Global Policy Forum

Notes on The Discussion Held April 28 With Members of The ECOSOC Committee on NGOs


April 28, 2000

On the morning of April 28 the President of the Conference of NGOs, Dr. Afaf Mahfouz, chaired an informal discussion with representatives of member states on the ECOSOC Committee on NGOs and interested NGOs. Approximately a dozen persons attended, including representatives of four member states.

She began with a review of three of the recommendations that she had presented when the Committee met on January 26, 2000:

1) that NGOs collaborate with the NGO Section as the Section develops guidelines for NGOs to observe when they are visiting UN headquarters and attending meetings of ECOSOC and its subsidiary bodies elsewhere;

2) that a special fund be created to assist with the underwriting of participation on the part of needy NGOs from developing countries at key Commission meetings; and

3) that NGOs work with the Bureaus of the various Commissions to establish liaison mechanism which will facilitate the flexible and fair consideration of specific issues which may arise concerning the number of NGOs at meetings, the way in which statements will be heard and distributed and matters relating to comportment.

In the discussion it was requested that the NGO Section share a draft of their Guidelines, which are nearly complete, with NGOs and member states in advance of their publication. It was also suggested that the Guidelines be printed in a form, such as a brochure, which would not convey the impression of being additional rules, since they are not designed to have a status as being officially approved by a body.

Information and reflections were shared about the UN's experience in handling special funds for NGO participants from the South over the past several years, with particular reference to the UN Conference on Environment & Development and related meetings early in the previous decade. Some of the matters which arose or might arise would include:

* the problem of late arrival on funds and their impact on travel and related costs;

* the need to avoid politicization as a result of bilateral donations;

* the need to manage funds so that overruns are avoided;

* the question of where a more permanent special fund should be lodged in the UN system;

* the advantage of establishing regional focal committees to enable the identification of recipients;

* the importance of making ineligible for funding those organizations or persons involved in the selection process;

* the need to identify criteria for those receiving funding;

* the need to stipulate that those receiving funding also pledge to inform and work with other NGOs in the region on the issues considered at the UN meeting;

* the importance of locating accountability in the South for the chosen recipients; and

* the importance of involving new groups and persons in the UN processes.


One government representative expressed appreciation for the initiation of the informal discussions and indicated that a more substantive contribution would be forthcoming.

Another government representative urged that the discussion's focus on the fundamental question of what NGOs can contribute to the work of ECOSOC. In this regard a smaller meeting might occur just prior to the forthcoming meeting of the Committee on NGOs involving NGOs and members of the Committee. (Subsequently, the CONGO president convened a modest such meeting with the current and most recent Committee Chairs, among several other Committee and NGO representatives).

It would be very helpful to have data on what NGOs are doing, the representative continued, to enable governments to make more informed decisions on such matters as whether to grant consultative status.

With regard to practices which were not very useful, the representative cited the evening sessions during the Commission on Human Rights, to be able to deal practically with the matters such as: 1) a lack of adequate seating for NGOs when many UN and intergovernmental agencies' seats were unoccupied; 2) agenda management; 3) management of the speakers' list. There continued to be questions about the contributions of national NGOs in some instances. Another participant noted that many national affiliates of international NGOs were now applying for consultative status, placing greater pressure on the Secretariat and the facilities with questionable substantive results.

It was announced that the UN Nongovernmental Liaision Service (NGLS) will be issuing its third edition of The NGLS Handbook later this spring, a resource which has been much utilized by NGOs in relating to many parts of the UN system.


FAIR USE NOTICE: This page contains copyrighted material the use of which has not been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. Global Policy Forum distributes this material without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. We believe this constitutes a fair use of any such copyrighted material as provided for in 17 U.S.C § 107. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond fair use, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.