Press Releases

    DEV/2535
    12 August 2005

    International Conference to Focus on Citizens' Participation in Governance, 14-17 August, in Lead-up to World Summit 2005

    High-Level Meeting in Australia Will Strengthen Peoples' Engagement in Decision-Making, Encourage Citizen-Government Dialogue for Development

    NEW YORK, 11 August (UN Department of Public Information) -- The first ever International Conference on Engaging Communities will be held in Brisbane, hosted by the Government of the State of Queensland, Australia, in cooperation with the United Nations.  The high-level meeting from 14 to 17 August will attract over 1,500 local and international participants including ministers, parliamentarians, senior government officials and members of private and civil society.

    The four-day long meeting will examine issues of "engaged governance" in democracies -- processes that can link government policies and programmes more directly with citizens and communities.  Attending the conference will be many well-known speakers including José Ramos-Horta, Foreign Minister of Timor Leste and 1996 Nobel Peace Prize Winner; Geraldine Fraser-Moleketi, Minister of Public Administration, South Africa; Mary Robinson, former President of Ireland and former United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights; Tim Costello, Chief Executive Officer, World Vision; Erna Witoelar, the UN Special Ambassador for Millennium Development Goals for Asia and the Pacific Region; and Jomo Kwame Sundaram, UN Assistant-Secretary-General for Economic Development, Department of Economic and Social Affairs.

    Setting the scene for the four days, the conference will open with a high-powered debate on the state of global democracy.  Facilitated by prominent Australian journalist Maxine McKew, world renowned leaders including Peter Beattie, Premier of Queensland, will explore challenges faced in democracies and in the processes of democratizing against the backdrop of Kofi Annan, UN Secretary-General's report "In Larger Freedom" released earlier this year.

    Coming exactly a month prior to the much anticipated World Summit 2005 at the United Nations Headquarters, where key decisions on development, security and human rights will be taken, the Queensland conference will promote understanding of sustainable citizens' engagement in ensuring long-term development and good governance.  "I hope that the International Conference on Engaging Communities will increase the awareness of participants in issues and challenges associated with community and government dialogue and pave the way to recognize this area as a critical element of governance and public administration", said José Antonio Ocampo, UN Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs.

    In many parts of the world, citizens are often far removed from vital government decision-making processes, making administrative policies work in isolation with limited impact on peoples' lives.  The challenges of poverty reduction and the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) -- the eight global objectives agreed by world leaders in 2000 -- requires tools that are inclusive and based on improved citizen-government dialogue.  These challenges call for new working mechanisms that stress partnerships and require innovative solutions to complex problems.  The conference provides an important platform for participants to address these challenges; share experiences on viable options; and explore practical approaches and experiences for engaging citizens at all levels of governance.

    Six capacity-development workshops will be organized by the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs in partnership with entities of the UN system and global institutions.  Issues pertaining to engaging marginalized groups, indigenous communities, decentralization and partnerships with civil society organizations to achieve the Millennium Goals are likely to be highlighted in the workshops.  A workshop on strengthening the rural poor and their organizations is also being organized by the Rome-based UN agency, International Fund for Agricultural Development.

    Establishment of a Participatory Governance Network and a Centre of Excellence for continuing research and training in the field is expected to be declared on 17 August, the final day of the conference.

    For background conference materials, please visit:

    http://www.engagingcommunities2005.com ;
    http://www.unpan.org/engagingcommunities2005_homepage.asp

    For media registration, please contact:  Tony Moore, ICEC, fax:  +61 (0)7 3306 7290, e-mail:  tony.m.moore@mainroads.qld.gov.au , mobile:  + 61 (0) 413 386 971, tel:  + 61 (0) 7 3306 7270.

    For more information on the International Conference on Engaging Communities or to arrange interviews with United Nations officials and the speakers attending the conference, please contact:  Mary Christine Ong, UN DESA, tel.:  +1 212 963-4758, e-mail:  ongm@un.org ; or, in Brisbane, after 10 August mobile:  +61 (0) 413 386 971, tel:  + 61 (0) 7 3306 7270; or Oisika Chakrabarti, UN DPI, tel.:  +1 212 963-8264, e-mail:  chakrabarti@un.org , or mediainfo@un.org .

    Keynote Speakers

    Mary Robinson, former President of Ireland and former United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, currently the Executive Director of Realizing Rights - The Ethical Global Initiative;

    José Ramos-Horta, Foreign Minister, Timor Leste, and 1996 Nobel Prize Winner:

    Mavis McDonald, Permanent Secretary, Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, United Kingdom;

    Olivio Dutra, former Minister of Cities, Brazil;

    Georgina Beyer, Member for Wairarapa, New Zealand

    Erna Witoelar, Special Ambassador for the Millennium Development Goals for Asia and Pacific, United Nations;

    Tim Costello, Chief Executive Officer, World Vision;

    Stephen Coleman, Cisco Visiting Professor in e-Democracy, University of Oxford;

    Robert Putnam, Peter and Isabel Malkin Professor of Public Policy Harvard University

    UN Invited Ministers and Speakers

    Geraldine Fraser-Moleketi, Minister of Public Service and Administration, Government of Republic of South Africa, Pretoria, South Africa;

    Patricia A. Sto. Tomas, Secretary (Minister), Department of Labour and Employment, Republic of the Philippines;

    Thang Van Phuc, Minister, Ministry of Home Affairs, Viet Nam;

    Rehman Sobhan, Chair, Centre for Policy and Dialogue, Bangladesh;

    Senior UN Officials

    Jomo Kwame Sundaram, Assistant Secretary-General for Economic Development, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, United Nations;

    Guido Bertucci, Director, Division for Public Administration and Development Management, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, United Nations;

    Adil Khan, Chief, Socio-Economic Governance and Management Branch bDivision for Public Administration and Development Management, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, United Nations;

    Jacinto De Vera, Chief, Policy Analysis and Coordination Unit, Socio-Economic Governance and Management Branch Division for Public Administration and Development Management, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, United Nations;

    Elissavet Stamatopoulou, Chief, Secretariat of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, Division for Social Policy and Development, UNDESA.

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