Report
of the
UN Civil Society Outreach Symposium

Sponsored by
The Stanley Foundation

Cosponsored by the
World Federation of United Nations Associations

Under the Patronage of the
President of the General Assembly,
H.E. Mr. Harri Holkeri

May 30-June 1, 2001
Arden Conference Center
Harriman, New York


Mission Statement:
If the UN’s global agenda is to be properly addressed,
a partnership with civil society at large is not an option: it is a necessity.
—H.E. Mr. Kofi Annan, UN Secretary-General

 

 


CONTENTS

INTRODUCTION

1. FURTHER DEVELOPMENT OF THE EXISTING UN MECHANISMS FOR RELATING TO CIVIL SOCIETY

1.1 Why develop UN mechanisms for relating to civil society?
1.2 Many existing consultative mechanisms could be extended or copied

Collaboration and partnerships
Role of the Office of the President of the General Assembly
Streamline accreditation procedures for civil society participation
Security as an issue of access
Establish NGO consultative status to the UN General Assembly
Make better use of NGO consultative status with ECOSOC
Communication capacity-building of NGOs in the South
Promote wider awareness of the role of civil society at the United Nations

2. INNOVATIVE WAYS TO ENABLE THE CIVIL SOCIETY TO CONTRIBUTE MORE EFFECTIVELY AND TO BUILD A BROADER
CONSTITUENCY TO SUPPORT THE UNITED NATIONS

2.1 Successful NGO efforts that helped to shape the United Nations’ global agenda
2.2 NGOs and the question of accountability
2.3 Searching for innovative ways to interact with the United Nations

Fund-raising
Women in Africa
Bridges between the United Nations and business
A forum for parliamentarians
Include NGOs in government delegations
Building renovations
Information-sharing on UN operational activities

2.4 Implementation of the Millennium Summit Declaration
Consult NGOs
Engage the support of NGOs locally
Role of ECOSOC
DPI/NGO Annual Conference
Upcoming events

3. 2000 MILLENNIUM FORUM AND STRENGTHENINGCOOPERATION AND COORDINATION AMONGST THE CIVIL SOCIETY AT LARGE

Annex A List of participants and guests
Annex B Address by Dr. Michael Edwards, Director of Governance and Civil Society, The Ford Foundation
Annex C Opening remarks by H.E. Mr. Harri Holkeri


Introduction

The Millennium Summit, the largest gathering ever of heads of state and government at UN Headquarters, adopted a declaration on September 8, 2000, that set out the leaders’ vision for the role of the United Nations in the 21st century and their commitments to promote peace, development, and social justice.

The Declaration emphasized that the United Nations needs to work in partnership with civil society to fulfill its purpose and programs. To better understand what the scope of this partnership could be, H.E. Mr. Harri Holkeri, president of the Millennium General Assembly, sought an opportunity to bring together leading civil society actors, permanent representatives to the United Nations, and senior officials of the UN system. In response to a request from President Holkeri, the Stanley Foundation convened the Symposium at Arden House in Harriman, New York in co-sponsorship with the World Federation of United Nations Associations, which received valuable support from The Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade of Canada. The list of participants is attached (Annex A).

Participants brought a variety of perspectives, values, and expectations to the symposium. This diversity was actively nourished by limiting the agenda to two broad questions and by a process of facilitation that was open to all points of view. President Holkeri made some opening remarks (which are available elsewhere on this site). Dr. Michael Edwards, director of governance and civil society at the Ford Foundation, gave the keynote address at the opening dinner (Annex B). Representatives of UNDP and ILO presented case studies on partnerships with civil society. In the context of the symposium, the Office of the President of the Millennium Assembly prepared a reference document on the participation of civil society in United Nations’ conferences and special sessions of the General Assembly during the 1990s.

The symposium was not expected to formulate decisions or policy positions. However, several proposals were developed concerning NGO consultative arrangements with the UN General Assembly, accreditation procedures to UN meetings, briefing programs on civil society for UN officials and delegates, strategies for NGO capacity-building and collaborative partnerships, and the possibility of finding a way to enable the president of the General Assembly to hear the voice
and advice of NGOs.

1. Further development of the existing UN mechanisms for relating to civil society

The Millennium Summit Declaration of September 2000 set the global agenda for the United Nations at the highest level. It brought together security, political, economic, social, and cultural issues into one document and provided an enhanced mandate for civil society participation in the work of the United Nations.

