The United Nations has reached out as never before to new partners in pursuit of its work around the world, with non-governmental organizations (NGOs) holding a unique place in the world body's efforts to help countries recover from the trauma of conflict, UN Deputy Secretary-General Louise Fréchette said today at the opening of a conference for civic groups.
"For many decades, you have been our partner on the ground: delivering humanitarian assistance in places struck by conflict or natural disaster, and in quieter places, helping people who are striving to build stable communities and effective institutions," the Deputy Secretary-General said in an opening address to the fifty-fifth annual UN Department of Public Information/NGO Conference being held at UN Headquarters in New York. "Today this extraordinarily fruitful cooperation is closer than ever."
Ms. Fréchette noted that while the United Nations could not hope to achieve its goals without the efforts and expertise of NGOs, perhaps it was time for some wider stocktaking of the entire UN-NGO relationship.
"We need to look closely at what is working well and what isn't, and then build on all that has been achieved so far to prepare for a future in which the NGO community looks certain to continue its extraordinary involvement in the work of the United Nations," she said.
For her part, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson told the gathering it was better to prevent large-scale deadly conflict rather than to have to pick up the pieces afterwards. Prevention must be a priority for all, including NGOs, she said, stressing that particular attention should be paid to the establishment of strong national human rights protection systems when rebuilding societies after conflict.
"How many lives would have been saved, how much development advanced, had even a fraction of the funding needed to bring an end to deadly conflicts been used in their prevention?" Mrs. Robinson said. "How much suffering could have been avoided if the international community had summoned the will to act effectively over gross violations of human rights which so often foretell deadly conflict?"
Lakhdar Brahimi, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Afghanistan, pointed out that in post-conflict situations the roles of the United Nations and NGOs were complementary but not identical.
The role of the international community was dramatically transformed during post-conflict situations, he noted, adding that all activities should support the national capacity and be responsive to the priorities of the government.
"This means that we must ensure, first and foremost, that our activities strengthen national capacities - not our own institutional capabilities; and second, that we are responsive to the priorities articulated by the Government - and not our own agendas or priorities," he stressed.
- Opening session of the Conference