Global Policy Forum

Amb. Ahmad Kamal


Permanent Representative of Pakistan to the UN

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

December 9, 1996

Over the last 50 years, the Non-Governmental Organisations have changed the landscape of international politics and multilateral diplomacy.

Article 71 of the United Nations Charter established a formal relationship between the United Nations and Non-Governmental Organisations.

The key words for the relationship between the NGOs and the United Nations are interaction and complementarity. Despite positive experiences in collaboration, misgivings and misperceptions persist. NGOs should not be seen as entities trying to supplant the member states or compete with them. They provide useful inputs for policy making, bridge the gap between the UN and its constituents and enhance public awareness of the UN's decisions.

A revolution in information technology in recent years has also brought NGOs, governments and the United Nations closer. Electronic communication, particularly Internet, has enhanced the interaction between governments and NGOs through quick dissemination of information and networking. Even our soundings today were widely covered on the Internet which, I believe, is one factor responsible for enabling so many NGOs to attend this meeting at such short notice.\

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 rule governing the consultative relatinship between the United Nations and Non-Governmental Organisations. ECOSOC's resolution 1297 defined the relationship between the so-called DPI NGOs and the United Nations. At present, the number of ECOSOC NGOs and DPI NGOs is 1,611 and 1,464 respectively.

In the last six years, NGOs have made an immense contribution to the work of the United Nations, particularly at the international conferences on children, human rights, population, social development, women and habitat.

While we were holding consultations on ECOSOC resolution 1996/31, member states felt that the time was right for considering the question of greater access of NGOs to other bodies of the United Nations, particularly the General Assembly and its main committees. On 25 July 1996, the ECOSOC adopted its decision 1996/297, which reads:

At its 49th plenary meeting on 25 July 1996, the Economic and Social Council, reaffirming the importance of the contribution of non-governmental organisations to the work of the United Nations, and taking into account the contributions made by non-governmental 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 organisations 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 organisations and the Economic and Social Council.

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

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 precedure 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).

The President of the General Assembly has reqeusted me to underake 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.

On last Monday, 2 December 1996, I held a meeting with member states to solicit their views on the subject. Today we are holding our first informal soundings with Non-Governmental Organisations. We have tried to invite NGOs dealing with a wide range of subjects, including development, human rights, women, peace and security, disarmament and communications.

The questions before us are:

  • Should we establish a separate working group of the General Assembly on the question of the participation of NGOs in all areas of work of the United Nations?

  • Should we assign this task to the High Level Working Group on the Strengthening of the United Nations System?

    I would like to invite you to comment on these questions of methodology. But, more importantly, I would like you to share your perceptions about the role of NGOs in the work of the General Assembly and its Main committees and the best mode for the participation of the NGOs in the work of the United Nations. The member states are also present here. Your views would influence their decisions on this extremely important question.

    As you can see, there is a spontaneous and enthusiastic response to these soundings. Fourty-one NGOs have inscribed themselves as speakers. Since we have only 3 hours, or now even less than that, I would request you to restrict your statements to 5 minutes or less.

    As there is free seating in the room, I would request you to raise your hands so that the sound technicians can identify the speaker.

    More Information on NGOs and the General Assembly


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