Press Releases

    NGO/579
                PI/1671
    8 September 2005

    NGOs Are "Guardians of the Reform of the International System", DPI/NGO Conference Told as It Opens Three-Day Session

    Participants Include Representatives of 1,160 Civil Society Organizations from 124 Countries

    NEW YORK, 7 September (UN Headquarters) -- Just one week before the opening day of the largest ever gathering of world leaders at United Nations Headquarters, the fifty-eighth annual DPI/NGO Conference kicked off today, providing an opportunity to hear the views of civil society on a range of issues, from peace and security and human rights, to implementing the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and strengthening the United Nations. 

    This year's Conference, organized by the Department of Public Information (DPI) in cooperation with associated non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and held in the run-up to next week's World Summit (14 to 16 September), is entitled "Our Challenge:  Voices for Peace, Partnerships and Renewal". 

    As of this morning, 3,500 people had registered to participate in the three-day meeting, representing some 1,160 non-governmental and civil society organizations from 124 countries.  Also, as all the Conference plenary sessions would be webcast live, participants from around the world were joining in electronically through an interactive Conference website. 

    At the opening session this morning, Under-Secretary-General for Communications and Public Information Shashi Tharoor welcomed participants to the Conference, which he referred to as part of a grand process.  Many players, including governments and the United Nations Secretariat, would have an important role to play if that process was to deliver to people everywhere the "better standards of life in larger freedom" to which everyone was committed.  The role of civil society was particularly important. 

    "In no small way, you are the guardians of the reform of the international system", he stated.  "What is more, I hope you will use your voices and your expertise to praise the achievements of the Summit, and, of course, to call for more where more is needed." 

    General Assembly President Jean Ping said it was clear today that civil society support in addressing major issues was crucial for the planning of humanity's shared future.  The future depended on the ability to collectively deal -- at all levels -- with the numerous challenges facing the world.  The action of NGOs had its place in building the better world that everyone desired.

    In his keynote address, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Jan Egeland noted that the world had, in recent weeks, seen disasters, conflicts and crises strike vulnerable communities, from the southern United States to various parts of Africa.  There was an obligation to come to their relief and to fight the root causes of those scourges.  A dynamic civil society sector and a reformed and revitalized United Nations were essential to doing so. 

    Hurricane Katrina, like many hurricanes before her, demonstrated a basic truth -- that everyone was vulnerable to the effects of growing hazards, including climate change, he stated.  No one was an island isolated from the threats of the twenty-first century, which transcended borders and included extreme poverty, epidemics and the threat of terrorism. 

    He also highlighted the need for a major upgrade of the global humanitarian system, its capacity and its funding, stressing that basic life-saving assistance should not be a lottery where some won and others lost.  With the proposed emergency humanitarian fund, aid agencies could jumpstart assistance when needed, as well as provide assistance to many forgotten crises.  It was also necessary to wake up world public opinion and global decision-makers to meet the huge humanitarian and developmental challenges of the day.  The world had enormous technical capabilities to address those challenges.  That technical revolution needed to be matched with a political and moral revolution. 

    This morning's other keynote speaker, Wahu Kaara, Ecumenical Coordinator for the Millennium Development Goals, All Africa Conference of Churches and Global Call to Action against Poverty, said that in 2005 the world had seen bold and broad manoeuvres and engagement to address the critical issue of global poverty and inequality.  From the launch of the Global Call to Action against Poverty at the World Social Forum in January to today, a vibrant voice that was interrogating the dominant discourse was gaining ground across borders. 

    Poverty, she said, could not be eradicated without a comprehensive development programme.  Five years ago, world leaders had committed to overcoming hunger, poverty and illiteracy by 2015.  Since then, the world had focused not on the Millennium Development Goals but on the so-called war on terror.  Citizens across the world were shocked that some governments were asking for the Millennium Development Goal commitments to be removed from the Summit outcome.

    While United Nations reform was important, she emphasized, the Goals could not be sacrificed at the altar of some governments pushing their own self-interest.  Civil society called on world leaders to, among other things, make specific commitments and time-bound country-specific implementation schedules. 

