Europe

UN accredits Christian Solidarity Worldwide despite protests

The Economic and Social Council voted Wednesday to grant accreditation to the organization Christian Solidarity Worldwide which promotes religious freedom in over 20 countries, overturning a U.N. committee's decision.

The 54-member council voted 28-9 with 12 abstentions to approve consultative status at ECOSOC for the British-based non-governmental organization. This means it has the right to attend open meetings and conferences at the Geneva-based Human Rights Council and other U.N. bodies.

Christian Solidarity Worldwide had applied for U.N. accreditation since 2009, but its application was repeatedly deferred by the 19-member committee that accredits non-governmental organizations. After the committee voted 4-11 with one abstention in February to again defer action, Britain launched a campaign to get ECOSOC, its parent body, to overturn the decision.

Britain's U.N. Ambassador Matthew Rycroft told ECOSOC before the vote that Christian Solidarity Worldwide had responded "fully and promptly" to more than 80 questions posed by committee members and met all the requirements for accreditation. But he said "there has been repeated discrimination against NGOs with a human rights focus in particular" by the committee.

The group works in Asia, Africa, the Middle East and Latin America.

Rycroft pointed to letters of support from U.N. investigators on freedom of religion, freedom of expression and others for Christian Solidarity Worldwide whose recent work includes supporting the rights of Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar and civilians of all faiths caught in the conflict in Central African Republic.

Many of the countries that voted against granting Christian Solidarity Worldwide accreditation on Wednesday — China, Russia, India, Pakistan, South Africa, Turkey, Venezuela, Vietnam and Burkina Faso — said the committee's vote should stand since the organization has not answered all questions from members.

ECOSOC also voted 37-0 with 16 abstentions to webcast all public meetings of the Committee on Non-Governmental Organizations. The committee itself had resisted webcasting its public meetings, a widespread practice at the U.N.