The meeting, held on 27 June, was addressed to the NGO representatives and lasted for 1½ hours. During the meeting, Ms. Tatiana Volovaya, the Director-General, provided civil society representatives with a report of the work of the UN in Geneva and discussed comments and concerns of the NGOs physically present at the meeting.
Ms. Tatiana Volovaya first outlined the impact various geopolitical developments had on the UN in Geneva throughout recent years. While being aware that many global problems were present before, the world is actually facing an extremely complex situation and new challenges have arisen during the pandemic such as:
- Increase of continued inequality within and between nations
- conflicts between nations
- climate change
all of which will have economic and social consequences in the world.
Mrs Valovaya also mentioned global mistrust as a major current problem: “Citizens don’t trust their government, governments don’t trust each other, … Civil societies no longer want to be represented only by their governments but want more multilateralism and to be heard and consulted directly”.
Ms. Volovaya highlighted the global character of above challenges, the increasing number of players and the necessity to look for global solutions equally involving the member states, NGOs, civil societies, youth, individuals and the private sector: “However, the global nature of all these challenges also unite us. Global challenges bring countries and civil society together to create international solutions, thus promoting multilateralism”.
She did not only promote multilateralism, she emphasised the necessity of building a new revigorated multilateral system for the 21st century (“modern, inclusive and innovative”) and also stated that UNOG continues to put the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development at the forefront of their work.
Mr. Liberato Bautista, president of CoNGO (Conference of NGOs in Consultative Relationship with the United Nations), states that CoNGO welcomes multilateralism and will supports UNOG’s efforts to achieve a society where everyone has a duty to contribute to a peaceful world where everyone has access to enough food.
Ms. Volovaya thanked CoNGO for its support: “this is not the first time UNOG and CoNGO exchange views on the challenges we are currently facing such as political tensions, adverse consequences of new technologies and pandemics. This allows to find solutions”.
The discussion between the NGOs and Ms. Volovaya further focused on several issues:
- the contribution of civil societies to the Human Rights Council,
- the lack of rooms for physical meetings (currently only 50% of the rooms are available and this until the end of the renovation work in 2025),
- the wish to continue to hold hybrid meetings even after COVID-19 ceases (only a few rooms are equipped), – the need for visa facilitation,
- the need to change the rules of procedure of the NGO committee [ECOSOC] (a project initiated by HE Kofi Annan?),
- A remark was also made about the fact that senior UN agencies are not easy to contact and the wish to reactivate the quarterly meetings initiated at the time by Mr Michael Møller
It is clear that the issues raised by the NGOs highlighted the fact that the idea of creating a functional system of networked multilateralism is still under construction. Ms. Volovaya response to these comments is that we are experiencing a new social and economic system, that we all have to work on this new paradigm, reconstructing multilateralism as a tool to bring inclusivity and trust, move towards sustainable development objectives that are more ecological, more egalitarian (gender, ethnic origin, etc.) and making it possible to eradicate poverty.
To do so, we will apply the “Our Common Agenda” process of the UN Secretary-General. This report sets out the UN Secretary-General’s vision on the future of global cooperation, reinvigorating inclusive, networked, and effective multilateralism and above all an agenda of action designed to accelerate the implementation of existing agreements, including the Sustainable Development Goals (see “Key Proposals across the 12 Commitments”).
Meeting notes by Alexandre Kounitzky, WFEO/FEANI National Committee Switzerland, member of the WFEO Executive Council.
For more information:
The United Nations “Our Common Agenda” report
Key Proposals across the 12 Commitments