Global Policy Forum

Open Letter to all Permanent Missions


By Thilo Bode


August 31, 2000

Proposed General Assembly NGO Resolution

I am writing to seek your support for a resolution coming before the 55th UN General Assembly which, if adopted, will represent a small but historic step in advancing the crucial relationship between the United Nations and civil society.

The document to which I refer is the proposed Resolution on NGO participation in the United Nations General Assembly, which has been drafted by the International NGO Task Group on Legal and Institutional Matters. A copy of the draft Resolution is attached for ease of reference.

Adoption of the proposed Resolution this year would, in Greenpeace's view, be both timely and appropriate on two particular grounds.

First, the resolution reflects the broad and growing recognition by governments, the public and the media around the world of the key and constructive role which civil society bodies can play in assisting nation states in formulating effective policies and responses to the wide range of challenges facing humankind as we enter the 21st century.

As Secretary-General Annan noted in his Millennium Report to the United Nations, "We, the Peoples", the strengthening of the UN will require the willingness of governments to work more closely with others - the private sector, non-government organisations and multilateral agencies - to find consensus solutions. In this context, Mr Annan concluded that "we must expand the UN's relationship with civil society organisations, as well as with the private sector and foundations".

Our own experience, as an NGO with ECOSOC consultative status, is that increased NGO access has assisted significantly the quality of intergovernmental deliberations. The injection of a wide range of independent data, analyses and recommendations can only promote the quality of government decision making, and enhance the subsequent public understanding of, and support for, new initiatives.

Second, the resolution is both modest and pragmatic in terms of its operational significance. While extending limited consultative arrangements currently existing in relation to ECOSOC to the wider General Assembly structure, it is designed to formally recognise key elements from fifty-four years of existing practice of NGO participation in the work of the General Assembly.

In functional terms, this would enable accredited NGOs to attend open UNGA meetings, receive documentation and circulate their own materials to delegates, as is regularly and successfully done at many UNGA meetings. Although Greenpeace considers the right to speak fundamental to good international decision-making, in the context of the draft resolution we accept reluctantly that this would be for determination by the Chair, and not be an automatic right in UNGA meetings.

Greenpeace shares many of the major objectives of the United Nations, including those of a peaceful and environmentally sustainable future. We have a long track record of contributing effectively to the work on the UN in various fora. On behalf of millions of supporters around the world, I appeal to your government to support the draft resolution so that we can continue to improve and extend the ways in which government and civil society work productively together.

Yours sincerely,

Thilo Bode

Executive Director

More Information on NGO and the General Assembly


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