Buddhist NGO to establish U.N. representative office

by Hwang Jaw-pyng and Jian Chen, Central News Agency, Feb 22, 2009

New York, USA -- A Taiwan-based Buddhist non-governmental organization will become the first Taiwanese civic group to set up a representative office to manage its affairs with the U.N. in New York, a leader of the organization said Saturday.

Venerable Master Yung Ku, deputy secretary-general of the Buddha's Light International Association (BLIA), expressed hopes that with the establishment of the office in May, the BLIA will forge cordial ties with the American mainstream society.

The office will occupy two floors in a building, with one floor to be used as a tea house in which BLIA-related publications will be displayed, while the other level will be used for office work by the BLIA and other NGOs, he said.

Taiwan officials stationed abroad said that the plan reflects the keen interest of the country's civic groups to take part in U.N.

activities in the areas of religion, human rights, culture, arts and women's rights.

The BLIA was invited last year to an annual conference in France organized by the U.N.'s Department of Public Information (DPI) and attended by affiliated NGOs.

Several other civic groups from Taiwan are registered with the U.N. as NGOs, including the Confederation of Asia-Pacific Chambers of Commerce and Industry (CACCI), the World League for Freedom and Democracy, the SimplyHelp Foundation and the Tzu Chi Foundation.

However, the CACCI is the only Taiwanese organization affiliated with the U.N. that has listed Taiwan as its place of registration, despite the fact that it has headquarters in both Taipei and New York. The other groups have registered through their overseas branches.

A number of Taiwan women groups and scholars are also involved in the U.N.'s NGO-Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) and have been active in CSW annual meetings and forums at the U.N. headquarters in recent years.

In 2003, the BLIA was granted special consultative status with the U.N.'s Economic and Social Council and NGO association status with the DPI.

Apart from its headquarters in Taipei and New York, the BLIA also has more than 170 branches in some 80 countries around the world.