Participants agreed that H.E. Mr. Kofi Annan, secretary-general of the United Nations, has been very welcoming and supportive of civil society participation in the United Nations’ work. They valued, too, the leadership role of H.E. Mr. Harri Holkeri, president of the Millennium General Assembly, in strengthening the United Nations’ outreach to civil society.

1.1 Why develop UN mechanisms for relating to civil society?


Civil society can be both the challenger and protector of the universality of the value-based and rule-based systems of the United Nations. The future stability of the United Nations depends on collaboration with civil society.

Participants considered how the UN global conferences of the 1990s have shaped the United Nations’ role as a global policymaker and served as a catalyst for the rapid growth of new NGO networks and coalitions to advance policy agendas, notably on eradication of poverty, environment and sustainable development, peace and disarmament, human rights, and gender issues.

These conferences raised expectations for changes in global governance, greater economic and social progress, and increased levels of civil society participation. However, by the end of the 1990s, there were many concerns that these expectations were not being met. The resulting frustrations were often seen to be linked to the role of international financial institutions. They have been expressed in visible protests against the World Trade Organization, World Bank, IMF, and World Economic Forum. During this period, many NGOs working on finance, trade, and economic issues have become alienated from the UN. However, it was recognized by participants that the recent preparatory process for the International Conference on Financing for Development might be creating a new way forward.

Over the decade of the 1990s, the number of NGOs enjoying consultative status with the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) has doubled. It is now over 2000. This rapid increase has imposed strains on UN facilities and given rise to heightened concerns about NGOs’ credentials. The ease of NGO access to the United Nations has been eroding.

At the same time, there have been changes in the role of NGO caucuses. They were initially developed by like-minded NGOs to define policy positions and strategies to influence decision makers. Now, NGO caucus meetings have become a kind of open forum for all NGOs, involving large numbers of people and issues. These meetings do not always provide an orientation for new NGOs. Sometimes they are held at the same time as intergovernmental deliberations, as a parallel forum where alternative positions are developed. It was agreed that improved facilitation techniques could help caucus meetings become more productive.

Participants agreed that a fundamental reason for improving the United Nations’ outreach to civil society is to strengthen the links between the United Nations and NGOs in developing countries and countries in transition. The need for NGO capacity-building and operational effectiveness should not be divorced from the issues of access to decision making at the global policy level. The relevance of UN global policymaking is enhanced by the openness of the United Nations’ consultative process to “bottom-up” insights and ideas from NGOs working at the local level. It was acknowledged that a majority of NGO representatives at the United Nations in New York and Geneva come from countries of the North and that issues of access to the United Nations are not a high priority for many NGOs in the South working on development. The suggestion that Northern NGOs had created many Southern NGOs was questioned and this prompted discussion of the relationships among NGOs, and between NGOs and their governments in various parts of the world. Many NGOs in the South are disadvantaged by lack of funds and distribution of information, as well as other necessary support, and there is a value in the funding provided by Northern governments to facilitate their participation in the United Nations’ decision-making processes.

1.2 Many existing consultative mechanisms could be extended or copied


Convinced that it was worth extending and creating new UN mechanisms for relating to civil society, participants shared information about the following existing mechanisms:

· The Arria formula—by which invitations are extended to NGOs to testify to Security Council members outside of their official meetings; e.g., on issues relating to women and children in conflict situations.
· The consultative process for the International Conference on Financing for Development, which offers a possible new model for civil society involvement.
· The standard practice in UN treaty bodies of considering alternate reports from NGOs, alongside the country reports submitted by governments.
· The Web broadcasting of meetings of the UN Commission on Human Rights.
· UNDP’s Civil Society Advisory Committee.
· The UN Optical Disk System, which will be newly available for NGOs in August.
· The ILO tripartite system of decision making—involving government, business, and labor representatives on an equal level.
· The potential relevance of the Global Compact for the way the United Nations and its agencies relate to and develop partnerships with business.6

Participants put forward the following proposals for improving existing or creating newmechanisms:

Collaboration and partnerships

One of the most effective ways of developing closer collaboration between civil society and the UN system is through partnerships, which can take many shapes and forms and serve many different purposes.