    Also addressing the opening segment were Joan Levy, Chair of the NGO/DPI Executive Committee, and Joseph Donnelly, Chairman of the fifty-eighth Annual DPI/NGO Conference.

    In the afternoon, the Conference held a panel discussion on partnerships, moderated by Liz Burns, President, International Association for Volunteer Effort, who stressed that civil society's commitments to the Millennium Goals made it imperative to develop effective partnerships.  Among other things, the panel looked at the challenge of forging effective partnerships for development, the importance of pooling financing and other resources, and partnerships between governments and civil society, without which the Goals could not be realized.

    The panellists were Ziad Abdel Samad, Executive Director, Arab NGO Network for Development; Bruce Jenks, Director of the Bureau for Resources and Strategic Partnerships, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP); Melba Pria Olavarrieta, Chief of the Special Unit for Attention to NGOs, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Mexico; and Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, Executive Director, Tebtebba Foundation, Philippines, and Chairperson, Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues. 

    The Conference will continue at 10 a.m. tomorrow, 8 September, with a panel discussion entitled, "A Focus on Human Development:  Implementing the MDGs".

    Background

    The fifty-eighth annual DPI/NGO Conference, entitled "Our Challenge:  Voices for Peace, Partnerships and Renewal", met today to begin its three-day meeting.

    The gathering, organized by the Department of Public Information (DPI) in cooperation with associated non-governmental organizations (NGOs), brings together more than 2,000 NGO representatives and other civil society partners from all over the world to voice their views on implementation of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), peace and security, human rights and strengthening the United Nations.

    Opening Statements

    SHASHI THAROOR, Under-Secretary-General for Communications and Public Information, welcomed participants to the Conference, saying that any gathering of 2,700 representatives of civil society was, in itself, extraordinary.  But there were a number of reasons why the present meeting was more important than ever.  The first reason was its universality.  As of this morning, the list of registered participants had grown to some 3,500 -- representing some 1,160 non-governmental and civil society organizations from 124 countries.  Also, those assembled here were not the only participants in this year's Conference.  All the Conference plenary sessions would be webcast live and many colleagues were joining in electronically through an interactive Conference website.

    Secondly, he continued, this year's Conference was different because it was more closely tied to other United Nations processes than had often been the case, thanks in no small part to General Assembly President Jean Ping.  This year, the Conference was inextricably linked to the very important intergovernmental processes in a new and profound way.  Last year, a high-level panel produced a report that had come to be known as the Cardoso Report.  That report recommended that the Conference be more closely tied to the intergovernmental process and that it draw more directly on the agenda of the General Assembly. 

    The Secretary-General, seeking to identify new ways to strengthen cooperation between civil society and the United Nations to achieve shared aims, had charged DPI with creating the means to allow civil society to interact in a more structured fashion with Member States. 

    Thirdly, he said, the meeting came at a most auspicious time.  Next week, some 170 world leaders would gather at a summit at the United Nations to discuss and hopefully agree on a series of far-reaching changes that would significantly alter the international architecture.  The themes of the Conference mirrored those of the Summit, and the views presented on what must be done to face the challenges of the twenty-first century would be heard by those people who were currently negotiating the positions that world leaders would consider. 

    So the Conference was part of a grand process, he said.  Many players would have an important role to play if that process was to deliver to people everywhere the "better standards of life in larger freedom" to which everyone was committed.  Governments, certainly, were key to that success.  And the United Nations Secretariat would also, he believed, have a major role to play.  But equally important would be the role of civil society.  "In no small way, you are the guardians of the reform of the international system.  What is more, I hope you will use your voices and your expertise to praise the achievements of the Summit, and, of course, to call for more where more is needed." 

    It was civil society, he added, that would have to watch over world leaders in the coming months and years to ensure that the Summit outcome document contained no empty promises, that the commitments made in a flurry of multilateralism in September were met in December and April and June, in 2005, 2010 and 2015.  That was a grave responsibility, but one that he believed civil society was uniquely suited to taking up, on everyone's behalf. 

