The Chairperson then turned to item 16.a on requests for accreditation by NGOs received since the previous Committee session, and agenda item 16.b on the possible revision of accreditation criteria. NGOs would thus be recommended for accreditation to the General Assembly during its meeting in June 2014 so that they may potentially be called upon by the Committee to provide advisory services as members of the Consultative Body.
The Secretary remarked that this was the fourth time that the Committee had been asked to consider requests for accreditation and that the recommended NGOs would be put to the General Assembly for accreditation in June 2014. So far 156 NGOs had been accredited by the General Assembly in 2010 and in 2012. It was noted that the Committee had expressed concern that there were few requests from NGOs in Latin America and the Caribbean, and even fewer from Africa and from the Arab States. The Secretariat therefore continued to make a sustained effort to communicate to NGOs in these regions and as a result Latin America and the Caribbean as well as Africa were now relatively well represented. Referring to the working document, the Secretary drew attention to the several lists of NGOs and other entities presented. Paragraph 4 listed 10 NGOs that submitted complete requests considered by the Secretariat to satisfy the criteria for accreditation set out in paragraph 91 of the Operational Directives, and were publicly available on the Convention website since mid-October. Paragraph 5 listed 7 entities that did not appear to satisfy the criteria; one organization did not appear to have the legal status of an NGO, while the remaining 6 organizations did not demonstrate proven competence in the field of intangible cultural heritage. Paragraph 6 mentioned 22 entities listed in the Annex whose requests were not completed before 16 October, but the Secretariat would continue to work with them to so that they may complete their requests in time for the Committee’s eighth session. Finally, the final section of the Annex presented 12 entities that had submitted requests prior to 30 October 2010, but had not responded for more than 24 months and whose requests were therefore considered suspended.
The Chairpersonproposed to move directly to the draft decision on a paragraph-by-paragraph basis. With no comments or objections, paragraphs 1–3 were duly adopted.
With regard to paragraph 4, the Chairperson noted that 10 NGOs satisfied the criteria for accreditation. With no objections, paragraph 4 was pronounced adopted.
The delegation of Belgium noted that the hyperlink to the Belgian NGO was linked to the Greek NGO request, which was duly corrected. Paragraph 5 was also pronounced adopted.
With no further comments or objections, the Chairperson declared adopted 7.COM 16.a.
ITEM 16.b OF THE AGENDA:
REFLECTION ON THE CRITERIA AND MODALITIES FOR ACCREDITATION OF NON-GOVERNMENTAL ORGANIZATIONS
The Chairperson then turned to item 16.b and the reflection on the criteria and modalities for accreditation of NGOs, adding that NGOs played a key role in the safeguarding of intangible cultural heritage, particularly at the national level. With regard to accreditation, the Chairperson explained that the specific purpose was to accredit NGOs so that they may ‘act in an advisory capacity to the Committee’, and thus serve as a member of the Consultative Body to evaluate nominations to the Urgent Safeguarding List, proposals for the Register of Best Safeguarding Practices and requests for international assistance greater than US$25,000. Every year, only one or two NGOs would be newly designated to serve the Consultative Body, with a total of only six NGOs serving at any one time. It was noted that the General Assembly had already accredited 156 NGOs, with an additional 10 NGOs recommended for accreditation by the General Assembly in 2014. Thus, in any year, an accredited NGO will have a relatively small chance of being called upon to act in an advisory capacity, suggesting that many NGOs would never serve as members of the Consultative Body and that the procedure had perhaps created false expectations. The Chairperson explained that the current criteria for accreditation were developed in 2007 and 2008 when it was still unclear how the Committee would wish to call upon NGOs for advisory services. It was surmised that the current criteria might not be perfectly suited to the actual context. The General Assembly therefore requested that the Committee undertake a reflection on the criteria and modalities for accreditation of NGOs.
The Secretary noted that the Convention accorded an important role to NGOs, as specified in Art. 9 on the accreditation of advisory organizations and Art. 11(b) obliging States Parties to involve relevant NGOs in the implementation of the Convention at the national level. This includes: the identification and definition of intangible cultural heritage and other safeguarding measures; ensuring respect for intangible cultural heritage; and raising awareness at the local, national and international levels (as outlined in paragraph 90 of the Operational Directives). The Secretary recalled that the General Assembly in 2008 had adopted the Operational Directives defining the participation of accredited NGOs in the Committee’s work, its criteria for accreditation, the modalities and review of accreditation, and the procedures for accreditation (Chapter III.2.2 of the Operational Directives). A clearer vision of the specific advisory functions of NGOs emerged only with the adoption in 2010 by the third session of the General Assembly of paragraph 26 of the Operational Directives concerning the tasks of the Consultative Body, as revised in 2012. Paragraph 26 describes the membership of accredited NGOs in the Consultative Body charged with evaluating nominations and with providing recommendations to the Committee. It also recalled the need to take into consideration equitable geographical representation and the various domains of intangible cultural heritage in the selection of its membership. It was noted that the sole purpose of accrediting NGOs, as set out in Art. 9 of the Convention, was so that they may later be asked to ‘act in advisory capacity to the Committee’. The Committee may therefore wish to consider whether the current criteria for accreditation were well adapted to the specific functions set out in the Operational Directives.
