|UNITED NATIONS, June 28, 2018 --"The secretary-general through his action and his words has always defended the space for civil society, the right for civil society," said Stephane Dujarric, spokesman for UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, on Wednesday.
The spokesman made the remarks following Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations said on Wednesday that Washington is downgrading its representation at the UN High-Level Conference on Counter-Terrorism (HLCCT) because the meetings exclude civil society from some sessions.
"It is outrageous that the UN's new (OCT) would choose to make blocking civil society participation its first meaningful act," Haley said. "There is no reasonable explanation for why the UN would seek to censor this conference, except that it caved to political pressure from a handful of nefarious countries with no credibility on countering terrorism."
"This decision is an abuse of the UN's new counterterrorism office and a stain on the UN's record on transparency and civil society inclusion," she said in a statement. "As a result, the United States will downgrade our level of representation at the conference," said Ambassador Haley.
The Washington envoy described the state's possibly pressuring the OCT as, "like Russia, Syria, Iran, Cuba, and Venezuela -- and for which restricting access and blocking civil society participation is the norm."
Dujarric, said there will be more than 60 civil society organizations present for the meeting opening Thursday.
"The United Nations is in fact helping, paving the way for these organizations to ensure that there's broad representation," he said. "There will be over 84 representatives of civil society."
Dujarric said the broad grouping of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) -- indigenous groups, faith-based organizations, labor unions, charitable organizations, professional associations and foundations has "a vital role to play in the efforts to combat terrorism and they will be participating actively in the second day."
The spokesman said "any objective look at the way the conference is organized will tell you that there is actually very broad and active civil society participation."
He described the high-level conference as a whole is "an opportunity for governments, for regional organizations, for civil society and law enforcement efforts to have practical and operational discussions that we trust will lead to real impact on the ground where it matters and forge a new and innovative partnership to address evolving threats, terrorism."
As for Washington lowering its level of representation, Dujarric said, "Obviously, every government, every member state is free to choose the level of representation. We are very thankful and appreciate the US participation in the conference and also I think, very importantly, the U.S. encouragement and efforts and work that they did with the secretariat in creating the office of counterterrorism."
The Office of Counter-Terrorism (OCT) was established by the UN Security Council last year.