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The United Nations, NGOs and Global Governance

Table of Contents

  • Foreword
  • Overview of the conference debate
  • Introduction
  • The international development agenda
  • The development agenda and cooperation, conference follow-up, and un-ngo collaboration
  • Whither the united nations?
  • Ngos and global governance
  • The global governance agenda and democracy, effective advocacy work, and the ecosoc review on ngo arrangements
  • Strengthening un-ngo cooperation: views from the un system
  • The UN, NGOs and Global Governance: challenges for the 21st century
  • Closure
  • Annex I: PROGRAMME



NGLS's 20th Anniversary Conference on The United Nations, NGOs and Global Governance: Challenges for the 21st Century (see Annex I) was held in Geneva, from 30 October-1 November 1995. Participants at the meeting (see Annex II) included 43 non-governmental organization (NGO) representatives from developing, developed and transition countries, as well as 17 international NGOs and some 20 representatives of the United Nations system.

The meeting was convened to bring together a representative group of NGOs that have been participating in UN fora and events for the past few years, and UN staff with direct experience of working with NGOs. The objective was to address a range of issues and questions arising from increased participation of NGOs in the work of the United Nations in recent years.

To prepare for the meeting, NGLS consulted informally with a large number of NGOs and discussed the proposed conference themes in depth with its sponsoring UN agencies. These consultations revealed a widely felt need to step back from the frenetic activity of UN preparatory committee meetings, international conferences, and meetings of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) commissions and other fora to reflect upon the nature and meaning of the experience of the past few years, and prospects for the future.

The conference addressed a number of key questions on the UN, NGO, and UN-NGO agendas through a series of panel presentations and discussion sessions. How do NGOs understand the international development agenda, the contribution of the UN world conferences to development thinking and action, and the role of NGOs in conference follow-up? And, more generally, how does NGO work at the international level support the work of NGOs back home in their countries? How can NGOs be better organized, more efficient and effective in their advocacy work at the international level? How are the concept and existing practices of global governance perceived and understood? What is the role of NGOs in promoting and participating in global governance? What is at stake in the UN reform debate and process? In light of the ECOSOC Review of Arrangements for Consultation with NGOs, how can NGO participation in the work of the UN be better facilitated and accommodated, and what are the responsibilities of NGOs in this regard? What is the experience of cooperation between UN agencies and NGOs? How can practical cooperation be improved and made more effective? In preparation for the meeting, NGLS produced and distributed an informal background information note on the main conference themes, which is available on request.

While the meeting did not reach consensus on all of these questions, it did throw a great deal of light on many issues involved, and revealed a range of differing viewpoints and perspectives. In keeping with its forward-looking objectives, the conference also identified areas which require greater attention from the UN system and the NGO community if the mutual benefits and gains of the past few years are to be sustained and built upon.

The report that follows summarizes both the panel presentations and the discussion sessions. It begins with an overview of the meeting's debates and discussions prepared by NGLS. The conference was held informally on the understanding that participants' contributions were made in a personal capacity and did not necessarily represent the views of the institutions where they work. This allowed frank and open discussion of the issues posed by the conference agenda.

NGLS would like to take this opportunity to thank those participants who provided background notes, prepared panel presentations, and chaired or reported on discussion groups. NGLS is also indebted to the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) and the Danish International Development Assistance (DANIDA) for their generous financial support for the meeting.

Tony Hill

NGLS, May 1996


One of the most interesting and informative aspects of the conference is that it addressed in a frank way some key, and often sensitive, issues on the UN-NGO and NGO-NGO agenda. Many of the issues are connected to the unprecedented increase of NGO participation in UN events, fora and bodies over the past few years. In taking stock of this experience, the meeting clarified ongoing and emerging issues and identified a number of key issues for further dialogue.

The conference addressed three broad themes: the international development agenda; the reform of the United Nations, global governance and NGOs; and formal, informal and practical aspects of UN-NGO cooperation. The following observations are offered in the spirit of a "chairman's summary" for which NGLS accepts responsibility.

The International Development Agenda

Participants recognised that the series of UN world conferences since the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) have contributed significantly to the shift in the focus of the international development agenda, and the way in which development issues are conceptualised with emphasis upon poverty eradication, individual (and community) initiative and responsibility, participation and empowerment, women's equality, social progress and environmental sustainability within a market-based economic framework.

The conferences have created unprecedented opportunities for NGO cooperation, networking and dialogue at the international level. In a significant number of countries, the preparations for the conferences have brought governments and civil society representatives into closer dialogue and cooperation through the creation of national planning committees and other mechanisms and arrangements.

A number of participants, particularly those from developing countries, stressed the need to establish and/or strengthen tripartite arrangements between governments, the UN system and NGOs at the national level both for conference follow-up and, more generally, to facilitate a more collaborative and effective response to development problems and issues.

The conferences have helped open up space for NGOs to pursue their goals. However, NGOs from developing countries are experiencing a gap between the commitments made at the international level, and the economic and social realities and trends in their countries. In particular, NGOs from developing countries felt that the goals agreed at the UN conferences in areas such as poverty eradication, social progress and equity and environmental sustainability were being put even further beyond reach by the liberalization and its attendant marginalization of countries and poor people, the structural adjustment programmes being implemented at the national level in many countries, the continuing debt crisis of a large number of countries and the precipitous decline of aid flows to developing countries. For many developing countries, poverty seemed to be spreading and deepening and this did not auger well for their development aspirations but was, rather, a recipe for increasing conflict.

Indeed, from the viewpoint of developing countries, the international community is moving away from investing in development to responding to conflicts and emergencies. In this context, the role of NGOs is to inform their partners and constituencies of the commitments made by governments. NGOs also monitor and support governmental implementation of those commitments, and support and implement projects based on internationally agreed upon objectives. Examples of these objectives include sustainable development, the major theme of UNCED and reproductive health, stressed at the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD). In this vein, several participants argued that the current wave of structural adjustment programmes should be replaced by development policies that unleash the productive capacities of the poor by increasing their access to productive assets and resources.

Many examples of NGO follow-up work to the global conferences were described by participants. The nature and degree to which NGOs can follow-up the international conferences depends very much upon the national political context, the policy environment and the commitment of governments. It also depends upon NGO capacity and resources. Support for capacity building for developing country NGOs has to go beyond managerial and administrative aspects to include research, advocacy, diplomacy and negotiating skills. It was suggested that NGOs from developing countries could collaborate more actively in this area.

Many NGOs are experiencing the impact of declining levels of overseas aid and its diversion to emergency operations and to the transition countries of Eastern Europe and the Commonwealth of Independent States. NGO participants from Latin America in particular voiced their concern at the declining levels of official aid and NGO funding for development work in their region. In a number of donor countries, the NGOs that have become too dependent upon government funding are facing considerable difficulty--with consequences for their Southern partners. Because an increasing proportion of aid funding is being directed towards emergencies, NGOs are concerned that more money is being channelled through, and concentrated in, a relatively small number of global NGOs that have large-scale capacities to tackle emergencies.

In response to this new context, many development NGOs are rethinking their priorities, activities and even roles. At the same time, some NGOs feel that the crisis of the aid system has opened up many opportunities to develop new forms of cooperation, both intergovernmental and non-governmental, based on partnerships. In this view, both the concept and practice of bilateral aid has been flawed from the outset, since it was based more upon the commercial and geopolitical interests of donor countries in the post-colonial and Cold War period, than upon the goals of eradicating poverty and promoting development. It was argued that NGO calls for the restitution and expansion of official aid budgets have to be accompanied by demands for better quality aid.

Despite the difficulties, this is a period of tremendous creativity and innovation for NGOs. They are forming alliances with other major groups and increasing their international networking. There is renewed attention to policy-related work, and greater attention to poverty and related issues in the donor countries. Many new initiatives are using alternative sources of finance, such as social and ethical investment funds and micro-credit. The good governance agenda, and increased NGO access to policy-making bodies at the national and international levels, has opened up an important new area of work. NGOs are seeking ways of integrating the various components and dimensions of the development agenda, economic and social equity, democracy, human rights and good governance, and environmental sustainability into their advocacy and operational work. The NGO development agenda is moving away from the North-South "charity paradigm" to one based more firmly on the principles of justice, rights, equality, partnership and solidarity. At the same time, development, or rather sustainable human development, is increasingly perceived by NGOs as a global challenge, no longer confined solely to the countries and societies of the developing world but of equal concern for the so-called rich or developed countries.

Global Governance, UN Reform and NGOs

Participants recognised the importance of constructing an effective system of global governance in response to emerging global social, environmental and other problems, and as a political counterweight to the globalization of the world economic system. NGO work at the international level is a manifestation of the emergence of global or international civil society. While it was generally agreed that the UN system needs to be reformed to better fulfil this role, concern was expressed about the direction this is taking with a decline in the relative power and influence of the UN in relation to the major powers, the Bretton Woods Institutions (BWIs) and the World Trade Organization (WTO). Many participants argued that greater democracy at the international level requires strengthening the multilateral system, greater accountability of the BWIs and the WTO, and greater accountability of the seven to ten major powers that dominate international economic and social policy setting and whose actions have a disproportionate impact upon the global environment for sustainable development.

Several NGO participants who were involved in campaigns for a strengthened UN described the proposals for UN reform emerging from their work. These include reshaping the roles, composition and machinery of the General Assembly, the Security Council and the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations (ECOSOC) as the UN's supreme governing bodies.

NGO priorities for UN reform include democratization vis-à-vis the major powers and international institutions and the participation of global civil society; greater transparency and accountability; less bureaucracy, duplication and waste; more efficient and effective work in development, human rights, democratization, disarmament, peace-keeping and humanitarian emergencies; and maintaining priority attention to the human and development impact of globalization. In this regard, a number of participants expressed strong support for the proposal that the UN organize a world conference on trade, money, finance and sustainable development. They also said the UN should establish an integrated and effective institutional machinery to deal with the "commanding heights" of the world economy. Participants said that 1996-97 will be a crucial time for determining the future shape and work of the UN, and that NGOs that want to see a strengthened and more effective multilateral system will have to engage the debate and raise public awareness of what is at stake.

NGOs recognise that to play an enhanced, and more effective part in global governance, they will have to pay greater attention to the quality of their contributions and to the organization of their participation. Several examples of the progress being made in NGO organizing for international work were discussed in depth. These include the relatively recent phenomenon of NGO caucuses formed along sectoral, issue-based and regional lines around the recent major UN conference processes. Attention was also given to other NGO mechanisms, such as the NGO Steering Committee for the Commission on Sustainable Development, the Réseau international des ONG sur la désertification, the Climate Action Network and the international NGO network established to monitor the Global Environment Facility. All of these mechanisms have been established to make NGO work at the international level more transparent, accountable, cooperative and effective.

Opinions were divided on the value of creating some form of global NGO forum; it was agreed that this proposal requires further discussion. With the ending of the continuum of major UN world conferences and summits in 1996, and the reduced opportunities for international participation, more international work will need to be undertaken at the national level. This will require strengthened international networking and strengthened arrangements at the national level for consultation and dialogue. The coming "end of long distance" resulting from international electronic communications will greatly facilitate this.

While it was agreed that NGOs from the North and South are learning to work better together on global issues, tensions still persist. One recent example concerns the divergence of views between Northern, largely US environmental NGOs, and NGOs from Africa over the replenishment of the World Bank's International Development Association (IDA). It was also noted that a conflict may be emerging between Southern NGOs and those Northern NGOs that appear to be seeking to replace foreign experts from the World Bank and other international organizations in the delivery of services. Northern and international NGOs must accept that Southern NGOs know better than they what is good for developing countries.

The need for Northern development NGOs to pay more attention to poverty and other social problems in their own societies was strongly reiterated by several NGO participants from the South. It was suggested Northern NGOs more actively involve their support base in their activities and could, in fact, learn a great deal about working with people from their Southern partners. With regard to the role of Northern and international development NGOs in the countries of the South, there is a great deal of unfinished business on the North-South NGO agenda concerning the creation of partnership, consensus and solidarity.

Several participants observed that increased recognition and influence of NGOs brings increased responsibilities. NGO information and analysis has to be of the highest standards. NGOs should also be more solution-oriented and less negatively critical. As one NGO participant said, it is not enough to criticize aspects of others' decisions; the key challenge is to develop alternatives that work.

One of the greatest advantages of NGOs compared to governments and multilateral organizations is their first-hand knowledge and experience of people and conditions on the ground. This comparative advantage, combined with the mission of NGOs to explain things in terms of what they mean for the poor, gives NGOs unparalleled insights into the complex political economy of development. Thus, to be legitimate and effective, NGO work at the international level has to be firmly rooted in NGO work and experience at the national level. NGOs must talk the language of real people and express their concerns when discussing issues such as empowerment, sustainable development and equity.

