Address by Sirpa Pietikainen, Chair of the WFUNA Executive Committee
Geneva, 15 July 2002óWorld Civil Society Forum
See also: Audio
We meet here in Geneva at a decisive time when the people of Switzerland
have chosen to become a member state of the United Nations. This provides us
with a vivid example of the great potential of the people's voice and at this
Forum, thanks to the great vision and determination of the organizers, we have
a wonderful opportunity to explore ways of deepening the relationship between
the people and the United Nations.
Although there are many who still think of the United Nations as an
intergovernmental body, limited to and defined by the interests of Member
States - there are just as many who believe that the United Nations is in
the process of being enlarged to embrace the world's people. We hope that it
will therefore be transformed into an instrument which is more democratic and
more responsive to people's needs.
Such a new phase would complete the original dream of the United Nations. We
should not forget that the preamble of the UN charter says "We, the people",
participants and actors for a better world. We now have a chance to put in
motion this original vision.
The governments and international institutions alone are unable to create
the needed change for inclusive globalization because of the decision making
trap they are living in. So it is very much up to the local and global civil
society to get together and start these changes to create governance by the
people for the people.
I think the challenge of this meeting is to develop practical ideas for
making this happen. How can we deliver the potential of this World Civil
Society Forum to make the UN a more effective instrument at the hands of the
I think we have at least four interlinked tasks ahead of us, stemming from
How are the UN structures to be changed so that they are more responsive to
the NGO community? How does the NGO community itself enhance its creditability
and work better together? How do we use the existing structures and
organizations more effectively?
And fourthly, how do we create financing mechanisms to enable all parts of
the NGO community to be beneficiaries of funding and technical mechanisms?
Today, I would like to share four ideas with you.
First - Let us actively encourage the UN to reach out to civil society
- to us the people.
The relevance of UN global policy making depends more and more on the
openness of the consultative process to bottom-up' insights and ideas
from NGOs working at the local level. We therefore see a great need to
strengthen the links between the UN and NGOs, especially in developing
countries and countries in transition.
In partnership with WFUNA and CONGO, the NGO Section of the Department of
Economic and Social Affairs is now developing informal regional networks of
NGOs in consultative status with ECOSOC to enhance NGOs' capacity building.
Networks have been set up in Latin America and
Africa; the next region will be East Europe.
We encourage the UN to be more proactive in identifying and encouraging
youth groups to qualify for NGO consultative status and to participate in these
The recent experiences of many NGOs involved in the preparatory processes
for the Monterrey and Johannesburg Conferences has been one of high
expectations being eroded. The time has come for the UN to establish the
minimum standards and to streamline the basic accreditation procedures for
civil society participation in global conferences.
The UN has to strengthen the consultative status of the accredited NGOs in
its permanent activities, including the General Assembly.
Let me emphasize a simple yet focal idea: We are more effective when we act
together in coalitions, combining our strengths and minimizing our limitations.
This is the way forward and will increasingly become the way of working with
The challenges we face in order to create more effective civil society
outreach are: How do we get the voices of civil society groups in developing
countries, women, youth, environmental organizations, different language
groups, minority groups and others of the large variety heard; how do we learn
to work better together with our growing numbers of active people in NGOs,
networks, and diversities of initiatives; and how do we resource the people to
There is a question about whether this World Civil Society Forum should be
established on a permanent basis. Our response is to welcome all civil society
initiatives that are transparent, inclusive and democratic - and that
provide an opportunity for NGOs to demonstrate that they are accountable for
the work that they do. The issues of NGO codes of conduct,
self-regulation and peer review are complex and merit serious
consideration. These issues would need to become an integral part of any such
With regard to the proposal to create a fund for partnerships, my question
to you is how can we best ensure that any such fund serves to extend NGOs'
capacity to support and strengthen the United Nations.
But we also need organizations that can act as a connecting point between
the UN and NGOs. Organizations that have a concrete basis within the UN and
within NGO networks, familiar with the working methods of both and thus able to
conduce the flows between them. Much work needs to be done. We need to build
additional channels and develop existing ones further.
I would like to invite all NGOs represented here to join the UNAs or
establish a new one in your country.
The role of the WFUNA and UNAs is to inform and facilitate the work of the
local civil society and NGO community with respect to the decisions and work
done by the UN and in the multilateral arena. But even more, they have to serve
the civil society so that they can have their voice better heard and be more
effective in global decision making and in influencing the national UN
policies. The WFUNA and UNAs can fulfill this task only if the NGOs and active
people join us, take ownership of this organization and make it their platform
and link for cooperation.
We invite you to join in our efforts to work for a more inclusive and
democratic form of global governance, taking into account the diversity of the
emerging civil society and our shared commitment to realizing the vision and
goals of the UN Millennium Declaration, particularly for social justice,
poverty eradication and sustainable development.
My fourth and final point is a request for your support. I ask everyone here
to join in a global survey about the role of civil society in implementing the
Millennium Declaration. The questionnaire is in three languages - French,
Spanish and English -and can be found on our website - www.wfuna.org - So please, everyone take ten
minutes during this Forum to go to one of the computers here in the Convention
Center and join in the survey.