24 June 2005


Press Release

Fifty-Ninth General Assembly

Informal Interactive Hearings



Also Stressing Importance of UN Partnership with Civil Society, Assembly

President Calls Meetings ‘A Milestone’ in Relationship between States, NGOs

The United Nations would need to work in close partnership with civil society to implement every decision made during the upcoming September World Summit, Secretary-General Kofi Annan told the participants at the closing of a first-ever two-day General Assembly interactive dialogue with non-governmental organizations (NGOs), civil society participants and private sector members.

He said a wide range of issues had been raised, including gender, human rights and conflict prevention, trade, and debt.  Support had been expressed for the proposed Human Rights Council and the Peacebuilding Commission.  Civil society had asked for stronger language in the draft outcome for the World Summit and had asked States to take bold actions in September.  “Together, we can make poverty history”, he stated.

General Assembly President Jean Ping (Gabon) said, in his closing remarks, that the hearings were a milestone in the relationship between MemberStates and civil society organizations.  The debate conclusions would contribute greatly to the consultations being held among Member States for the high-level plenary in September.  The range in perspectives and range of questions had been noted.  While some did not yet appear in the draft outcome document, they were already being discussed in the Assembly.

In brief, over 200 civil society organizations, non-governmental organizations and private sector entities took part in the dialogues, along with some 1,000 observers.  The basis for their discussion with Member States centred on reform proposals the Secretary-General had made in “clusters” of issues to be considered in preparation for the September Summit at Headquarters:  freedom from want; freedom from fear; freedom to live in dignity; and strengthening the United Nations.

Also serving as a basis for discussions were the Millennium Goals set out at the Millennium Summit for review at the September Summit.  Those centre on aims and target dates on such questions as poverty reduction, gender equality and development.

Yesterday’s topics focused on freedom from want and freedom to live in dignity.  The first of today’s topics was freedom from fear, and it was considered from the angles of conflict prevention and in relation to peace and security.  This afternoon’s exchange centred on strengthening the United Nations.

As mentioned by the Secretary-General, others called for strengthening the current mechanisms, such as the roles of the human rights special rapporteurs.  A number called for States to cooperate with human rights reporting bodies.  Speakers and States called for annual dialogues between the United Nations and civil society prior to the General Assembly meeting.

A speaker for the World Federalist Movement-Institute for Global Policy called for the United Nations at this point to commit to NGO consultations in four important areas:  the Human Rights Council, the Peacebuilding Commission, a binding instrument on regulation of small arms, and the responsibility to protect.

In the segment on conflict prevention this morning, numerous speakers endorsed the creation of a Peacebuilding Commission within the United Nations as recommended by the Secretary-General.  They said it should recognize the role of civil society in building lasting structures for peace.  One speaker called for recognizing the reality that when prevention failed, the United Nations had a responsibility to protect.

In summarizing major themes to emerge from that exchange, Rik Panganiban, the Rapporteur for the conflict-prevention topic, noted the overall endorsement of the Secretary-General’s call for a Peacebuilding Commission, which would engage actively with civil society, as well as strong calls for a shift from “reaction to prevention” of armed conflict.  Women were highlighted as critical actors in peacebuilding and conflict resolution that needed to be included in conflict-prevention efforts.

In summary remarks on the segment on peace and security this morning, Rapporteur Doris Mpoumou said that one of the salient points made was that men and women rejected war, and that war should be abolished.  Other issues included the role of education in human rights, terrorism, HIV/AIDS, and poverty, as well as biological and nuclear weapons and arms trafficking.

Speaking on the afternoon session on strengthening the United Nations, Rapporteur Pera Wells said in summary remarks that human security was at the heart of the work of the United Nations.  Member States attached great importance to the General Assembly in the follow-up to the Summit decisions, and were looking to see the United Nations operate in a much more inclusive, participatory process.

The representatives of Cameroon, Chile, Egypt, Norway, Pakistan, South Africa, Spain, and Sweden spoke during the two interactive sessions in the morning.  Speaking during the afternoon session were the representatives of Brazil, France, Germany, Norway, Mexico, Peru, Sweden, and Timor-Leste.

Interactive Segment on ‘Freedom from Fear’:  Conflict Prevention

Rik Panganiban of the Millennium-plus-Five NGO Network was the Rapporteur for the conflict-prevention topic in relation to “Freedom from fear”.

