For information only - not an official document.
Background Release Press Release No: UNIS/PI/209
Release Date: 25 August 2000
Fifty-third Annual DPI/NGO Conference to Open Monday, 28 August

 NEW YORK, 24 August (UN Headquarters) – The Fifty-third annual Department of Public Information/Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) Conference, entitled "Global Solidarity:  the Way to Peace and International Cooperation", will begin at Headquarters on Monday, 28 August at 10 a.m. 

During the opening session, in addition to a welcome by the Under-Secretary-General for Communications and Public Information, Kensaku Hogen, addresses will be made by Secretary-General Kofi Annan and the President of the General Assembly, Theo-Ben Gurirab (Namibia), to the over 1,800 representatives of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) from more than 60 countries. 

Principal speakers include:  Hanan Ashrawi, Secretary-General of the Palestinian Initiative for Global Dialogue and Democracy; Governor Jaime Lerner of the State of Paraná, Brazil; Ralph Nader, Founder of Public Citizen; and Hanna Suchocka, Member of Parliament and former Prime Minister of Poland. 

For the first time in its 53-year history, a sitting Head of State -- President Abdelaziz Bouteflika of Algeria -- will also address the conference at the closing session on Wednesday, 30 August.  Another highlight of the closing will be the appearance of 73-year-old Aunty Malia Craver, Hawaiian indigenous leader and kupuna for Queen Lili'uokalani Children's Centre, who is expected to share her native wisdom on peace and reconciliation with the international audience. 

This year's conference provides a forum for representatives of NGOs, the United Nations system and Governments to explore concrete ways in which civil society can work with the Organization and Member States to implement the actions plans that were agreed upon during the major world conferences of the 1990s.

The world conferences negotiated a cohesive set of action plans designed to achieve sustainable development for all people in the coming decades.  At the same time, the burgeoning power of NGOs has led to potent civil society campaigns, such as those banning landmines, establishing an International Criminal Court, cancelling crippling foreign debts and addressing the negative aspects of the current global financial architecture.  

The conference will look at existing campaigns and explore new areas where progress can be made.  Among the questions to be raised are:  what makes for successful campaigns; how can cross-cutting sectoral concerns be unified; how can they be replicated from country to country; how are priorities set; and what kind of working relationships between NGOs, the United Nations and Governments will ensure sustained success?

The three-day conference also features five morning and afternoon plenary panels, focusing on the best practices and lessons learned from recent experiences and on the identification of new, broad-based campaigns that bring together multiple issues.  It will also examine the many ways in which civil society can participate in the decision-making processes, nationally and internationally, that affect people everywhere.  

The conference will also explore the role of civil society in policy formulation and implementation in relation to the increased demands for humanitarian intervention in conflict areas.  Panels include high-level Government and United Nations officials and representatives of civil society, including NGOs, the private sector, academia and the media.

The Secretary-General states that as part of the millennium process, the conference serves as a bridge between other major NGO gatherings of the past, most recently the Millennium Forum of Civil Society held at Headquarters in May, and the Millennium Summit of Heads of State and Government to be held next week.  He says that the Organization wishes to embrace new partnerships with civil society and the private sector.  These are challenging proposals for Member States and NGOs alike, and many legitimate concerns have been raised as to the integration of these new partners into "our work”.

"We are now moving beyond mere promises of partnership, and are entering the much rockier terrain of implementation", states the Secretary-General.  "But there is no doubt at all in my mind that civil society can make a tremendous difference to the success of our work."  

The number of NGOs associated with the Department of Public Information is now 1,641.  All organizations conform to the principles of the Charter, operate solely on a non-profit basis and demonstrate a long-standing involvement with United Nations issues.  In addition, they have well developed information programmes to reach large or specialized audiences, and have demonstrated the commitment and means to disseminate information about the Organization.  That capacity is a unique criterion for association with the Department.

The opening session will take place in the General Assembly Hall.  All subsequent plenary sessions will take place in Conference Room 4.  Midday NGO Workshops from 1:15 to 2.45 p.m. will also be held in various conference rooms each day.

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