Twenty-fourth General Assembly of the Conference of NGOs in Consultative Relationship with the United Nations
Closing Statement by Mr. Sha Zukang, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs
New York, 19 December 2011
Mr. Bautista, President of the Conference of NGOs,
Friends and colleagues from the NGO community,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am honoured to address this 24th General Assembly session of the Conference of NGOs.
A special thanks to Mr. Liberato Bautista for his leadership here and for his work as President of the CoNGO.
I thank all of you and your organizations for your year-round work in carrying out the UN’s economic, social and environmental development agenda.
You are key partners in our quest to achieve peace and prosperity for all people, regardless of their circumstances, region, ethnicity or religion.
From Port au Prince to villages in Pakistan, without your hands-on work in helping victims of natural disasters, poverty and disease, the United Nations would be unable to fully implement its agenda.
Your specialized knowledge and understanding of local populations, regional health issues and implications for policy often help enable governments and UN programmes to deliver aid to those who need it.
Your participation in UN meetings and consultations is also a critical connecting point, bringing the voice of grassroots organizations and communities to UN decision-making bodies.
Your work with ECOSOC helps ensure that the international community is synchronized with realities on the ground.
I know that at times it can be frustrating to work with the large, complex system of the United Nations.
I know that your feedback about our work together is not always positive.
But we need criticism, for without honest and forthright dialogue, we cannot improve our partnership.
I trust that you have used this General Assembly session to engage in frank discussions and ask hard questions about the internal workings of the CoNGO and about how we can work better together.
The theme chosen for this year’s session is “Defining the Present – Shaping the Future.”
Allow me then to briefly describe the UN’s perspective at this time.
2010 was a difficult year.
It began with the devastation of the Haitian earthquake.
Other natural disasters followed, along with food insecurity, high unemployment and the continuing aftermath of the economic turmoil, and post-Copenhagen skepticism about multilateralism.
One bright light, however, was the Millennium Development Goals Summit held in September.
Leaders convened in New York to assess progress so far and develop an action plan to accelerate progress in the near future.
The summit was a success – politically, substantively and organizationally.
The Secretary-General and the entire organization are so thankful to all who contributed.
Members of the CoNGO participated in the Plenary Meeting, and also in the informal interactive hearings with NGOs, civil society and the private sector held before the Summit in June.
It is important to stress the success of the pre-Summit hearings.
Over 500 participants from civil society participated.
Many of the actions recommended by NGOs found their way into the Summit’s final outcome document.
That document, called the MDG Action Agenda is a key tool for the international community as we try to accelerate progress on the Goals.
The informal interactive hearings were an excellent example of how your voices influence our legislative process.
Another highlight from last year was the UN climate conference in Cancun held in December.
It reenergized climate negotiations.
Governments agreed to establish a fund for long-term climate financing. Developed countries committed to $100 billion a year in mitigation assistance for developing countries.
They also reached important agreements on preventing deforestation, on an adaptation framework and formalizing mitigation pledges.
Civil society has been a driving force behind the momentum for climate change action.
Ladies and gentlemen,
As we look to 2011, the Millennium Development Goals and the battle against climate change must remain at the top of our agendas.
Another key priority, as designated by the Secretary-General, is to advance action on inclusive and sustainable development.
Only sustainable development, which is predicated on the inextricable linkages of social, economic and environmental challenges, can provide long-term and durable solutions to the crises of our times.
What is a sustainable development programme?
We all know that in Rio in 1992, Member States adopted Agenda 21 as a blueprint for action on sustainable development.
In Johannesburg in 2002, Member States resolved to speed up progress by adopting the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation.
There are other global sustainable development programmes, including those agreed in Barbados and Mauritius for small island developing States.
At the national level, many Governments have put in place national sustainable development strategies.
But sustainable development is first and foremost a bottom-up, multi-stakeholder process.
It depends on active engagement of civil society groups, groups that are gathered here today. That is why in Agenda 21 you are called Major Groups.
Indeed, when we see sustainable development in action, it is often through concrete initiatives on the ground, with your active engagement.
We see it in a micro-financing scheme that supports women business owners and educates them on green business practices.
We see it in a large-scale recycling programme that hires people with disabilities from poor neighbourhoods.
Small as they appear, these programmes have three-pronged approaches: they address the economic, social and environmental needs of a community.
They are designed and implemented from bottom-up, with long-term needs in mind, not stop-gap solutions.
I know that many of you work at NGOs that are implementing these kinds of programmes.
Your input and feedback will be invaluable then, as the United Nations prepares for a flagship event on its calendar - the UN Conference on Sustainable Development – also known as “Rio+20.”
As many of you know, the Conference will take place in 2012 in Rio de Janeiro.
Its objectives are to secure renewed political commitment for sustainable development; assess progress to date and remaining gaps in implementation, and address new and emerging challenges.
The thematic focus areas are: a green economy in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication, and an institutional framework for sustainable development.
As Secretary-General of the Rio+20 Conference, I call on all NGOs with expertise in sustainable development to actively participate in the preparatory process for Rio+20.
We need your views on progress made since 1992 when the first major sustainable development conference – the Earth Summit - was held in Rio.
We need your opinions on emerging trends – about what is feasible to aim for at the national and local levels…in terms of green business models…government policy support….development realities on the ground.
We welcome your inputs on how to strengthen the institutional framework for sustainable development.
The Conference is now a year and a half away.
That is very soon given the diversity of views on the issues before the Preparatory Committee and approaches to the outcome of the Conference.
I look forward to CoNGO’s participation in preparing for Rio+20, and in encouraging your member organizations to make sustainable development initiatives a priority.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
In the year ahead, I know that you will carry out the hard, day-to-day work of helping the underserved, and tackle important issues and policies that are often pushed aside.
I reiterate that the United Nations considers your work as essential to our work…our mission…our very existence.
As you carve out plans for the coming years, I ask that you make the regional and national benchmarks for the Millennium Development Goals paramount in your agendas.
With the 2015 deadline looming, we need all efforts large and small to be focused on this framework. Our collective performance against these goals will carry weight for years to come.
And again, I emphasize we need your support in promoting sustainable development – through Rio+20 preparations and through stressing multi-pronged approaches in your organizations.
In closing, I want to let you know that my door is always open to you.
The CoNGO and its member organizations have done so much for the UN and I want to reciprocate in whatever way possible.
As you leave this General Assembly session, I hope that you feel inspired to collaborate, innovate and challenge the Member States and the UN Secretariat.