As UN Assembly meets with public groups Annan hails key role of civil society

24 June 2005 –

United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan today urged civil society groups meeting in New York to keep making their voices heard and to hold governments – and the UN – responsible for the obligations and promises that had been made to ensure a safer, prosperous and more equitable world for all.

“You are essential partners and without you as advocates, we would not be where we are on some of the issues on the agenda today,” Mr. Annan said, wrapping up the General Assembly’s historic two-day hearings with non-governmental organizations (NGOs), civil society groups and the private sector.

The 191-member Assembly opened its first-ever interactive sessions with civil society groups yesterday to hear proposals on security, human rights, development and UN renewal, ahead of a landmark summit in September commemorating the world body's 60th anniversary.

The hearings coincided with the ongoing closed-door negotiations among UN Member States preparing for the summit, which will kick off on 14 September with a mid-term review of worldwide efforts to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), a set of ambitious targets, ranging from halving extreme poverty, to halting the spread of HIV/AIDS and to providing universal primary education, all by 2015.

World leaders gathering at the UN will also have what Secretary-General Kofi Annan says is "once-in-a generation" opportunity to make the world body more efficient at tackling global problems by adopting the reforms he proposed in his landmark report In Larger Freedom, which he introduced to the Assembly in March.

“As a civil society and as individuals you have quiet a lot of power and you know how to use it. And when you mobilize you usually get results,” Mr. Annan said this afternoon, adding: “Your overall message is loud and clear: to build a more prosperous, just and peaceful world, we need Member States to take bold actions here in September.”

“We need your support. We are counting on you, and many around the world are counting on you particularly the poor the weak the frightened and the intimidated, who have no voice or representation in powerful chambers,” he said.

Assembly President Jean Ping of Gabon said that there was no doubt that the hearings of the past-two days would have an impact on the outcome of the 2005 World Summit. Since the draft outcome for the high-level plenary will be a consensus document, every topic raised during the hearings cannot be reflected exactly as discussed in hearings, he said – but this does not make the contributions of participants less important.

“The time has come, he said, “to collectively grapple with all the threats and challenges that humanity is confronting if we are going to build a more peaceful, a more fair world based on solidarity. We will succeed all the more easily if the Member States and the non-governmental organizations, civil society and the private sector manage to work together with a genuine spirit of partnership.”

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