Twenty-four years after CSI was stripped of its UN accreditation for its campaign to help enslaved South Sudanese Christians, the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) has voted to restore its status.
ZURICH – Yesterday, the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) voted, 24 to 12, with 11 abstentions, to reinstate Christian Solidarity International (CSI) as a non-governmental organization with consultative status.
Christian Solidarity International is an interconfessional Christian human rights group, campaigning for religious liberty and human dignity. It provides aid to victims of persecution in fourteen countries, and works to expose states, ideologies, and policies that drive religious persecution.
CSI was stripped of its consultative status at the UN in 1999, after the Republic of Sudan rallied its allies on the committee to expel CSI. At the time, the Sudanese government was engaged in a genocidal campaign against the population of southern Sudan (today South Sudan), which included the state-sponsored enslavement of tens of thousands of black Christians. CSI’s efforts to rescue people from slavery in Sudan drew international attention to the Sudanese government’s atrocities.
The trigger for CSI’s expulsion was its invitation to John Garang, the leader of the Sudanese People’s Liberation Movement, to speak on its behalf at the UN Commission on Human Rights. Garang would go on to become First Vice President of Sudan, after the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement put an end to Sudan’s 23-year civil war. Up to the present day, CSI has continued engaging in direct action to liberate South Sudanese people who were enslaved in the 1983-2005 civil war.
The expulsion was an early sign of what Professor Olivier de Frouville refers to as the “domestication of civil society at the United Nations,” through expulsions, sanctions, threats, and the introduction of a great number of NGOs “with similar views to those of the States.”
CSI re-applied for consultative status in 2012, but for eleven years, ECOSOC’s NGO committee refused to bring its application to a vote. Rather, each time CSI’s application was considered, the committee would pose irrelevant questions to CSI about its application. CSI would answer the questions, only to receive additional questions at the next session.
On June 5, the U.S. called a vote on the consultative status of CSI and six other NGOs in ECOSOC’s NGO Committee. The NGO committee voted against CSI and the other NGOs, but the full ECOSOC reversed the decision in its vote yesterday.
“ECOSOC’s decision to grant consultative status is a rare positive sign that the voices of truly independent civil society groups are still welcome at the United Nations,” commented Dr. John Eibner, the international president of CSI.
“CSI fully intends to use its consultative status to pursue its calling to speak out for the persecuted, without fear or favor, particularly in cases where their interests of the persecuted run against the interests of powerful states.”