The Secretary emphasized that although most of the 156 accredited NGOs were carrying out extremely important work on safeguarding intangible cultural heritage at the local, national or international levels, a substantial proportion did not have the required competencies and skills to carry out the work of evaluation as members of the Consultative Body since the work required a very good command of either English or French, strong analytical skills, capacity to draft synthetic texts, and ability to work across several domains of intangible cultural heritage. Experience at the international level or the capacity to extrapolate from local experience to apply it within an international context was also considered essential to the work of evaluation. The question therefore was whether the existing criteria adequately distinguished those organizations capable of acting in an advisory capacity. Although the 156 accredited NGOs are very efficient at the local levels, and States may wish to call upon them for assistance in inventorying or other safeguarding tasks, their contribution to the implementation of the Convention did not depend on whether or not they are accredited. At the same time, the General Assembly, Committee and Secretariat spend a significant amount of time on the process of accrediting organizations that were unlikely to be called upon for advisory services, which could lead to disappointment by the NGOs. Another issue concerned the lack of a clear definition of an NGO in the Operational Directives in that the Secretariat receives a number of requests for accreditation from government-established organizations such as academic research institutes, centres of expertise or specialized training institutions, which insist on their ‘non-governmental’ status. The Secretary explained that should the Committee wish to consider possible revisions in the criteria for accreditation, the Secretariat could propose them for examination during the Committee’s eighth session for presentation to the General Assembly in 2014.
The Chairperson thanked the Secretary for the useful background, adding that the problem was clear in that the Committee should consider how to revise the existing criteria so that they better reflect the specific needs of the Subsidiary Body. In this way, NGOs with a corresponding profile could be selected, while limiting the administrative burden on the Secretariat, the Committee and the General Assembly, not to mention the disappointment or frustration of some accredited NGOs that may have high expectations. The Chairperson insisted that the intention was to have a pool of several strong NGOs in every region, so that the Consultative Body could continually be renewed, rather than have hundreds of accredited organizations that will never be called upon to serve.
The delegation of Belgium drew attention to paragraph 96 of the Operational Directives which stated that accredited NGOs ‘may be invited by the Committee to provide it, inter alia, with reports of evaluation as a reference for the Committee to examine’. The delegation emphasized the words ‘inter alia’, adding that the second sentence in paragraph 3 of document 16.b had to be changed to include ‘some’, which should therefore read, ‘A substantially clearer vision of some of the specific advisory functions of NGOs’. The same principle would apply in the second sentence of paragraph 4, which would therefore read, ‘With the emerging clarity on the nature and modality of some of those advisory functions’. The delegation also referred to the sentence in paragraph 5, ‘a substantial proportion do not have the required competencies and skills to carry out the evaluation work’, adding that the evaluation of the skills could not be determined without proper examination of the fact. The delegation therefore recommended that the draft decision explicitly focus on the words ‘inter alia’ as well as paragraph 96 of the Operational Directives. Moreover, paragraph 6 could be deleted and replaced with a request to the Secretariat to invite all accredited NGOs to respond to a questionnaire highlighting the skills required by the Committee before the deadline of March 2013, as well as provide an annexed report on the advisory services they could offer to the Committee.
The delegation of Latvia emphasized the importance of NGOs in implementing the Convention and that it was important to build a participatory culture within the framework of the Convention that should mainstream all the procedures, including independent expertise in the examination of nomination files. However it agreed that certain accredited NGOs did not have the requisite experience to provide advisory services and that an evaluation of their skills should be carried out.
The delegation of Brazilsupported the remarks by Belgium, adding that only NGOs having served in their advisory capacity in the Consultative Body could serve in other advisory functions. The delegation agreed that many of the accredited NGOs would never serve, but that accreditation was an important asset for those NGOs working at the grassroots level. It therefore did not oppose a revision of the Operational Directives to introduce criteria that would assess their analytical and language skills, but felt that it was still important to continue the accreditation process.