In the context of the UN, and of NGO relations with intergovernmental bodies and global governance, the issue of representativity will remain a complex and sensitive issue both for NGOs and for the official organizations with whom they deal. A wide variety of opinions and viewpoints were expressed on this issue and different concepts of representativity were articulated.

To define representativity only in terms of an NGO's global reach and size of membership was not considered satisfactory, since it denies any vestige of representativity to national organizations which make up the bulk of the NGO community worldwide. Several participants pointed out that different NGOs represent different things in terms of constituency, capacity, resources, concerns, strategy and objectives. Some participants felt that the UN's concern for NGO representativity, while understandable, could be exaggerated. One participant observed that NGOs are not political parties and do not seek political power but seek rather to influence its exercise. Seen in this light, it is not necessary for NGOs to represent particular social and/or political constituencies to have a legitimate role. Another participant said civil society is not homogeneous and it might be more accurate to say that NGOs reflect rather than represent different parts of civil society. At the same time, transparency and accountability were seen by several participants as essential to NGO legitimacy and credibility. Indeed, as long as an NGO acts transparently and is accountable, who is to say that it cannot simply represent itself when bringing issues, experiences or points of view to the attention of governments to enrich and strengthen intergovernmental deliberations?

Since NGOs work on the basis of ethical and humanitarian imperatives (development, human rights, etc.), they do not want to be confused with those non-profit entities that are active at the UN/international level and that represent the interests of the private sector. NGOs are motivated to articulate the views, experience and aspirations of the marginalized, the poor, the oppressed and the exploited. In this sense, NGOs see themselves as upholders of the public interest, although they do recognize the dilemmas often involved in defining this at the international level. For some participants, non-profit organizations established by business to promote its interests have no place at the UN. For others, it is vital that business-based groups participate in policy dialogues and in initiatives to promote sustainable development. Some participants said NGOs need to clarify their relationships with other actors of civil society such as business groups.

While the diversity of the NGO community is its greatest strength, it can also be its greatest weakness. NGOs recognise that in their relations with official bodies, such as those of the UN, the lack of a comprehensive or universally accepted definition of NGO is a source of confusion and apprehension. At the same time, NGOs do not want to be subject to, and restricted by definitions of their role devised by governments or intergovernmental bodies. Nonetheless, NGOs recognise that in the absence of their own shared criteria for defining themselves, they run this risk. There have been efforts to develop codes of conduct, or basic criteria, to define what NGOs are; despite the difficulties involved, NGOs need to make further efforts to elaborate minimal criteria and standards for defining a legitimate NGO.

UN-NGO Cooperation

During this period of reform and restructuring, the UN recognises NGOs and other actors of civil society as important allies and constituencies for its work, and for its capacity to achieve its goals in development, human rights, disarmament, and democracy and to respond to humanitarian crises. The United Nations and the NGO community share many basic principles, values and commitments to a more just, peaceful and humane world. Many, but not all, UN member states welcome the increased participation of NGOs in the economic and social work of the UN system. NGOs will continue to press for participation in the work of other UN bodies, such as the General Assembly and the Security Council, as well as the BWIs and WTO.

The panel of speakers from UN agencies demonstrated the multifaceted nature of relations and cooperation between the UN system and the NGO community. In areas such as sustainable development, human rights, food aid, refugees, post-conflict reconstruction, and regional development, NGOs are indispensable to the fulfilment of UN agency mandates. Examples of increased cooperation between NGOs and the UN system, which aspire to create new forms of partnership, include the Partnership in Action (PARinAC) process, the NGO Committee for UNICEF, and the work of NGLS.

Yet difficulties and misunderstandings arise in UN-NGO relations largely due to the different institutional and political cultures of intergovernmental bodies and NGOs. NGOs are frustrated with the bureaucracy and the heavy administrative requirements of UN bodies, and often fail to understand the UN's relations with governments and the constraints these may impose at the international or national level. In a similar vein, official bodies have difficulties coping with the bewildering array and diversity of the NGO community. At the national level, progress could be made through greater tripartite dialogue between governments, intergovernmental organizations and NGOs. While the UN is an invited guest in any particular country, and must act accordingly, in many situations the scope for increased practical collaboration between the UN and NGOs has never been wider.

Participants expressed concern about the difficulties faced by the ECOSOC Open-Ended Working Group on the Review of Arrangements for Consultations with NGOs in reaching a consensus on broadening the access of NGOs to the UN1. NGOs fail to understand the unwillingness of the developed countries to consider broadening NGO access, beyond ECOSOC and its subsidiary bodies, to include the Security Council and the General Assembly--and, by extension, the BWIs and WTO. While supporting developing countries' efforts to have the Security Council, the GA and other bodies opened to NGO participation, NGOs are concerned about the developing countries' more restrictive approaches concerning criteria for defining which NGOs are eligible, and the rights of participating NGOs. Several participants reaffirmed the commitment of NGOs to seek access to all governing bodies and policy-making fora of the UN, including the GA and the Security Council. NGOs are also seeking greater participatory access to the BWIs and the WTO.

Different kinds of NGOs hold different views on the issues raised by the ECOSOC review. Some international NGOs that have long held consultative status with ECOSOC are concerned that opening the UN to wider NGO access will dilute their rights. Other international NGOs, and many national NGOs, believe that widening access for a broader range of NGOs will better reflect new realities and the need, in terms of advancing international democratization, to hold governments accountable for the positions and decisions they take at the international level. They said NGOs in consultative status with the UN should be taking the lead in advocating deeper and broader NGO participation in the work of the United Nations. Participants agreed that obstacles to greater cooperation between the various NGO constituencies that participate in the work of the UN need to be addressed. They also said different NGO constituencies need to develop greater understanding, trust and solidarity in their work at the international level. Whatever the outcomes of the ECOSOC review, the UN system should maintain a flexible approach in its relations and cooperation with NGOs, and to NGO participation in the fora and bodies of the UN. The range of formal and informal arrangements should depend on the context and the nature of the cooperation.


1. ECOSOC established the working group in 1993 to review, in light of the experiences gained at UNCED, policies, legislation and procedures concerning the formal relationship of consultative status between NGOs, ECOSOC, and its subsidiary bodies. (The original procedures were established in ECOSOC Resolution 1296 of May 1968.) The working group has met several times but has yet to complete its work. A number of participants at the NGLS conference have been participating actively in the review and took the opportunity to address this topic.


The meeting was opened by Tony Hill, Coordinator of NGLS, who recalled some of the highlights of NGLS's history and briefly described the evolution of relations between the UN system and NGOs over that period.

NGLS was created 20 years ago by a network of forward-looking UN staff and NGO activists who recognized the value of establishing an inter-agency, system-wide unit to work with NGOs. Rather than managing formal relationships, the unit would seek to collaborate actively with NGOs, particularly in the so-called "developed" countries, engaged in development education, campaigning and policy advocacy work on development issues of concern to the UN system.

Since that time, NGLS has played a pioneering role in facilitating NGO awareness of, and access to, the UN system, and advocating, within the system, broader and deeper cooperation with the NGO community. In the early years, NGLS introduced NGOs to the UN system by organizing thematic conferences in North America and national consultations in Europe. NGLS also played a vital role in helping NGOs participate in the major UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) North-South development conferences and other important UN events.

During the 1980s, NGLS developed its information outreach and publishing capacity, and continued to advocate within the UN for closer cooperation with NGOs. Important contributions of NGLS included its support for the NGO dimension of the 1986-1990 UN Programme of Action for African Economic Recovery and Development (UNPAAERD), the 1987 conference it organized with Oxfam, UNICEF and the World Bank on debt, adjustment and the needs of the poor, which contributed enormously to NGO work on structural adjustment; and the 1988 UNCTAD-NGO consultation NGLS organized on the Uruguay Round of trade negotiations, which made a decisive contribution in developing NGO work on the Uruguay Round and the World Trade Organization.

During the late 1980s and early 1990s, NGLS broadened its cooperation with NGOs from developing and transition countries. It also played a major role in facilitating NGO participation in the cycle of UN world conferences that began with UNCED in 1992. NGLS informed NGOs about the conference, managed funds to finance NGO participation, and supported the work of NGOs with a wide range of activities. NGLS has continued to help sponsoring UN agencies develop their own relations with the NGO community. Today, NGLS executes a highly appreciated information outreach programme with the publications Go Between, Roundup and E&D File and its directories. NGLS continues to publish innovative and challenging thinking on the UN, NGOs and development issues.

The key contributions of UN and NGO representatives to the work of NGLS over the past twenty years are far too long to list. But certain exceptional contributions must be mentioned, such as those of Ross Mountain and Angus Archer, who established NGLS in Geneva and New York respectively back in 1975 and 1976; and Thierry Lemaresquier, who as NGLS Coordinator until 1991, oversaw the consolidation of the then separate and autonomous NGLS offices in New York and Geneva into a single operation. Other important participants in NGLS's history are Michael McCoy, Susan Bovay and Jeanne Vickers, who all remain actively committed to stronger UN-NGO cooperation. NGLS also benefits from the support of numerous key figures and leaders in the UN system and the NGO community, and relies on its small, dedicated and excellent staff in Geneva and New York.

NGOs, in particular international ones, have been part of the UN landscape since it was created in 1945. They have played a vital role in influencing the UN agenda in areas such as human rights, disarmament, development, women's equality and the environment. In the 1990s, NGO interest and participation in the work of the UN has been growing enormously. NGOs, especially from developing countries, want to take part in shaping international policies and actions that affect their countries, and contribute to international dialogue on issues NGOs address in their work. Increased NGO interest and participation in the work of the UN has been most visible during UN world conferences since preparatory work for UNCED began in 1990. In fact, the substantive outcomes of recent UN conferences have been unprecedentedly influenced by the participation of NGOs, whose presence has increased the transparency and accountability of multilateral decision making and has contributed to international democratisation.

In addition to the major world conferences, NGOs have become more present across the entire UN system, including the commissions of ECOSOC, some governing bodies of UN system agencies, and in many areas of the UN system's work, such as development cooperation and policy negotiation, emergency operations and human rights. Most UN bodies and agencies concerned with economic and social development, and environmental sustainability, are reviewing and upgrading their policies and approaches to cooperation with NGOs.

The theme of the NGLS 20th anniversary conference was chosen, in line with NGLS's role and mandate, to enable participants to take stock of UN-NGO cooperation over the past few years. In particular, participants were asked to discuss ways of strengthening the role of NGOS at the international level, identify successful cases of UN-NGO cooperation, and explore how the NGO community and the UN system can improve cooperation in pursuit of their common goals.


Panel Presentations

Betty Plewes (Canada) said Canadian development NGOs, active at the international level, are concerned with several key issues on the international agenda: how to make the international system and the UN more coherent and effective in achieving sustainable human development; ensure governments respond adequately to the challenges of achieving sustainable human development; tame the destructive forces of the free market and promote global social and environmental equity; and build a new system of global governance and define the strategic role of NGOs in strengthening global civil society.

Dramatic changes are taking place in Canada's politics. In the post-Cold War period, the country has become overwhelmingly concerned with domestic issues, particularly the economy and national political unity. Canadian development policy retains a number of positive features, including a strong commitment to multilateralism, and a pledge to allocate 25% of Canadian overseas aid to meeting basic needs. More opportunities also exist for NGOs to enter into dialogue with the government. On the other hand, the government's efforts to reduce its budget deficit have cut the aid budget disproportionately.

In the recent official review of Canada's foreign policy, unprecedented emphasis was given to Canadian jobs and prosperity. Canada's trade and commercial interests are eclipsing the humanitarian internationalism that previously provided the framework for foreign policy. Bilateral aid is receiving priority over multilateral aid, and contributions to the UN and World Bank are likely to be cut back. Public support for development cooperation, while not disappearing, is softening.

Canadian NGOs consider the situation to be serious. Large cuts in government financial support to NGOs have been devastating, particularly for development education work and provincial and thematic NGO coordinating bodies. Government policy towards NGOs is becoming more directive and less sensitive to NGO goals and approaches.

Many development NGOs in Canada were built around the aid budget, but this budget could disappear altogether. Canadian NGOs are reflecting on their role, their relations with government, and their resource base. Their priorities will probably be to strengthen public support for development cooperation while developing strategies for more effective collaboration, particularly in advocacy work on national aid and cooperation policies.

John Clark (United Kingdom) said a crisis is indeed looming in the traditional role of Northern NGO donors as conduits for official development assistance. At the same time, the good governance agenda, the key theme of the international development community in the 1990s, is opening up an exciting agenda for NGOs since it emphasizes the political elements of development: accountability, transparency, pluralism, rule of law, and public efficiency. Traditional ways of thinking along left-right and North-South lines cannot capture this new agenda. The positive changes taking place at the World Bank are a result of the good governance agenda and its emphasis on transparency, accountability and the right of people to seek redress. In preparing its country assistance strategies, the Bank will now seek to include dialogue with civil society organizations.