Many NGO participants are becoming very skilled at operating in loose coalitions and networks. It was agreed that NGOs have a role to play in promoting effective cooperation between all the various parts of the UN system. NGOs make a particularly valuable impact as practitioners of development and should be promoted as partners in the United Nations’ work at the national level. The capacity of civil society actors to contribute to sustainable development could be extended to many other aspects of people-centered development.

With respect to UN peacekeeping and humanitarian intervention, it is never possible to see the “full picture” in advance. For this reason, it is valuable for the policy process to draw on all available sources of information, including civil society. Because each specific situation is unique, care is needed in defining the terms of each UN peacekeeping mandate and how it is translated into partnerships between the UN and civil society actors on the ground.

Role of the Office of the President of the General Assembly

Participants considered how the Office of the President of the General Assembly could be a key actor in reinforcing relations with civil society.

It was suggested that the president meet periodically with representatives of NGOs in order to create a regular contact point between the Office of the President and NGOs. These informal meetings could develop into an “advisory channel” to hear the voices and advice of NGOs representing different sectors and different concerns.

Streamline accreditation procedures for civil society participation

Participants shared their sense of frustration at the protracted negotiations over the role of NGOs in each and every UN conference. There was strong support to further harmonize NGO accreditation practices and procedures. Because each conference has its own particular dynamics, it is inappropriate to assume that “one size fits all.” Nevertheless, it should be possible to define the minimum standards and to streamline the basic procedures. There are compelling and practical reasons to do so:

· A compilation of the accreditation procedures for UN conferences and special sessions of the General Assembly during the 1990s has been developed and posted on the Web site of the president of the General Assembly
· The UN Secretariat needs to exchange information on guidelines for accreditation during drafting processes and negotiations.
· If all the basic information concerning NGO registration could be included in the first announcement of a decision to hold a major UN conference or special session, NGOs would have a better chance and the necessary time to prepare for their participation. This could facilitate participation of NGOs from developing countries, for instance, by giving them more time to seek financing and apply for visas.

Security as an issue of access

Some participants stressed the importance of having a formal assurance from the secretary-general that NGOs will be consulted before any new security rules are applied to them.

Establish NGO consultative status to the UN General Assembly
Participants were briefed on strategies being used to win support for the draft resolution to establish NGO consultative arrangements with the General Assembly, its meetings, conferences, and special sessions. The strategies include a campaign to educate all NGOs about the draft and to create a group of like-minded governments from diverse countries to endorse and promote it through informal meetings with other governments.

Make better use of NGO consultative status with ECOSOC
The NGO Section of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA) has taken various initiatives to equip NGOs with consultative status at ECOSOC to become more knowledgeable about the United Nations and effective in their advocacy activities. As well, there is an outreach program to facilitate NGO exchanges within and between regions. There will be a meeting in Tunisia from January 9-11, 2002, to develop African NGO subregional networks.

It was suggested that the United Nations could be more proactive in identifying and encouraging youth groups to qualify for affiliate NGO consultative status. The involvement of young people in the United Nations’ decision-making process should be more actively supported.

Communication capacity-building of NGOs in the South

Several participants indicated that they are giving priority to building the capacity of NGOs in developing countries and economies in transition. They welcomed the increasing priority being given by the United Nations to optimizing the use of information and communication technologies and efforts being made to ensure that civil society benefited from these technologies, including from the Optical Disk System, video-conferencing, and the UN system’s Web sites. It was suggested that it is now possible to conceive the UN house as a global network rather than as a series of buildings.

The UN secretary-general was in Silicon Valley recently and met many industry leaders from the high-tech sector who were keen to help the United Nations. Participants welcomed this information and the role of civil society in bridging the digital divide. The role of UN Information Centers and the Non-Governmental Liaison Service (NGLS) in distributing material to NGOs should be strengthened, as the Internet and Web sites are not yet within the range of all Southern NGOs.8

Promote wider awareness of the role of civil society at the United Nations

It was widely agreed that NGOs should take the initiative to:

· Teach people working in the UN system about the role of civil society—brief new staff, diplomats, and security personnel.
· Organize pilot projects between governments, UN agencies, and NGOs to build a base of experience with partnerships.
· Improve the capacity of NGOs to interact and consult with governments.
· Develop teaching material related to the United Nations for schools and ordinary citizens.

