General Assembly opens historic talks with civil society

23 June 2005

The United Nations General Assembly today opened its first-ever interactive sessions with civil society groups who will present proposals on security, human rights, development and UN renewal, ahead of a landmark summit in September commemorating the world body's 60th anniversary.

Assembly President Jean Ping of Gabon opened the two-day informal hearings stressing the key role that non-governmental organizations (NGOs), civil society groups and the private sector played on today's international scene, particularly in terms of identifying emerging threats or tackling other global challenges.

Deputy Secretary-General Louise Fréchette said that the Assembly's historic decision to invite civil society to participate in its work was particularly important because the process under way this year would be decisive for the future of the UN. "We face a choice of coming together to tackle those challenges collectively, or we risk increased tension, disorder and inequality", she said.

The hearings come a critical time, amid ongoing closed-door negotiations among Member States preparing for the Assembly's 2005 World Summit, which will kick off on 14 September with a mid-term review of worldwide efforts to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), a set of targets designed to halve or eradicate poverty and other socio-economic ills by 2015.

World leaders gathering at the UN will also have what Secretary-General Kofi Annan says is "once-in-a generation" opportunity to make the world body more efficient at tackling global problems by adopting the reforms he proposed in his landmark report In Larger Freedom, which he introduced to the Assembly in March.

In the report, Mr. Annan urges world leaders to aim for the "perfect triangle of development, freedom and peace," and to "find common ground and sustain collective action" in the face of what might appear to be a "daunting" task.

He presents a package of proposals that he believes are "both needed and achievable in 2005", including establishing new rules for the use of military force, adopting an anti-terrorism treaty, and reforming key UN organs and institutions, such as the Security Council and the Geneva-based Commission on Human Rights.

Mr. Ping said today that the views and opinions of civil society will be essential as Member States pressed ahead with their work. Therefore, the hearings over the next two days will feature round-table discussions that focus on key elements of Mr. Annan's report: freedom from want; freedom from fear; freedom to live in dignity, and strengthening the United Nations.


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