Serving as Moderator for the discussion, PAUL VAN TONGEREN of the European Centre for Conflict Prevention noted that the draft outcome emphasized human security issues and that sustainable security could only be based on security of people, which called for a shift from reaction to prevention as a central guiding focus to all security instruments.  A central focus for security was to recognize humanity’s dependence on the planet and make the shift to ecologically sustainable systems.  Intergovernmental decision-making on peace and security issues at the United Nations had been close to the development of the human rights field.  If human security was to be the focus, then the knowledge of civil society must be central to promoting peace and security.  The outcome document was weak in recognizing the role of civil society in peace and security.


CATHERINE BARNES, Global Partnership for the Prevention of Armed Conflict, said the sustainable security of States could only be based on the security of people and welcomed the recognition given by the Secretary-General and the General Assembly draft outcome document to the interconnectedness of threats and the need to simultaneously advance development, security and human rights.  The General Assembly should recognize fully the important roles played by civil society in prevention and peacebuilding and reflect that recognition in the policies and practices of the United Nations.  Prevention and peacebuilding required an integrated system with effective institutional capacities at the national, regional and global levels.  The United Nations should also strengthen its in-country capacities for prevention and peacebuilding by engaging with civil society, she added.

EMMANUEL BOMBANDE, West Africa Network for Peacebuilding, said the priority areas for the draft outcome document should centre on questions of good governance and all-out debt consolidation for African countries, rather than the version of debt relief currently being carried out.  Supporting capacity-building for peace was vital to the development of freedom from fear in Africa.  The role of civil society must also be recognized as the United Nations, the African nations and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) joined together as true partners in conflict-prevention and peacebuilding efforts at all levels with a strongly supported African Union.  The attitude towards peace in Africa must turn from reactive to proactive, and the African Union’s efforts must be concretely supported, including by the African diaspora.  The international community should increase its development assistance to Africa by at least $50 billion for the attainment of the Millennium Development Goals.

VINA NADJIBULLA, General Board of Global Ministries of the United Methodist Church, spoke on behalf of the Ecumenical Women Coalition, supporting the establishment of a United Nations Peacebuilding Commission.  Today’s wars were fought not only on the ground, but on women’s bodies through gender-based violence that took place with particular intensity before, during and after conflicts.  Impunity for such violence must be stopped, and the outcome document should be strengthened in terms of accountability for violence.  It should also be amended so that it did not minimize the full contributions of women to peacebuilding.  It must also recognize the fact that men very often forgave each other once a conflict was resolved only to take their anger out on women.  The document must recognize also that the international community felt more comfortable with warlords at the peace table than with women.  An institutional home for peacebuilding within the United Nations must recognize that peace, security and development could not be imposed from outside.  Women must be included in all peacebuilding, and women’s organizations on the ground must be funded.  Finally, peacebuilding must go beyond the country level and be conducted on a regional level.

SAMUEL RIZK, Global Partnership for the Prevention of Armed Conflict, said that while people often blamed governments for being detached, lately even civil society organizations had been behaving that way, as well.  Fear was all around and people were fearful of living to see a future that had more violence, hatred, and even more frustration in store.  In the midst of all of that, perhaps the present hearings could serve as a light at the end of the tunnel.  With the convening of the hearings, all stakeholders, including governments, regional intergovernmental organizations, international organizations, the private sector, and now civil society had effectively been engaged.  The United Nations should continue to find space to interact with civil society organizations.  The hearings had provided an opportunity for direct interaction, but the United Nations must convene further sessions to provide space specifically regarding the prevention of armed conflict and conflict resolution. The role of civil society in peacebuilding deserved more than a disclaimer at the end of the draft outcome document, he said.


One speaker said that the issue of disarmament was treated very weakly in the Secretary-General’s report, as well as in the draft outcome document.  Much more needed to be done on disarmament, particularly to revitalize the disarmament agenda, which had sufficed from the 1960s through the 1980s, but the time had come for the Security Council to formulate a system of arms regulations that would promote the establishment and maintenance of international peace.

Another speaker said that the documents did not address the needs of the people for whom the policies were meant, such as the disabled.  Those groups should be consulted.  Also, more emphasis should be placed on conflict prevention so more people would not be disabled, and more attention should be given to the root causes of underdevelopment.  The issue of disabled people should be included specifically in the Millennium Development Goals, which had not been done.