2. Innovative ways to enable civil society to contribute more effectively and to build a broader constituency to support the United Nations


We are living through a period of profound global change. New forms of wealth-creation (including for the United Nations), new forces agitating for political change, and new information and communication technologies are influencing the ways we look at the world. Should the relationship between the United Nations and civil society therefore be changing? Yes. Participants agreed with the comment:

To develop the relationship between civil society and the UN, we have to think more about how NGOs can support the UN’s role in global policy making.

2.1 Successful NGO efforts that helped to shape the United Nations’ global agenda


Participants discussed how the recent campaigns on landmines, the ICC, and child soldiers had succeeded in making an impact. Each had set clear goals and a simple agenda on which most could agree. People worked jointly or separately with minimal bureaucracy. There was no attempt to exert control over their access to decision makers, and alliances were formed with many governments. In all these cases, there was a strong correlation between effective NGO advocacy and widening the United Nations’ constituency.

Following effective campaigns, NGOs have developed partnerships with the United Nations and in the process enabled their own networking activities to strengthen and diversify over time. A good example of this was the 1999 Hague Appeal for Peace Conference. The Hague Appeal was the result of people collaborating together from all over the world. Its latest initiative, a global peace education program, is being carried out jointly with the UN Department of Disarmament
Affairs.

The Department of Public Information (DPI), the NGO Section of DESA, the NGLS, as well as the Conference of Non-Governmental Organizations in Consultative Relationship with the United Nations (CONGO), and other relevant NGO coordinating mechanisms are providing orientation and training programs for new NGOs to prepare them for their participation in UN activities. These have been very worthwhile.

2.2 NGOs and the question of accountability


It was suggested that of the four major global actors—governments, intergovernmental agencies, businesses, and NGOs—only NGOs are not accountable for their activities. Governments sometimes lose power when they fail to meet the expectations of voters. Some businesses are now being tied into the UN Global Compact. However, the Global Compact is not regarded as an accountability instrument and it includes NGOs (e.g., Amnesty International, ICFTU, and WWF). NGOs with consultative status are approved by member states and have to report regularly so, in this sense, they are accountable to the United Nations.

It was agreed that the questions of NGO codes of conduct, self-regulation, and peer review are complex and merited separate consideration.

Concern was expressed that some NGOs at the United Nations may be vulnerable to outside manipulation. An example was given of a wealthy “spiritual” movement that had been pursuing a political agenda through NGOs, sometimes with government sponsorship, which was at odds with the purposes and principles of the United Nations.

2.3 Searching for innovative ways to interact with the United Nations


The facilitator asked whether there is a need to create opportunities for more spontaneous interaction between NGOs and the United Nations. New behaviors create new patterns of relationships. The United Nations is continually being drawn into new kinds of activities and situations, and there is great potential to create synergies between disparate groups and interests. The following practical examples of new ways for civil society to relate to the UN system were offered:

· Fund-raising
Given that the UN Foundation has been set up to support partnerships between the United Nations and civil society, NGOs could work to promote support for further funding of partnerships between the United Nations and civil society. Participants encouraged that donor funds be given with as few strings as possible.

· Women in Africa
In Africa, a coalition of high-level women from NGOs and governments has formed a group called African Women in Peace and Development, which now has links with the Organization of African Unity and the Economic Commission for Africa. They are working on strategies to integrate gender issues into the African Human Rights Charter and the World Conference Against Racism.

· Bridges between the United Nations and business
Companies that practice corporate social responsibility could become bridges between NGOs, the private sector, and the United Nations.

· A forum for parliamentarians
Participants had an inconclusive discussion about whether setting up a UN forum for members of Parliaments would be an advance for civil society.

· Include NGOs in government delegations
About 20 governments routinely include NGOs in their delegations to the General Assembly, and more do so for UN conferences and special sessions; some include NGOs as paid consultants. Noting the potential risks of NGOs being co-opted and controlled, it was nevertheless suggested that the secretary-general’s letters of invitation to governments, to the General Assembly meetings, and to special sessions could highlight this possibility.

· Building renovations
Civil society should be consulted on the proposed renovation of the Visitor Center for the UN Headquarters and on the building plans for the development of the site near the United Nations, between 42 nd and 36 th Streets.

· Information-sharing on UN operational activities

There are many good examples of ways in which UNDP and other UN programs and agencies are helping to build the capacity of NGOs in developing countries. These could be more widely shared, possibly through a Web site.