NGOs, influential agents of civil society, have been advocating many of the Bank's reforms. As a result of their experience, NGOs have developed a social analysis and understand the complex political economy of development. But this increased influence brings increased responsibilities, and in taking up the good governance agenda NGOs face a number of challenges. Their advocacy work must be based on accurate information and objective analysis. Since public support for development is eroding due to constant emphasis on failed development attempts, NGOs should illustrate some of the things that could be achieved and advocate better development.

A strength of the NGO community is its capacity to link micro- and macro-levels of development and bring grassroots experiences to international development debates. However, too much international NGO networking and advocacy work is top-down in nature; NGO work should be linked more closely to grassroots experience. In the past, development NGOs used the slogan "Think globally, act locally;" in today's globalizing world, it is equally appropriate to use "Think locally, act globally."

Magdi Ibrahim (Egypt) said it is difficult to establish a real articulation between the international development agenda identified by UN world conferences and the reality in the South. There has been a shift at the international level from investing in development to responding to conflicts emerging from socio-political unrest and situations of extreme poverty. This has led to cultural, ethnic and religious extremism. While the UN cycle of conferences emphasises social needs and rights and environmental sustainability, many parts of the South must give priority to the impacts of globalization, an unmanageable debt burden, structural adjustment policies, and reduced state investment in vital social sectors. The UN Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD) provides some space for views from the South on these economic and social realities.

Civil society should help shape national development strategies. Often, public authorities in the South consider people's initiatives a threat, rather than a component of, their development strategy. NGOs should be seen as complementing, not competing with, national development strategies. NGOs should cooperate and develop partnerships, particularly with local authorities; but NGOs should not allow themselves to be used by the state as low-cost alternatives to service and welfare delivery. Nor should NGOs allow themselves to be donor-driven and risk losing their voluntary spirit. The reality of work in the South does not allow for a sector-by-sector approach.

Carmen Rosa Balbi (Peru) reiterated the problem of contradictory principles and goals adopted by UN world conferences, such as the World Summit for Social Development (WSSD) on poverty eradication, employment and social inclusion, and the economic and social realities of Peru.

Poverty has increased in the face of structural adjustment policies and financial conditionality. Peru has been expanding its traditional exports, which has created high gross domestic product (GDP) growth rates. However, this has not created jobs in a country where 50% of the work force is employed in the informal sector. More than half of Peru's 23 million people live in poverty, and attempting to promote their social integration into the current pattern of development is wishful thinking. Liberalization of the economy has eroded the government's ability to take decisions in these areas. NGOs are trying to ensure that economic growth supports and promotes social development and the eradication of poverty. Peru has resources to invest in social development, but this requires a new pattern of development and new priorities. NGOs must use the declaration adopted at the WSSD to raise awareness about social issues and hold governments accountable to their commitments.

Mervat Rishmawi (Palestine) said that in the context of the struggle for Palestine, it is impossible to separate human rights issues from development issues. Development is the realization of political, economic, social and cultural rights. Progress in achieving development facilitates the realization of human rights, while progress in realizing human rights contributes to development. These two agendas--development and human rights--are brought together by monitoring government expenditures and performance in areas with established rights, such as women's equality, health, and education. Despite its commitment to the indivisibility of human rights, the UN's development and human rights approaches are fragmented, and there is clearly some resistance to coordination among different UN bodies.

International NGOs have paid considerable attention to the work of the UN Commission on Human Rights. Yet few NGOs attend the meetings of the human rights sub-commissions and committees, and there is not enough coordination and consultation between those that do attend and other national NGOs. Nor is there enough follow-up to the various conferences and policy decisions. NGOs could do much more to explain to the public the commitments undertaken by their governments in conferences, conventions, and treaties. National NGOs that do engage in follow-up may find themselves trying to move things forward on the ground in isolation from governments that do not honour these commitments.

A more comprehensive approach is needed to tackle the current development and human rights agendas. NGOs should consider establishing reverse conditionality in their relations with donors. They should also use the UN system more. The ECOSOC review on NGOs must maintain access to the UN for any competent national, regional or international NGO that has a relevant contribution to make to the substantive deliberations of the UN.

Nelcia Robinson (St. Vincent and Grenadine) spoke of the contributions made by the ICPD and the Fourth World Conference on Women (FWCW) to women's equality agendas at the national level. At both these conferences, the Women's Caucus played a very influential role. In Cairo, NGOs were a key force behind defining family planning within the broader context of women's reproductive rights. Combined with the adoption of policy measures to address the twelve central areas of concern voiced at Beijing, these two conferences represent a comprehensive commitment to change.

At the national level, NGOs must advocate and monitor government implementation of the conference agreements. In addition, NGOs should share information and educate communities about commitments made by their governments. Seventy per cent of the world's poorest people are women, but achieving their equality requires the involvement of men, and a higher profile for youth. A key issue for national NGOs remains how to gain access to official resources for conference follow-up without being co-opted or diverted from their mission.


Following the panel presentations the floor was opened for discussion. What follows is a summary of the observations, viewpoints and recommendations made in the discussion.

While NGOs in the United Kingdom are campaigning against cuts to the national aid budget, they remain optimistic that the sustainable development agenda can continue moving forward. In Germany, aid is being cut back, with priority being giving to bilateral over multilateral aid. German NGOs question the value of participating in the big international conferences, and are concentrating their efforts at the national level. In December 1995, German development NGOs set up an assembly called VENRO (Verband Entwicklungspolitik Deutscher Nichtregierungsorganisationen) to develop joint positions and policies for development advocacy work targeted at the federal government.

In Switzerland, where the aid budget is also being cut, Swiss NGOs are likewise concentrating their efforts at the national level, and working to improving direct cooperation with NGOs and other social groups in the South.

In the United States, communities have suffered their own version of structural adjustment for 15 years. During that time, the US domestic social budget has been destroyed. The priority for many NGOs and community groups now is to build a progressive movement over the next 20 years from the grassroots up. They have used Agenda 21 to develop a widespread concern about sustainable communities and to link experience and work at the national level with the debate on sustainability at the international level.

In Norway, government support for NGO work remains strong; the WSSD resulted in new kinds of dialogue between NGOs and the government. Electronic communications are being used to strengthen collaborative NGO work.

Should Northern NGOs bear some responsibility for the decline in their governments' support for development? Have they been too kind in accommodating governments, while forgetting the needs of the people who empowered them to make demands upon the governments? Have they contributed to the undermining of public support by emphasising the shortcomings and weaknesses of official aid? In the North, environmental organizations can influence governments because their citizens are directly concerned about issues such as environmental pollution. But the development agenda has not yet captured public imagination in the same way. At the same time, environmental organizations learned at UNCED that there are no purely environmental solutions; they are now refocusing their efforts on sustainable development strategies. The NGO development agenda should move away from the North-South charity paradigm, since the North faces its own challenging development agenda, and all parts of the world must respond to the growing social and other problems linked to globalization. Northern NGOs could learn from their Southern partners, and from other social movements in the North, about working with people and actively involving their support base in their activities.

European and North American NGOs are reducing their funding support for Latin American NGOs and giving greater priority to Africa and the transition countries of Central and Eastern Europe. Some of the vacuum is being filled by funding from the World Bank, the Inter-American Development Bank and others. How are these changes affecting the Latin American NGO community? Official aid can severely distort the work of the NGO community and several examples of NGO co-option were described.

The shift of resources from development to emergency work poses a great challenge to development NGOs and to UN agencies such as the World Food Programme (WFP), which now allocates far more of its resources to emergencies than to development initiatives. At the same time, a few large humanitarian NGOs are capturing a significant and growing share of financial aid.

The way NGOs define themselves in relation to the state is crucial. In the North, society came first and then created the state. In many parts of the South, the state came first and created society, at the service of the state. In these cases the relationships between the state and civil society need to be turned around so that the state serves civil society. Yet, global processes are weakening the power of the state. NGOs must find ways of dealing with the economic power of transnational corporations (TNC), and may have to join forces with governments to ensure the transparency and accountability of TNCs. The UN's competence in global economic policy issues is being undermined, and its role in international economic policy making is being weakened to the benefit of the BWIs and WTO. This is unacceptable for those concerned with democratizing international economic decision making. These institutions should be accountable to the international community and the people they seek to support in developing and transition countries.

The UN is in a political crisis and is seeking NGO support to help revitalize its policy making. NGOs must be clear about their role within the UN context; they are not governments and have very different responsibilities. NGOs must challenge current orthodox thinking on development and set an example in promoting partnership, equality and solidarity. There are many countries today where the economy is being liberalized and privatized with no corresponding opening of political and public life for civil society. Structural adjustment should be replaced by economic reforms that do more to unleash the capacity of the poor by increasing their access to productive assets. Though not as strong as it could be, the language on structural adjustment agreed at the WSSD is helpful to NGOs who want to push the debate forward.

NGOs inevitably play a political role in responding to a political issue like poverty. In the South, some NGOs are more popular than governments because of the services the NGOs deliver. Southern NGOs face a complex political situation with regard to North-South issues such as the replenishment of the funds of the World Bank's IDA. The NGOs support their governments' calls for replenishment and are critical of Northern NGOs who oppose the replenishment. Defending a national position may mean agreeing with government, which leaves NGOs open to the charge of being collaborationist. At the same time, NGOs are not always trusted by governments, who sometimes see NGOs as a threat. A conflict may be emerging between Southern NGOs and those Northern NGOs who are replacing foreign experts from the World Bank and other international agencies in delivering services. Partnership is an alternative to this, since citizens of developing countries must decide what is best for their nations.


Discussion Groups

Three discussion groups made up the afternoon session:

  • linking work at the international and national levels and follow-up to UN world conferences;
  • responding to the international agenda and the crisis in development cooperation; and
  • strengthening UN-NGO collaboration for sustainable, human-centred development.

The following summary highlights the main observations, viewpoints and recommendations arising from these discussion groups.

Some NGOs question the importance of participating in UN conferences. While presenting a great opportunity for NGO networking, the conference outcomes are not binding and are based on consensus--often the lowest common denominator. Do the conferences take NGOs away from their real work at the national and local levels? On the other hand, other NGOs feel that the UN conferences are extremely important because they set international standards against which governments and other stakeholders are held accountable. Thus, it is vital that NGOs participate in UN conferences, at least to prevent the erosion of established principles. One example is the Asian NGO declaration for the 1993 World Conference on Human Rights, which endorsed the universality and indivisibility of human rights, making it difficult for governments in the region to reject this approach. Another useful function of international conferences is to put issues on the international and public agenda. Simply put, the international conferences organized by the UN "help to keep the world together."

NGOs have become much more effective and influential in placing issues on the international agenda and into negotiated intergovernmental texts, but many remain ill-prepared in following up on international decision-making processes. Some NGOs are issue-oriented and effective at lobbying but lack a strong base or field presence. Other NGOs are strong at the local level but inexperienced in international advocacy work. Nor do all NGOs have extensive relations with other NGOs. National NGO networks are perhaps the best-placed mechanisms for follow-up to international conferences, but NGOs involved at the international level often do not report back, or do so only rarely. There is a great need for consultation mechanisms at the national level between NGOs that are internationally active and other national NGOs and local organizations. This would help address the issue of accountability and provide a framework for concerted follow-up.

While networking and cooperation between NGOs and other community organizations at the national level are important, these efforts have been hampered by competition among NGOs for funding. Donor funding policies are not helpful since they largely follow the "project" approach, which makes it difficult to fund processes. Democratizing the NGO movement will, however, require considerable investment in processes leading to consultation, transparency and accountability. Donors might, however, be interested in supporting effective consultative structures and systems.

For NGOs, particularly from developing countries, translating the agreements reached at UN conferences into their national context is a daunting problem. Yet, there are also many examples of how international work opens up space at the national level to move the development agenda forward. It is necessary to be creative and ensure people know about and own those international decisions with the potential to improve their lives.

UN conferences have produced a wide range of proposals and recommendations, many of which NGOs support. Tripartite relationships between governments, the UN and NGOs should be established at the national level to implement conference follow-up. It is wrong to say that lack of resources is the only factor impeding conference follow-up in the South. In a country like Mexico, the use of resources to pay off an unjust debt burden is the issue. People in the South are already extensively engaged at the national level in issues including desertification, biodiversity and sustainable agriculture, without necessarily knowing that these issues are being discussed in the international arena as sustainable development. Progress in formulating sustainable human development indicators has opened up new avenues for NGO monitoring work.