Also emphasized was the role of young people in resolving conflicts and building peace.  If they were the “fools” who committed terrorist acts, they could also be turned into key elements to promote freedom from fear.  States needed to recognize the importance of young people in promoting peace because if they were included in decision-making, there would be guarantees of peace and the Millennium Declaration should express that.

Another speaker said that civil society organizations were able to build trust with belligerent communities.  They had shown that they could do much to bring stability to people with a lot less money than the United Nations or governments.  Civil society organizations had a role in early warning, development, peacebuilding, conflict prevention, disarmament and reintegration.  Their involvement was no longer an option, but a necessity, as stated in the Cardozo report.

One speaker noted that the outcome document contained a mere paragraph on the contributions of women to peacebuilding when they were, in fact, an integral part since they were the most adversely affected by violence committed with impunity.  The draft document should call for stronger measures to reinforce an end to impunity for gender-based violence.  Other speakers also called for more emphasis on gender-mainstreaming in the draft outcome document.

Numerous speakers endorsed the creation of a United Nations Peacebuilding Commission as recommended by the Secretary General, saying it should recognize the role of civil society in building lasting structures for peace.  One speaker called for recognition of the reality that when prevention failed, the United Nations had a responsibility to protect.

Responding to comments, the representative of Sweden said that civil society organizations provided reality tests and field tests, and could also make important contributions to the high-level meeting.  Their comments were very important and what could be learned from civil society organizations in the field was impressive.  The world was facing a test of multilateralism, and Member States must develop ways to provide multilateral approaches or else other roads would be chosen.  Fear and suspicion were growing in the world, and it was necessary to increase hope and believe in the future.  If Member States stood up for such principles as international cooperation and life and dignity for all, then they were on the right track.

Egypt’s representative called for interactive meetings to be held annually and said that the main obstacle to peace was not just the lack of mechanisms, but also the absence of political will.  There were mechanisms in the form of resolutions, but the problem was that they were not being implemented.  The connection between frustration and violence had been brought to light.  The way to peace in the Middle East was to recognize the rights of the Palestinian people.

The representative of South Africa, endorsing the call for the hearings to be held annually in preparation for the General Assembly, said the role of women in conflict prevention was a very important element as they made a fundamental contribution to peacebuilding.  South Africa could not have succeeded in its own conflict resolution without their involvement.  There was also a need for more involvement generally of civil society organizations in conflict prevention at the regional level.  Several initiatives in that sense were being implemented in South Africa.

Mr. PANGANIBAN, Rapporteur, summed up the major themes to emerge from the exchange, noting the overall endorsement of the Secretary-General’s proposed Peacebuilding Commission and the calls for such a body to engage actively with civil society.  There had also been strong calls for a shift from “reaction to prevention” regarding armed conflict, including effective early-warming systems.  Several interventions from both governments and civil society had emphasized the important role of civil society organizations in conflict prevention and resolution.  There was a special emphasis on the regions of Africa and the Middle East, including the call for more resources to strengthen conflict-prevention mechanisms, end poverty, ensure good governance and support strong regional institutions.  Women had been highlighted as critical actors in peacebuilding and conflict resolution who must be included in conflict-prevention efforts, while the need to end impunity for gender-based violence had also been underlined.

Interactive Segment on ‘Freedom from Fear’:  Peace and Security

Doris Mpoumou of Women’s Environment and Development Organization was the Rapporteur for the peace and security aspect of “Freedom from fear”.

Serving as moderator, MINAR PIMPLE, People’s Decade of Human Rights Education, said there would be no peace until steps were taken towards arms control and disarmament.  Governments, particularly those of the nuclear-weapon countries, must show good faith as it was ultimately they who would decide whether the conditions for freedom from fear could truly be created.  Africa had suffered from numerous scourges such as conflicts and diseases and was now beginning to emerge from its troubles.  Would the nuclear Powers become the new scourge?  Time was of the essence in reigning in the nuclear monster so that all people could be free of fear.