    JEAN PING, President of the General Assembly, said the presence of NGOs, one week before the Assembly's high-level plenary meeting, demonstrated civil society's desire to actively participate in seeking solutions to the problems facing the entire international community.  The objective of the high-level meeting was to take stock of the major conferences and summits organized by the United Nations in the socio-economic field, including the implementation of the Millennium Development Goals.  The meeting, however, which coincided with the United Nations sixtieth anniversary, was an opportunity for world leaders to take major decisions regarding the future of the United Nations and global governance.

    Non-governmental organizations, civil society and private sector organizations were essential components in their respective nations, he said.  In many ways, their activities complemented those of States and international organizations.  They also contributed to the promotion of a true culture of peace and the protection of human rights.  It was clear today that civil society support in addressing major issues was crucial for the planning of humanity's shared future.  The future depended on the ability to collectively deal -- at all levels -- with the numerous challenges facing the world.  The actions of NGOs had their place in building the better world that all desired.

    In a keynote address, JAN EGELAND, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and UN Emergency Relief Coordinator, noted that the Conference was taking place on the eve of a tremendous opportunity for reform and revitalization at the United Nations.  "We must not let this opportunity pass us by", he said.  When world leaders gathered here next week, they would be faced with formidable challenges, as well as formidable opportunities.  Much was at stake.  The world, in recent weeks, had seen disasters, conflicts and crises strike vulnerable communities, from the southern United States to Africa.  There was an obligation to come to their relief and to fight the root causes of disasters, conflicts and crises.  Only if governments, NGOs and the entire United Nations system worked together could that happen. 

    Hurricane Katrina, like many hurricanes before her, demonstrated a basic truth -- that everyone was vulnerable to the effects of growing hazards, including climate change, he stated.  No one was an island isolated from the threats of the twenty-first century, which transcended borders and included extreme poverty, epidemics and the threat of terrorism.  In an interconnected world, the challenges and the solutions were global in nature.  A dynamic civil society sector and a reformed and revitalized United Nations were essential to addressing those challenges.  An effective and accountable United Nations was needed, which could tackle global challenges. 

    Humanitarian action was a vital part of the work of the United Nations, he stated.  The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs was the coordinating point for humanitarian work.  In the past 25 years, as the world changed, the challenges had also changed.  Today, the world operated in a more fluid, less predictable, post-cold-war environment, in which multiple crises occurred at the same time.  What was needed was an effective, efficient humanitarian system that could respond quickly to save lives.

    He went on to note three points.  First, what was needed was a major upgrade of the global humanitarian system, its capacity and its funding.  The Secretary-General had proposed a more predictable funding base, a strengthened response capacity and more predictable access and security for aid workers.  Basic life-saving assistance should not be a lottery where some won and others lost.  Predictable funding was essential.  Funding was needed, especially for use in the very first days when the most lives were at stake.  With the proposed emergency humanitarian fund, aid agencies could jump-start assistance when needed, as well as provide assistance to many forgotten crises. 

    Also, he continued, more predictable access to victims was needed.  The international community had the right and obligation to help, and vulnerable people had the right to receive assistance.  To provide that assistance, unrestricted access to those in need was crucial.  The greatest unmet needs were in Africa.  Africa was the continent of the future, with the youngest population and home to one of the most promising generations of civil society organizations.  Yet, one in three Africans remained malnourished and, each year, hundreds of thousands of children died from preventable causes.

    His second point concerned the enormous contribution of the non-governmental community in helping to meet human rights, developmental and humanitarian needs around the globe.  To meet the Millennium Goals, he said, it was necessary to harness the energy, resources and imagination of all sectors of society, especially civil society.  In the tsunami operation, the world saw the power of a united humanity.  It was necessary to apply that example elsewhere, including in Africa.  Today, NGOs deployed the majority of the field workers in humanitarian operations.  There was no better demonstration of compassion in action than that of NGO workers in areas of crises.  Non-governmental organizations were vital partners of the United Nations and essential to its humanitarian work.  He added that NGOs needed to commit to coordination and information sharing, leading to an improved ability to save lives quickly and effectively.  He also wanted to see the private sector become more involved in humanitarian operations. 

