Global Policy Forum

Delegates Sounding by Amb. Kamal:

11 December 1996

Note: This is not an official report of the proceedings; it is a compilation of information obtained from a number of member states after the meeting.

On 11 December, member states held their final round of "soundings" on ECOSOC decision 1996/297 (which recommends the General Assembly examine in its fifty-first session the question of NGO participation in all areas of the work of the UN). The meeting was the third informal "sounding" to get views on the issue convened by Ambassador Ahmad Kamal (Pakistan) by request of GA President Razali Ismail (Malaysia). The first was held on 2 December to get the views of member states (NGOs attended as observers), and the second was on 9 December to get the views of NGOs (member states attended as observers). This third "sounding" was held to allow member states to discuss the issue after hearing the views of NGOs, and to draw some conclusions to be reported to the GA President. This meeting was closed to NGOs.

Apparently, the third "sounding" focused mainly on methodological issues, particularly regarding where the issue should be dealt with. It appears there was much debate regarding whether it should be in a new, separate working group, in the High Level Open-Ended Working Group on Strengthening the UN System (the "Essy Group") or in a sub-group of the Essy Group. The G-77 clearly preferred a separate working group but was ready to live with a sub-group. The EU and Russian Federation clearly preferred the Essy Group because they felt that the issue of NGOs was already a part of the Essy Group's mandate/agenda. The US preferred the Essy Group but was willing to work within a sub- group. The EU apparently had the most difficulties on substantive grounds in supporting the creation of a separate working group or a sub-group of the Essy Group. However, the EU decided to go along with the emerging trend towards a sub-group of the Essy Group. (Generally, NGO views as expressed in the 9 December "sounding" strongly resisted the Essy Group and preferred a new, separate group. However, NGOs seemed to be willing to accept a sub-group of the Essy Group on conditions that it would 1) report directly to the GA President, 2) be autonomous from the Essy Group in being able to make recommendations that can be adopted by the GA without being linked to other issues in the Essy Group, and 3) be open to NGOs.)

It seems that many issues were contentious, but at the end there was an agreement to refer the issue to a sub-group of the Essy Group, while stressing the desirability of some degree of independence and transparency in the work of the sub-group, and achieving some results in the fifty-first session given the urgency of the matter. The technical arrangements of how independence, transparency, and results would be achieved do not seem to have been agreed in detail and are ambiguous. As it is unclear from these agreements whether the working methods actually employed by the sub-group will meet the conditions that NGOs desire. NGOs need to pursue these further.

The agreements reached are to be reported to the General Assembly President, who in turn is expected to annouce them in the plenary.

More Information on NGOs and the General Assembly


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