BERNICE GONZALES-ROMERO, Director of Advocacy and Campaigning, Oxfam International, said Member States must do a better job of realizing the Millennium Summit’s vision of a responsive and responsible international community.  Bold and urgent steps were needed on a number of different fronts, and two of those fronts –- security and development -– were inextricably linked.  It was, therefore, imperative that the Secretary-General’s vision of a new collective security consensus be accepted and elaborated upon at September’s high-level plenary.  The commitments outlined in the latest version of the draft outcome document could and must be stronger on the responsibility to protect civilians in armed conflict, and on the proliferation of small arms and light weapons.  The document failed to reflect the existing responsibilities of arms-exporting States to ensure that their exports were not misused for human rights violations, breaches of international humanitarian law, or to otherwise undermine the security and development of people and their communities, she added.

JOHN J. MARESCA, President, Business Humanitarian Forum, said the Millennium Development Goals could not be achieved unless the resources, energy and creativity of the private sector were positively engaged.  All the assistance programmes in the world together could not match the power for positive change that the private sector could bring to bear because more than half of the world’s biggest economies were companies, not countries.  Member States must find new ways to bring sustainable private-sector investment to where it was needed, because business investment was the most effective way to address development and humanitarian problems.  The role of the private sector could be especially dramatic after a conflict because conflicts were the greatest multipliers of humanitarian problems.  Most necessary were locally owned small- and medium-sized businesses that offered meaningful, sustainable jobs to local people.  The United Nations could play a more active role if it determined to do so, he said.

MERLIE B. MENDOZA, Executive Coordinator, Assisi Development Foundation, said indigenous peoples had been, and continued to be, subjected to human rights violations.  The draft outcome document must distinctly highlight the tragic plight of indigenous peoples, who were the poorest of the poor and the most marginalized.  There was injustice against their cultural integrity; a continuing injustice against their integral human development due to neglect and under-development; and the injustice against indigenous political and economic sovereignty.  For peace to take root, institutional reform to provide just and human governance was essential, as was the protection of human rights, security and development, as well as spiritual and cultural healing.  A human security framework for indigenous peoples should focus on community empowerment to strengthen indigenous organizations and leaders for self-determination and self-governance.  It should also include development rights, and peace and security for the attainment of the freedom that came with human security in order for indigenous peoples to be self-sustaining.  All of those things should be urgently addressed by all governments, civil society and by indigenous peoples themselves.

TERESA COLOMBA ULLOA, Congregation of Our Lady of Charity of the Good Shepherd, said the security of women could not be guaranteed until their personal safety was assured and the draft outcome document should address that point adequately.  If United Nations documents did not give weight to cross-cutting measures protecting women, how would the mechanisms be included elsewhere? Women’s rights issues were given smaller budgets and fewer mechanisms than others in the Organization.  The emphasis in the Security Council was on geographical balance, but what about gender balance in the Council?  What were the most lucrative trades?  Guns, drugs and sex.  Sex involved women and all three were related to violence.  Any policy that allowed prostitution must be considered criminal.  Prostitution and trafficking in women were crimes.  Trafficking in woman was not just a migration-related activity, but one that perpetuated the degradation of women.  Women’s bodies were not mere just commercial commodities.


On issues of peace and security as they related to freedom from fear, speakers emphasized the fear that women lived with daily, whether in conflict situations or as second-class citizens open to abuse.  One speaker called for an examination of the competitive, aggressive kinds of men that societies were raising.  Numerous speakers expressed the view that prostitution and trafficking in women were violence against them.

One speaker said that women and girls were hidden victims of armed conflict.  They were killed, tortured, raped and maimed when they were no longer useful to the victors, a problem that must be addressed in the draft outcome document.  Children’s rights were also brought up, with one speaker saying that funding to protect children in armed conflict situations was as important as the funding of any other measures.

Small arms control and disarmament were also discussed, as was the need for concrete nuclear non-proliferation agreements between nuclear Powers.  A speaker for the Swedish-Somalia Institute talked of the threat to international peace and security posed by a non-representative Security Council and called for the democratization of the international peace and security system.

Finally, a speaker called attention to excessive consumption on the parts of developed countries, saying that such extreme consumerism continued to widen the gap between rich and poor.  If States did not take control of such a predatory system, it would be a source of conflict now and in the future.

Responding to comments, the representative of Chile emphasized that threats to peace and security were human creation behind which were brutality and predatory behaviours.  The United Nations was the forum in which to manage those tendencies in a controlled and manageable manner and according to formalized rules.