In France, the United Kingdom and the United States there are extensive and dynamic processes of follow-up to the Earth Summit and subsequent UN conferences involving major groups and others. In these countries, creating local Agenda 21s, which integrate the results of subsequent UN conferences, is an extremely important focus for public mobilization and citizen participation. In Nepal, NGO follow-up to UNCED includes sensitizing and helping the media disseminate, in different national languages, new ideas on sustainability emerging from the international conferences. In India, NGOs played a key role in the decision to establish a National Commission on Social Development in follow-up to the WSSD. The proposal has been introduced into Parliament and a working group is studying the required legal and constitutional changes. Among other things, the new commission would monitor the spending of India's state governments on social objectives.

Some NGOs see a contradiction between the social objectives and goals agreed to at UN conferences and the real social impact of the global economy. Instead of the new and additional resources called for at UNCED and other conferences, new and additional budget cuts are being made. The international economic system, now in a phase of globalization, is neither just nor equitable. NGOs should support a world conference on Money, Trade and Finance, an idea put forth by some governments, to address this issue.

While many NGOs participate in UN conferences and their accompanying NGO forums, there is much less NGO presence in the ongoing work of the UN. Some international NGOs face criticism from their memberships and from other organizations for not facilitating more ongoing NGO participation at the international level. International NGOs should do more to empower their members and other organizations; in the long run, this would strengthen international NGOs. A new willingness among human rights NGOs to cooperate and network emerged at the 1993 Vienna Conference.

While there is an aid crisis, some NGOs feel that cooperation based on the aid relationship is already flawed because of the commercial and foreign policy interests of donor countries. There may now be an opportunity to reduce aid dependence and even develop new institutions for cooperation. The aid crisis is impacting the NGO community in a number of ways. Some Northern NGOs that are highly dependent upon government funding are facing difficulties, while in the South, the reduction and redirection of official aid flows may increase competition between NGOs and governments. NGOs that are clear about their mission, role and constituency are better able to confront the challenge of declining official aid. Problems arise when NGOs take on traditional government roles in order to maintain their funding.

NGOs must find common ground for a strategic response to the aid crisis, based on the principles of empowerment and democracy. With the South defining its own priorities, Northern NGOs need stronger links with people's initiatives and popular movements in their own societies. Development is not just an issue for the South, but a global problem. If NGOs advocate for increased aid, they must pay more attention to its quality.

In response to the need for coordination, transparency and accountability, NGOs have established new mechanisms such as the NGO Steering Committee for the Commission on Sustainable Development and the Réseau International des ONG sur la Désertification (RIOD). RIOD was established by NGOs to contribute to the implementation of the desertification convention. In order to remain a member, participants must practically demonstrate their commitment and contributions to the work of the network.

The Partnership in Action (PARinAC) process, undertaken over the last two years by UNHCR and the International Council of Voluntary Agencies (ICVA), and involving many NGOs worldwide, is an important example of UN-NGO consultation and dialogue on UN-NGO cooperation. NGLS is also playing a valuable role in facilitating NGO participation in UN events and processes and should explore the possibility of strengthening its presence in the South. NGLS might also consider compiling and making available the commitments agreed to at various UN conferences, as well as information on the "best practices" of UN-NGO cooperation.

NGOs are concerned that the UN considers non-profit business organizations to be on a par with NGOs. For some NGOs, these business groups have no place in international policy dialogue, since they do not represent the public interest. For others, it is strategically vital to involve the business community in honouring the commitments made at world conferences. NGOs must be clear about their own definition of themselves, or governments will devise a definition for them. Attempting to define who, or what, NGOs represent is a complex and sensitive question. What is the meaning of the term NGO when NGOs tender for government aid contracts, or when they are up to 100% dependent on government finance?


Panel Presentations

Erskine Childers (Ireland) described the international community's response to the genocide in Rwanda as discreditable because of blocking by permanent members of the Security Council. He said there is a lack of understanding of what is meant by international law, and this is weakening the UN. He also said the United Nations' most powerful member state is in gross violation of international treaty law and legal obligations by holding back its payment of dues. Europe has allowed this situation to go on for the past ten years. NGOs and others must overcome their still widespread intimidation in the face of "great powerdom."

The UN was created to prevent war by promoting economic and social development and by securing human rights. One hopeful sign is that many statements in the 1995 General Assembly acknowledge that the root causes of conflict must be addressed. This theme should be a top priority for the NGO movement, together with the declaration of support for the UN issued by 16 important member states, led by Sweden. The declaration echoed the work of the "like-minded" group of both Northern and Southern countries over ten years ago. This time such a bridge must be reinforced by "people power."

Martin Khor (Malaysia) said that the erosion of influence, power and capacity of the UN--particularly in economic questions--is a very serious matter. Since the end of the Cold War, Northern countries have been pursuing their own narrow economic self-interests. The UN's development work is based upon principles and policies of redistribution, but the social democratic welfare model has been eclipsed by one founded upon laissez-faire. This can be seen in the attacks made on the work and even the purpose of UNCTAD.

The UN is relevant today for its valuable role in advocating social and development dimensions at a time of rapid global change. The people of the South badly need a revitalized and strengthened UN, and this challenges the people, NGOs and governments of developing countries to defend and enlarge the UN's role through greater South-South cooperation on international policy issues.

Many governments in the South do not have the resources to enter into serious negotiations with the North. For some NGOs, the WTO and the agreements it is administering represent a return to colonialism. These NGOs believe that the WTO should not be allowed to take up the issue of investment as well. Not enough people know about the political struggles being waged at the international level. NGOs with this kind of experience and understanding should form a broader movement to challenge some of today's worrying political trends.

Angus Archer (Canada) said that while support for Canada's aid programme is in trouble, the country does not question the existence of the UN. But there is probably more interest and support for the UN's role in peace-keeping and human rights than for development. Many different views exist on UN reform, and there is widespread disappointment in the various international studies and reports undertaken on the issue during the year of the UN's 50th anniversary.

In Montreal in March 1995, a major NGO conference produced a number of recommendations for UN reform. One was to increase the Security Council to 21 members, with five new permanent members, including three from the South. There was also support for adjusting the veto power: for example, it could require the vote of three countries rather than allowing a single country to veto a decision. Another recommendation called for the appointment of a UN auditor-general and for more scrutiny and control of UN finances. There were proposals on the arms register and the arms trade, and on setting up a Sustainable Development Security Council--along quite different lines to the Economic Security Council proposed by the Commission on Global Governance. There was a great deal of support for the Secretary-General's Agenda for Peace, and much work has taken place in Canada on the idea of a rapid deployment force.

Serious consideration will be given to the Agenda for Development when it is finalized. Canada had been surprised by the lack of resources going into the UN's human rights work and would like to see improvement in the information support system for the UNHCR. It has also been suggested that an International Development Advisory Council, with the full participation of civil society, be established in Canada.

Michael Zammit Cutajar (Malta) said that during the recent discussions on UN reform, the main concern of governments has been with membership of the Security Council and how power in the UN context is shared. The likely outcome of reform is the incorporation in the Council of several new, large and powerful countries from the developed and developing worlds. This would maintain the Security Council as an assembly of the most powerful but would also change the dynamics of its agenda.

One positive change would be a better distribution of UN budget contributions among member states, since the UN has an unhealthy dependence on the contributions of the United States. A lower cap on budget contributions (10-15%) would lead to broader burden sharing and a better distribution of power.

One way in which the UN influences the real world is in setting agendas which define the issues that will receive political attention. In the 1970s developing countries took the lead in setting the UN's development agenda. Since the mid-1980s, developed countries have set the agenda, and developing countries have assumed a more reacting role. The agenda of developed countries gives priority to problems they perceive as threatening: international terrorism, crime and drugs, migration, epidemic diseases and environmental destruction. At the same time, these issues underlie the development agenda, since many of their causes lie in poverty and misery. There has been growing recognition of this link, particularly at the WSSD.

Developed countries are also concerned with a number of global issues which lie outside the domain of the BWIs and cannot be dealt with by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) alone. They include some global money and finance issues and transboundary environmental problems, such as climate change, biodiversity, hazardous waste and desertification. These issues enable the reintroduction and the refocusing of the development agenda. In the final analysis, turning around policies of rich countries that give priority to financial interests over employment is up to voters in the rich countries.

Despite its difficulties, the UN is building a holistic vision of what development should be by incorporating and integrating into its work important issues such as environmental sustainability, the social agenda and women's equality. It is important for the UN to retain a critical view of current economic and social realities and to provide space for alternative views on what is good for the world and the world economy. UNCTAD is among those institutions playing this critical role. Finally, the opportunities and dangers of globalization and marginalization must be identified and addressed.


After the panel presentations the floor was opened for discussion. What follows is a summary of the observations, viewpoints and recommendations put forth during the discussion.

The problem of the international community's differing response to different emergency situations is largely a matter of political will. The international community moved rapidly during the Gulf War and was very slow in its response to Rwanda. The criteria and mechanisms for UN intervention are very complex and highly politicized. Many NGOs share a sense of outrage at the lack of responsibility of the international community concerning the genocide in Rwanda. There was a great opportunity for preventative diplomacy but not enough was done. The pattern of Security Council resolutions over the past four to five years is also very disturbing, with little emphasis on the protection of people. Instead, there appears to be more concern with protecting assets, and resolutions lack the passion of the original authors of the genocide convention. The resolutions seem bland, mechanical and even disrespectful of life. The NGO community should be concerned that NGOs involved in humanitarian work were politically silenced about what was really happening on the ground in Rwanda.

Why were NGOs, such as those in Canada, supporting an increase in the number of countries holding permanent membership in the Security Council? The political rationale behind increasing the number is to deflect criticism from groups such as the Non-Aligned Movement. NGOs concerned with democratizing international decision making should be working to abolish permanent membership of the Security Council and to strengthen the General Assembly.

The rich countries do not want the UN to take the lead in macro-economic coordination; but they do not want the BWIs to do it either. Compared to the financial power that is needed to manage the world economy, the BWIs are very small in scale. The G-7 countries see themselves as leaders in this macro-economic role, but really only consider the economies of Europe, North America and Japan in their deliberations, which form less than 25% of the world's population. The idea that the BWIs and the G-7 are managing the world economy is an illusion.

The NGO movement needs to push governments to start an integrated and interdisciplinary negotiation process through the UN on trade, money, finance and sustainable development. They should also push for the integrated institutional machinery the UN needs if it is to have a central role on the "commanding heights" of the world economy. The alternative is "global convulsion" as economic apartheid spreads, and there is plenty of evidence that the violence is beginning. There needs to be much more strategic thinking on how civil society can use its power to create the kind of UN the world needs. Civil society in the South and North needs to be better informed about what is happening at the international level.

The Cold War was a monstrous and costly distraction from the real agenda of humankind. Post-Cold War expectations of democratization and the peace dividend have been too high. The Cold War provided psychological and cultural benchmarks for choosing sides in foreign relations. It also provided a gap or space in which alternatives--a third way--could be debated. Now there is decreasing pluralism combined with a wave of political complacency. In the post-Cold War context a coherent rationale for the public existence of states has not been developed. It is important to reassert the values of pluralistic approaches and debates. NGOs need to break the complacency and keep alive the idea that there are alternatives. The value of a pluralistic approach is underlined by the fact that the World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF) were wrong in their analyses of the strength of the Mexican economy prior to the "peso crisis," while UNCTAD and the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean had correctly identified the underlying weaknesses of the Mexican economy.

The conservative forces for UN reform are very active, while the positive reformers are not active enough. It is unacceptable for one, or a handful, of member states to monopolize UN reform. It is not clear how much power governments want to cede at the international level. A similar tension can be observed among NGOs, who call for enhanced grassroots and local power while advocating stronger global governance. The years 1996-97 will be a critical period for shaping the future of the UN; NGOs should demonstrate support for the UN and defend its valuable points.


Panel Presentations

Mazide N'Diaye (Senegal) said although the UN, World Bank and IMF are part of the world's existing tools for global governance, the view from the South is that the governments of seven to ten major powers control international decision making. While the UN should be more active, present and useful, NGOs have difficulties dealing with its bureaucracy, the pace and nature of diplomatic debates and negotiations, and the time lost on unimportant questions. At the country level, the UN system often appears to lack responsiveness, flexibility and a sense of urgency, which weakens the UN. In Africa, the competition between the UN and the Bretton Woods Institutions for "their" respective NGO constituencies is highly visible.

Many of the world's most important changes have come about because people risked fighting for their principles. Global civil society made a vital contribution to ending the Vietnam War and apartheid. But since the fall of the Berlin Wall, socialistic thinking is feared, and socialist ideals are seen as a lost cause. Yet it is widely understood that the free market system cannot resolve the problems of the human condition, since it generates inequality between the rich and poor. In the end, NGOs will have to forge a new ideology based on democracy in both political and economic spheres. If NGO views on justice and equality seem old-fashioned, NGOs must face that fact and accept the responsibilities of the principles they espouse. It is not enough for NGOs to criticize aspects of others' decisions--the key challenge is to develop alternatives that work.

