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Access to global policy and advocacy fora: Panos Institute Southern Africa story

“Over the years, my organization has been attempting, without success, to make presentations at the UN Human Rights Council and the UN engagements,“ says Vusumuzi Sifile, the Executive Director of Panos Institute Southern Africa, GFMD Steering Committee member and GFMD IMPACT regional coordinator for Sub-Saharan Africa.

Author: Communications Gfmd | 18. December 2023

The Challenge

Faced with the challenge of accessing these high-level platforms, Vusumuzi Sifile and Panos Institute Southern Africa reached out to the GFMD Secretariat for assistance. Since July 2018, GFMD has held special consultative status at the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), a status that allows member organizations to access various UN bodies and events.

In practise, this special status means that, through GFMD,  a member organisation can access ECOSOC, subsidiary bodies, and human rights mechanisms of the United Nations as well as special events organized by the President of the General Assembly. Special consultative status organisations such as GFMD can be accredited to attend conferences convened by the United Nations.

ECOSOC consultative status

  • 5,100 NGOs from around the world now enjoy consultative status with ECOSOC. The organisations are allowed to participate, present written contributions and make statements to the Council and its subsidiary bodies.
  • There are three types of consultative status: General, Special and Roster. Most new accreditations are in the Special category.
  • You can sort and review all NGOs with ECOSOC consultative status in an online database. Access the database here.
  • General and special status NGOs are required to submit a ‘quadrennial report’ every four years. Learn more.

See more about the ECOSOC consultative status and what this status entails here.

The Guidance

With GFMD’s help, in July 2023, Panos Institute Southern Africa succeeded in organizing a side event at the 54th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva:

”We reached out to the GFMD Secretariat and we got permission to use the GFMD ECOSOC accreditation, and it enabled us to organize what I believe was a very effective side event to the 54th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva on the status of the rights to access to information in Zambia.“

Overcoming Challenges

GFMD assisted Panos Southern Africa in several key areas:

  • Access to UN structure and bodies – GFMD’s special consultative status provides an avenue of access to UN events and institutions.
  • Assistance in complex registration and application processes – according to Panos, other members as well as GFMD’s own experience, getting access to UN events is one of the more complex processes, although it is a very important one.
  • Providing resources – PANOS used GFMD’s resource base, literature and evidence-based information the GFMD has compiled over the years and across regions, which informed their engagement with different stakeholders – diplomats, civil society leaders, and government representatives.

Laura Becana Ball, GFMD’s Policy and Advocacy Manager, assisted PSAf in navigating these complex processes and utilising this advocacy avenue to highlight this important issue of access to information in Zambia.

“There are different forms of participation and engagement with UN bodies and complexity of the application process depends on the type of engagement. We assist members through the process of submitting applications for side events, preparing and submitting written or oral statements. However we cannot guarantee the statement or session application will be accepted,” Laura noted.

Tips for GFMD members

  • Vusumuzi encourages fellow GFMD members to leverage these opportunities: “I encourage colleagues to take advantage of this opportunity. When you decide to use GFMDs channels, notify the Secretariat well in advance and have a clear plan.“
  • Accreditation for a temporary three-month ground pass to access UN grounds and premises requires submitting personal information via the GFMD Secretariat and there is a limited number of applications per year. For specific event accreditation, members can utilise the GFMD channel but can submit personal information themselves.

Did you know?

GFMD has various avenues where members can present their work, initiatives, advocacy campaigns, or concerns to regional or global stakeholders, including the Media Freedom Coalition Consultative Network, Bolstering Independent and Diverse Media Working group of the Media Freedom Cohort and other partnerships. In June 2022, GFMD was granted observer status at UNESCO. GFMD is an NGO in official partnership with UNESCO (consultative status).

See more details about GFMD’s partnerships here and let us know if you would like more information about the engagement with these organisations.

If you are planning a policy or advocacy initiative and believe GFMD can assist with planning and outreach through our channels, partnerships, and advocacy tools, please contact us at: advocacy@gfmd.info.


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