Pakistan’s representative thanked the civil society members for being exemplary global citizens and encouraged them to promote awareness of the Millennium Development Goals, in their home States and local communities.  In that way, people would not be as easily manipulated, and in that awareness lay a means to peace.

The representative of Cameroon said human beings must remain at the centre of all concerns and agreed with other speakers that emotion was necessary and should be taken into account in the statement that members were working on for September.  Referring to an earlier speaker, who had been overcome by emotion while delivering her statement, he said that image sent a message that could leave no one indifferent, and which could be heard by all.

Norway’s representative said that although the cold war was over, there were still very real issues concerning State security.  When talking about freedom from fear, it was necessary to address the very basic issues of human security.  Many speakers had concentrated on human security and the situation of women and children, and the participants deserved thanks for their contributions.

Spain’s representative said there had been some great debates in the forum, and yet so little had been said about the impact on victims, who were the most visible result of tragedies.  Echoing the sentiments of other speakers, he said that such an omission in the final document was an important point, and it would be desirable to include a reference to the victims and the help that they deserved.

In her summary of the second segment, Ms. MPOUMOU, Rapporteur, said that one of the salient points made was that men and women rejected war and it should be abolished.  The role of education in human rights was another crucial point that had been made, because unless people were aware of their rights, they would find it very difficult to avail themselves of those rights.  Another main point related to the synergy between security and development.  Participants had also concentrated on terrorism, HIV/AIDS and poverty, which all had an increasingly feminine face.  Members had also highlighted biological and nuclear weapons, as well as arms trafficking.

What truly came out in the discussion, she continued, was that it was important to act immediately, and that, therefore, the Millennium Review Summit in September represented an opportunity to take specific actions so that everyone could live free of fear.  Another point made several times concerned the responsibility to protect populations, particularly the most vulnerable, including women, children, refugees and aboriginal peoples.  Their needs, as well as their role, must be taken into account if members wished to meet the concerns on the agenda.

She noted that members had also condemned all acts of violence against women and others.  The adoption of a general disarmament treaty had also been mentioned, as had the idea that governments should not be deflected from their obligation to meet the critical needs of their people, even in fighting terrorism.  Other issues discussed had included the role of multinational corporations in exploiting mineral resources, which was often behind armed conflict, as well as the need to regulate the arms trade, and the role of civil society and the private sector.

Interactive Segment on ‘Strengthening the United Nations’

The Rapporteur for the interactive segment on strengthening the United Nations was Pera Wells of World Federation of United Nations Associations.

Speaking as the Moderator, MARY RACELIS of Ateneo de Manila University said the emphasis of all reports should be “we the people”.  The input of civil society in the United Nations was natural and critical.  She asked the invited participants, as well as government representatives, to provide comments on concrete ways that the United Nations and human security could be enhanced, based on the interaction of the past two days.


LYDIA ALPIZAR, Association for Women’s Rights in Development, said geographical representation with regard to human rights was vital, regardless of whether the decision was made to strengthen human rights mechanisms such as the role of special rapporteurs or whether a Human Rights Council was created.  Further, countries must be encouraged to cooperate with human rights mechanisms, and they must report to treaty bodies.

She added that gender equality had been endorsed during the past two days by numerous sources at the same time that the position in the United Nations was “embarrassing”.  Only a handful of women were in visible roles, and only a handful of representatives or aides were women.  Gender mainstreaming wasn’t enough to put women into positions of power.  New mechanisms for women’s participation must be built and old ones strengthened.  Civil society must also be given a greater participatory role at the United Nations.

ROBERTO EGHRARI of Baha’i International Community said that the realization of the great themes of the United Nations Charter -- peace, justice, and human dignity -- remained the great but elusive dream of the human race.  The guiding principle that must now animate efforts towards reform was the oneness of humanity -- a spiritual principle that underpinned the very nature of human reality.

On strengthening the United Nations, he said that the advancement of the role of women was an essential element in strengthening the effectiveness of the organization.  He also supported the Secretary-General’s proposal to elevate the consideration of human rights to the same level accorded to security and socio-economic development.  In order to improve the functioning of the Human Rights Commission, he supported the creation of an elected, standing Human Rights Council and the elaboration of minimum criteria for membership.  He also acknowledged the need for urgent reform of the Security Council, as well as the need to address the question of funding in the United Nations system.  He recommended that “vigorous” approaches to revenue generation be devised to enable the smooth and effective functioning of the United Nations machinery.  Finally, he said that the capacities and diverse experiences of civil society must be included in all aspects of United Nations work.