2.4 Implementation of the Millennium Summit Declaration


Participants were advised that the UN Secretariat is developing a “Road Map” to follow up the Millennium Summit Declaration. A draft will be ready for the 56 th session of the General Assembly. It is expected that the secretary-general will report each year on a particular thematic set of issues in the Declaration. This will give a focus to the discussions that year, to which civil society could make a contribution. Some participants felt that NGOs have no sense of ownership of the Declaration because they were not included in the drafting process. In considering how this could be changed, the following proposals were suggested:

· Consult NGOs

Encourage the UN Secretariat staff in preparing the “Road Map” for the implementation of the Millennium Summit Declaration to brief and consult NGOs.

· Engage the support of NGOs locally

WFUNA has written to the heads of state and government at the Summit offering to cooperate in implementing the Declaration and proposed to convene a meeting in September 2001 for United Nations Associations to share ideas about their implementation strategies.

· Role of ECOSOC
The high-level segment of the July 2002 meeting of ECOSOC in New York would provide an opportunity for NGOs to report on the steps that they had taken to help implement the Millennium Summit Declaration.

· DPI/NGO Annual Conference
Future annual DPI/NGO conferences could serve as an occasion for civil society to formulate ideas and proposals relating to the secretary-general’s annual theme, which could then be fed into the General Assembly deliberations.

· Upcoming events
The relevance of the Declaration could be highlighted in conjunction with major events and conferences, such as the World Summit on Sustainable Development, which mobilize large numbers of NGO participants.

3. 2000 Millennium Forum and strengthening cooperation and coordination among the civil society at large


Participants entered into a lively debate about whether or not the Millennium Forum for NGOs, held at the United Nations in May 2000, had been a success or a failure as an exercise in civil society cooperation.

Those who considered it a success highlighted the participation of a large number of national NGOs from developing countries, the adoption of the Millennium Forum Declaration, and the many good links that were made from the local to the global. The outcomes were more promising than expected. They saw much convergence between the Millennium Forum and Millennium Summit Declarations.

Those who saw the forum as a failure noted the absence of major NGO networks and groups at the forum. Some participants were pessimistic about the capacity of NGOs to put together anything really representative, and they argued that each NGO values its independence and the right to decide when to use its influence to push on a given issue. Some considered that the United Nations welcomed the idea to hold the forum, but did not provide the necessary funds. They saw it either as an under-resourced event or a waste of resources because it lacked a clear purpose.

Views were also divided on the question of whether there is a need to create some kind of new, more formal collaborative mechanism for global civil society to interact with the United Nations. Those in support noted that if there were to be a separate forum for parliamentarians, one would be needed for NGOs. Any NGO forum would need to be formed from the “grassroots level,” so an important question would be how this could be facilitated.

Those who did not give high priority to creating a separate NGO forum emphasized the need for better understanding of the ways NGOs are already acting jointly and achieving results. Some recently established NGO networks could have more effective links with the UN system, such as the NGOs that conducted the World Social Forum in Brazil in 2001. There is a need to find new ways of connecting the people protesting globalization with the UN system and its decision-making processes.

In conclusion, the following observations were made with respect to strengthening the cooperation and coordination of civil society:

· NGOs should have a voice, not a vote.
· The voices of Northern NGOs dominate in UN circles; more should be done to give voice to Southern NGOs.12
· Given that action happens at the local, national, regional, and international levels, it is essential that civil society, particularly NGO involvement with the United Nations, be multilevel and well integrated.

Reported prepared by Ms. Pera Wells
Assistant Secretary-General
World Federation of United Nations Associations

This report contains the rapporteur’s interpretation of the symposium proceedings and is not a descriptive chronological account. Participants neither reviewed nor approved the report. Therefore, it should not be assumed that every participant subscribes to particular recommendations, observations, and conclusions.