    Thirdly, he said it was necessary to wake up world public opinion and global decision-makers to meet the huge humanitarian and developmental challenges of the day.  The world had enormous technical capabilities.  That technical revolution needed to be matched with a political and moral revolution.  The vision was clear, and now it was necessary to summon the unanimity and will to achieve it.  From the Niger to New Orleans, the suffering of fellow human beings required a response.  To respond, a global system was needed that was effective, efficient and equitable.  Also needed was a United Nations that could meet the challenges of today and build a better world for tomorrow.  With the help of civil society, he was confident that it would be able to do so. 

    WAHU KAARA, Ecumenical Coordinator for the Millennium Development Goals, All Africa Conference of Churches and Global Call to Action against Poverty, in a keynote address, said 2005 had been a monumental year.  The world had seen bold and broad manoeuvres and engagement to address the critical issue of global poverty and inequality.  Inequality was not just between countries, but also within countries.  From the launch of the Global Call to Action against Poverty at the World Social Forum in January this year to today, a vibrant voice that was interrogating the dominant discourse was gaining ground across borders.  The Global Call, which had become in just eight months the largest global movement against poverty, included social movements, trade unions, churches, women, youth and human rights groups.

    Describing the "other Africa", she said Africa was waging a determined struggle against poverty.  The African Union and the new African Parliament, led by women, was a symbol of the new Africa.  The real transformation, however, was at the level of the individual.  The people of Africa were increasingly refusing to accept a life of bondage, poverty and injustice.  Meeting the Millennium Development Goals had to be top priority.  Corruption and inefficiency would no longer be tolerated.  Campaigns for achieving the MDGs and poverty eradication were already active in over 20 African countries.  The Global Call to Action against Poverty, with the support of the United Nations Millennium Campaign, was now a powerful voice of the people inside Africa holding African Governments to account.

    While the dominant discourse on poverty was developing world centric and sub-Saharan specific, the so-called developed world also had a stake, she said.    It was obvious that civilization was at a critical juncture.  At the intersection of developed and developing countries, globalization and its concomitant subjugation of whole societies, was the very fibre of the fact that freedom was under challenge.  Poverty could not be eradicated without a comprehensive development programme.  There was a need, therefore, to go back to a development agenda for the new millennium.  The debt of poor countries had to be written off and financial mechanisms controlled.  International taxes and international distribution of incomes was also needed.  Poor countries also needed policy autonomy to define their own development agenda.  No single country or individual could be "developed".  Development was only possible if people could decide which kind of modernity they wanted. 

    Five years ago, world leaders had committed to overcoming hunger, poverty and illiteracy by 2015, she said.  Since then, the world had focused not on the Millennium Development Goals but on the so-called war on terror.  Citizens across the world were shocked that some governments were asking for the MDG commitments to be removed from the Summit outcome.  While United Nations reform was important, the MDGs could not be sacrificed at the altar of some governments pushing their own self-interest.  Civil society called on world leaders to, among other things, make specific commitments and time-bound country-specific implementation schedules.  Debt cancellation had to include 100 per cent of official debt of all low-income countries.  Trade justice should be given the highest priority.  Agricultural subsidies under all guises that were killing poor farmers in poor countries should be dismantled.  Barriers to rich country markets had to be torn down and double talk about free markets for the poor ended.

    NGO Statements

    JOAN LEVY, Chair of the NGO/DPI Executive Committee, reported on what her Committee -- representing over 1,500 NGOs worldwide -- had been doing during the past year, which had been a productive one.  She said the three words that best described the year's activities were communication, outreach and partnerships.  The mission of the Committee was to act as a liaison between the NGO community and DPI, convey the message of the United Nations to others and, in return, inform the United Nations of the activities and programmes of NGOs in different parts of the world.  Among the mechanisms for carrying out that mission were The NGO Reporter, the quarterly newsletter of the Committee; the weekly NGO briefings; the Interactive Conference Website; and the Annual Conference. 

    The three DPI/NGO Communication Workshops presented this year were connected by a common theme:  partnerships.  It was also decided to create a comprehensive NGO calendar in order to record and publicize all NGO-related events at the United Nations.  In addition, a new Executive Committee programme on mentorship was proposed and was expected to be fully activated this fall.  New NGOs or new representatives to established NGOs were encouraged to pair with those who were more experienced in the United Nations system. 

