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At UN, Morocco Grills NGOs on Western Sahara, Of Turkey and Armenians

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, January 27 -- In the basement of the UN in New York, countries raise questions about the applications of non-governmental organizations that want to get into the UN. Often these are culture wars, on issues like gay rights. On January 27, Morocco grilled a number of applications for their positions on Western Sahara, for using the word "occupation," for interfering in Moroccan internal affairs.

The US, which last April proposed and then backed off on including a human rights monitoring component in the UN Peacekeeping mission in Western Sahara, repeatedly asked Morocco what its questions were for the groups, so that they could be answered.

Often in the NGO Committee, a country wanting to block a group just keeps asking questions, session after session. Belgium chimed in noting that several of the questions asked on January 27 were inappropriate, in its view.

In the final hour, three NGOs came up for questioning. A "Western Armenians" group was grilled by Turkey about its founding documents, and use of the term "minority." A Christian denomination, Episcopal, was grilled by Sudan. A Norway-based human right and development group, GNRD, was grilled by both Sudan and Israel -- quite a feat -- and then by India as well.

Israel wanted to know what awards the group gave out in Africa, and if the AU had filed a complaint about its staff behavior. The group's representative said they are back in Addis for the upcoming AU meeting (so is UN Deputy Secretary General Jan Eliasson, and US Deputy Secretary of State William Burns and a large team), so all must be well. But what about those awards?

India wanted to know how a previous answer had been stricken; the answer was the person is no longer with the group due to "some incorrect actions." This did not satisfy India, which asked the group's representative to reflect on it before the next day's session. The grilling will continue, in the UN's basement. Watch this site.


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