Annex A
List of Participants and Guests

Harri Holkeri, President, General Assembly, United Nations
Sirpa Pietikäinen, Chairperson, Executive Committee, World Federation of United Nations Associations
Susan L. Podziba, Principal and Mediator, Susan Podziba & Associates; Conference Facilitator
Richard H. Stanley, President, The Stanley Foundation

Participant List
Barbara Adams, Deputy to the Coordinator, United Nations Non-governmental Liaison Service
Mia Adjali, UN NGO Representative, General Board of Global Ministries, United Methodist Church; Director, United Methodist Church for the United Nations
Donald Blinken, Secretary-General, World Federation of United Nations Associations
Renate Bloem, President, Conference of Nongovernmental Organizations in Consultative Relationship with the United Nations, Switzerland
John W. Foster, Principal Researcher, Civil Society, North-South Institute, Canada
Paul Heinbecker, Permanent Representative of Canada to the United Nations
Mats Lennart Karlsson, Vice President, External Affairs and United Nations Affairs, The World Bank
Sinikka Koski, Research Assistant, Office of the President of the General Assembly, United Nations
Raili Lahnalampi, Minister Counsellor, Member of the Cabinet of the President of the General Assembly, United Nations
Hanifa D. Mezoui, Chief of NGO Section, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, United Nations
Betty Kaari Murungi, Advocate and Member, Federation of Women Lawyers, Kenya
Kumi Shunmugam Naidoo, Secretary General and Chief Executive Officer, CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation
William R. Pace, Executive Director, World Federalist Movement and Institute for Global Policy
James A. Paul, Executive Director, Global Policy Forum
Marjatta Rasi, Permanent Representative of Finland to the United Nations
Kamalesh Sharma, Permanent Representative of India to the United Nations
David Shorr, Program Officer, The Stanley Foundation
Gillian Martin Sorensen, Assistant Secretary-General for External Relations, United Nations
Abdoul Dema Tall, Counsellor, Permanent Mission of the Republic of Senegal to the United Nations
Yvonne Terlingen, Representative to the United Nations, Legal and Intergovernmental Organizations Office, Amnesty International
Cora Weiss, President, Hague Appeal for Peace
Pera Wells, Assistant Secretary-General and Director, World Federation of United Nations Associations
Joanna Weschler, United Nations Representative, Human Rights Watch
Aye Aye Win, Coordinator, Dignity International, North-South Centre of the Council of Europe, Portugal
June Zeitlin, Executive Director, Women's Environment and Development Organization Guest Presenters
Michael Edwards, Director, Global Governance and Civil Society Program, The Ford Foundation
Gareth Howell, Director, International Labor Organization, New York Office
Sirkka Korpela, Director, Business Parnerships, United Nations Development Programme
Ravi Rajan, Senior Adviser and Director, Strategic Initatives, United Nations Development Programme
The Stanley Foundation Staff
Susan R. Moore, Conference Management Associate


Annex B
Address by Dr. Michael Edwards, Director of Governance and Civil Socity, The Ford Foundation


Thank you, Sirpa. I’m delighted to have been invited to address this important gathering tonight.

At the start of a new century, changes of huge importance are taking place in the shape and character of governance—the exercise of democratic authority over matters of public concern. Two processes are occurring simultaneously, driven by globalization, market integration, information technology, and rising questions about the legitimacy and effectiveness of conventional politics in addressing problems of collective action across national borders. The first is a shift in the locus of authority, down the political system to subnational units and up to new global institutions. The second is a shift in the focus of authority, away from state monopolies to nonstate actors, both for-profit and not-for-profit. These changes are likely to have both positive and negative consequences: positive in providing greater opportunities for citizen participation and efficiency gains in the provision of public goods, negative in threatening the ability of the state to protect universal rights and entitlements and hold global institutions accountable for their actions. But at the global level, it is undeniable that these changes are opening more spaces for civil society participation. This is “our” space—the space in which ordinary citizens can exert more influence over the decisions that affect their lives.

However, will civil society organizations fill this space, and if so, which civil society will it be?

What is civil society? You don’t have to agree with any definition I might give you, but you do have to be clear with each other about which definition you are using in order to have a sensible conversation. Definitions of civil society have both an analytic and a normative dimension. Analytic or structural definitions stress the importance of forms: social organizations and networks (the third sector), or more broadly [stated], the arena in which citizens come together to advance the interests they hold in common, containing all organizations and associations between the family and the state except firms. Firms are excluded (unlike other, informal areas of economic activity) because they are organized for a fundamentally different purpose—profit. Cognitive definitions stress the importance of norms: social values and attributes such as trust, tolerance, and cooperation that are assumed to bring about a society defined as “civil,” a way of being and living in the world that is different from the rationality of either state or market. In the former case, civil society is a noun, while in the latter, it is used as an adjective. For some there is a natural onnection between these two definitions (since civil society organizations promote civic values), while for others there is no connection at all, since there are “uncivil” associations and “civic values” in the public and private sectors too.

