IWTC Women's GlobalNet #311
Activities and Initiatives of Women Worldwide

November 29, 2006
By Mavic Cabrera Balleza

UN GA President urges stronger partnership with civil society

The President of the 61st session of the UN General Assembly Sheikha Haya Rashed Al Khalifa, - the third woman to serve as President of the United Nations General Assembly in 60 years-met with civil society representatives on November 21, 2006 in New York. The meeting, which was jointly organized by the UN GA President’s office and the UN Foundation, addressed the views and concerns of Member States and NGOs on various issues relating to NGO access to the United Nations, in particular the General Assembly.  

Al Khalifa commended NGOs for their work in galvanizing public support for UN goals and representing the needs of people on the ground.  “You are indispensable partners in delivering services to the poor, catalyzing action within countries and holding leaders accountable for their commitments. …“In crisis, post-conflict and post-disaster situations, national and international NGOs are vital implementing partners – without them, UN humanitarian assistance could hardly be delivered,” she stated at the meeting. The UN GA President called for a closer relationship between civil society and the UN and a stronger voice for civil society groups within the world body. She also noted the NGOs’ valuable contributions to the UN’s reform agenda, especially on the issue of gender equality.

NOTE: UN REFORM REPORT:  In August 2006, the International Women’s Tribune Centre and the Heinrich Böll Foundation published a book entitled, “UN Reform: What’s in it for Women?” The publication features reflections, insights, and analysis by women from different regions specifically examining the impact of the UN reform process on women at the regional and national levels. It also presents different initiatives and proposals in ensuring women’s spaces within the UN as well as concrete recommendations on how to influence the UN reform process. Click here to download a pdf copy of the IWTC UN Reform Report  or go to <https://www.iwtc.org/reform_report.pdf>

The UN GA President announced that over the next year she will convene a series of informal thematic debates involving the private sector and civil society on development, gender and the dialogue among civilizations. The first such debate, which was held on November 27, examined the progress made so far on reaching the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

NGOs at the meeting pointed out to the inconsistency of the discourse in terms of UN -NGO relations. James Paul, Executive Director of the Global Policy Forum said that the greatly tightened security measures have reduced the potential for contact between NGOs and delegations in the UN headquarters. He also expressed concern about the reduced budget of the UN Non-Governmental Liaison Service.

Cora Weiss, President of the Hague Appeal for Peace and the International Peace Bureau called for an orientation among all UN staff members to treat NGOs with respect and recognize their contribution in achieving the UN’s development agenda. Other participants at the meeting, including the International Women’s Tribune Centre, recommended the use of new information and communication technologies and community media [especially radio in local languages], to reach out to more people in developing countries and enable them to participate in UN processes. The setting up of a Trust Fund to bring in NGO representatives from developing countries to UN meetings and events was also strongly suggested.

As previously noted, Sheikha Haya Rashed Al-Khalifa is only the third woman to serve as President of the United Nations General Assembly, and the first since the twenty-fourth session in 1969. The other two women UNGA presidents were Vijaya Lakshmi Pandit of India, who presided over the eighth session in 1953, and Angie Elisabeth Brooks of Liberia, who headed the twenty-fourth session in 1969.