Civil society representatives building the future we want at meeting in Vienna

VIENNA, 19 October 2015 - Representatives of civil society and United Nations Associations from Austria, Hungary, Slovakia and Slovenia met for a two days conference on the role of civil society and UN associations in promoting the new 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

The meeting which was organized by the United Nations Information Service (UNIS) Vienna in cooperation with the United Nations Association (UNA) Austria, took place on 18 and 19 October at the premises of UNA Austria and the Vienna International Centre (VIC).

Former Ambassador to the United Nations and WFUNA Liaison Officer Gerhard Pfanzelter and UNIS Public Information Officer Irene Hoeglinger-Neiva, welcomed the participants to the premises of UNA Austria in Stallburg.

Bernd Hermann, Chairman of the United Nations Youth and Student Association of Austria - Academic Forum for Foreign Affairs - Vienna (UNYSA-AUSTRIA), gave an overview on the mandate, structure and activities of UNA Austria and its youth arm UNYSA.

Following a Vienna City tour, participants were invited to a reception by the City of Vienna.

On the second day of the conference, UNOV Deputy Director-General Dennis Thatchaichawalit welcomed the participants. In his opening remarks he referred to the long-standing partnership between the United Nations and civil society and the important role NGOs and UN associations play in working with the UN:

"Over the past seven decades, UN Associations have been a strong partner of the United Nations. You actively seek to promote the work of the UN among the public and often successfully lobby your respective governments and other interest groups in support of the United Nations.

"Non-governmental organizations also play an important role in supporting the United Nations in all its diverse activities and at the same time by holding it accountable for whenever it fails to deliver."

He highlighted civil society's active role in shaping the new sustainable development agenda which will replace the Millennium Development Goals from 1 January 2016. "The United Nations will also heavily rely on strong partnerships with civil society organizations when it comes to implementing the new goals," he emphasized.

Following a presentation on "The role of civil society to promote UN priorities and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in particular" by UNIS Public Information Officer Irene Hoeglinger-Neiva, UN experts from various Vienna-based UN organizations including UNIDO, UNCITRAL, UNODC, OOSA, and the IAEA presented best practices on how sustainable development and the SDGs will be implemented in their respective fields of work.

The Deputy to the Director at UNIS Vienna, Anne Thomas, gave an overview on how to communicate the work of the UN in view of sustainable development and SDGs to the general public and specific target groups, referring to the various tools already available at the UNIS and other UN websites.

In the afternoon the participants - which included UNA representatives, Model UN organizers, university representatives, NGO representatives from NGO umbrella organizations such as the Slovenian NGO Platform for Development Cooperation and Development Aid 'SLOGA', the Hungarian Association of NGOs for Development and Humanitarian Aid 'HAND', the Austrian Platform for Development and Humanitarian Aid 'Global Responsibility', the Austrian NGO Baobab, the Slovak Centre for Communication and Development (SCCD), as well as the Vienna NGO Committee on Sustainable Development - briefed each other on their activities and fields of work and discussed possible ways to cooperate to promote sustainable development.

"Communicating the new Development Agenda will be our joint challenge for the next 15 years to bring the Sustainable Development Goals closer to people," Adriana Aralica, Policy and Information Officer at SLOGA, emphasized.

"Exchanging ideas was very useful and we are grateful to UNIS Vienna for bringing us together to discuss how to effectively address this joint challenge. I am sure the meeting represents an excellent basis for future cooperation, also for joint activities of NGOs in the region," UNA Slovenia Youth Section Executive Board Member Vid Tomić said. He added that it was great to network with other participants.

Barnabás Benyák, Secretary-General of BIMUN 2016 said: "We spent two truly amazing days of thought-provoking discussions resulting in countless new ideas with a wonderful group of people who shared their stories of working towards achieving common noble goals."

Natalia Hlavata, member of the UNA Slovakia: "We are very thankful to the organizers of the Networking meeting in Vienna for the opportunity to meet like-minded people working towards our common objective to support the work of the UN in our countries. We will certainly use the outcomes of the meeting for our future activities in UNA Slovakia."

Austrian Ambassador Christine Stix-Hackl, Hungarian Ambassador Károly Dán, Slovenian Ambassador Andrej Benedejčič and Deputy Permanent Representative of Slovakia, Albin Otruba, joined the participants for a luncheon during the networking meeting.