After raising the slimmest of hopes, the GA keeps civil society out in the cold.
For those of us who have been active at the United Nations on the role of civil society in the institution, we were hopeful that the report of the High Level Panel on UN-Civil Society Relations would open the possibility of more substantive and institutionalized engagement of NGOs with the various organs of the UN, including the General Assembly, the Security Council and the Secretariat. Some of us had gone as far as drafting recommendations, critiques and model GA resolutions to use in implementing the findings of the High Level Panel’s report.
The reception of the governments to the recommendations of the High Level Panel was less than enthusiastic. In my report to CONGO on the GA debate in October, I noted that a number of member states, including the US, favored no change in the status of NGOs within the General Assembly. Which is to say, they favored NGOs continuing to have no status in the body at all.
The government of Brazil was brave enough to undertake the difficult task of finding a compromise resolution that would attempt to implement some of the recommendations of the High Level Panel while also meeting the concerns of more conservative member states. Closed door informal meetings took place in December to try and draft a resolution. Negotiations apparently stalled sometime in the past week, with the decision being to forego the issue until September 2005.
This is bad news for NGOs. 2005 is already chock-a-block with important meetings and issues on the UN’s agenda, particularly the five-year review of the Millennium Summit Declaration and the Millennium Development Goals. In addition, 2005 is the ten-year anniversary of the Beijing Women’s conference, the five-year review of the Copenhagen Social Summit, and the World Summit on the Information Society in November 2005. Whether or not governments will have any interest in spending any time on the issue of NGO participation is way up in the air.
Many of us will continue to push for the issue, of course, in the coming year. All of these important UN events will have to at least appear to include civil society, and we will leverage that as an opportunity to keep alive the quest for effective civil society participation.