[From CONGO Connections, Vol 6, No 2, January 2005]
Five years after the Millennium Summit in 2000, governments will be gathering in New York to assess what progress has been achieved in realizing the Millennium Development Goals and the rest of the Millennium Declaration.
The formal assessment will begin in March, when the Secretary General issues his report on Millennium Summit follow-up. Presumably his report will be broken down into a number of “clusters” of issues, which will then be dealt with by the General Assembly and a number of facilitators of each cluster area. A likely process will include governments meeting over 2005 and dealing with each cluster area in turn. This will culminate in a Millennium Summit+5, to take place from 14-16 September 2005, just prior to the formal plenary of the UN General Assembly in New York.
A critical question to be answered is What is to be the role of civil society in this debate?
Many in civil society see their role as providing a critical counterpoint to the glowing “reports cards” that many governments will be giving themselves this September. NGOs on the ground in these countries may see much more clearly than government ministers what are the challenges and further commitments needed to attain the goals. The Global Call to Action Against Poverty for example are planning a massive international campaign to force governments to act more decisively to end poverty. Their symbol of solidarity with the poor is a white armband.
Others in civil society plan on issuing reports on the Millennium Development Goals, such as the “We the People’s” survey being prepared by WFUNA, in conjunction with the North-South Institute. This survey analyses and reports on civil society activities, achievements and views regarding the Millennium Declaration and the Millennium Development Goals, which will be transmitted to the UN Secretary General. Similarly the 2020 Fund (with Globescan, Inc.) is producing a “Global Stakeholder Panel” report focusing on the MDGs and UN reform, compiling data collected from surveys of NGO, business and public sector representatives.
Meanwhile, the Conference of NGOs and the NGO DPI Executive Committee, along with a group of NGOs comprising the “New York Millennium+5 NGO Network,” have come together to see that the various networks and caucuses of NGOs active in the various UN processes have an opportunity to contribute to the Millennium+5 debate. The goal of this network is to see that at every major UN meeting in the first half of 2005 that there be a “Millennium+5 NGO Forum” where civil society can voice their opinions on what should be the top priorities of governments at the Millennium+5 Summit. In this way, the various NGOs who participate in the Commission on the Status of Women, the Commission on Sustainable Development, the Commission on Human Rights, the Conference on Disarmament, the Forum on Indigenous Issues, and the High Level Segment of ECOSOC, and perhaps other meetings have a chance to have their voices heard in September.
The input from these various Millennium+5 Fora will be collected in a compilation report and presented to governments at the UN General Assembly Civil Society Hearing, planned for June 2005, as well as at other major meetings with governments. It is hoped that this “report card” to governments will contain much more constructive criticism and helpful recommendations than their own self-assessments in the General Assembly. And it may be useful to NGOs as we plan our own work and advocacy beyond 2005.
At the end of the day, after all the reports are written and filed away, what will be important to see is if our communities are safer, our children healthier, and our common future more peaceful and just.