GAY MCDOUGALL of Global Rights Partners for Justice stressed that efforts to strengthen the United Nations’ human rights mechanisms must incorporate and build upon the successes of the current system, as considerable progress had been made in the human rights field over the past 60 years.  Strengthening the United Nations’ human rights mechanisms would require more than just structural change, because the problems with the current system existed not so much in structure, but in the actions of Member States, which too often robbed the Commission of its integrity, credibility and legitimacy.

She supported the establishment of a standing Human Rights Council that would be a principal Charter body, with members being elected by two thirds of the General Assembly and consideration given to equitable geographic distribution.  The Human Rights Council must be able to alert the Security Council directly when urgent action was needed.  It was also imperative, she said, that the Council guaranteed a seat at the table for the ongoing, substantive participation of non-governmental organizations.

CHRISTIANE OVERKAMP of International Cooperation for Development and Solidarity said that the United Nations was not only the guardian of the development agenda, but also of universal instruments on human rights and gender equity.  The General Assembly had an important role to play in economic policy debates and international debt management, and particularly in getting all stakeholders to agree on debt management.  She regretted that the draft outcome did not comprehensively and systematically include NGOs.

She supported the strengthening of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) and welcomed the call of the Secretary-General to establish an executive committee.  Ultimately, a high-level body for economic and social issues under the umbrella of the United Nations was needed, and she believed that a comprehensive and uniform agenda also needed to address the relationship between the United Nations and other international institutions.  The participation of civil society in monetary governance was crucial, and she expressed regret that the current document did not call for more participation by civil society.

WILLIAM PACE, World Federalist Movement-Institute for Global Society, said the situation had come to pass where the United Nations had become antithetical to human security.  Power was the driving force in the Security Council, not the welfare of the people represented there.  The people must regain the priority they deserve by taking back the United Nations.  Singapore had circulated a proposal containing two different but parallel forms of possible Council reform.  One of those should be decided upon by the September Summit.  Also, the cluster groups should be strengthened.

Regarding concrete proposals on improving the United Nations and human security, he said the interactive relationship between the United Nations and civil society was not unprecedented, but had been incorporated into the millennium process, for example.  The United Nations at this point should commit to NGO consultations in four important areas:  the Human Rights Council, the Peacebuilding Commission, a binding instrument on regulation of small arms, and the responsibility to protect.

RASHED AL MAHNUD TITUMIR of Innovators Centre for Research and Action on Development said that the forecast of increase in poverty required a questioning on the effectiveness of the current paradigm, as well as its derived mechanisms and instruments.  The Secretary-General’s report, and the first and second section of the draft outcome remained muted on the relationship between economic policy reforms and the generation of poverty, without which an understanding of poverty creation and reduction was implausible.

The effectiveness of United Nations reforms, he said, would remain elusive as ever should there be no reinvention of the World Bank and the World Trade Organization (WTO).  The report, he said, did not propose in tangible terms a coordination mechanism with enforcement power over all intergovernmental organizations; an independent structure to monitor and assess the performance of agencies; and a complete restructuring of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) to act as the coordinator of all international development organizations at the country and international levels.  Nowhere was the failure of international cooperation more apparent, he said, than in trade, as the industrialized countries operated a policy of “highway robbery masquerading as preferential treatment”.

PAUL TENNASSEE, World Confederation of Labour, said an eighth goal should be added to the other Millennium Goals at the September Summit:  decent work.  How do you eliminate poverty without making sure people have decent work? he asked.  The presence of civil society at the present session at the United Nations was a courtship.  Hopefully, it would turn out to be a loving marriage.  There were concerns, however, including with the Economic and Social Council and the fact that the United Nations was no longer the forum where the world’s people could be heard.  A number of serious issues should be revisited, such as whether some World Bank policies violated United Nations principles.  To enable that to be done, the Bank should follow the lead of labour unions and open its trust funds.  The United Nations should also keep in mind that “vision without implementation is hallucination”.


