Global Policy Forum

Amb. Ahmad Kamal


Permanent Representative of Pakistan to the UN

Speaking Notes for Informal Consultations with Governments on NGO Relations with the UN System (ECOSOC Decision 1996/297)

December 2, 1996

1. You are all aware of the growing importance and influence of the non-governmental organisations in the national and international life.

2. In the recent past, we have worked very closely with the NGOs - at Rio, Vienna, Cairo, Copenhagen, Beijing and Istanbul. At the international conferences, we have recognised, at the highest political level, the positive and constructive role of all actors of civil society, particularly NGOs.

3. Over the years, we have been drawing upon the expertise of the NGOs in the areas of peace and security, disarmament, economic and social development, human rights and the rights of children and women.

4. The valuable contributions of the NGOs in multilateral diplomacy have enriched our experience.

5. The United Nations remains a state-centric organisation. Yet the work of the NGOs has increased the number of allies of the United Nations in civil society. We have also gradually realised that the participation of NGOs facilitates the implementation of our decisions.

6. In article 71, the Charter explicitly recognises the role of the NGOs, but restricts it to the ECOSOC. Article 71 says:

"The Economic and Social Council may make suitable arrangements for consultation with non-governmental organisations which are concerned within matters within its competence. Such arrangements may be made with international organisations and, where appropriate, with national organisations after consultation with the Member of the United Nations concerned"

7. In terms of their affiliation to the United Nations, we recognise two categories of NGOs: ECOSOC NGOs, now numbering 1,611; and DPI NGOs - their total number being 1,464. In addition, hundreds of NGOs participated in the international conferences convened by the United Nations

8. This summer, in July 1996, the ECOSOC completed its exercise of updating Resolution 1296 of 1968 by adopting a new and comprehensive resolution 1996/31 which codifies the rules governing the consultative relationship between the United Nations and non-governmental organisations.

9. While we were holding consultations on the ECOSOC resolution, many delegations felt strongly that in view of the changed circumstances NGOs should be given greater access to other bodies of the United Nations, particularly the General Assembly and its main committees. After long and hard negotiations, the member states agreed on ECOSOC decision 1996/297. The decision reads:

1996/297. "Non-governmental organisations

"At its 49th plenary meeting on 25 July 1996, the Economic and Social Council, reaffirming the importance of the contributions of non-governmental organisations to the work of the United Nations, and taking into account the contributions made by nongovernmental organizations to recent international conferences, decided to recommend that the General Assembly examine, at its fifty-first session, the question of the participation of non-governmental organizations in all areas of the work of the United Nations, in the light of the experience gained through the arrangements for consultation between non-governmental organizations and the Economic and Social Council".

10. The Open-ended High-level Working Group on the Strengthening of the United Nations system discussed the desirability of increased interaction of the United Nations with NGOs and civil society. (Paragraph 13 of A/50/24).

11. By its resolution 50/227 adopted on 24 May 1996, the General Assembly encouraged the High-Level Working Group to consider, in the context of the debate on all Main Committees of the General Assembly, promoting the use of innovative mechanisms, in accordance with the rules of procedure of the General Assembly, such as panel discussions with delegations and interactive debates, with the active participation of the Secretariat and agency representatives, as well as outside experts. (A/50/227, paragraph 19).

12. The President of the General Assembly has requested me to undertake informal soundings on the ECOSOC decision 1996/297 both with member states and NGOs in order to make a proper determination on the methodology as well as on the substantive issue of facilitating the participation of NGOs in all areas of the work of the United Nations.

13. This is the first meeting with the member states for informal soundings.

14. We have to answer the following sets of questions:


- Should we hold a debate in the plenary? When?

- Should the debate in the plenary culminate in a short resolution?

- Should we establish a separate Working Group of the General Assembly on the question of the participation of the NGOs in all areas of the work of the United Nations?

- Should we assign this task to the High-level Working Group on the Strengthening of the United Nations?


A short resolution could EITHER

(a) extend the existing rights and privileges of the NGOs to the General Assembly,


(b) request the Secretary-General to submit a comprehensive report containing (a) an analysis of the existing pattern of relationship between NGOs and the UN system and (b) comments / observations of the member states.

- If we agree on the mechanism of a Working Group, we could discuss all substantive matters within the framework of that Group.

More Information on NGOs and the General Assembly


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