Global Policy Forum

Letter to the Secretary General on Civil Society Participation in the GA Summit


12 November 2004

TO: Mr. Kofi Annan
Secretary General
of the United Nations

CC: Ms. Louise Fréchette
Deputy Secretary General
of the United Nations

Dear Mr. Annan,

The high level segment of next year's General Assembly of the UN, which is starting to be known as the "Millennium Plus Five Summit" will be a key moment in history. Heads of State and governments will gather to review implementation of the Millennium Declaration and the major UN conferences of the nineties, renew their commitment to the goals of eradicating poverty and achieving gender equity and take action to create an enabling environment for development.

The undersigned organizations from around the world are preparing to mobilize on those dates to fight against poverty, demand more and better aid, fair trade and debt cancellation. Many other NGOs will want to contribute on the issues of peace and security, human rights, environmental sustainability and gender equity, all of which are highlighted in the Millennium Declaration. The UN has called upon civil society to rally around the internationally agreed development goals and the Millennium Declaration itself promised to develop "strong partnerships" with civil society organizations and to give us "greater opportunities […]to contribute to the realization of the Organization's goals and programmes".

We are extremely worried that in your recent report on "modalities, format and organization of the high-level plenary meeting of the 60th session of the General Assembly" the opportunities for civil society participation (paragraphs 20 to 22) are restricted to one intervention at the General Assembly and a consultation meeting months before that. The preparatory process for the Summit is being described as "open, inclusive and transparent", (paragraph 23). We do not feel that openness and transparency can be achieved through a process that largely excludes citizen organizations.

The lack of appropriate civil society participation in the Millennium Summit four years ago is one of the reasons, and probably the major one, why it took so long for public opinion to even learn about the MDGs. The lack of political will has often been cited to explain the slow pace of action towards the goals agreed by the Heads of State and Government. And political will goes hand in hand with active civil society engagement and participation. It cannot possibly happen if the same modalities that failed to achieve it in 2000 are repeated in 2005, and if the very same organizations that are supporting the UN work, that have substantive agendas largely coincident with the UN agenda and that are mobilizing public support for the same goals find the doors of the UN shut when they are trying to contribute to its work.

Within the constraints imposed by security considerations and space limitations, different modalities for civil society participation can be established for the preparatory process and the Summit itself.

For example,

i) many of the rules guiding NGO participation in ECOSOC could be applied to the preparatory process in order to make it effectively transparent and inclusive,
ii) there could be at least a one day preparatory meeting (ministerial level) with NGO participation immediately before the presidential meeting,
iii) the roundtable discussions could follow the format of the Monterrey Summit, where NGOs and business sector representatives interacted with the Heads of State and Government, and
iv) there could be at least one NGO representative from each region addressing the plenary (and not one for the whole world) and/or representatives from major constituencies (workers, women, indigenous peoples, faith-based organizations, development NGOs, etc.)
v) a hearing with NGOs could take place in the days immediately before the Summit (Sunday or Monday)

This is obviously not an exhaustive list of all possibilities, but just examples of modalities already successfully tested in previous Summits that could be adopted next year.

Since decisions in this regard will be taken by the General Assembly in the coming days, we hope that the modalities for our participation can find a more precise formulation in the final draft of a resolution that elaborates on the elements included in the report. We further hope that this will allow for an effective and genuine involvement of civil society, which is essential for the success of the Summit.

Sincerely yours,

Roberto Bissio
(on behalf of the following signatories:)

John Samuel, ActionAid Alliance
Nicolas Guihard, Agir ici, France
Ziad Abdel Samad, Arab NGO Network for Development (ANND)
Elizabeth Eilor, Awepon
Bernard Pinaud, Centre de Recherche et d'information pour le développement (CRID)
Kumi Naidoo, Secretary General and CEO, Civicus: World Alliance for Citizen Participation
Jean Merckaert, Comité Catholique contre la Faim et pour le Développement (CCFD)
Fabrice Ferrier, Coordination SUD, France
Simon Stocker, Eurostep
Jens Martens, Global Policy Forum Europe
Cí¢ndido Grzybowski, Diretor Peral, IBASE, Brazil
Guy Ryder, General Secretary, International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU)
Iara Pietricovsky, Instituto de Estudos Socioeconí´micos (INESC), Brazil
Jeremy Hobbs, Oxfam International
Michel Roy, Secours catholique - Caritas France
Roberto Bissio, Social Watch
Martin Khor, Third World Network
June Zeitlin, Women's Environment and Development Organization (WEDO)
Lesley Bulman, Chief Executive, World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts

Roberto Bissio, Social Watch ; Fax: +598 (2 ) 419 6192




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