Christian persecution watchdog group receives UN accreditation despite opposition

(Wikimedia Commons/Kjetil Ree)The room of the UN Economic and Social Council at the UN headquarters, New York.

Persecution watchdog group Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) will now be able to attend meetings and conferences at the Human Rights Council after it received accreditation from the U.N.

The 54 members of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) voted 28–9 with 12 abstentions on Wednesday to approve CSW, which has applied for accreditation since 2009.

In February, the 19-member committee that accredits non-governmental organization voted 4–11 with one abstention to defer action on CSW's application, The Associated Press reported. The move prompted the British-based organization to launch a campaign to get ECOSOC, the committee's parent body, to overturn the decision.

Prior to Wednesday's vote, Britain's U.N. Ambassador Matthew Rycroft told ECOSOC that CSW has responded "fully and promptly" to more than 80 questions asked by the committee members, adding that the group has met all the requirements for accreditation. However, he noted that "there has been repeated discrimination against NGOs with a human rights focus in particular" by the committee.

Rycroft pointed to letters of support for CSW from U.N. investigators and others on freedom of religion and freedom of expression. The permanent missions of the United States, Estonia (representing the European Union), Norway, and Australia also issued statements in support of the human rights group, which works in Asia, Africa, the Middle East, and Latin America.

CSW has recently worked to support the rights of Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar as well as the rights of civilians of all faiths caught in the battle in the Central African Republic.

"This is a significant day for CSW. UN accreditation will enable us to advance our work of promoting the right to freedom of religion or belief across the UN system," said CSW Chief Executive Mervyn Thomas, according to Premier.

"This vote is also a welcome acknowledgment of the importance of NGO contributions to the UN's work," he continued.

Many of the countries that voted to reject CSW's application for accreditation, including China, Russia, India, Pakistan, South Africa, Turkey, Venezuela, Vietnam, and Burkina Faso, said that the committee's vote to defer action should stand because the organization has not answered all the questions from members.

Despite winning accreditation, Thomas said that the U.N. still must look into the issue of the committee's frequent denial of applications of human rights groups.

"While we are pleased with the outcome of today's vote, the questions raised regarding the NGO Committee's tendency to repeatedly defer and deny the applications of human rights organisations need to be addressed," Thomas said.

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