One speaker called for the outcome document to reflect a recognition of the role played by local authorities and municipalities in shaping people’s lives through their policies.

Another speaker said the Secretary-General’s proposal for a Human Rights Council was burdened by a drawback that was not structural but ethical.  A reformed Human Rights Council would be independent and in line with the United Nations Charter.  The sovereignty of States was not clear at the United Nations.  What was meant by the principle of the responsibility to protect?  Protect whom?  From what?  How?  Those ambiguities should be clarified.

Another speaker emphasized that membership in a Human Rights Council should not be exclusive, but rather inclusive.  Every State should be entitled to become a member, but States should be members because they wanted to protect human rights, not because they wanted to protect their own record.  She suggested that members of such a council could have their situation reviewed in the first year of membership.

Brazil’s representative said meetings with civil society should be held annually, and further recommendations were being circulated in a General Assembly resolution.

The representative of France said he had much hope for the upcoming Summit, as it was a rendezvous of idealists and realists.  Members had progressed a lot already, and it was useful to hear civil society because members were coming close to the last stages and were fully ready to take into account all of the views put forward.  He believed that members should fight, namely, for a consolidation of peace, because that was something that was absolutely vital.  They should also fight for a Human Rights Council, which would help to place human rights at the focal point of thinking, while preserving what was good in the Human Rights Commission.  Members should also fight for a Secretariat that truly had the means of being able to work.  He wanted it to make the Secretariat more modern, and for it to have available all of the means to fulfil its mandate.  He added that it was necessary to listen to civil society, and that civil society needed to mobilize around Member States, all under the objectives of idealism and realism.

The representative of Germany said he was encouraged by the participation in the meeting.  There should be a strengthening of the relationship between the United Nations, Member States and civil society, because as Members had learned, civil society was almost like a “service tool” for Member States to receive and be confronted with new ideas.  That should clearly be reflected in the outcome document.  Following the success of the two-day meeting, Members should look again and find a way to incorporate civil society and have it be heard during the actual September meeting.  He also supported having civil society be heard in the deliberations and discussions in the General Assembly, as well.

The representative of Norway said that he wanted to reinforce the message that there needed to be more equal partnership between organizations and the United Nations.

The representative of Mexico said she believed that the meeting served as a reminder from civil society as to where the priorities of Member States should rest.  She added that there was not yet any consensus regarding the Human Rights Commission, and on making it more effective.  She also echoed the sentiments of other delegations that supported the need for such a type of interactive debate.

The representative of Sweden encouraged cooperation between governments and civil society organizations.  Timor-Leste’s representative said that if Members continued to move in a positive direction, the United Nations would increasingly represent the people.  He believed that the dialogue was extremely important and that it should become a standard practice within the Organization.

The representative of Peru said that Members had gained a great deal from the interactive debates in preparation for the September meetings.  It was necessary for governments to keep their promise to their people.  The meetings also offered an opportunity to share concerns on improving human rights and security and increasing development, and ensured that such concerns would once again become the focus of thinking.

In summary remarks, the Rapporteur, PERA WELLS, said that the conceptual points in the afternoon session included the fact that human security was at the heart of the work of the United Nations.  There had also been an emphasis on the “oneness” of humanity, and an appeal had been made for women to be included in the work of the United Nations, and for there to be gender equality.  On the question of institutional reform, she said, comments had been made on how to reform and develop the Organization.  There was a clear feeling on ending the veto in the Security Council, and some believed that there should be some enlargement.  With regard to ECOSOC, she said there was some interest in a high-level development forum.

There had also been many ideas on the creation of a Human Rights Council, she continued, with recommendations on its mandate and functions, as well as the role of non-governmental organizations and civil society in such a council.  With respect to the General Assembly, there was an awareness that it was the most important and universal deliberative body, and Member States attached great importance to the assembly in the follow-up to the Summit decisions.  Member States were also looking to see the United Nations operate in a much more inclusive, participatory process, and to improve the framework of civil society participation in all aspects of the organization’s work.  She appealed to Member States to have their heads of government consider the structural inequalities in global governments.

