Tzu Chi Foundation receives special status at U.N. ECOSOC

Taiwan News, July 21, 2010

Foundation's new role would allow it to provide information directly to the U.N. Secretary-General

Taipei, Taiwan -- The United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) has given the Buddhist Tzu Chi Foundation special consultative status, the Taiwanese humanitarian organization announced yesterday.

The Hualien County-based group has earned an international reputation for its worldwide relief work after major natural disasters, including earthquakes, floods and tsunamis.

Its new role would allow it to provide information directly to the U.N. Secretary-General, governments of member states and non-governmental organizations, the group said. Tzu Chi will also be allowed to participate in all ECOSOC activities, including meetings and budget discussions.

"The award recognizes the enormous contribution which the foundation has made in charity and medical work in more than 70 countries around the world," the organization said on its web site.

The participation in ECOSOC could also help passing on the Buddhist group's experience in relief and reconstruction to the U.N. and to non-governmental organizations, Tzu Chi added.

The group said it would now have the right to attend all ECOSOC meetings and to offer written or spoken reports and suggestions. Tzu Chi relief actions in the field would from now on also receive the necessary assistance and eventual protection from U.N.-related bodies, the group said.

In a message to the organization's followers around the world, Tzu Chi founder Master Cheng Yen said members should regard any suffering anywhere in the world as their own suffering and bear responsibility for providing aid.

She established the group in 1966 in Hualien County, reportedly after a conversation with Catholic missionaries convinced her that Buddhists had to provide more benefits to the local population in the form of hospitals and schools.

ECOSOC discusses international economic and social issues such as the raising of standards of living and unemployment. It holds an annual four-week meeting in July.