Closing Session of the Civil Society Development Forum 'A Platform for Development: Countdown to 2015'

Distinguished guests and forum participants,
Ladies and gentlemen,

Thank you for inviting me to address this concluding session of the Civil Society Development Forum. Allow me to congratulate the Conference of Non-Governmental Organizations (CONGO) for organizing such a successful event. I understand that you have had productive discussions, which will enable you to offer some new ideas to the forthcoming substantive session of the Economic and Social Council.

This is my first experience with this Forum. Yet, I know that CONGO, since its establishment in 1948, has played significant role in the evolving relationship between the United Nations and its NGOs with consultative status. This Forum manifests your continued commitment to strengthening this partnership, in the pursuit of goals and objectives that are widely shared by the international community.

This partnership is critical for realizing the aspirations of us all. And it is needed even more acutely in an age of growing interdependence of people and complexity of challenges in the area of development. These multi-faceted challenges can only be met by multi-faceted action of all the major stakeholders in development, acting together in partnership.

The partnership between the UN and NGOs has worked well. Let me mention in particular four areas of activity that have yielded visible results.

First, the active collaboration between NGOs and the UN – and particularly the Department of Economic and Social Affairs – contributed much to the success of the landmark UN conferences and summits since 1990. Their outcomes laid the foundations of the UN Development Agenda, which provides a comprehensive framework for addressing development. The most visible expression of this agenda is the Millennium Development Goals, which have time-bound and quantifiable targets. These have helped us in reviewing implementation and strengthening accountability.

Second, the NGO community has been our partner in ensuring that the United Nations plays its role in the follow-up to the conferences, especially through the ECOSOC system. You had an important part in ensuring that the 2005 World Summit produced decisions to strengthen the role of ECOSOC in advancing implementation of the UN Development Agenda. The Council this year introduces two new functions on this front: the Annual Ministerial Review of progress towards the agreed development goals and the biennial Development Cooperation Forum. I see an even greater involvement for you in these two important fora.

The Annual Ministerial Review will focus first on MDG-1, eradication of hunger and poverty. An essential feature will be national voluntary presentations of implementation experiences. Here is where you can link your work at the grassroots level with the work of ECOSOC. You can engage with governments to help design national development strategies geared towards achieving the development goals. You can work with local communities, institutions, and authorities to find pragmatic ways of implementing and monitoring the strategies. You can also encourage and assist governments to make national voluntary presentations to the Council.

A third area of constructive activity is the country level, where the UN is always striving to work with NGOs. Yet, international development cooperation has been evolving. Many actors have emerged on the scene. We are today confronted with new challenges of coherence, quality, and delivery of aid. ECOSOC’s Development Cooperation Forum will bring together all the relevant actors to discuss key policy issues affecting the quality and impact of development cooperation. This has the potential to take the debate to a wider realm, including the grassroots level. Civil society can play a key role in ensuring that efforts to improve quality and quantity of aid are coherent and are designed to yield results.

In a fourth area of activity, you, our NGO partners, have helped the United Nations tremendously to sharpen our focus on the cutting edge issues that belong at the forefront of international debate. Here I would like to mention the role you played in Rio, Beijing, Johannesburg, and Monterrey. I hope that we can strengthen this mutually supportive partnership, by together addressing emerging threats to the realization of the Development Agenda. This session of ECOSOC will have a panel discussion on three such challenges: climate change, desertification, and health – especially HIV/AIDS. With your support and advocacy networks, we can mobilize the international community towards the urgent collective action that these challenges demand.

Let us together determine to nurture and strengthen our partnership. We need to engage closely to ensure that new functions of ECOSOC work for all. And we need to broaden the positive engagement of NGOs in the global partnership for development, in which all stakeholders – governmental and non-governmental – are accountable to one another.

I look forward to hearing your ideas on how to continue to enhance the role of civil society in the United Nations and its work. And I wish you all a most successful substantive session of ECOSOC this year. Thank you.

File date: 
Saturday, June 30, 2007
Statement by Mr. Sha Zukang, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs to the Closing Session of the Civil Society Development Forum “A Platform for Development: Countdown to 2015”

Geneva, 30 June 2007