(1945 – 2005, researched by Jeffrey Segall)
An NGO representative to the US delegation at the 1945 San Francisco Charter Conference expressed the hope that “the common people of the World” would be brought into the Organisation. (D B Robins, Experiment in Democracy, 1971, p.127).
Also in 1945 Ernest Bevin, the British Foreign Secretary, called for a study on an elected UN assembly soon after the Charter came into force. Two distinguished American lawyers, Grenville Clark and Louis Sohn, included such a study in their well-known book World Peace through World Law (1958, 1960,1966).
In 1980 Parliamentarians for World Order proposed a consultative Parliamentary Chamber as a subsidiary organ to the General Assembly.
In 1983 the Medical Association for the Prevention of War (UK) proposed a UN Assembly of people’s organisations as a subsidiary organ of the General Assembly under Article 22 of the Charter (which states that “The General Assembly may establish such subsidiary organs as it deems necessary for the performance of its functions.”)
This proposal was promoted annually from 1985 to 1989 to the General Assembly President and the Ambassadors to the UN in New York by the International Network for a UN Second Assembly (see Building a More Democratic United Nations, ed. F Barnaby, 1991).
Marc Nerfin, a former UN Official, proposed a three-chamber General Assembly representing governments of the member-states, “economic powers” and “the peoples”. (1987)
President Mikhail Gorbachev, addressing the 43rd Regular Session of the General Assembly in 1988, said that the idea of convening on a regular basis, under the auspices of the United Nations, an assembly of public organisations deserves attention.
Harold Stassen, a main author and a USA signatory of the UN Charter, in the 1990 edition of his reform Draft Charter added to his proposals the provision of an annual “We the People” assembly of accredited NGOs to the General Assembly (see his United Nations: A Working Paper for Restructuring, 1994).
The World Federalist Movement in 1992 adopted the proposal for a UN Parliamentary Assembly, initially as a subsidiary organ of the General Assembly.
This was supported in 1994 by two distinguished retired UN Officials, Brian Urqhart and Erskine Childers.
The Commission on Global Governance, in the 1995 Report Our Global Neighbourhood, made a first-step proposal for an annual World Civil Society Forum linked with the regular sessions of the General Assembly.
Also in 1995, the World Commission on Culture and Development, of which Javier Perez de Cuellar was President, endorsed a Forum linked with the General Assembly as a first step, and a civil society chamber in a bicameral General Assembly as a longer-term objective.
States of Disarray, a 1995 publication of the UN Research Institute for Social Development, listed greater representation of “people’s interests” in global decision-making through, for example, a United Nations People’s Assembly as one of the new institutions required for promoting development.
The Civil Society Forum proposal was supported in the 1996 Draft Report of the General Assembly’s Working Group on Strengthening the United Nations System. The then Secretary-General, Boutros Boutros-Ghali, described the inclusion of this proposal in the 1996 Draft Report of the Working Group as “bold and imaginative”.
UN General Assembly President Razali Ismail, speaking of this proposal in his opening address (1996) stated: “I look forward to facilitating a greater involvement of the members of the civil society (body) in our work… Their involvement will not erode the intergovernmental process… On the contrary, it will strengthen it… The participation of civil society actors in the United Nations may mitigate power politics and help relieve the tensions between the dictates of universality and national sovereignty.”
UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s report Renewing the United Nations: A Programme for Reform (1997) states: “despite growing manifestations of an ever-more robust global civil society, the United Nations is at present inadequately equipped to engage civil society and make it a true partner in its work” (para 59); and, as a recommendation, “Designation of the General Assembly to be held in the year 2000 as ‘a Millennium Assembly’… accompanied by a companion ‘People’s Assembly’”.
Secretary-General Kofi Annan included in his 1999 report on NGOs in the UN system the recommendation of the Campaign for a More Democratic United Nations (CAMDUN) for an annual civil society forum to be held in relation to the regular sessions of the General Assembly (as proposed by the Commission on Global Governance in 1995).
CAMDUN’s longer-term objective of a civil society chamber in a bicameral General Assembly was supported in UNDP’s Human Development Report of 1999.
The Millennium People’s Assembly Network in 1999 expressed the hope of permanent cooperation between a Global People’s Assembly and the General Assembly of the United Nations.
The Non-Governmental Millennium Forum Declaration’s concluding paragraph (2000) urges the United Nations: “To support the creation and funding of a Global Civil Society Forum to meet at least every two to three years in the period leading up to the annual session of the General Assembly, provided that such a forum is conducted democratically and transparently and is truly representative of all sectors of civil society and all parts of the world.”
Re-imagining the Future, a report (2000) of the Global Governance Reform Project by academics J A Camillieri, K Malhotra and T Tehranian stated that there is a strong case for a second chamber, a People’s Assembly, which would provide a forum for a much wider range of views than exists at present. (p28).
A UN University study on “Governing Globalization” proposed (2001) a Global People’s Assembly modelled on the European Parliament to run parallel with the General Assembly.
The Final Statement of the 4th Assembly of the People’s UN in Perugia (2001) called for the United Nations to be strengthened and made more democratic by a Parliamentary Assembly and a permanent forum of global civil society.
The recommendations of the World Civil Society Forum (Geneva, 2002) included, “the creation of a World Civil Society Liaison Body in order to build upon and co-ordinate efforts of existing civil society forums for good governance and a better world.” (The participation as proposed by UNGA-Link UK also covers “civil society networks, UN-NGO bodies, people’s assemblies and peaceful social movements.”)
The Final Declaration of the Asian Civil Society Forum (ACSF) included (2002) “open up NGO participation at the General Assembly and in the Security Council.”
Andre Lewin (Chair of UNA-France, a former ambassador and a former spokesman for the UN Secretary-General) proposed (2003) “a new organ to represent civil society (non-governmental organizations, economic, social, cultural and religious forces, academics, Nobel Prize holders, journalists and the like). “
(New York Times, 15 March 2003, “If the UN Were Being Created Today…”)
Former UN Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali, in an article calling for the regeneration of the UN, stated: “The change needed is to obtain the participation of non-state actors in international affairs.” (Ottawa Citizen, 7 April 2003)
UNGA-Link UK (July 2003) calls for a transparent and accountable World Civil Society Union which could seek observer status at the UN General Assembly (parallel to that held by the Inter-Parliamentary Union.)
Jan Eliasson, President of General Assembly’s 60th Session (05-06), recognised civil society as a UN partner and told representatives present that “we will also think of other ways in which we can make your voices heard in these halls for years to come”. [NGLS Roundup, 124, October 2005]
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