Bob Harris (Australia) noted that NGOs have been involved in activities around UN world conferences and summits since the 1950s. In the recent cycle of UN conferences, and since the end of the Cold War, NGO fora and lobbying have taken on a major role. It appears NGOs are beginning to have an impact; but, can they link the declaration and programme of action made at a conference to what is really happening on the ground? A major challenge is to empower people at all levels engaged in relations with the UN. "Pathways to participation" must be developed which respond to the different kinds of relationships that various kinds of NGOs want with the UN. The belief that the presence of large numbers of NGOs in a forum has an impact on power holders can be an illusion. The diplomatic process is complex, combining procedures and language into a smokescreen that must be pierced if governments are to be held accountable.

NGOs should focus more on the General Assembly; informal NGO participation in the General Assembly has in fact already been taking place. For several years, the Conference of NGOs in Consultative Status with ECOSOC (CONGO) has been calling for NGOs with consultative status to have access to the GA. Also, a number of recent calls have been made to establish some kind of people's assembly or civil society forum linked to the work of the GA. The Commission on Global Governance has proposed something along these lines, but its idea goes beyond NGOs and people's organizations to include business organizations, which is problematic. Another idea is to establish a permanent world conference of NGOs. CONGO has no position on this issue, but it merits discussion. A great deal of thought must be given to how to ensure such a body has relevance, impact and meaning at the grassroots level.

Concerning the role of NGOs in global governance, it is necessary to reaffirm the diversity of NGOs, which represent the world in all its dimensions. For a constituency-based organization like Education International, with 23 million members in 150 countries, the issue of representativity is very important. It may be of less importance in other contexts, such as humanitarian emergencies, where the priority is to get the job done. NGOs must reaffirm their independence from governments and ensure their own transparency in financing and other issues. This will reinforce their credibility and strengthen the principles upon which they are based. In this regard, NGOs and the UN would both benefit from more public information on NGOs.

In the context of the ECOSOC review, great care must be taken in discussing the nature and future of formal relations between NGOs and the UN. NGOs live in the real political world of many different agendas, and the various NGO coalitions and actors do not understand each other well enough. Governments and the institutions they create are not going to solve the problems being addressed by NGOs. Progress depends on people, and people working together need solidarity. Greater dialogue among NGOs could help build solidarity. The dynamic forces beginning to well up at the national and local levels around the world could make a difference.

Victoria Tauli-Corpuz (Philippines) said that from the perspective of indigenous peoples, the geopolitical reality in which NGOs frame responses to global governance is one of a few powers monopolizing decision making. Since UNCED, NGOs have achieved a number of small victories upon which to build, but there are many lessons to be learned. NGOs representing the voice of the marginalized, such as indigenous peoples, must provide a counterweight to the concentration of power. At the international level, there is a thin line between partnership and co-option by the dominant system. NGOs must join forces if they are to counter the concentration of global control. To start with, like-minded NGOs should develop joint strategies for action.

Thierry Lemaresquier (France) observed that the terms of the ongoing debate about global governance and UN-NGO relations are subject to different meanings, uses and abuses. There is little point in debating issues without putting points of analytical truth on the table. A great deal of scepticism can be detected concerning the notion of global governance. Does it mean the governance of the many weak by the few strong? Is the NGO world less oligopolistic than the world of governments? After all, some NGOs, a particular category of organization, wield power through the transfer of finance from one part of the world to another. NGOs are in an increasingly competitive market among themselves, and they are competing more and more with the multilateral system for finance and political recognition.

The ECOSOC review has shed some light on government thinking on the role of NGOs and civil society in global governance. Some countries perceive the extension of NGO rights as a possible infringement of their own rights as sovereign states in the UN. Other countries, particularly major donor countries, support greater access for NGOs to the UN's economic and social fora but do not support its extension to other bodies such as the BWIs, WTO and the UN General Assembly and Security Council. In this context, support for greater access for NGOs could appear to non-donor countries to be part of a broader conditionality package. NGOs should be aware of these political dynamics.

There are many differences of opinion on the issues at stake in the review, and some unholy alliances have been formed between international NGOs and governments on issues of NGO rights. The consultative status system operates best when it enables NGOs to influence the UN agenda on issues such as human rights and women's equality. But it has also produced a situation in which some NGOs consider themselves part of an elite and defend very limiting attitudes and positions. Clearly UN-NGO relationships have evolved greatly, irrespective of formal rules. Rules and regulations are important, but ideas even more so, since rigid systems can greatly stifle creativity.

Achieving the objectives set by the multilateral agenda cannot be the domain or province of any particular group, whether NGOs, governments or UN bureaucrats. There is a worrying lack of attention to the quality of participation in the governance of the world and in UN bodies. For this reason, participation in global governance must be organized differently. Unless civil society is involved, what happens at the international level will continue to take place through chance, resources, connections and power.

It is therefore vital to establish a broader system of relations between local, national and global levels. This can only be nurtured by more democratic debate and processes at the national level. NGOs can then participate in global governance with positions that have at least been the subject of a sufficiently open consultation and preparatory process. Otherwise, ideas such as a global people's assembly will smack of the illusion of power being confiscated by the few. At the same time, a number of countries must nurture an enabling environment if civil society and NGOs are even to make an appearance.

The messages emerging from the continuum of UN world conferences are closer to the desires expressed by people for the world than ever before. A loose consensus on people-centred sustainable development, largely inspired by people's organizations and NGOs, has begun to emerge.

Gregory Kovrizhenko (Russian Federation) said that the UN's 50th anniversary has prompted much debate in the Russian Federation on the role of the UN. Many people in Russia see the UN as a body designed to ensure peace and security; its complex role in managing a wide range of global affairs is less well-known and understood. NGOs, researchers, journalists and others have produced a range of viewpoints and proposals concerning UN reform.

The experience of drastic change in Russia has made people cautious about supporting similar drastic change in the UN. There is support for the enlargement of the Security Council to include more countries with the means and will to resolve security problems, and with representation from all continents. But, people are concerned that the UN is poorly equipped to respond to the growing number of critical situations, such as nuclear weapons issues. Some governments claim there are only five nuclear powers, which means the problem may only be dealt with when it becomes a crisis. Terrorism is another serious problem which should be handled by the Security Council or a body created by it. The UN should have standing forces it can mobilize within 24 hours. The veto power should not be abolished, but the powers possessing it should be encouraged to use it with much restraint. Recourse to sanctions should be approached in a broader way, with the possibility of compensation for third countries that suffer losses.

Other ideas for reform are splitting ECOSOC into an economic council and a social or human rights council. The UN's economic system must correspond better to new demands and challenges. The Trusteeship Council should be abolished unless a new role is developed for it, such as dealing with ecological issues. An international criminal court should be established and become part of the international system. The General Assembly should take up more pressing issues and some continuing, unresolved agenda items should be dropped. Resolutions of the GA on important global issues should be made better known to the public.

NGO participation in UN conferences, councils, commissions and committees is very important. NGO participation should be as a broad as NGOs have the capacity to make it. NGOs should articulate the concerns of a broad sector of the population. In Russia, many NGOs feel that the democratic forces in their country were betrayed by the Western democracies, particularly when the Parliament was closed and when the Chechnya conflict broke out. Many people share the view that there is a danger Russia might become a global security problem if the international community does not undertake necessary steps to avoid it.

The 1994 report of the Club of Rome, "Capacity to Govern," argues that future society will flourish if raison d'humanité replaces raison d'état as their basic principle, and if cultural pluralism and solidarity are allowed to thrive. NGOs will achieve more of their goals at the national and international levels if they base their work on these principles.

Harris Gleckman (USA) reported on his organization's recent survey on NGO participation in international events and UN world conferences. The work was sponsored by Norway's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which in the context of the ECOSOC review, is interested in the NGO community's views on democracy. In some respects, the findings of the survey are both revealing and unexpected.

For example, when asked why they go to UN meetings, NGOs responded in the following order of priority: (1) to strengthen their own organizations; (2) to learn about the issues; (3) to influence their national government; and (4) to influence the conference itself. These replies remained constant across both Northern and Southern NGOs. When asked to which groups NGOs need access at UN conferences, NGOs replied: (1) their own national delegations; (2) UN staff; (3) NGO support staff; and (4) the media and other governments. The priority NGOs give to access to national delegations may mean that there are more opportunities at the international level than at the national level for NGOs to lobby their governments.

According to the survey, up to 50% of NGOs feel in some way restricted by their governments or UN procedures when taking part in UN meetings. Most cited the entrenched patriarchy of UN institutions as their main obstacles. When asked what mechanisms or structures work best for NGO participation in the official conferences and NGO forums, respondents said: (1) NGO participation in government delegations; (2) more government-NGO meetings; (3) small working groups; and (4) experimental formats such as trialogues and, for example, the five-sided discussion of the Bergen Conference in preparation for UNCED. Face-to-face discussion is considered the best way of communicating NGO views, and holding demonstrations the least effective way.

When asked who or what NGOs represent, the replies were diverse and included social groups, such as poor women, immigrants, the unemployed and others. Some respondents said they represent nature, or even a natural species, or their particular NGO. Southern NGOs feel freer to endorse a joint NGO declaration or statement of position than Northern NGOs, and men feel freer than women.

The survey shows that in crucial areas, Northern NGO views differ from Southern ones, and in many areas, male and female views differ as well. One conclusion to be drawn from the survey is that a single system of arrangements for NGO participation makes no sense. Rather, the UN needs to establish different procedures and rules for consultative status which reflect the different levels and nature of involvement sought by NGOs within the UN.


After the panel presentations the floor was opened for discussion. What follows is a summary of the observations, viewpoints and recommendations made in the discussion.

Solidarity in such a diverse group as NGOs is difficult to achieve. Individual national member organizations of an international NGO enjoy different levels of accountability and democracy. It is, nonetheless, possible for NGOs to create processes and structures to work together to achieve more transparency and accountability. Diversity is the NGO community's greatest strength--and its greatest weakness. NGOs need to deal with their weaknesses and build upon their strengths. In the context of governance, NGOs must represent something to have the credibility to put forward proposals. Even the UN's fairly tight procedures for consultative status have allowed individuals and organizations without statutes to be accredited, lowering standards for all NGOs. NGOs need to establish a mechanism to elaborate a set of minimal criteria and standards for defining what a legitimate NGO.

At the same time, political criteria for defining government-NGO relations are not clear-cut and vary depending on the context. Human rights NGOs are often perceived by governments as the opposition; yet some governments accept NGOs as members of their own delegations to international meetings and conferences. These are very different expressions of political relations. NGOs created or organized by governments (GONGOS) pose a serious problem for the integrity of the wider NGO community.

Are definitional issues being imposed on NGOs by bureaucratic requirements? While NGOs must make some concessions, bureaucracies should not seek to box NGOs and civil society organizations into categories. The legitimacy of NGOs derives from their being true to their own goals and principles and from acting in an open and transparent way. An individual acting on this basis could be a legitimate representative of civil society. UN procedures and criteria for establishing relations with NGOs must be flexible. At the international level, it is difficult for NGOs to say to what extent they represent a particular constituency; what counts is the quality of NGO ideas and proposals that emerge from their work with the people. While international work can open space for NGO work at the national level, public recognition of the value of an NGO's work at the national level can also give it more influence with its government at the international level.

Should NGOs focus their energies on creating some kind of global NGO forum? There is concern that several governments, rather than NGO themselves, are taking the lead on this proposal. Another concern is that if it is created at UN headquarters in New York, North American NGOs might dominate such a forum, as is now the case with many NGO standing committees based in New York. A forum might even be counterproductive; finding ways of developing real solidarity between NGOs might be more productive. On the other hand, if some NGOs feel the need for this kind of body, there is nothing to stop them undertaking such an initiative. Nobody should be forced to participate but nobody should be stopped from trying to undertake such an initiative. However, to be global in nature, no assembly or forum should be based in the North, and its leadership and vision should not be dominated by international and Northern NGOs. An annual rolling conference held each year in different regions might be more appropriate.


Discussion Groups

The afternoon session was organized into three discussion groups:

  • organizing for more effective work at the international level;
  • challenges to NGOs and the UN in democratizing global governance; and
  • update and discussion on the ECOSOC review of arrangements for consultation with NGOs.

The following summary highlights the main observations, viewpoints and recommendations arising from these discussion groups.

NGOs are no longer marginal and have come of age. Their financial resources for development probably surpass those of the UN. NGOs contribute to setting UN agendas, influencing policy decisions and mobilizing public opinion. The human development agenda elaborated through the UN conferences represents, in large measure, the NGO agenda. At the same time, NGOs are not simply implementing agencies for UN conferences; they must demand more concrete commitments and follow-up action from governments and the UN system. The many, complex challenges that must be addressed make for a daunting, perhaps disempowering, agenda.