    She also highlighted a new, innovative and important partnership formed this past year.  The NGO/DPI Executive Committee and the Conference on NGOs (CONGO), along with several other organizations, met informally this past year to explore ways in which civil society could make a meaningful impact on the General Assembly's Summit review on the progress of the Millennium Goals.  The group became known as the Millennium+5 NGO Network and came to two decisions on how best to contribute to the Summit Review.  The first decision was to hold a series of side events during the meetings of the various commissions throughout the year. 

    The second decision, she continued, led to a first-ever event at the United Nations -- informal civil society hearings in the General Assembly.  That meeting would set a precedent for future exchanges between civil society and Member States.  As this would be the last time she would present the yearly report as Chair of the Committee, she thanked everyone with whom she had the privilege of working during the past few years. 

    JOSEPH CORNELIUS DONNELLY, Chairman of the fifty-eighth Annual DPI/NGO Conference, said the meeting presented historic opportunities and urgent, demanding challenges.  Every voice counted, and he invited those participating in the Conference to make their voices heard.  The timeline of 2000-2005 had passed; 2015 was now.  Today was now and so was tomorrow.  More than 3,500 applications had been registered representing some 1,000 organizations.  Civil society had already stated its intentions during the many months of planning for the Conference.  Civil society representatives had confirmed their readiness for the call for global partnerships, which reflected genuine multi-stakeholder participation and not mere polite nods.  The human, financial, professional, institutional and personal investments of civil society in the global community were beyond calculation, but easily represented billions of euros, yen, pesos or dollars for the sake of millions of people in need. 

    The question was whether civil society was prepared for the task before it and whether it was open to new voices, other realities and other experiences, he said.  The Conference participants represented many voices but with common and shared visions about a different future and a better way.  Its answers must be at least as great as its questions and challenges to governments and the United Nations itself.  He encouraged participants to network with each other.  Competition, egoism and status charts must be thrown out of the window once the Organization was reformed.  Non-governmental organizations must be a part of the change they wanted. 

    Afternoon Panel Discussion on Partnerships

    LIZ BURNS, President, International Association for Volunteer Effort, served as Moderator for the afternoon panel discussion on the challenge of partnerships.  She said civil society's commitments to the Millennium Goals made it imperative to develop effective partnerships.  Today's panel would highlight the challenge of forging effective partnerships for development.  It would look at the efforts of governments, global corporations and civil society to build capacity in developing countries, promote political stability and good governance, and encourage innovative solutions to common problems. 

    She said speakers would discuss the importance of pooling financing and other resources, the role of NGOs in promoting corporate social responsibility, as well as best practices to improve public health, nutrition, education, the environment and standards of living worldwide.  They would also discuss how to encourage new partnerships to effectively address complex problems that required regional and national solutions.  In particular, it would look at partnerships between governments and civil society, without which the Goals could not be realized. 

    ZIAD ABDEL SAMAD, Executive Director, Arab NGO Network for Development, noted that in the Millennium Declaration world leaders had recognized the link between development, respect for human rights, and peace and security.  With the formulation of Goal number eight, the need for a higher level of partnership had become clear, not only at the national but also at the global level.  While the first seven Goals had contained clear targets and indicators for their implementation, Goal eight lacked such targets and timetables.  Even now some countries were trying to avoid commitments in that regard. 

    While the need for partnership between governments, the United Nations and civil society was very strong in the Arab region, the ability to build partnerships was very weak, he said.  The main concerns for civil society in the region included terrorism, occupation and conflict.  Indeed, the region had been affected by the challenges of occupation and conflict for more than 50 years.  Currently, the region faced the issue of terrorism.  While real partnership was needed to address that issue, bias could hinder progress in the area of terrorism.  The Secretary-General's latest report, for example, in spite of the global nature of terrorist threats, stressed the potential impact of terrorist threats on specific countries and regions, namely, the United States and Europe.  Such bias was also clear in the Middle East, with Israel having the right to own weapons of mass destruction.  The lack of a clear understanding of terrorism also allowed for a mistreatment of the threat of terrorism.  In that regard, he said the United Nations should elaborate a definition of terrorism which reflected the interests of all Member States.

