Presidential Statements

Partnerships: Premises and Promises, Possibilities and Perils

Presentation by Liberato C. Bautista, President of CoNGO

at the 2023 ECOSOC Partnership Forum Side Event: WSIS Cooperation for Accelerating Progress on the SDGs

Organized by United Nations Group on the Information Society (UNGIS)  and the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS)

31 January 2023

  • Partnerships must be at the core of what multilateral and multistakeholder mean. CoNGO’s long-term partnership with the WSIS Process and Forums is a model in this direction.
  • Stakeholders have varying access to power and resources, which they deploy in various partnerships. But there are as many perils as there are possibilities in these partnerships.
  • The principle of common but differentiated responsibilities is critical in addressing the unequal relations among stakeholders. 
  • Partnerships at the UN flourish under conditions that make it possible for all stakeholders to access both physical space (premises) and substantive agenda (promises), not the least on all matters related to the successful implementation of Agenda 2030 and the Sustainable Development Goals.


Excellencies, ladies, and gentlemen:

  1. Thank you to friends at WSIS and ITU for having me again at another WSIS event during the ECOSOC Partnership Forum 2023. Thank you for allowing me to respond to two questions you posed.  The first question deals with how the Conference of NGOs in Consultative Relationship with the United Nations (CoNGO) views partnerships and why it is imperative for ECOSOC and the WSIS Process, as much as civil society, to collaborate in implementing and achieving the vision of Agenda 2030 and the SDGs.
  2. My response to both is an organizational one—a celebration of the partnership between CoNGO and the WSIS Process through ITU, which I believe is a model of consultation, collaboration, and cooperation among varied actors who have been given access to physical premises as well as access to the substantive promises of the WSIS agenda. I will come back later to a nuancing of what I call the dynamic of premises and promises. The participation of CoNGO in the WSIS Forum last year (i.e., as a high-level track facilitator, as a speaker at a side event, opening ceremony and closing session, and in CoNGO’s event) and at the WSIS Forum 2023 this coming March (as high-level track facilitator again) are examples of this partnership.
  3. Both the multilateral and the multistakeholder approaches to doing work can be successful and meaningful if conducted under conditions of just and democratic governance. But also, one must consider the uneven development of economies and differentiated responsibilities on the common challenges we face in local, regional, and global spaces. Doing so is an exercise in knowing what can be realistically expected from a partner.
  4. Sustainable development is fundamentally about development justice. And development justice must also be about digital justice, which is the equitable deployment and access to the implements of digitalization, including ICTs. For CoNGO, these understandings underscore the reality that stakeholders have varying degrees of reach and access to the levers of power and resources and ICT implements, hence the concern, for example, for digital justice.
  5. There is broad agreement that the full and successful implementation of the Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development relies heavily on the partnerships among governments, multilateral institutions, the private sector, the business sector, and the widest breadth of civil society groupings, including non-governmental organizations.
  6. For NGOs to contribute meaningfully to the recovery of people and the planet from the pillage of pandemics and the devastations due to climate change,  NGO voice and agency must be afforded access to both multilateral premises and participation in visioning and shaping the substantive promises of the UN. Key to NGO partnership is having their voice heard, and their expertise tapped. This is what access to the promises of the UN means—access to realizing the promises of peace and prosperity, for people and the planet, as a shared vision and task.
  7. Let me now address the second question explicitly dealing with the close collaboration between CoNGO and WSIS, but also why I consider the ethical dimensions of knowledge and information society crucial.  The platforms the WSIS process has afforded NGOs are a model for such partnerships. They point to the direction of achieving digital justice, which is co-constitutive with environmental and development justice. WSIS and CoNGO’s long history of collaboration is substantive in both access to the premises of each other’s meetings and their substantive agendas. In 2003 in Geneva and 2005 in Tunis—at the twin conferences that launched the World Summit on the Information Society, CoNGO played a central role in promoting and facilitating cooperation among the many civil society groups that converged in these two conferences. We have supported WSIS and the WSIS Forums ever since, with the CoNGO President or First Vice President being a regular plenary speaker or facilitator.  The “ITU-CoNGO Agreement” signed in 2005 with then SG Utsumi set the ground for increasingly fruitful cooperation. The “Agreed Concept Note for Enhanced Involvement of CoNGO in the WSIS Process” was elaborated and strengthened in 2010 under SG Touré and DSG Zhao. 
  8. NGOs in Geneva and Tunis spoke of the various dimensions of ICT,  but even more so on the ethical dimensions(WSIS Action Line 10) concerning the common good, social justice, human dignity and human rights, sustainability and development, and so much more identifiable values. In the context of Agenda 2030, such ethical dimensions come in even greater focus because ICTs, to be a tool for the common good, must first redound to the enhancement of the dignity and protection of people’s human rights and the securing of sustainability for the planet.
  9. The digitization of knowledge and the digitalization of information—in all its applications, but especially in industry and commerce—are fraught with moral and ethical considerations. These moral and ethical considerations point to the digital divide and vex our efforts to safeguard human rights, including their intersections with more significant economic, political, social, and cultural realities. For its part, CoNGO will compose this year a CoNGO Board Advisory Working Group on Information Communications Technology, intended to supplement the CoNGO compendium of principles for NGO good practice (2021), this time focusing on best practices in the use of ICTs as experienced by NGOs and civil society groups.
  10. CoNGO’s collaboration with the World Academy of Art and Science, which partnered with the UN Trust Fund for Human Security to launch the Human Security for All campaign, is essential to mention here. This year, the campaign got loud-speaker access in Las Vegas at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES). The titans of ICT industries agreed to have human security as its theme for the show. It is a step in the right direction for commerce and drives to be involved in implementing the SDGs.
  11. Last week, the ninth edition of the annual symposium on the role of religion and faith-based organizations in international affairs, which I chaired, also focused on human security. It was a symposium in collaboration with UNDP acting on behalf of the UN inter-agency task force on religion and development, including 27 UN entities collaborating. I said at the symposium that digital security must be a part of our understanding of human security. And that human security must be shared security for all. It must be shared security for all because it is about the flourishing of life, human well-being, and the planet’s sustainable development. 
  12. Peace and prosperity are undoubtedly critical components of our understanding of partnerships, and I submit that we have muted the justice components all too often. Yesterday’s session on Partnership Innovations raised the matter of common but differentiated responsibilities again. It is an assertion that a framework of inequality and uneven development still characterizes our partnerships. That’s the justice issue—recognizing who the duty bearers and the rights holders are so that, in the end, the SDGs are about the partnerships for people and the planet and not partnerships among inanimate institutions and organizations. CoNGO celebrates its partnership with ITU and WSIS for the great potential to continue advancing this perspective together. I trust the WSIS process, and forum will continue this orientation.



