“There is no “planet B.” The planet we live on is all we have. We must make sure it’s liveable, peaceful and sustainable”
By María Victoria Espada – In order to celebrate United Nations Day, on the 25th of October, the Conference of Non-Governmental Organisations in Consultative Relationship with the United Nations (CoNGO) organised an online “Civil Society Summit on Substantive Issues”. As a preliminary event ahead of the 27th General Assembly of CoNGO, the summit served specifically to identify the organisation’s strategic directions going into its next term (2021-2025).
The world we want
Under the title “Shaping the Future – The UN we need for the world we want”, global problems and concerns faced daily by both non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and the United Nations (UN) were addressed during the different sessions. Among them, dignity and human rights; social justice, including migration, racism and health; gender justice together with young people and intergenerational solidarity; sustainable development and humanitarian action; the peace and security of mankind and the planet; multilateralism and the relationship between the UN and NGOs, particularly with regard to the protection of civic space and discourse.
Threats to democracy and human rights
Across the board, the panellists identified a series of circumstances in the present-day, whose analysis will contribute to generating solutions for a better future. On the one hand, systemic and structural racism, the dire situation of migrants and refugees, the effects of climate change, and the fragility of global peace and security. On the other hand, unequal access to COVID-19 vaccines, unequal access to the internet, disinformation and the proliferation of false news. The reduction of civil space and the shrinking of fundamental freedoms were also identified as threats to democracy, human rights and the Rule of Law. The summit was also a good occasion to reference the report “Our Common Agenda” by Secretary-General of the United Nations, António Guterres.
We need a new social contract
Solidarity between peoples was identified as an essential universal value for constructing a more promising, egalitarian, fair and peaceful future. The panellists specified the need for a new social contract, granting equal importance to civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights.
Likewise, quality education, including education for global citizenship, will foster peace, dialogue and respect, through the appreciation of cultural diversity.
No less important will be the joint effort between the UN and civil society to facilitate adaptation to climate change, risk reduction of environmental disasters and the strengthening of communities, especially those most vulnerable.
Importance of multilateral cooperation to achieve the SDGs
Here, the support of UN Member States for the organisation’s work through comprehensive, timely and sustained funding, at the time of their core budget, will be essential. International conventions and treaties must also be ratified and implemented by these countries in order to guarantee the protection of human rights and the Rule of Law.
Multilateral cooperation must undoubtedly be strengthened in order to guarantee the fulfilment of Agenda 2030 and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), for which the collaboration of civil society is vital.
In this respect, the panellists asked that there be wider physical and political access for NGOs in UN conferences, and for their knowledge and experience to be considered valuable contributions to governmental deliberations and the formulation of policy.
The experience of CoNGO
Moreover, the role of CoNGO in building bridges between the UN and civil society organisations was identified as essential, especially for those NGOs operating in the most neglected parts of the world. The work of the Substantive Committees of CoNGO was unanimously recognised, which facilitate the debate by NGOs of issues related to UN programs, policies and activities, expressing their own points of view and defending their positions in this respect. To give continuity to the work of CoNGO and benefit from their years of experience, a strengthened financial base will be necessary in the future, as the panellists indicated. This will also allow the organisation to bolster their consultative, collaborative and cooperative activities between NGOs and the UN.
CoNGO is an independent, international association of NGOs founded in 1948, whose mission is to ensure NGOs access to, and presence in, consultative processes convened by the UN, and to facilitate substantive dialogue between both parties. Dianova International has been a member of CoNGO’s executive board from 2014 to 2018 and holds the position of Vice-president at large since 2018.
Read the synthesis report for the Civil Society Summit on Substantive Issues.