But much has already been achieved. The most effective NGO work has often involved taking a tiny part of the development agenda and turning it into something tangible. NGOs should unite around the funding crisis faced by international institutions such as the UN system and the World Bank's IDA. If funding continues to decline, the whole enterprise of constructing democratic, international decision making to address global problems will fall apart. Now that NGOs have influence, their analyses must improve, and their information should be of higher quality and less rhetorical. NGOs have a responsibility to be more rigorous and to provide the highest quality inputs to intergovernmental processes.

On some issues, such as Third World debt, there has been an enormous improvement in the networking and advocacy work of NGOs. There are also many areas of consensus among NGOs on trade issues, particularly with respect to the social implications of the Uruguay Round. A serious problem will be posed for NGO work on international trade if the WTO does not develop formal, consultative relations with NGOs that enable them to participate in the WTO's deliberations. Major western countries are also opposed to opening up the Global Environment Facility (GEF) to greater NGO participation, even while arguing, in the context of the ECOSOC Review, for greater NGO access to the UN. This is because there are sensitivities concerning the financial nature of the GEF mechanism. However, the recently established system of one-day trialogues between governments, GEF implementing agencies and NGOs is a positive if small step forward.

The question of equitable participation of NGOs in international processes cannot be addressed without discussing resources. How can democratic access to new tools of communication, especially in Africa, be ensured?

NGOs face many difficulties when they are invited by the UN to choose "representatives," although this is easier with thematic issues or events that call for specific expertise. Processes of formal representation are in crisis everywhere, including in governments, political parties, the UN, or international organizations. Many of these representative institutions have become detached from people and their concerns; people are becoming frustrated with and complacent about politics. One of the key tasks for NGOs is to open space for people to speak out. Issues concerning the "representativity" of NGOs could be exaggerated. At the very least, NGOs reflect, and are, concerned citizens and therefore have a right to speak. To be effective, NGOs need to receive timely information from the UN system; dissemination of the information should be the responsibility of the UN institutions and not of NGOs. To facilitate information sharing by NGOs when participating in international work, financing by donors for travel and participation could include an element for information dissemination.

NGOs should not become locked into cycles of international meetings, but rather make strategic choices on how best to pursue the issues on their agenda. NGOs must be more results- and solution-oriented. When working for empowerment, sustainable development and equity, NGOs must talk the language of real people and address their concerns. At the same time, NGOs should build stronger links with research bodies and institutes. Southern NGOs need to build their capacity for advocacy work. So far, their capacity building has focused on institutional management to enable them to better comply with the administrative requirements of donor NGOs and official agencies. Southern NGO staff need training in lobbying, diplomacy, negotiating, research, dissemination and public relations. There is a need for more direct South-South NGO exchange and dialogue, which occurs most often via the North. More dialogue would also help NGOs resolve the issue of NGO representation.

NGOs have an under-utilized capacity to bring together different groups and evoke change. At the international level, NGOs are often fragmented, poorly prepared, and too critical of the dominant powers without proposing alternatives. NGOs should not get into the unwinnable game of trying to beat the World Bank and others at research. The comparative advantage of NGOs lies not in a different analysis, but rather with their starting point, by asking what things mean from the point of view of the poor. More emphasis should be placed on key official decision makers who should be sent on "exposure trips" to spend time with poor people. NGOs must acknowledge the responsibilities of national governments, in both North and South. Nobody is forcing Southern governments to join the WTO, to embrace structural adjustment policies or to follow market-led development strategies.

NGO initiatives and processes at the international level cannot be legislated in advance. Like-minded NGO representatives come together around the UN conferences to establish caucuses. There has been much clustering around issues and venues, and bridge-building between different groups where necessary. At the WSSD, NGOs firmly rejected the "steering committee" model. The Quality Benchmark document prepared by NGOs for the summit is an excellent blueprint for an inclusive NGO process. At the summit, the document was not presented as the NGO document, but as one document among many that NGOs could consider signing. It was eventually endorsed by over 1000 NGOs from 60 countries and acquired considerable political weight.

There is a clear divergence between progress in democracy and good governance at the national level in many countries and in international decision making, which sometimes resembles the "law of the jungle." At the international level, the executive, judicial and legislative branches are not properly separated and independent. The Security Council, Bretton Woods Institutions and WTO must be democratized, and the latter linked more closely to the UN. Some NGOs are concerned about the involvement of private corporations in helping to finance UNCED and the UN's 50th anniversary celebrations. Does this mean there is a creeping privatization of the UN?

Is the ECOSOC review being imposed on NGOs by governments? NGOs want access; governments want control. It is not in the interests of NGOs to play too much the game of governments in establishing rules. Compiling comprehensive and reliable information on NGOs, their constituencies, expertise and sources of funding would be extremely useful.

NGOs are very concerned about differences among UN member states and within the NGO community on a number of key issues in the ECOSOC review of arrangements for consultations with NGOs. Governments favouring greater NGO access to the economic and social work of the UN do not seem to support greater NGO access to other UN bodies, such as the General Assembly and Security Council, or to the World Bank, IMF and World Trade Organization. Other governments do not seem to appreciate the value for the UN of opening its work to a broader range of NGOs. At times the debate between UN member states seems to take place in a vacuum, with little or no recognition of the tremendous advances made, particularly since the beginning of the decade, in NGO participation in the work of the UN. Some international NGOs argue that wider NGO participation would dilute the value of consultative status and pose insurmountable logistical problems. Other NGOs do not accept this position, and point to positive examples of NGO participation in the Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD) and the Commission on Human Rights. In fact, it was pointed out, in the day to day policy-related work of the UN there is an "NGO deficit." Regional commissions should be more NGO-friendly, and secretariat services for NGOs at UN meetings should be upgraded to accommodate increased NGO interest and activity. International NGOs in consultative status should be leading the call for wider access for a broader range of NGOs to the UN. NGOs should take up the issue of NGO access to the UN with their governments while the ECOSOC review is still underway. At a minimum, formal UN procedures should be flexible enough to allow any competent NGO to make a relevant contribution.


Panel Presentations

Patrice Robineau (France) pointed to two major paradoxes at the global level. One concerns the spread of democracy and the simultaneous rise of extremist national and other movements. The other is the paradox between progress made in economic efficiency coupled with worsening social conditions. Since the end of the Cold War, political power has been weakened by the globalization process, while economic power has been concentrated in transnational corporations in the private sector and in finance ministries and central banks in the public sector. In the post-Cold War world, the UN faces two major challenges: in the political sphere, the resolution of conflict and in the economic sphere, to ensure what markets cannot ensure, that social issues and the environmental dimension are taken into account.

There is a need to integrate the various agendas. Two concepts that can do this are sustainable development and human security. An integrated agenda would incorporate human rights, democracy and governance, ecological sustainability, economic efficiency and social equity. While the achievement of human rights for all is an objective per se, the activities and policies of international institutions and corporations could be assessed against human rights criteria.

The Economic Commission for Europe (ECE) had 34 members before the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989; it now has 55. It is the only body covering the transition region as a whole and focusing upon economic reforms, ecological sustainability and integration into the "larger" Europe, in particular through transport and trade facilitation. The ECE has opposed the "shock therapy" approach to economic reform in transition countries, pointing out that price liberalization creates inflation and speculation if it is not related to the response capacity of the supply side. The ECE had been influential in establishing the need for a proper sequencing of economic reform measures.

The value of the UN's regional commissions is currently in question. Their role is to provide independent expertise on a region as a whole, facilitate cooperation between sub-regions and promote economic integration, both at the regional and global level. UN conferences, such as the ones on environment and development, population and development, and women, have benefitted greatly from preparatory processes at the regional level. In follow-up to the programmes of action of the UN world conferences, implementation at the regional level is a very important dimension which calls for contributions from, and cooperation between, the UN regional commissions and other regional bodies, including NGOs. With respect to NGO follow-up, they should, in their own terms, set up joint action plans. For example, on the basis of the Beijing Conference, the Federation of German Women's NGOs has set up an action plan for Germany.

NGO participation in UN conferences has profoundly influenced the thinking and style of the documents. They are far less bureaucratic and more concrete, consistent and detailed in substance. The preparatory processes have brought together different groups at the national level. There is a need for NGO mechanisms to link the national, regional and international levels of work. This requires increased NGO cooperation and coordination at the national level, and mechanisms at the international level for more effective and equitable NGO representation.

Ross Mountain (New Zealand) said the evolution of NGO work at the international level is valuable but has to be based on work at the national level. Discussion of the role of NGOs in emergency and other difficult situations is now dépassé, since to operate effectively, the UN must work closely with NGOs as advisers and implementers. In countries in crisis, where often no effective government exists, NGOs make invaluable contributions and play prominent roles providing relief services and developing innovative rehabilitation programmes. There are, for example, more than 650 NGOs in Haiti and over 2000 in Lebanon that have played important roles in helping citizens during national crises. A sometimes difficult process of readjustment is required when legitimate governments are reestablished, including weeding out "false" NGOs that have come into being for commercial or other reasons (for example, to benefit from duty-free importation privileges).

NGOs must remember that the UN is an intergovernmental organization with everything from outer space to the deep sea bed on its agenda, so choices need to be made as to the debates likely to be relevant to NGO objectives. International interaction is most valuable when it is reinforced by, or builds on, practical contributions by NGOs dealing with issues of substance in their home countries, rather than tracking convoluted UN processes. If NGOs simply follow the international agendas of UN fora, when will there be time to do the "real" work? This poses a dilemma: to achieve NGO goals, when is it better to go to New York and when to rural areas or to meet a national parliamentarian? NGOs are continually challenged with the interplay between the choices and the changes they promote and their financial resources. While finances are getting tight, NGOs possess a wealth of human and organizational resources, so lack of money is a poor excuse for not doing things at the national level.

NGLS was originally set up out of frustration with existing UN channels for working with NGOs, and to support NGOs working in OECD countries for policy changes on international issues. This inverted the orthodoxy that development rests upon the direct provision of aid and resources to Third World countries. Indeed, Third World resource persons were brought to the North to reinforce national debates and programmes. It was not an NGO's consultative status that mattered, but whether it had an effective capacity to work for policy change at the national level. The global economic relationships that gave rise to this approach 20 years ago have not changed for the better, and renewed attention needs to be paid to encouraging and supporting NGOs in the North to improve the framework for negotiations on international economic relations.

Then and now, NGLS facilitates NGO access to the UN on the basis of issues, not institutional questions. The emphasis must go beyond formulating generalized positions and ex post criticisms to organizing and creating alliances to achieve meaningful change. Individual NGOs have very different interests, aims, constituencies and effectiveness; their work must be coordinated with other NGOs who share the same objectives and goals. In this way, NGOs can work together to develop leverage for specific changes. Coalitions such as International Baby Food Action Network, Health Action International, and Pesticides Action Network provide good examples of influential action-oriented networks.

There has been considerable progress in opening up the UN to NGOs, since today most UN agencies are mandated, that is, instructed, to work with civil society. The follow-up to UN global conferences opens up a number of opportunities, but these will not necessarily be automatic since many governments are themselves not committed to follow-up. There are many entry points for increasing cooperation at the national level in developing countries. A number of UN agencies manage small grants programmes specifically for NGOs, but there are other more broad-based opportunities for substantive policy and programme development and implementation. Thus there are now many positive examples of civil society cooperation with UN agencies and governments, particularly in the area of poverty eradication. These can and should be expanded through the strengthening of direct contacts and collaboration with the country offices of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and other UN agencies.

Delphine Borione (France) described the World Food Programme (WFP) as the largest source of development and emergency resources in the UN system, with a total annual budget of US$1.5 billion. She said WFP provides food aid to some 57 million people in 90 countries. A few years ago, two-thirds of WFP resources were invested in development work and one-third in emergencies. Today the proportions have been reversed. WFP works mainly with governments but increasingly with NGOs. Five years ago WFP worked with 300 NGOs; today it works with over 1000. WFP's main partners are large international NGOs with the capacity to distribute food aid such as Catholic Relief Services, CARE, World Vision and others. But WFP also works with many local NGOs. WFP appreciates the flexibility and expertise of NGOs and their capacity to reach target groups at the community level. Seeking greater efficiency in a context of growing financial constraints makes increased cooperation unavoidable.

WFP-NGO collaboration is based on complementarity and partnership. This kind of relationship requires mutual understanding and respect for each other's policies and procedures. For example, WFP is universal and acts without discrimination or prejudice. But some NGOs target their support on the basis of political criteria. Although some NGOs find WFP's reporting procedures burdensome, it is necessary to be thoroughly accountable for the use of public and donor resources. In recent years, WFP has entered into memoranda of understanding with NGOs which clearly define working arrangements. Following the Beijing conference, WFP is strongly committed to greater involvement of women in the management of its operations, and this is incorporated into memoranda of understanding with NGOs. In emergencies, it is essential that NGOs understand and respect the coordination mandate accorded to WFP. It has a broad mandate to strengthen national capacity. There is need for triangular relationships among governments, WFP and NGOs. NGOs and UN agencies are allies in the battle to deliver relief, promote development, advocate the eradication of hunger and poverty, and foster policy dialogue on these issues.

