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Strengthening NGO Participation at the United Nations

Statement of the International Synergy Institute
at the
Open-Ended Working Group On The Review
Of Arrangements For Consultations
With Non-Governmental Organizations

Inter-sessional Meeting -- November 8, 1994

Mr. Chairman,

I would like to thank you for the opportunity to address this Working Group and to express my appreciation for the manner in which you are conducting this session.

I would also like to express my appreciation for the Working Document that provides a very valuable framework for the future work of this Working Group.

Before moving to the central part of my statement, I would like to share a few comments on some specific points.

The International Synergy Institute welcomes the attention to the need for greater balance in representation, as expressed in 1(d) of the Working Document. While recognizing the important function of representative international non-governmental organizations, it is important to acknowledge that there is a different and important kind of representativity that only comes into play when the NGO representatives reflect the same kind of geographical diversity as is present among member states.

We also support the spirit of a change -- in 2(f)(ii) -- to the terms civil society organizations, while recognizing the concern expressed by some that such a change in name might pose some obstacles to the precess of strengthening functional arrangements for consultation.

We support the need, expressed in 4(a), for an ongoing forum for reviewing the relationships with non-governmental organizations, and for monitoring the broader role of civil society organizations. In this respect, we welcome the suggestion made by a previous speaker that the Committee on NGOs be expanded to include experts and representatives from the NGO community, as well as the many suggestions that the Committee should meet more frequently.

For the principal focus of my statement, I would like to reemphasize the main theme of my organization's statement at the June meeting of this Working Group, namely the importance of attention to the practical arrangements -- particularly in respect to the creative application of information and communication technology in support of systematic arrangements for creating much broader and more timely access to UN documents.

The International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) has been cited several times here as an example of "best practice" for NGO involvement. One aspect of the ICPD arrangements that has not been noted here is the exceptional arrangements that were made for the creation of a "POPIN" Internet gopher, and in the timely and systematic dissemination of documents and statements for the conference and its preparatory meetings via the Internet.

In a similar vein, the Department for Policy Coordination and Sustainable Development has made available a comprehensive set of documents from the Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD) and the World Summit for Social Development on an Internet gopher. I am giving a copy of the guide to this gopher -- that includes a listing of all the documents that have been made available in electronic form by the Information Support Unit of DPCSD as an example of how information and communication technology can be used effectively in disseminating United Nations documents.

However, the maintenance of systematic dissemination of documents is not something that can be maintained within existing resources. In light of the budgetary constraints under which the UN is presently functioning, it is unlikely that a proposal for new and additional resources from the UN budget would be well received.

The International Synergy Institute would instead propose the establishment of a comprehensive Information and Communication Center to be supported by a fund based on voluntary contributions -- both of member states that recognize the value of such an approach as well as from charitable foundations and sources in the NGO community.

The mandate of such a Center should include support of initiatives to strengthen developing country access to electronic communications; it should also develop collaborative relationships with projects such as that proposed for a "SIDSnet" for Small Island Developing States, as well as with UN Information Centers, and with the work of the Department of Public Information in making information more widely available.

Such an Information and Communication Center would not just serve the needs of NGOs -- although NGOs have generally been making more effective use of electronic communications than have many governments. However, the timely electronic access to documents can surely be just as valuable for governments -- as well as for UN Agencies and intergovernmental organizations.

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