January 24, 2023 | ECOSOC Chamber | 10:00 – 13:00

Madam ECOSOC President, Ms. Lachezara Stoeva, thank you for convening this important and timely session.

Excellencies, ladies, and gentlemen

At the core of these atrocity crimes that this session has addressed, namely genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing, and crimes against humanity, is the ignominious assault on intrinsic human dignity and fundamental human rights.

These crimes decimate every semblance of civility and humanity and, when left unpunished, may happen again with impunity.

To prevent these crimes, ECOSOC must underscore the holistic implementation of civil, political, economic, social, and cultural rights regimen, underscoring and reinforcing already available international laws and agreements for just and equitable sustainable development.

Prevention requires turning national security into shared security where there is just and equitable provision of food and freedom, jobs and justice, and land and liberty, for all peoples and communities everywhere.

Denying people these public goods that make for a peaceable, secure, and sustainable future provides fertile ground for atrocity crimes to thrive.

In the end, stopping death-dealing crimes is as urgent as the flourishing of life itself—that of people and the planet.

I take this opportunity to announce the creation within the Conference of NGOs of two more NGO committees whose agenda will include the concerns of this special meeting:

1) an NGO Committee on Racism, Colonialism, and All Forms of Discrimination and Intolerance, and

2) an NGO Committee of Youth and Future Generations. A substantive investment in our youth today should be a wise investment in preventing all atrocity crimes.

Thank you, Madam President.


The Rev. Dr. Liberato Bautista is President of the Conference of Non-Governmental Organizations in Consultative Relationship with the United Nations (2007-2011, 2017-2025), an NGO in general consultative status with ECOSOC. He is also the Assistant General Secretary for United Nations and International Affairs of the United Methodist Church-General Board of Church and Society, also in consultative status with ECOSOC. He serves as its main representative to the UN.

CoNGO President to Speak at ECOSOC NGO Committee Consultation With NGOs


13 December 2022 | UN Headquarters, New York City

(The following statement by Liberato Bautista, the President of CoNGO—Conference of Non-Governmental Organizations in Consultative Relationship with the United Nations—forms the basis of his three-minute presentation scheduled for delivery at the ECOSOC NGO Committee consultation with NGOs to be held on Tuesday, 13 December 2022 at UN Headquarters in New York City. Many of the points raised in the statement come from comments received during an open mic conducted by President Bautista with CoNGO member organizations.)