The delegation of Moroccowished to congratulate the NGOs for their work in the implementation of the Convention and believed that their contribution should be diversified and strengthened. It regretted that geographical representation was not assured in certain regions, which highlighted the need for capacity-building among NGOs. The delegation also expressed concern on the revision of the criteria since NGOs had already been accredited based on a set of criteria, and any change of criteria would affect the heterogeneity of the current pool of NGOs.
Remarking on the wonderful work carried out by NGOs in the Asia-Pacific region, the delegation of Indonesia supported the comments by Belgium, Brazil and Morocco. The delegation asked the Secretariat to clarify on the proposed review process of accreditation alluded to in paragraphs 2 and 9 of document 16.b, and whether the removal of accreditation was envisaged.
The Secretary drew attention to paragraph 94 of the Operational Directives, which provide that ‘The Committee reviews the contribution and the commitment of the advisory organization, and its relations with it, every four years following accreditation, taking into account the perspective of the non-governmental organization concerned’. This required that the 97 NGOs accredited in 2010 submit a report on their contributions in this regard, which would be reviewed by the Committee in order to determine an extension or termination of their accredited status. With regard to paragraph 95, the Secretary cited that ‘Termination of relations may be decided at the time of the review if the Committee deems it necessary’. Thus, a provision already existed on the revision of NGO contributions every four years with a recommendation to extend or terminate the accreditation.
The Representative of the NGO Traditions for Tomorrow, Mr Diego Gradis, member of the NGO-UNESCO Liaison Committee, acknowledged that States Parties represented the highest international body in the safeguard of intangible cultural heritage, and that the Convention and the Operational Directives called upon NGOs to contribute towards the implementation of the Convention at the national, regional and international levels. Although the actual functions of accredited NGOs appear limited at the present time, paragraph 96 of the Operational Directives anticipated an extension of their functions. Mr Gradis explained that the choice of NGOs among the 156 accredited NGOs to serve in the Consultative Body was the Committee’s decision, as accreditation did not confer rights to the NGO in this regard. However, accreditation by the General Assembly was considered important to the NGOs as it legitimized their action with regard to safeguarding intangible cultural heritage. It was therefore important that the NGOs through its Forum be able to directly collaborate with the Secretariat so as to present their recommendations and opinions on the revision of the accreditation criteria.
The delegation of Turkeyshared the concerns expressed by Morocco and Indonesia.
The Chairperson then turned to paragraph 1 of the draft decision, which was duly adopted.
The delegation of Belgium proposed an amendment in paragraph 2 to add ‘explicitly focusing on the word “inter alia” of paragraph 96’ after ‘Committee’.
The Chairperson noted support from Latvia and Indonesia.
The delegation of Brazil suggested that Belgium’s proposal appear after ‘Directives’, which Belgium agreed.
The Chairperson noted support for the Belgium amendment from Namibia, Nigeria, Grenada, Albania, Greece and Czech Republic. With no objections, paragraph 2 as amended was adopted. With no change to paragraphs 3 and 4, they were duly adopted.
The delegation of Belgium proposed replacing ‘Takes further note of’ with ‘Regrets’ and inserting ‘up to now’, which would read, ‘Regrets the limited opportunities up to now for non-governmental organizations to act in an advisory capacity to the Committee’.
The delegation of Morocco supported the amendment and provided the French equivalent.
The Chairperson noted support for the amendment from Indonesia, Latvia, Tunisia, Czech Republic, Uganda, Brazil, Namibia and Nigeria. With no objections, paragraph 5 as amended was duly adopted.
The delegation of Belgium proposed replacing paragraph 6 with the following, ‘Explicitly requests the Secretariat to invite all accredited NGOs to provide the Committee before the deadline of 31 March 2013 answers to questions about the required competences and skills to carry out the evaluation work described in paragraph 26 of the Operational Directives and annex a report on what advice they have to offer to the work of the Committee as mentioned in paragraph 96 of the Operational Directives’.
The delegation of Brazil sought clarification from the Secretariat on the feasibility of the request, as the format of the questionnaire was unclear. With regard to the proposed wording, the delegation found irregular the use of ‘explicitly requests’ and that the wording of the latter part of the sentence needed editing.
The Secretary was of the understanding that Belgium was requesting the Secretariat to draw up a questionnaire on the skills and competences needed to carry out evaluation work, which the NGOs would complete together with an annexed report.
The delegation of Belgium remarked that the wording was inspired by paragraph 5 of the working document in which it was stated that some NGOs ‘do not have the required competencies and skills to carry out the evaluation work’.
Responding to the remark by Brazil, the Chairperson wondered whether the request was premature.
The delegation of Belgium explained that the questionnaire would address the concern that some NGOs did not have the prerequisites to offer advisory services to the Committee, whose possible shortcomings could include those cited in paragraph 6.