    Development, often overshadowed by complex political issues, had not been a priority on the agenda of Arab governments, he said.  In most Arab States, many civil society organizations were controlled and weak, facing limited resources for development activities.  Members of civil society were often not recognized as legitimate partners for change and often faced obstacles from the governments.  Civil society organs found themselves fighting the right to exist and defending basic human rights.  There was, in general, a trend towards change in the Arab region, however.  The concept of charity had influenced the emergence of civil society in the region.  Despite their important role, however, charitable organizations were not involved in policymaking.

    BRUCE JENKS, Director of the Bureau for Resources and Strategic Partnerships, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), said he would focus on how the UNDP saw the partnership agenda and why it was so fundamental to the direction in which the Programme was striving to go.  The importance of governments and national programmes was fundamental, but it was clear that it was necessary to go beyond that.  Partnership was more than the latest fad or rhetoric.  In the 1980s, development cooperation was conceived largely as inter-State cooperation, essentially rewarding one's allies and friends and keeping enemies at a distance.  In the 1990s, there was a sense that it was possible to move beyond such a world. 

    The move in the 1990s, culminating in Millennium Summit and the articulation of the Millennium Goals, was a highpoint in the move to focus on objectives.  And once the focus shifted to objectives, it was necessary to actually change the way one worked.  It was not possible to achieve certain objectives "if you go it alone".  The whole concept of the Goals, including of collecting data and analyzing trends, required a degree of social mobilization which only civil society could deliver on.  It also required policy dialogue, where civil society had a role to play. 

    Turning to the UNDP, he referred to a number of the major initiatives where it had intended to reach out.  The first one was MDG national reports in every country, which was launched by national governments with the support of the UNDP.  In reaching out, the UNDP had been unequivocal in asserting that civil society was crucial.  He also mentioned the Millennium Campaign, another important effort supported by UNDP related to the Goals.  In addition, the UNDP was committed to having focal points in their country offices focusing solely on building partnerships with civil society. 

    MELBA PRIA OLAVARRIETA, Chief of the Special Unit for Attention to Non-Governmental Organizations, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Mexico, said civil society partnership had been growing in past decades, often exceeding the capacities of government organs to deal with it.  Civil society demanded that greater value be given to their voices and arguments.  They also demanded consideration in national and international policies.  The participation of civil society organs in the international system needed to be addressed not only within the United Nations but also among international organisms.  Finding a model for public-private partnership was difficult, however, given that most models were based on European and American social models and did not coincide with other social structures.

    She said it was clear that neither international nor civil society organizations had been able to establish solid grounds for the establishment of partnership models.  It was also clear that international and civil society organizations needed to rethink the content and form of partnership.  International organizations needed to develop a better understanding of cultural differences.  There was also a need to review citizen consultation mechanisms and promote measures to improve private sector social responsibility.  One of the main objectives of the Mexican Government was to institutionalize dialogue with civil society.  While the legal framework had been improved in that regard, government structures were still unable to take full advantage of growing civil society participation.

    Developing effective partnerships required coordination between the public, private and the social sectors, she said.  Agreements were needed in such areas as human rights, economic promotion, urban and rural poverty and women's rights.   The voices of the people on ballots and in everyday life needed to be taken into consideration.  Partnerships and alliances were needed to meet the needs of present and future generations.  Governments and international organizations must adapt to increasing civil society participation.  New forms of governance, coordination and dialogue were needed in order to face poverty and environmental, health and human rights challenges around the world.

    VICTORIA TAULI-CORPUZ, Executive Director, Tebtebba Foundation, Philippines, and Chairperson, Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, said it was difficult to imagine how equal partnerships could be developed in such an unequal world.  A recent United Nations report warned that ignoring inequality in the pursuit of development was perilous.  She noted that indigenous people had been sacrificed in order to achieve economic growth.  The non-recognition by governments and the private sector of the fundamental rights and freedoms of indigenous peoples was more the rule rather than the exception. 

    How to develop equal partnerships in a highly unequal world was the main issue to be addressed, she said.  It was necessary to design partnerships underpinned by respect for fundamental human rights and freedoms.  The establishment of the Indigenous Forum was one of the best global expressions of partnership between indigenous peoples, governments, intergovernmental bodies, NGOs and the academic community. 

