Civil Society Must Be Heard!

“24 October, 2020 will mark the 75th anniversary of the United Nations.

“This constitutes an opportunity – a chance for civil society to push for improved world governance”

(Democracy Without Borders).

“It is a chance to make the UN more effective, more transparent, more accountable and more relevant to “we the peoples”.”

(María Fernanda Espinosa Garcés President of the UN General Assembly)

Civil society has been a dedicated and resolute contributor to the UN since its foundation in 1945. Now, its role is indispensable as it generates an environment of trust, transparency and free communication between governing states, the market, and the private sphere. It possesses the influence to impact policy making and is a necessary contributor in ensuring the true and meaningful delivery of the Sustainable Development Goals.

Burhan Gafoor and Bergdis Ellersdottir, co-facilitators to lead the inter-governmental consultations on the date and modalities related to the commemoration, asked: “how do we make the commemoration of the 75th Anniversary meaningful, forward-looking and relevant to people around the world?”. To which we respond: “by incorporating civil society!”

However, as current plans indicate, Civil Society is to be excluded from the intergovernmental preparatory work, consultations, and outcomes, and even from the commemoration itself! Arguably, this stunts the inclusivity of the UN, making it appear less transparent, less accessible and indeed, less effective.

Soroptimist International has joined the civil society led initiative ‘UN2020’ which advocates for the UN anniversary commemoration to involve civil society. The initiative draws attention to the many major UN processes that will also be celebrating significant anniversaries in 2020 and argues that in the spirit of strengthening the UN’s impact, the 75th anniversary should be utilised as an opportunity to give these major UN processes an honest review and the opportunity to synergise. Clearly, this cannot be fully achieved without the inclusion of civil society.

Soroptimist International has, with thirteen other organisations, submitted a letter to the co-facilitators, urging for civil society to be permitted involvement at each stage of the commemoration. We are optimistic that our concerns will be addressed. Afterall, by recognising civil society, the commemoration will become fully inclusive, and fulfil the co-facillitators’ hope to “engage and inspire all segments of society”.

The UN defines civil society as “the “third sector” of society, along with government and business. It comprises civil society organizations and non-governmental organizations”. Read more on the UN’s civil society page here.

Click here to read the UN’s practical guide to ‘Civil Society Space and the United Nations Human Rights System’.

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