The Secretary wondered whether Belgium sought a revision of the accreditation form that would highlight the skills needed such as language and analytical skills.
The delegation of Belgium felt that the NGOs could be asked to state their areas of competence presented as a series of questions, while giving them the opportunity to explore the ‘inter alia’ as mentioned in the document.
The delegation of Greece shared the concerns with regard to the skills of the NGOs, but wondered what would happen should certain NGOs decide not to respond to the questions. The delegation was also uncomfortable about the wording of the amendment.
The delegation of Latvia supported the idea of having a questionnaire in order to glean information on the NGOs before requesting the Secretariat to propose revisions to the Operational Directives, which seemed even more premature.
The delegation of Burkina Faso wondered whether the questionnaire was necessary given that a provision in the Operational Directives anticipated the re-examination of NGO accreditation every four years, surmising that the questions sought by Belgium might emerge from the findings of the assessment.
The delegation of Nigeria felt that the introduction of a questionnaire was too premature, particularly as: i) a mechanism was already in place to assess the accreditation process; ii) it would overburden the Secretariat; and iii) NGOs should not be limited to the evaluation of files, as they were also important in raising awareness of intangible cultural heritage and safeguarding intangible cultural heritage at the national level.
Despite support from Latvia and Indonesia, the Chairperson noted insufficient support and ruled against Belgium’s amendment. He then turned to the original paragraph 6.
The delegation of Brazil proposed to replace paragraph 6 with the following, ‘Requests the Secretariat to report at its eighth session on the profile of the NGOs accredited and the nature of their work and to propose an evaluation form for assessing their potential contribution to the implementation of the Convention’. The delegation added that the document compiled by the Secretariat would help chart the different NGOs and the domains in which they work, which could form the basis of a questionnaire that would be sent to the NGOs, whose findings could then be submitted to the General Assembly.
The Chairperson noted support for the proposal from Indonesia, Peru, Belgium, Greece, Latvia, Spain, Azerbaijan and Namibia.
The delegation of Morocco agreed with the spirit of the proposal, but suggested limiting the evaluation form to the NGOs directly involved in the implementation of the Convention or in the Consultative Body, as compiling such information represented a huge body of work.
With no objections to the new paragraph 6 by Brazil, the Chairperson pronounced the paragraph adopted.
With no further comments or objections, the Chairperson declared adopted Decision 7.COM 16.b.
Chairperson of the NGO Forum regretted that she was unable to present the statement earlier on behalf of the NGOs, which may have helped the Committee in its deliberations. On behalf of the NGO Forum held on 2 December 2012, she spoke of the role of NGOs and the trust the Committee had bestowed on civil society with regard to the implementation of the Convention whose ‘Community involvement in the implementation of the 2003 Convention’ was the principal theme of the NGO Forum. An immediate concern was the idea of working on tools to share information on the best practices and methods in safeguarding intangible cultural heritage, while the NGO Forum reaffirmed its earlier statements made at the Committee sessions of 2010 in Nairobi and of 2011 in Bali. Presenting the Forum’s observations, she reiterated the fundamental role of NGOs in the implementation of the 2003 Convention as stakeholders and intermediaries with core competences in that: i) they can translate the concepts, spirit and goals of the Convention into actions; ii) they are able to activate, mediate and connect different actors; and iii) they apply a participatory approach and problem-resolving attitude. The Forum recognized that the accreditation of NGOs undeniably stimulated the safeguarding of intangible cultural heritage through capacity-building, while strengthening the networking of NGOs at the international level. It encouraged NGOs, particularly from developing countries, to enhance their safeguarding capabilities and alignment to accepted international standard working concepts and methods, which could continue contributing towards assisting the Committee in the fulfilment of its objectives. Presenting the Forum’s recommendations, she took note of the willingness of NGOs to contribute towards the strengthening of community participation in the implementation of the Convention by: i) supporting and providing expertise in national and international processes; ii) taking into consideration the fundamental role of NGOs for cultural mediation, awareness-raising, representation and advocacy; iii) exploring possibilities at multilateral level to develop the advisory functions of accredited NGOs; and iv) recognizing that the role of accredited NGOs goes beyond the limited opportunities to act in an advisory capacity to the Committee. Thus, NGOs should be considered as active participants in any revision of the accreditation criteria. It was hoped that the periodic reports of the NGOs together with the periodic reports of the State Parties serve as important sources of information for the Committee – a practice common in other UN treaty bodies.
The Chairperson thanked the Chairperson of the NGOs Forum for the timely report, whose recommendations had already been taken into consideration. He spoke of the Committee’s appreciation of their work as well as the need to strengthen the work of the NGOs with that of the Convention so that ongoing efforts continued to engage the NGO community, making full use of their expertise.