UN rejects China’s move to black out NGO criticism

China has been forced to drop a measure at the UN that targeted NGOs seeking to be heard at the world body.

China had proposed for the United Nations to refrain from naming countries that criticise non-governmental organisations during meetings of a committee that decides which groups will be accredited to the UN.

The information blackout would have allowed China and other countries distrustful of NGOs to air their opposition without being singled out in any UN public report.

The United States had sharply criticised the Chinese proposal at the UN’s NGO committee, saying it would be a setback for transparency and openness.

But UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said that after talks between US and Chinese officials, the committee would continue to report on the stance of countries.

“The UN will continue its standard practice in terms of how press releases are written for committee works, which summarises the position of different countries,” Dujarric told reporters on Friday.

Hundreds of NGOs accredited to the UN are allowed to present recommendations on the many issues tackled by the world body, from development to peacekeeping in all 193 countries. A UN diplomat said China had shocked delegations when it proposed to restrict information on the committee’s decisions.

“China has long been pushing to restrict NGO and press access to the committee proceedings. However, they have never made a motion like they did this morning,” said the diplomat who asked not to be identified.

“In an era of global crackdown on civil society, the UN’s NGO committee must set an example for openness and transparency,” US Ambassador Samantha Power tweeted on Thursday. The Chinese mission at the UN declined to comment.

The move to restrict openness at the UN committee came as China prepared to take the monthly presidency of the Security Council for February.

The agenda-setting position in one of the UN’s six principal organs will allow Beijing to highlight some of its concerns at the 15-member council.

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