The 60th Annual DPI/NGO Conference took place at UN Headquarters in New York from 5 to 7 September 2007. These conferences are the most important annual gathering of NGOs in association with the ECOSOC or the United Nations Department of Public Information (DPI) and have been held every year since the founding of the UN. They are a unique opportunity for NGOs to network with each other and directly influence public policy BY STIMULATING EFFECTIVE ADVOCACY.
Despite the cost of travel, more than 1,800 representatives of Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) from over 80 countries attended roundtables and workshops during the three-day event in order to review the scientific evidence on climate change, including its consequences on indigenous peoples, water security, land use and the politics of energy — and make recommendations on solutions.
Organized by DPI in collaboration with the NGO/DPI Executive Committee, the Conference also crafted a Declaration and Framework for Action which was drafted by the current leadership of climatecaucus in partnership with the rest of the conference prticipants. This inspiring document set out the consensus view of the participants on the threat of catastrophe posed by climate change and called on participants to take ACTION to mitigate – and in some cases – reverse the effects of this environmental crisis.
To achieve that aim, the Declaration called for a framework for action, which consisted of a Report to the Secretary-General, which will set out the views of the NGO community; but also a permanent discussion between NGOs, a network effect organized through working groups. You are invited to join the process, which continued into 2009 and will continue into 2010 and beyond. There was a specific call for climatecaucus to emerge as a distinct NGO to service the world.
Why Civil Society Matters.
NGOs have been influencing public policy through direct advocacy for action since before the founding of the UN. In fact, it was the discussion of NGOs that truly led to the League of Nations and the UN as expressions of the world’s public for peace instead of war as a solution to conflict. It has not always been easy for NGOs to adequately deal with the forces of governments and commerce, as was seen at UNCTAD II in 1968 when they were largely ignored. But in 1972 the Stockholm conference on the environment marked a change. NGOs met in parallel sessions with government and UN leaders. Over 25 United Nations conferences have followed that model since 1972, including the World Conference on Disaster Reduction (WCDR) in 2005 during which 40,000 private citizens participated in a variety of forums. 30,000 women from 4,000 NGOs participated in Beijing in 1995. The Second World Conference on the Environment in Rio in 1992 saw a massive NGO presence, followed by a participation of 30,000 in Johannesburg in 2002. What is important however isn’t the impressive growth in participation; rather it is the growth in trust that governments and the UN provide civil society — totally different from UNCTAD II. Policy makers care about what we have to say, even at the level of the Security Council, which invited NGO officials to participate in the discussions on the Great Lakes disaster.
The 60th DPI/NGO Conference and the effort to implement its Declaration was another opportunity for NGOs to make a difference across political, economic, geographic and social lines — to outline practical observations about the impact of climate change, what we can do about it, and what we recommend be done by international organizations and governments. Now that we completed the initial mandate, we need you to continue to be part of this effort, to help us craft action plans for the future, because the need is great — nothing less than saving our planet. If you can’t be in New York, do not worry. We are prepared to represent you.