Santiago Romero-Perez (Colombia) described the Partnership in Action (PARinAC) process with NGOs. He said many people in UNHCR and NGOs initially looked upon this process with scepticism. In some ways, rightly so. After all, UNHCR was created in 1951 with a mandate, inter alia, to work with voluntary organizations: why was it then necessary, some asked, to recreate the wheel? The PARinAC process represented a development in UNHCR. UNHCR is currently taking a proactive approach: its "exile" oriented policies are being replaced by "homeland" oriented ones, and it is beginning to see its tasks in a holistic manner rather than in a refugee-specific one.

During the PARinAC consultation process, UNHCR met with some 500 NGOs around the world. The regional consultations lead to the Oslo Declaration and Plan of Action, which has five main areas: protection, internally-displaced persons, emergency preparedness and response, and the continuum from relief to rehabilitation to development, and partnership. UNHCR and NGOs have gone back to the field to search and agree upon implementation of the 134 recommendations emanating from the Oslo document. The topics included in the Oslo Declaration vary according to refugee caseload and host government policies towards them. In some countries UNHCR cannot work on the continuum, for example, since refugees are not allowed to remain permanently. In other countries such as Mozambique, the continuum is the major emphasis of UNHCR's work after the return of some 1.7 million refugees.

Evolving into a broadly-based humanitarian agency, UNHCR needs to strengthen partnerships with NGOs. It needs NGOs as allies in its pursuit of solutions. NGOs will not give UNHCR a free ticket; their degree of support to UNHCR will depend on NGO perceptions that UNHCR is carrying out its mandate to protect and assist refugees, returnees and where appropriate, internally-displaced persons.

NGOs and UN agencies can never be equal. They must, nevertheless, develop partnerships taking into account their various strengths. The challenge lies in making this partnership concrete.


After the panel presentations the floor was opened for discussion. What follows is a summary of the observations, viewpoints and recommendations made in the discussion.

NGOs must remember that the UN is a "visitor" to a country; it cannot participate in a country's political life. At the same time, the UN is more and more concerned with promoting and facilitating dialogue and cooperation between civil society and governments. The UN system needs to develop more consistency and coherence in its approach to working with NGOs. Different parts of the system seem to have different policies. NGLS, the PARinAC process and the NGO Committee on UNICEF are important models of UN-NGO cooperation. However, some UN agencies seem to view NGOs simply as implementing agencies, like those governments that view NGOs as extension agents. Problems arise when NGOs want to go beyond that role to critically monitor the agency or government, or advocate alternative policies. While NGOs are not political, neither are they politically neutral, since they seek to influence legislative processes at the national and international levels. NGOs must work out their own equitable systems of representation at the international level involving local, national, regional and international NGOs. NGOs should give more priority to working in the North for policy change on global issues, and particularly to raising public awareness and working with parliamentarians and legislators.


Reflections Panel

As part of the final session of the conference, five NGO representatives presented one or two key concluding observations. What follows is a summary of their remarks.

Roberto Bissio (Uruguay) said that with the cycle of major UN conferences coming to an end in 1996, the dynamism of international policy work of NGOs will have to be maintained in other ways. NGOs need to develop and strengthen global networking and information sharing and maintain their demands upon the international system. The UN should remove some of the obstacles faced by NGOs in gaining access to institutions, discussions and information. The approaching "end of long distance" will remove, or at least reduce, many of the technical and financial constraints on increased communication and cooperation between NGOs across virtually all regions.

In addressing the agenda of the future, NGOs should not forget that the transformations occurring simultaneously around the world were not created by any institution--they were produced by people. Democratization and major cultural changes are bringing about major changes in the way people think. NGOs should not forget this when facing big institutions with money and power.

Sekai Holland (Zimbabwe) expressed her concern, and those of her African colleagues, that the main trend of global governance appears to be the weakening of the UN. The UN is vital to Africa, and without it Africa will be further marginalized. UN reform should not be just management- and efficiency-driven, but informed by a shared vision of the system of global governance that the world needs. The General Assembly has to be empowered. The UN-NGO alliance is a democratizing force.

More of the international development policy dialogue has to move to the South. NGOs from the North and South are learning to work better together on global issues. At the same time, many of Africa's issues are Africa-specific. There needs to be more UN-NGO collaboration in the South to cultivate government support for progressive change. In Africa, there is a need to build consultative mechanisms between NGOs and at all levels of government.

Michel Faucon (France) said that the world is entering into a new era in which international relations are being developed between societies and peoples and are no longer the monopoly of governments and the private sector. Nobody knows where this is heading, but the world is poised for momentous change.

Although governments feel threatened by them, NGOs do not want to replace governments; NGOs just want them to do their job better. Since NGOs are not power-seeking structures, they do not necessarily represent social or political constituencies. Therefore, they do not need to be representative in that sense to have a legitimate role. NGOs do not separate the methodology and the substance of their work. Although they may be tempted, NGOs must avoid competing, creating an NGO elite, and mimicking the structures of power.

The greatest challenge is to build a culture of trust. Trust has to be earned and cannot be imposed. Without trust it is necessary to use heavy, complicated contractual arrangements that, in any case, do not work. True cooperation obliges partners to be aware of what they have to offer before considering what they have to gain; this is the basis of solidarity. NGOs need to build a strategy to address the weakness of political power structures and develop new skills and forge alliances with other sectors of civil society.

Amitava Mukherjee (India) said that the agenda for NGOs in the South has changed enormously. Global forces are increasing poverty and hunger and establishing neocolonial forms of exploitation of developing countries. NGOs do not have an alternative model, but have an alternative set of values. Cooperation with transnational corporations with a view to making them socially responsible undermines the moral basis of NGOs; they should agree upon common criteria for accepting financing from multilateral banks and official institutions.

Maria Onestini (Argentina) said the issue of relationships of NGOs to states is at the heart of UN-NGO relations. Nation states face a crisis and are becoming weaker in formulating and implementing their own development policies. The UN, an amalgamation of nation states, is also getting weaker. The BWIs and WTO are filling decision-making vacuums. The UN is the best thing the world has to resolve conflicts of all kinds. NGOs have to decide whether or not to invest resources in strengthening it. NGOs also have to decide how they want to relate to the non-NGO members of civil society, such as business groups. Civil society is not homogeneous, and it might be better to say that NGOs reflect rather than represent different parts of civil society.


When closing the conference, Tony Hill said it had thrown considerable light on a range of issues at the core of UN-NGO cooperation, and cooperation between NGOs in their international advocacy work. Participants had contributed valuable insights and observations on vital, substantive issues such as the international development agenda, global governance and the reform of the UN. The conference had also examined in some detail how NGOs work on international issues at the UN, and issues related to the NGO role, including representation, accountability and transparency.

Participants had recognised that international advocacy work has to begin at, and be taken back to, the national level if it is to be meaningful. Being effective at the international level depends upon being effective at the national level, which requires better national-level NGO organization and cooperation. At the international level, equitable, transparent and accountable systems of NGO participation will require more dialogue, collaboration, trust and solidarity among the NGO community. At the same time NGOs are challenged to improve the effectiveness and transparency of their work at the international level and to link this clearly to the concerns of people in their countries.

Perhaps the most important contribution of the conference had been to establish the framework, agenda and impetus to take this dialogue forward. For its part, the United Nations has been challenged to become more democratic, effective and coherent in the pursuit of its goals, and more flexible and user-friendly vis-à-vis the NGO community. At the same time NGOs are challenged to improve the effectiveness and transparency of their work at the international level and to link this clearly to the concerns of people in their countries. Many of the issues raised by the conference will be at the heart of the UN-NGO dialogue in the period ahead.


Monday 30 October


  • Welcome/Introduction


  • Panel and Discussion on the International Development Agenda
  • Betty Plewes, CCIC, Canada
  • John Clark, World Bank
  • Magdi Ibrahim, ENDA-Maghreb, Egypt
  • Carmen Rosa Balbi, DESCO, Peru
  • Mervat Rishmawi, Al Haq, Palestine
  • Nelcia Robinson, Committee for the Development of Women, St Vincent and Grenadines


  • Break


  • Panel and Discussion (continued)


  • Lunch


  • Discussion Groups:
    • Linking Work at the International and National Levels and Follow-up to UN World Conferences
    • Responding to the International Agenda and the Crisis in Development Cooperation
    • Strengthening UN-NGO Collaboration for Sustainable, Human-Centred Development


  • Break


  • Presentation and discussion of main issues and conclusions arising from the discussion groups


  • Dinner


  • Whither the United Nations?
  • Presentations by:
    • Erskine Childers, Foundation for a Friendly Planet, Ireland
    • Martin Khor, Third World Network, Malaysia
    • Angus Archer, UNA Canada
    • Michael Zammit Cutajar, Secretariat for the Climate Change Convention
  • Discussion

Tuesday 31 October


  • Panel and discussion on NGOs and Global Governance
  • Mazide N'Diaye, FAVDO, Senegal
  • Bob Harris, CONGO, Australia
  • Victoria Tauli Corpuz, CWERC, Philippines
  • Thierry Lemaresquier, UNDP
  • Gregory Kovrishenko, UNA Moscow, Russian Federation
  • Harris Gleckman, Benchmark Consulting, USA
  • Discussion


  • Lunch


  • Discussion Groups:
    • Organizing for More Effective Work at the International Level
    • Challenges to NGOs and the UN in Democratizing Global Governance:Update and Discussion on the ECOSOC Review of Arrangements for Consultation with NGOs


  • Break


  • Presentation and discussion of main issues and conclusions arising from the discussion groups


  • Reception
  • Dinner

Wednesday 1 November


  • Strengthening UN-NGO cooperation: Views from the UN system
  • Patrice Robineau, ECE
  • Ross Mountain, UNDP
  • Delphine Borione, WFP
  • Santiago Romero-Perez, UNHCR
  • Discussion


  • Lunch


  • The UN, NGOs and Global Governance: Challenges for the 21st Century--Reflections on the Conference Discussions
  • Roberto Bissio, Instituto del Tercer Mundo, Uruguay
  • Sekai Holland, FAVDO, Zimbabwe
  • Michel Faucon, Coordination Sud/CRID, France
  • Amitava Mukherjee, ActionAid India
  • Maria Onestini, CEDEA, Argentina


  • Closure, Tony Hill, NGLS




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32 rue de Vermont
CH-1202 Geneva, Switzerland
Telephone +41-22/733 2809
Fax +41-22/740 1063


Foundation for a Friendly Planet
531 Main Street, Apt 1105
Roosevelt Island
New York, NY 10044, USA
Telephone +1-212/355 3174
Fax +1-212/980 0546


Nationaal Centrum voor Ontwikkelingsammenwerking
Vlasfabriekstraat 11
B-1060 Brussels, Belgium
Telephone 32-2/539 2620
Fax +32-2/539 1343
E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Mr Felix DODDS

United Nations Enivronment and Development--UK Committee
3 Whitehall Court
London SW1A 2EL, UK
Telephone +44-171/930 2931
Fax +44-171/930 5893


University on Human Rights, Geneva
c/o World University Service
5 chemin des Iris
CH-1216 Geneva, Switzerland
Telephone +41-22/798 8711
Fax +41-22/798 0829

Ms Machid FATIO

Baha'i International Community
15 route des Morillons
CH-1218 Geneva, Switzerland
Telephone +41-22/798 5400
Fax +41-22/798 6577

Mr Michel FAUCON

Coordination Sud/Centre de recherche et d'information
pour le développement (CRID)
14 passage Dubail
F-75010 Paris, France
Telephone +33-1/44 72 93 72
Fax +33-1/44 72 93 73


Benchmark Environmental Consulting
49 Dartmouth Street
Portland, ME 04102, USA
Telephone +1-201/775 9078
Fax +1-201/772 3539
E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Mr Brewster GRACE

Quaker United Nations Office (QUNO)
13 avenue du Mervelet
CH-1209 Geneva, Switzerland
Telephone +41-22/733 3397
Fax +41-22/734 0015
E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


Third World Network
PO Box 8604
Accra-North, Ghana
Telephone +233-21/301064, 302103, 231688
Fax +233-21/231687
E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


Environment Liaison Centre International (ELCI)
PO Box 72461
Nairobi, Kenya
Telephone +254-2/562015, 562022, 562172
Fax +254-2/562175
E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


Swiss Coalition of Development Organisations
10 chemin des Epinettes
CH-1007 Lausanne, Switzerland
Telephone +41-21/616 1360
Fax +41-21/617 4352


