The NAACP will be able to fly its civil rights banner on a worldwide stage if a United Nations committee approves its application to become a "non-governmental organization."
The NGO application for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People is in the final stages of approval and should be completed no later than July, a U.N. spokesman said yesterday.
The NAACP is seeking consultative status with the U.N. Economic and Social Council; 2,234 NGOs work with the council in areas such as human rights and international health, economic and social problems.
As a non-governmental organization, the NAACP would not be part of the United Nations. But recognition as an NGO would allow the civil rights group to send representatives to the United Nations, attend meetings of the Economic and Social Council, speak at council meetings and circulate written statements.
Last year, the NAACP became active on the international scene when it helped to monitor elections in Zimbabwe and when a delegation of NAACP officials and black farmers visited Cuba.
During the Cuba trip, NAACP officials and members of the National Black Farmers Association met with President Fidel Castro, who assured them they would be able to trade directly with his nation.
It was the NAACP's first trade mission to a foreign country, an NAACP official said. During the visit, the NAACP met with dissidents to discuss human rights issues.
Kweisi Mfume, NAACP president and chief executive officer, said NGO recognition "would give the NAACP its proper standing and status for participating in international relations with foreign delegations."
He added: "Whether monitoring elections in Zimbabwe or promoting human rights and trade as we did during a trip to Cuba, the NAACP is poised now to become even more effective as an advocate for international justice and Third World development."
NGOs have gradually evolved into a powerful force on the international scene.
A few years ago, NGOs successfully promoted a treaty to ban land mines. The land mine pact, which the United States did not sign, was ratified by more than 130 nations.
The campaign began as a grass-roots movement, and in 1997 it earned Jody Williams, of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines, the Nobel Peace Prize.
Two years later, another Nobel Peace Prize went to Doctors Without Borders, an NGO that provides medical care in countries torn by wars and natural disasters.