Statement to Cardoso Panel on UN – Civil Society Relations elaborating on the response of UNGA-Link UK to the Panel’s Questionnaire

Strengthening the UN for Peace and Equity

 

Background

In 1997 an opinion survey was carried out in the UK of civil society organizations (CSOs), including UN-NGOs, on the proposal of the Commission on Global Governance (1995) for an annual Forum of Civil Society linked with the regular sessions of the UN General Assembly (GA).

 

The positive response to the survey led to the formation of the UK Network for a Civil Society Link with the UN General Assembly (UNGA-Link UK), which currently consists of 39 CSOs and a similar number of individuals. Our Mission Statement is given as Annex 1 and a note on the meaning of the term ‘Civil Society’ as Annex 2.

 

Historically, the case for a link at the top between civil society and the world’s organization of states is self-evident. Through the ages up to today the efforts of people, religions and philosophies as well as of rulers, governments and their organizations have failed to find a road to a world of peace and equity. The remaining hope is that state and non-state sectors working together might by synergy find that road.

 

In political terms, the credentials for our objective of a non-state link with the UN at the level of the GA could not be better, as can be seen from the chronology (UN-NGO calls chronology…

 

The failure of the GA to adopt the proposal of the Commission on Global Governance in 1997, despite the probable support of most of the member states, indicates the need for a gradual approach to linking civil society and other non-state actors with the GA.

 

Global Networking

 

UNGA-Link proposes a global process for connecting networks of civil society which needs to be both top-down and bottom-up. Although civil society locally, nationally, regionally and globally has the capacity and resources to build a world interconnection of networks, its diversity and disunity may prevent the initiation of this development. The initiation could need external catalysts, and we therefore request the Panel to consider recommending that such global networking should be encouraged for enhancing civil society cooperation with the UN system.

 

 

This global networking could be facilitated by adoption of our suggestion in response to the Panel’s Questionnaire, namely that accreditation in the UN system there should be “a clear, efficient, mutually respectful process as a framework for the UN system, to be easily adaptable for its entities”. We wish to add to this proposal a request that the Panel considers recommending the involvement in accreditation issues of the UN Non-Governmental Liaison Service (NGLS), in which the UN-NGO community and many other CSOs have great confidence from appreciation of its periodical and book publications and other services. NGLS has much to offer in enhancing UN relations with civil society, and we therefore hope that the Panel will recommend that it is assured adequate funding and resources for an expanded role in non-governmental strengthening of the UN system.

 

 

To facilitate our proposed networking, we also request the Panel to consider recommending that UN-NGO directories should offer accredited NGOs the option of publication of their contact details; and that directories of other CSOs in partnership with the UN system should be published with the same optionIn addition we suggest that all the directories should indicate whether an organization is national, regional or international.

 

Top-down

At the Geneva World Civil Society Forum (WCSF) in 2002, UNGA-Link proposed that a World Civil Society Liaison Body should be initiated by international CSOs concerned with global governance, such as Association of World Citizens, CIVICUS, CONGO, Millennium/Global Peoples’ Assembly, Montreal International Forum, The People’s UN, Ubuntu, WCSF, World Federalist Movement, WFUNA and World Social Forum.

 

Following the granting to the Inter-Parliamentary Union of observer status at the GA, UNGA-Link now proposes that the Liaison Body should be named World Civil Society Union. The Union’s purpose should be to participate in deliberations on global governance, in pursuance of which it should seek observer status at the GA.

 

Membership of the Union would be limited, at least initially, to international CSOs. Representative national, sub-regional and regional networks concerned with global governance could be affiliated to it, or sub-regional and regional networks might instead be eligible for membership. The Union   would need an independent regulator – perhaps a board composed of UN and non-UN representatives.

 

 

Bottom-up

National, sub-regional and regional CSOs with global governance concerns should be encouraged to form networks. The national networks would be accountable to their members and could apply for affiliation to sub-regional and/or regional networks, as well as to the Union. These networks and the Union would be accountable to their members and affiliates.

 

 

Next step

Some Global Compact participants might also decide to apply for observer status at the GA, and other non-state actors (e.g. ‘big cities’, mentioned by Dr Boutros Boutros-Ghali in his Ottawa Citizen article of 7 April 2003) might do likewise. The stage could thus become set for a non-state subsidiary organ of the GA under Article 22 of the Charter. We request the Panel to consider recommending that such a subsidiary organ could strengthen the influence of the GA in the UN and in the world.

 

 

November 2003

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Annex 1.

 

Mission Statement

UNGA(UN General Assembly)-Link UK, a network of civil society organisations and individuals in Britain with the purpose of:

 

  1. Promoting an annual civil society companion assembly or forum to the UN General Assembly;

 

  1. Providing shared representation for its members in any such companion body, at UN venues and conferences, and at UN-NGO meetings;

 

  1. Assisting in broadening the General Assembly's links with civil society in Britain;

 

  1. Developing a national network model, to be available for adaptation by other countries, to represent civil society in a UN-linked assembly or forum.

 

 

 

Annex 2.

 

We the Peoples: Civil Society, the UN & Global Governance

An introduction to the Cardoso Report on UN-Civil Society Relations (June 2004)

 

Definition, Civil Society: Refers to the associations of citizens (outside their families, friends and businesses) entered into voluntarily to advance their interests, ideas and ideologies.  The term does not include profit-making activity (the private sector) or governing (the public sector).  Of particular relevance to the United Nations are mass organisations (such as organisations of peasants, women or retired people), trade unions, professional associations, social movements, indigenous people’s organisations, religious and spiritual organisations, academia and public benefit non-governmental organisations.  (Glossary of the Cardoso Report, p13)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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