World Federation of UN Associations (WFUNA)
Palais des Nations
CH-1211 Geneva 10, Switzerland
Telephone +41-22/733 0730
Fax +41-22/733 4838


Education International
57 chemin Moise-Duboule
CH-1209 Geneva, Switzerland
Telephone +41-22/788 7300
Fax +41-22/788 7330


International Council on Social Welfare (ICSW)
2 chemin des Usses
CH-1246 Corsier, Switzerland
Telephone +41-22/751 2058
Fax +41-22/751 2685


Forum of African Voluntary Development
Organizations (FAVDO)
c/o AWC
PO Box UA339
Harare, Zimbabwe
Telephone + 263-4/726910
Fax + 263-4/731691
E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


196 Quartier OLM
Rabat Souissi, Morocco
Telephone + 212-7/756414
Fax +212-7/756413
E-mail <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.;

Mr John Y. JONES

Norwegian Forum for Environment and Development
Storgt. 33
N-0184 Oslo, Norway
Telephone +47/22 20 98 70
Fax +47/22 45 18 10
E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


20 McChlery Avenue
Harare, Zimbabwe
Telephone +263-4/721469
Fax +263-4/722363


International Corporation of Graduates of Soviet
Educational Institutions (INCORVUZ)
6 Volgin Street
117485 Moscow, Russian Federation
Telephone +7-095/330 8492
Fax +7-095/330 8492, 330 8647

Mr Martin KHOR

Third World Network
228 Macalister Road
Penang, Malaysia
Telephone +60-4/226 6159
Fax +60-4/226 4505
E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


United Nation Association of Russia
36 Prospect Mira
Moscow, Russian Federation
Telephone +7-095/280 3358
Fax +7-095/200 4250


International Youth and Student Movement for the
United Nations (ISMUN)
Palais des Nations
CH-1211 Geneva 10, Switzerland
Telephone +41-22/798 4838
Fax +41-22/733 4838
E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Mr Michael McCOY

Citizens Network for Sustainable Development
73 Spring Street, Suite 206
New York, NY 10012, USA
Telephone +1-212/431 3922
Fax +1-212/431 4427
E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


World Economy, Ecology & Development
Association (WEED)
Berliner Platz 1
D-53111 Bonn, Germany
Telephone + 49-228/696479
Fax +49-228/696470
E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


Inter-Africa Group
PO Box 1631
Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
Telephone +251-1/518790
Fax +251-1/517554


Third World Network
228 Macalister Road
Penang, Malaysia
Telephone +60-4/226 6159
Fax +60-4/226 4505
E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Ms Marybeth MORSINK

Consumers International
35 rue des Touterelles
F-01710 Thoiry, France
Telephone +33/50 41 23 14
Fax +41-22/740 0791


ActionAid India
3 Rest House Road
Bangalore 560001, India
Telephone +91-80/558 5393, 558 6682
Fax+91-80/558 6284, 558 5393

Ms Khawar MUMTAZ

Shirkat Gah
38/8 Sarwar Road
Lahore Cantt, Pakistan
Telephone +92-42/666 1874
Fax +92-42/667 5053
E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Ms Anita NAYAR

Women's Environment & Development Organization
845 3rd Avenue 15th Floor
New York 10010, USA
Telephone +1-212/759 7982
Fax +1-212/759 8647
E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Mr Mazide N'DIAYE

Forum of African Voluntary Development Organizations
BP 12223
Dakar, Senegal
Telephone +221/255547
Fax +221/255564


Norwegian Peoples Aid
PO Box 8844 Youngstorgei
N-0028 Oslo, Norway
Telephone +47/22 03 77 41
Fax +47/22 20 08 77


Country Women Association of Nigeria
No.7 Awosika Crescent, Ijapo Estate
PMB 809
Akure, Ondo State, Nigeria
Telephone +234-34/231945
Fax +234-34/231633


Centro de Estudios Ambientales (CEDEA)
Avenue Cordoba 1539 1o C (1055)
C Correo 116--Suc 28 (1428)
Buenos Aires, Argentina
Telephone +54-1/812 6490
Fax +54-1/812 6490, 313 0132
E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


Canadian Council for International Cooperation (CCIC)
1 Nicholas Street, 3rd Floor
Ottawa, Ontario K1N 7B7, Canada
Telephone +1-613/241 7007
Fax +1-613/241 5302
E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Ms Marina PONTI

Mani Tese
Via Cavenaghi 4
I-20149 Milano, Italy
Telephone +39-2/4800 8617
Fax +39-2/481 2296

Dr Eric RAM

World Vision International
6 chemin de la Tourelle
CH-1209 Geneva, Switzerland
Telephone +41-22/798 4183
Fax +41-22/798 6547


PO Box 1413 Ramallah
West Bank, Palestine
Telephone +972-2/995 6421
Fax +972-2/995 4903
E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


Union of International Associations
15 chemin Rojoux
CH-1231 Conches, Switzerland
Telephone +41-22/733 6717
Fax +41-22/734 7082


Committee for the Development of Women
PO Box 1343, Grenville Street
St Vincent, West Indies
Telephone +1-809/456 2573
Fax +1-809/456 1648

Mr Atila ROQUE

Instituto Brasileiro de Analises Sociais
e Economicas (IBASE)
Rua Vicente de Souza 12, Botafogo
Rio de Janeiro 22251-070, Brazil
Telephone +55-21/537 8228
Fax +55-21/537 9185
E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


Mani Tese
Via Cavenaghi 4
I-20149 Milano, Italy
Telephone +39-2/4800 8617
Fax +39-2/481 2296


International Council of Voluntary Agencies (ICVA)
Case Postale 216
CH-1211 Geneva 21, Switzerland
Telephone +41-22/732 6600
Fax +41-22/738 9904
E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


Cordillera Women's Education and Resource
Center (CWERC)
16 Loro St Dizon Sub
Baguio City 2400, Philippines
Telephone +63-74/442 5347
Fax +63-74/442 5205
E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


International Service for Human Rights
CP 16
CH-1211 Geneva 20, Switzerland
Telephone +41-22/733 5123
Fax +41-22/733 0826


Transnational Institute (TNI)
Pauluspopterstraat 20
NL-1071 DA Amsterdam, Netherlands
Telephone +31-20/662 6608
Fax +31-20/675 7176
E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Ms Tupou VERE

Women's Fisheries Network/Pacific Concerns Resource Centre Inc
Nuclear-Free and Independent Pacific
83 Amy Street, Tourak Private Mail Bag
Suva, Fiji
Telephone +679/304649
Fax +679/304755


Via Marianna Dionigi 57
I-00192 Rome, Italy
Telephone +39-6/321 5498
Fax +39-6/321 6163

Dr Alejandro VILLAMAR

Mexican Action Network on Free Trade
Godard 20 Col. GPE Victoria
Mexico City 07790 DF, Mexico
Telephone +52-5/355 1177
Fax +52-5/355 1177
E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Mr Francisco VIO GROSSI

People's Alliance for Social Development
Avenida Portales 3020
San Bernardo, Chile
Telephone +56-2/857 1943
Fax +56-2/857 1160


Forest Action Network
PO Box 21428
Nairobi, Kenya
Telephone +254-2/718398
Fax +254-2/718398
E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

United Nations


UN Volunteers (UNV)
Postfach 260111
D-53153 Bonn, Germany
Telephone +49-228/815 2217
Fax +49-228/815 2001
E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural
Organization (UNESCO)
Liaison Office
Palais des Nations
CH-1211 Geneva 10, Switzerland
Telephone +41-22/917 3379


UN Population Fund (UNFPA)
13 chemin des Anémones
CH-1219 Châtelaine, Switzerland
Telephone +41-22/979 9563
Fax +41-22/979 9016

Ms Delphine BORIONE

World Food Programme (WFP)
Via Cristoforo Colombo 426
I-00145 Rome, Italy
Telephone +39-6/5228 2651
Fax +39-6/5228 2848
E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


World Bank
1818 H Street NW
Washington DC 20433, USA
Telephone +1-202/473 1840
Fax +1-202/522 3282
E-mail: jclark1@worldbank.orgwinternet

Mr Pietro GARAU

UN Centre for Human Settlements/Habitat II
Palais des Nations
CH-1211 Geneva 10, Switzerland
Telephone +41-22/907 4683
Fax +41-22/907 0033


UN Children's Fund (UNICEF)
Palais des Nations
CH-1211 Geneva 10, Switzerland
Telephone +41-22/909 5723
Fax +41-22/909 5900
E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


International Negotiating Committee on the Convention
to Combat Desertificiation (INCD)
11 chemin des Anémones
CH-1219 Châtelaine, Switzerland
Telephone +41-22/979 9410
Fax +41-22/979 9031
E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Mr Bernd KASS

World Food Programme (WFP), Geneva Office
11-13 Chemin des Anémones
CH-1219 Châtelaine, Switzerland
Telephone +41-22/979 9567
Fax +41-22/979 9018


UN Development Programme (UNDP)
1 United Nations Plaza
New York, NY 10017, USA
Telephone +1-212/906 6029
Fax +1-212/906 5313
E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


UN Centre for Human Settlements (UNCHS) Habitat
Palais des Nations
CH-1211 Geneva 10, Switzerland
Telephone +41-22/907 4683
Fax +41-22/907 0033


UN Development Programme (UNDP), ActionAid
11-13 chemin des Anémones
CH-1219 Châtelaine, Switzerland
Telephone +41-22/979 9536
Fax +41-22/979 9001


UN Environment Programme (UNEP)
PO Box 30552
Nairobi, Kenya
Telephone +254-2/623106
Fax +254-2/623927
E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


UN Development Programme (UNDP)
PO Box 11-3216
Beirut, Lebanon
Telephone +961-1/603462, 603463
Fax +961-1/603461


Centre for Human Rights
Palais des Nations
CH-1211 Geneva 10, Switzerland
Telephone +41-22/917 1143
Fax +41-22/917 0118


Economic Commission for Europe (ECE)
Palais des Nations
CH-1211 Geneva 10, Switzerland
Telephone + 41-22/917 4858
Fax +41-22/917 0036


Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)
94 rue de Montbrillant
CH-1202 Geneva, Switzerland
Telephone +41-22/739 8193
Fax +41-22/739 7302
E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO)
Via delle Terme di Caracalla
I-00100 Rome, Italy
Telephone +39-6/5225 5328
Fax +39-6/5225 5784

Mr Bhim UDAS

World Food Programme (WFP), Geneva Office
11-13 Chemin des Anémones
CH-1219 Châtelaine, Switzerland
Telephone +41-22/979 9567
Fax +41-22/979 9018


UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD)
Palais des Nations
CH-1211 Geneva, Switzerland
Telephone +41-22/907 4625
Fax +41-22/907 0043


Secretariat for the Convention on Climate Change
11 chemin des Anémones
CH-1213 Châtelaine, Switzerland
Telephone +41-22/979 9496
Fax +41-22/979 9034
E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


BWIs: Bretton Woods Institutions

CCIC: Canadian Council for International Cooperation

CEDEA: Centro de Estudios Ambientales

CIDA: Canadian International Development Agency

CONGO: Conference of NGOs in Consultative Status with ECOSOC

CRID: Centre de recherche et de d'information pour développement

CSD: Commission on Sustainable Development

CWERCI: Cordillera Women's Education and Resource Centre

DANIDA: Danish International Development Assistance

DESCO: Centro de Estudios y Promoción de Desarrollo

ECE: Economic Commission for Europe

ECOSOC: UN Economic and Social Council

ENDA: Environnement et dévelopment

FAVDO: Forum for African Voluntary Development Organizations

FWCW: Fourth World Conference on Women

GA: UN General Assembly

GDP: Gross Domestic Product

GEF: Global Environment Facility

GONGO: An NGO created or organized by a government

ICPD: International Conference on Population and Development

ICVA: International Council of Voluntary Agencies

IDA: International Development Association

IMF: International Monetary Fund

NGLS: UN Non-Governmental Liaison Service

NGO: Non-Governmental Organization

OECD: Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development

ONG: Organisation non-gouvernementale

PARinAC: Partnership in Action

RIOD: Réseau international des ONG sur la désertification

TNC: Transnational Corporation

UNA: United Nations Association

UNCED: UN Conference on Environment and Development

UNCTAD: UN Conference on Trade and Development

UNDP: UN Development Programme

UNHCR: Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees

UNICEF: UN Children`s Fund

UNPAAERD: UN Programme of Action for African Economic Recovery and Development

VENRO: Verband Entwicklungspolitik Deutscher Nichtregierungsorganisationen

WFP: World Food Programme

WSSD: World Summit for Social Development

WTO: World Trade Organization

The UN Non-Governmental Liaison Service (UN-NGLS) is an inter-agency programme of the United Nations mandated to develop constructive relations between the UN and civil society organizations.


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