusalem Center for Women

Journalists and Writers Foundation

Jubilee Campaign

KULU – Women and Development

Namibia Diverse Women’s Association

Network of Rural Women Producers

New Future Foundation

Nkomo Organization Inc.

Ohaha Family Foundation

Omega Research Foundation

Outright Action International

Pan Pacific and South-East Asia Women’s Association (PPSEAWA)

PEPA l’Humanitaire

Pleaders of Children and Elderly People at Risk-PEPA/NGO

Refugee Council of Australia

Sahkar Social Welfare Association

Servicios Ecumenicos para Reconciliacion y Recostruccion


Sisters of Charity Federation

South Sudanese Christian Women Mission for Peace

Swedish Association for Sexuality Education (RFSU)

TRIAL International

The Light Millennium

Urgent Action Fund for Women's Human Rights

Unspoken Smiles Foundation

Validity Foundation – Mental Disability Advocacy Centre

Visaka Dharmadasa


World Uyghur Congress

Yemeni Institute for Strategic Affairs

Yemen Organization for Defending Rights & Democratic Freedoms

Zonta International


Contact: Eleanor Openshaw

Photo: ISHR






  • Human rights defenders
  • NGOs
  • Reprisals and intimidation
  • United Nations
  • ECOSOC Committee on NGOs