Closing of Session

Statements by Rapporteurs

PEGGY HICKS of Human Rights Watch, Rapporteur of the segment on “Freedom to live in dignity”, called for the participation of civil society in all United Nations activities.  In her review of the discussion, she said speakers had called for strengthening and gender mainstreaming of the Office of Human Rights and for greater efforts by States to implement recommendations made to them.  They had also expressed support for a Human Rights Council.  She said the dialogue had greatly added to the success of the Summit and the credibility of the United Nations.

SHANNON KOWALSKI of Family Cart International, Rapporteur on the “Freedom from want” segment, said speakers had called for women’s participation to be made central in achieving the Millennium Goals and for women and youth to be given access to reproductive and sexual health information and services.  They had also recommended that community-based poverty-reduction strategies be implemented. 

ESTHER AGUILERA of the National Association of Economists and Accountants of Cuba, Rapporteur on the “Freedom from want” discussion focusing on financing for development, also called for civil society involvement in United Nations activities, which she said would help with oversight of the Organization.  She said the policies of the Bretton Woods institutions were no longer trusted, and those bodies should be under United Nations supervision while people-power ensured that the United Nations maintained its integrity. 

Mr. PANGANIBAN of the Millennium-plus-Five NGO Network, Rapporteur of the segment on “Freedom from fear:  conflict prevention”, said speakers had called for involvement of women in conflict prevention and for an end to impunity in gender-related violence.  They had also called for measures to ensure good governance and for support to be given to creating stronger regional organizations.

Ms. MPOUMOU of the Women’s Environment and Development Organization, Rapporteur on “Freedom from fear:  peace and security”, said it had become evident that all rights were inseparable.  Speakers had focused on the need to take action.  September was the best opportunity to confront fears such as that of poverty and terrorism, or the threat of nuclear weapons.  Agreements could be made on stockpiling of fissile materials.  The parameters on use of force as a last measure should be refined.  The message being sent was that governments must take action in September on matters that should not have been postponed earlier.

PERA WELLS of the World Federation of United Nations Associations, Rapporteur on “Strengthening the United Nations”, asked the Secretary-General to recommend that the useful exchange be repeated annually before the Assembly session.  She noted the support that had been expressed for a Peacebuilding Commission and said that to achieve Millennium Goals structural inequities between countries must be addressed with involvement of the Bretton Woods institutions.  Also, young people should be included in every delegation to the Summit.

Secretary-General’s Statement

In his closing remarks to the interactive dialogue, Secretary-General KOFI ANNAN noted the large number of States participating and called on civil society participants to keep making their voices heard in the lead-up to the September Summit, as well as to hold governments to the promises they made at the Summit afterwards.  He said he hoped the interactive format would continue.  On every issue that would be taken up at the Summit, whether it was the fight against HIV/AIDS or preventing armed conflict, a close relationship between civil society and the United Nations would be required to carry out the decisions of Summit participants.

“You’re essential partners”, he said to the civil society participants, NGO representatives and private sector members, while also commending the States who participated in the dialogue.  “Together we can make poverty history”, he added.

He said a large number of issues had been raised, including gender, human rights, conflict prevention, trade and debt, and he had heard the messages coming through.  Support had been expressed for a Human Rights Council and a Peacebuilding Commission.  Speakers had asked for environmental issues to be integrated into strategies.  They had asked for action, for stronger language in the outcome document and for bold action by Member States at the Summit.  As the Deputy Secretary-General had noted at the opening of the session, the hearings represented a new step in the way the United Nations related to civil society.  With the leadership of the Assembly President and that of the Task Force that had assisted him, the two days had been a success.

General Assembly President JEAN PING (Gabon) said that Members had just participated in two days of fruitful discussion, and that he was even more convinced today that the hearings would be a milestone in the relationship between MemberStates and civil society organizations as a whole.  There was no doubt that the conclusions of the debate would contribute greatly to the consultations presently being held among Member States with a view to the high-level plenary in September.  He congratulated Member States for their active presence, often at the level of ambassadors, and for contributing to the interactive dialogue on the questions under discussion.

He said he had taken note of the different perspectives and broad range of questions that had been tackled during the two-day meeting, some of which did not appear in the draft document presented to the General Assembly.  He added that it was important to point out that some of questions raised were already being discussed, and that Member States had to continue to examine them with careful regard to their specificity.  He also invited Member States to consider with interest every proposal raised so that efforts would be made to reach the broadest possible agreement on all the matters under consideration.

* *** *

For information media. Not an official record.