    The most fundamental element in building partnerships was engagement in serious and comprehensive dialogue with indigenous peoples, she said.  In most cases, governments engaged in dialogue after decades of conflict with indigenous peoples.  Indigenous peoples, who were ignored at the national level, found a space in which to speak up in the Indigenous Forum.  The Forum's success could be measure in many ways, one of which was how its recommendations were translated at the national and local levels.  One of the key results of the fourth session of the Forum was recommendations on how to make the Millennium Goals more relevant to indigenous peoples.  The Forum would continue to be a catalyst in establishing equal partnerships between indigenous peoples and the rest of the world.  Equal partnerships were the route to a more peaceful world, development and a world in larger freedom.

    Responding to a question on the possibility of establishing a United Nations "global assembly", Mr. JENKS said the United Nations could play a part in providing space, a precious commodity in today's world, for discussion and debate.  Expanding the space available to civil society organizations could be a starting point in that regard. 

    Ms. OLAVARRIETA said it was important to foster partnerships that enabled alternative organizations, including grass-roots organizations, to be part of global change.  The United Nations was already supposed to have a "global assembly".  Making national governments listen to civil society was crucial.  Forming small partnerships was equally important.

    Mr. SAMAD stressed the need for confidence to build civil society partnerships.  There were many alternatives for partnerships.  The World Social Forum was an example of providing space for social movements. 

    Many achievements in the United Nations had been in such areas as sustainable development and women's rights, Ms. TAULI-CORPUZ said.  The gains in those areas needed to be gathered to encourage governments to be more accountable and transparent.  Most governments, both developed and developing, signed onto things but did not comply.  That should be the focus, rather than the creation of new assemblies that would eat up energy and resources.

    Responding to a question on NGO participation in the World Summit, Mr. CONNNELLY, Conference Chairperson, said a lack of room had prevented NGOs from being able to participate in the high-level meeting.  Civil society representatives, however, did have friends at government missions and offices that would be participating.  Non-governmental organizations should not see it as a total loss, but as a glass half full.

    In response to a question on partnership with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Trade Organization (WTO), Mr. JENKS said the issue of how the different players in the larger United Nations system worked together on the capacity side of the trade agenda would be a fundamental issue.  Even if the rules were fair, without capacity, poor countries would not be able to make it.  Developing countries must be in a position to negotiate.  The UNDP worked with the IMF and the World Bank.  The IMF was a critical player in poverty-reduction strategies and there had been good discussions on alternative tracks for meeting the Millennium Development Goals. 

    Ms. OLAVARRIETA noted that the work of Mexican and Latin American NGOs had changed in the past decade.  The Mexican Government had been more open to NGO participation and NGOs had been much more active for both cultural and political reasons.  Regarding the inequality of NGO representation in United Nations conferences, she said it was necessary to find a way for governments to ensure NGO participation.  Non-governmental organizations had to network in their own countries and could not be strong only in the United Nations.

    Regarding a question on weapons of mass destruction, she stressed the need for the disarmament of small weapons, which actually killed more people than weapons of mass destruction. 

    In response to other questions, Mr. SAMAD noted that security was a precondition for development.  Terrorism was the result of underdevelopment and a violation of human rights.  There was a misunderstanding of the roots of terrorism.  The real reason for terrorism, namely, poverty and humiliation, needed to be addressed. 

    The issue of gender equity was one of the main issues facing the Arab region, he said.  Women did not have the right to even drive a car in Saudi Arabia.  Kuwaiti women had only recently won the right to vote.  The reality of Arab women, however, could not be changed from the outside.

    Ms. TAULI-CORPUZ, addressing the issue of inclusion, said indigenous people provided an example of exclusion at the national and international level.  They had used the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues to address the issue strongly.  Determining how development should take place in their territories was crucial.  Issues of peace or genuine development would never come about with the presence of determined constituencies.

    Summarizing the discussion, Ms. BURNS said the Millennium Goals were an agenda for action to address age-old problems.  One of the things that made the Goals different was that never before had there been such universal recognition of the seriousness and universality of those challenges, and never before had there been such universal will to do something about it.  This year served as a reminder about how much slippage there had been and how much more needed to be done in tackling those challenges.

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