Background Release

     23 June 2005

On 23 – 24 June, Civil Society to Present Views to General Assembly on Poverty, Security, Rights Issues for 2005 World Summit

NEW YORK, 22 June (UN Headquarters) -- Representatives of civil society, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and the private sector will voice their views to Governments at informal interactive Hearings of the United Nations General Assembly, taking place for the first time ever on 23-24 June. Participants will present their proposals on a range of development, security and human rights issues as an input to the preparatory process for the 2005 World Summit, the High-Level Plenary Meeting of the General Assembly to be held from 14 to 16 September 2005.

The President of the fifty-ninth session of the General Assembly, Jean Ping (Gabon), has invited over 200 participants representing a broad and balanced cross-section of civil society organizations, NGOs and the private sector, both high-level leadership and grass-roots membership, to present their views for consideration by Governments. The President will convey their viewpoints to United Nations Member States in his summary, which will be the outcome document of the Hearings. This will be issued as an official General Assembly document prior to the September Summit. Over 1,000 additional civil society representatives are expected to attend the Hearings as observers.

“While Governments have traditionally been known as the engine for development, it has increasingly become imperative for them to partner with civil society”, said Mr. Ping. “These informal Hearings are a clear demonstration that Member States of the United Nations are prepared not only to work with civil society, but also to give serious consideration to proposals and ideas presented at these discussions as they prepare for the upcoming High-level Plenary Meeting in September 2005.”

The Hearings are taking place at a critical time, as negotiations are being held among governments on the draft outcome document for the Summit. Based on the broad range of proposals set out by Secretary-General Kofi Annan last March in his report “In Larger Freedom”, Governments held during April the first round of informal consultations. Their views were consolidated by the Assembly President in his draft outcome document for the Summit, issued on 3 June. Consultations on this draft took place on 21 and 22 June.

The issues on which civil society representatives are expected to weigh in include proposals to: achieve the Millennium Development Goals by 2015, including by scaling up aid to reach the 0.7 per cent of the gross national income target agreed by the General Assembly; cancelling debt; improving trade access for developing countries; take action against terrorism and nuclear proliferation; set new norms for a Government’s responsibility to protect its citizens; and reform the Security Council and other United Nations machinery, including by setting up a Human Rights Council to replace the existing Commission on Human Rights.

The Hearings are groundbreaking in that they represent the first time that the General Assembly has had such a broad interaction with NGOs, civil society organizations and the private sector. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, in his 2004 report responding to the conclusions of the Panel of Eminent Persons on United Nations-Civil Society Relations (Cardoso Panel), had suggested that the Assembly convene a two-day informal interactive hearings with NGOs prior to the opening of its session each year. This week’s event will be the first occasion that such hearings have been held.

Format of Hearings

The President of the General Assembly will preside over the informal interactive Hearings. After the opening plenary meeting in the General Assembly Hall, where the President and the Deputy Secretary-General will speak, four sequential informal interactive sessions will take place in the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) Chamber or the Trusteeship Council Chamber. These sessions will focus on the four clusters of the Secretary General’s Report In Larger Freedom: (I) Freedom from Want (two segments), (II) Freedom from Fear, (III) Freedom to Live in Dignity and (IV) Strengthening the UN. Five rapporteurs will be appointed by the civil society participants to prepare a summary of their respective sessions, which they will present at the closing segment. In addition, the Secretary-General and the President will make closing statements.

Participants in each session will include Member States, observers of the General Assembly and some 50 invited representatives of NGOs, civil society organizations and the private sector. The invitees were determined by the President of the Assembly in consultation with Member States and representatives of NGOs in consultative status with ECOSOC, civil society organizations and the private sector through a task force established for this purpose.

Space will be provided to all NGOs with ECOSOC consultative status or Department of Public Information (DPI) affiliation to observe the proceedings. Only invited participants may pose questions, but observers may request participants to present questions on their behalf.

Contacts and Resources

For more information and to set up interviews with participants, please contact Newton Kanhema, tel. (+1 212) 963-5602, e-mail:; and Oisika Chakrabarti, tel. (+1 212) 963-8264, e-mail:, Department of Public Information; or Freh Bekele, Office of the Spokesperson for the General Assembly President, tel [1+917] 367-0292, e-mail:

All sessions are open to accredited media and will be broadcast in-house by UNTV. The plenary session and press briefings will be webcast at

Information on the Hearings, including press releases, statements and meeting summaries, can be accessed at A list of participants by cluster can be found at

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