Oromia Support Group Australia (OSGA) has received UN special consultative status, a significant achievement for the NGO. The status allows the organisation to attend UN conferences and circulate statements at the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC).
“It’s very exciting for us because we were just dreaming of getting at this stage and it has been our wish for almost 10 years,” Marama Kufi, leader of OSGA, told Diaspora Action Australia (DAA) in a recent interview.
It wasn’t an easy path for the Oromia community in Australia to get the highest status granted by the United Nations to NGOs.
The road to consultative status was a long one. OSGA first sent the application in 2009, the decision for which was postponed twice. It persevered through long silences and continued requests for updates.
Marama recalls DAA’s constant encouragement through those tough times: “DAA invested a lot of energy, advice and consultation without hesitating. When we sometimes didn’t hear anything from the UN about our application, DAA would give us encouragement and motivation.”
It was not until July of this year that the organisation received the ECOSOC’s final decision.
With its special consultative status, OSGA can now participate in the work of the United Nations, such as attending the meetings of the United Nations Economic and Social Council on human rights issues. “Any time when we have human rights concerns in Ethiopia, we can report them to different bodies of the UN. Also, we get UN official invitation when there is a conference on human rights issues. We can also send a delegation when there is consultation time, as well as accessing in the periodic reviews every three years, where we can sit down and listen and then answer the questions,” Marama explains.
OSGA aims to raise awareness of human rights abuses in Ethiopia, particularly on Oromo people. It advocates against abuses and violations, based on the International Human Rights Law. Its efforts are focused on ensuring human rights and self-determination for all the people of Ethiopia.
Linking the organisation’s aim and its new UN special consultative status, OSGA’s next step will be to work hand in hand with the UN body in order to have a close connection and a way of reporting the human rights abuses in Ethiopia. OSGA’s members are still discussing the best manner to work with this recognised international body.
Despite being only one branch of a larger Oromo community network spanning many countries such as the USA, Canada and Europe, Oromia Support Group Australia is the only Oromo organisation in the world that holds this UN consultative status.
At the end of the interview, Marama reflected on the importance of OSGA’s achievement for other groups: “This new access to the UN will benefit others who work on the same human rights issue, such as Ogaden and Sudema communities. This achievement is not only for OSGA, but the entire region. We are helping others. We became a channel for global voices.”