Open Statement from the Human Rights CaucusSeptember 22, 2005
Human Rights in China (HRIC) blocked from WSIS accreditation
Call for procedural safeguards to avoid the reign of the arbitrary
Civil society organizations active in the WSIS process strongly condemn the continuous blocking of Human Rights in China (HRIC) accreditation to the WSIS process.
At the WSIS PrepCom-3 opening Plenary, the People's Republic of China (PRC) was able to block a vote on HRIC's accreditation with a procedural maneuver that revealed both the politicized nature of the process and the adverse impact on the WSIS principles of building a "people-centered, inclusive, and development-oriented Information Society."
The WSIS Executive Secretariats list of recommended entities for accreditation to the WSIS was introduced and approved by the PrepCom without any discussion. After questions and concerns raised by the U.S. and E.U. delegations regarding why HRIC was not on the list of recommended organizations, the Executive Secretariat responded that although HRIC had been fully transparent in the application process, its file was incomplete because it had not disclosed anonymous donors. HRIC had complied with all requests for supplemental information, including providing an independent auditor's letter confirming that no direct governmental contributions were received. Yet, HRIC refused to disclose the name of some of their individual donors, to protect them from possible intimidation as well as other risks.
The PRC's motion to raise a procedural objection to any discussion concerning organizations not on the recommended list came after the U.S. motion to accredit HRIC, and was followed by over an hour of debate among country delegations. Despite the PRC's claims to be simply raising a procedural issue in the interest of facilitating a move onto "substantive" issues, it attacked HRIC by claiming it is "against so-called NGOs with dubious governmental links" and described HRIC as a "New York-based organization that has done nothing to promote human rights in China."
WSIS Executive Secretariat's decision not to recommend HRIC for accreditation, and China's ability to block a vote on HRIC's accreditation in plenary raise serious and principal issues with regard to civil society participation in the WSIS process.
Despite a 16 year record of participation in international processes including UN treaty bodies, and the WTO, HRIC's accreditation process was subject to a far higher degree of scrutiny than other NGOs, and sends an unfortunate signal of nontransparent and discriminatory practice by the Executive Secretariat in handling applications for accreditation from civil society, when they face government objection. Also, the blocking of any substantive discussion of HRIC's accreditation sends a clear message that a single country holds the influence to control which voices will be recognized on key policy issues affecting the future of a democratic, open, and inclusive information society.
This reign of the arbitrary is unacceptable and calls for a revision of existing mechanisms for accreditation, in order to ensure full and fair participation of all civil society organizations in the WSIS process and more generally in any UN Summit.
We therefore call for procedural safeguards to ensure that NGOs cannot be excluded merely for political reasons:
- The list of all applications for accreditation should be made public;
- Any State objection to an application should be precisely motivated and send also to the concerned applicant;
- The Summit Secretariat should make public the list of entities non recommended for accreditation, accompanied by grounds for rejection;
Only such natural safeguards procedure could ensure transparency and equal treatment.
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