- The Washington Times - Friday, May 25, 2001

NEW YORK — Human rights watchdog Freedom House will have to wait at least six months to renew its accreditation to the United Nations after last-minute questions by the Cuban delegation delayed a vote expected yesterday.

However, a conservative American women´s group has been accredited and two pro-Tibet groups have for the first time been approved to take part in a U.N. conference, over Chinese objections.

New York-based Freedom House, founded even before the United Nations, has run afoul of several members of the accreditation committee, who oppose renewing its U.N. recognition as a nongovernmental organization (NGO).

On Tuesday, the Cuban government revived accusations that Freedom House officials, while attending last month´s Human Rights Committee session in Geneva, had given their own U.N. passes to Cuban dissidents who might try to harm the Cuban delegation.

"Absolutely false," said Freedom House spokesman Michael Goldfarb, who was monitoring the proceedings yesterday. "That is not something we would ever do."

The majority of NGOs that wish to take part in U.N. conferences, treaty-drafting and other activities must be accredited by a 19-member committee of the Economic and Social Council.

A number of nations with questionable human rights records are on the NGO committee, including Russia, China, Cuba and Sudan. Seats on the council, like most U.N. bodies, are apportioned among regional groupings.

NGOs whose accreditation is deferred are not automatically shut out of activities, but must work harder to be allowed to participate. Those with U.N. credentials have entry passes for U.N. buildings and are automatically allowed to take part, to some extent, in international conferences and meetings.

"Membership on is self-selecting," said one State Department official. "If Sudan or China wants to sit on the Human Rights Committee, and their neighbors send them, there is nothing we can do about it."

The United States lost its seat on the Geneva-based Human Rights Commission in a secret Economic and Social Council vote last month. However, Washington maintains its seats on the council and the NGO subcommittee.

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan met with members of the House International Relations Committee in Washington yesterday to mend fences with legislators, who voted to withhold $244 million in U.N. dues until the United States regains its seat on the Human Rights Commission.

Rep. Henry J. Hyde, Illinois Republican and chairman of the International Relations Committee, called the one-hour closed-door session successful.

"It went very well," he said. "Every hot issue that could be brought up was brought up."

Rep. Christopher H. Smith, New Jersey Republican, said he raised the issue of NGO accreditation with Mr. Annan.

"He listened politely. He said the member states decide these things. He did not promise to weigh in. He didn´t promise anything."

The socially conservative Family Research Council learned that a vote on its credentials was also posponed yesterday, after India raised questions about its work against sex trafficking.

But another conservative American group, the Washington-based Concerned Women for America, on Wednesday won recognition from the NGO committee.

Wendy Wright, CWA´s director of communications, said the group — which evaluates the impact of public policy on women and families — has been very active since 1997 in U.N. conferences on the rights of women, population issues and housing.

Two pro-Tibet human rights groups — the International Campaign for Tibet and the Tibetan Center for Human Rights and Democracy earlier this week were accredited by a separate group to the upcoming U.N. World Conference on Racism, marking the first time Tibetan groups have been allowed to participate in official U.N. activities. The Chinese have consistently worked against such groups, saying that Tibet is an internal matter.

• Tom Carter in Washington contributed to this article.


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