The key question is as follows: how do forms and norms relate to each other at the global level? How does a strong civil society lead to a society that is strong and civil in all that it does? That question provides a useful framework for considering questions of roles and functions, structure and characteristics, values, and relationships in global civil society.

Although it lacks a coherent alternative vision, the current wave of global citizen action is, I think, comparable with earlier waves in the 1960s and earlier periods in history. Over 30,000 international NGOs are already active on the world stage, joined by approximately 20,000 transnational civil society networks of various kinds—90 percent of which have been formed during the last 30 years. At the heart of these efforts lie two simple, common, but very powerful, messages:

· That life is about more than economics.
· And that democracy governs markets, not the other way around.

Below this level of generality there is much less consensus on what needs to be done, at any level of detail. This is entirely natural: all social movements begin to fragment when they lack a common enemy, or when they have achieved their initial goals—as global civil society certainly has in raising critical questions about globalization and global governance. Tensions and differences are beginning to emerge within NGO networks such as Jubilee 2000, the environmental movement, and the activities of different transnational religious constituencies. Let me provide three brief examples….

What do these vignettes tell us? They reveal a now-familiar story about representation (NGOs who claim to speak on behalf of others, but lack any accountability mechanisms to their constituents), structure (too many voices from the North, not enough from the South), expertise (are NGO positions tested and substantiated with any real rigor?), and the weakness of linkages between citizen action at the local, national, and global levels (the tendency to leapfrog over national debates and go direct to Washington or Geneva).

In a period when divisions look set to increase within global civil society, we need more rules, standards, and protocols, not less—because such structures are the only way to guard against the arbitrary selection or exclusion of some groups at the expense of others and the domination of global networks by NGO or other elites. If global citizen action is to be institutionalized, these issues must be addressed. How? Let me offer three general principles:

· Leveling the playing field (promoting equal voice, capacity, and opportunity for different civil society organizations in the global arena).
· Self-regulation or self-discipline within global civil society networks—not imposed accountability from governments or intergovernmental bodies.
· Integration instead of displacement—marrying together different levels of citizen action from the local to the global, and building from the bottom up.

How might these principles be operationalized inside the United Nations? I see at least three general models:

· Representative bodies, such as a “Global Peoples’ Assembly.” In my view these ideas are premature and have little chance of gaining sufficient political support, because we lack convincing answers to questions of representation and how to establish the right to vote.

· Nonrepresentative bodies structured according to issue areas and expertise, such as a “World Financial Forum” for the IMF (or the recent World Social Forum in Brazil). These ideas enjoy more political support, partly because they focus attention on the right to a voice among NGOs, not a vote.
· Different models for different purposes, regimes, institutions, issues, and levels of governance: formal and informal, standing and spontaneous, representative and not, and so on.

In my view, this third model is the best way forward, since it becomes much easier to deal with questions about structure and legitimacy when the universe under discussion is circumscribed in some way. Why don’t we challenge ourselves to come up with five such models by the end of this meeting—actual, concrete situations in which resources can be applied and lessons learned about success and failure? This is much more useful than talking in general terms about what should be done. Look for existing sources of energy out there, and build on them.

What, in all of this, is the role of the United Nations? In my view, this is a debate about changing the rules of global governance in order to achieve better and more sustainable outcomes through wider stakeholder participation. Who better to lead this debate than the UN, as the world’s custodian of the “rules of the game,” the ultimate standard-setting body, and the institution that can bestow some sense of legitimacy on public participation? I would like to see the UN put more resources and political pressure behind concrete innovations of the kind I have called for, to raise the level and profile of this debate, and to commit to specific benchmarks. his is a debate that the United Nations should be leading. It is not.

These questions are demanding, and their answers are as yet unclear. However, a century ago we could not have imagined the extent to which citizens across the world have since succeeded in their struggles for more complete and inclusive democracies in their localities and national polities. In the 21 st century, the globalization of power demands a new form of global citizen action that extends the theory and practice of democracy still further. I wish you well in your deliberations.

Thank you.

Michael Edwards