Fernando Aguirre, president 1992 – 1996

How did MIAMSI become an International NGO at the United Nations?

At the General Assembly of 1992 in Belgium, when the International Bureau decided to appoint me as President, one of the final recommendations by participating national movements was that MIAMSI should seek to become more actively present in society by becoming a recognized International NGO. A similar recommendation existed from the Council of Laity of the Holy See. Other international movements then members of the Conference of International Catholic Organizations already held such a status.

Following up said recommendation we started researching which was the most appropriate way of attaining that result. We identified that applying to the Committee of NGOs of the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) was the most appropriate. We obtained from it the detailed requirements. One of them was to identify the area of activity and interest of the organization, having in mind the promotion and defence of human rights.

As part of the application we had to evidence our legal status and our historical background to demonstrate that we had been and continue to be involved in that area of activity at an international level. We compiled and presented our documents of recognition as an NGO in France and as an international catholic organization by the Vatican. By-laws of both were to be filed together with other documents.

One of the most difficult but at the same time more interesting challenge was to demonstrate our involvement in the promotion and defence of human rights. Since supporting documentation had to be presented we investigated the history of national movements, of MIAMSI and its regional organizations. As a result we compiled documents such as proceedings and conclusions of national, regional and international meetings and conferences. We were able to identify that, despite of national and regional differences, the movement and its members had been and continued to be concerned and involved, in many different ways, in numerous activities and initiatives directly or indirectly showing our engagement in promoting and defending human rights. We compiled copies of all relevant documentation we were able to gather to attach to our application, sent in due course to the concerned ECOSOC Secretariat. Our application was officially filed during 2004, if I recall correctly.

The Secretariat requested certain clarifications which we provided in due course and our application was finally registered for inclusion in the official Agenda of an upcoming general meeting of the NGO’s U.N. Committee in New York entrusted with the approval or rejection of the application.

The final stage of review by the Committee consisted of an audience at one of its plenary sessions, whose date slips my mind. I was convened and travelled to New York for the audience. The Committee consisted of some twenty and more official representatives of governments duly accredited with the U.N.

During the first part of the audience I explained what the movement was internationally, our organization, official recognition and our engagement in this area of activity. Questions and comments from the official delegates followed, which became the most difficult part. At the time there was a controversy between Russia and the Vatican over a Russian law governing church relationships and activities in Russia. The Russian delegate was the first to oppose to our application. Since we had presented our documents of recognition and organization as a Catholic organization, the delegate from India expressed its concern over our “spirituality”, confusing us with movements India promoting “spiritism”, which were not allowed in India. Others doubted of our independence from the Holy See because of the fact that our “aumonier” had to be approved by the Vatican. Our status as an independent “non religious” NGO (private civil association under French law) was in doubt. I did my best to clarify these and other issues in an audience which took various hours. I also mentioned that other similar organizations were already recognized.

The session was postponed for the afternoon after the Secretariat was requested to verify which other similar organizations were recognized. I gave it a list and received the support of the OIC’s office before the U.N. during a visit I made to their close by office with additional information. Some delegates recommended that I talk with key members of the Committee, Russia, Ireland and the U.S. I was able to speak with the former but the Russian delegate refused to talk to me. Various Latin American delegates offered their support. The Chairman of the meeting, from Chile, was very supportive. Finally, the meeting was reconvened in the afternoon and after the positive report from the Secretariat and further explanations, the application was approved by a vote of consensus with the silent opposition of Russia. A very stressing day which I had not expected was finally over. I thought this was going to be a mere formality, but it was not…..It proved to be a complicated debate full of political implications.

Only few days before our next General Assembly in Guadalajara in 1996 and after close to four years of effort we were finally advised of our recognition…………..The official confirmation followed the Guadalajara Assembly and the task of implementing our presence and participation in Geneva was left for the next International Bureau which took over the post in Mexico.