1. I am Liberato Bautista, speaking as President of the Conference of Non- Governmental Organizations in Consultative Relationship with the United Nations. CoNGO is an NGO in general consultative status with ECOSOC whose membership includes more than 500 NGOs in consultative status with ECOSOC. Since CoNGO’s founding in 1948, it has been a significant interface between NGOs, now the broader Civil Society, and the United Nations System. CoNGO has consistently promoted, defended, and boosted civil society access—both physical and political—to deliberative and decision-making processes throughout the United Nations System.

2. CoNGO has encouraged and facilitated competent NGO inputs across the entire spectrum of issues that constitute the daily and yearly agenda of the United Nations. All these, while maintaining open lines of communication with the President of ECOSOC, the Chair of the Committee on NGOs, the Chief of the NGO Branch at UN DESA, and other NGO liaisons within the UN System through my leadership emphasis on consultation, collaboration, and cooperation.

The following points address the four questions sent in advance by the ECOSOC Committee on NGOs for the consultation to address:

On question 1: How can NGOs further contribute to the work of ECOSOC and its subsidiary bodies? What are the most efficient modalities for NGOs to contribute to the United Nations’ policymaking, be recognized, and be influential in these processes?

3. In its 74 years as a primary interface with the United Nations System, CoNGO has constantly reiterated the importance to the UN of encouraging and receiving open and interactive engagement with NGOs and broader civil society. We again underline that ECOSOC Resolution 1996/31 contains virtually all the technical and procedural modalities to achieve this purpose. Member States must faithfully implement all the provisions of 1996/31, being the most effective guarantee that NGOs can contribute, be recognized, and enrich the UN’s deliberative and decision-making processes.

4. Specifically, NGOs should receive targeted advice on accessing the information on primary UN documents issued, on timely registration for UN conferences and consultations, on any supplementary badging procedures, on conditions for submitting NGO documents, and on physical access to meeting rooms. NGOs should receive timely information on the requirements for organizing side events, plus practical guidance for on-site arrangements. For its part, CoNGO has designed its website ( as a portal to valuable information on UN and NGO meetings and the UN regulations on the consultative process.

5. The UN must structure its work modalities for access to NGOs and hearing their voices at UN meetings. The speaking time for NGOs should be allotted so that their turn to speak is not based on remaining available time but rather on a specific time. Accessing digital space, including through the UN WebTV, is laudable but should not be a substitute for the physical, in-person presence of accredited NGO representatives at UN conferences, consultations, and meetings.

6. Member States, having already in Resolution 1996/31 acknowledged and endorsed the fundamental value of the consultative relationship, should place no ad-hoc or meeting-specific limitations or restrictions on NGO participation in policy-making, nor invent counter-productive measures on participation that contradict the spirit of the consultative process. This, and more, is the essence of a statement I delivered at a consultation conducted by the ECOSOC President in 2021 with Chairs of its functional commissions and expert bodies.

7. Recognizing the people-oriented grass-roots experience of NGOs, along with their professional and technical competences on issues being considered by the United Nations, Member States should be open and welcoming to the monitoring and advocacy initiatives of NGOs, both within and outside UN premises. Competent NGO input to policy-making enhances government policy output.

On Question 2: What is your organization’s view should be done to provide better support to NGOs during the process of obtaining consultative status with ECOSOC?

8. NGOs unfamiliar with UN terminology would benefit from guidance on its intricacies in all UN languages. Multilingualism should be pursued. During the preliminary review by the DESA Secretariat of new applications for accreditation, attention should be paid to the theoretical structure and claimed constituency of applicants to ensure that the organization is more than just its founder and can genuinely be considered able to reflect representative public opinions and claimed competences.

9. The UN needs varied competences which diverse NGOs could bring to the multilateral arena. The application should be judged not solely from the angle of whether it fits into existing UN programmatic categories but whether it can also contribute to the debate on new and emerging issues.

On Question 3: How can the participation of NGOs from developing countries and countries with economies in transition in the UN’s work be increased?

10. A robust civil society in every country makes for a healthy democratic space in the public arena. The UN should work with civil society and Member States to develop democratic, participatory practices at all levels of the organization and in society.

11. In countries under authoritarian rule and where governments have recently restricted civil society in contradiction to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights terms and the International civil and political rights Covenant, this shrinkage of civic space should be fully reversed. Doing so will foster accountable and responsible civil society participation at local, national, and international levels, including those NGOs seeking ECOSOC consultative status.

12. The accreditation process must not be used as an extension for governments to take reprisals against civil society organizations or representatives taking seriously their civil, human, and democratic rights, including being able to participate fully in the life of the UN by gaining consultative status. All parties involved in the ECOSOC accreditation process must endeavor to make the process and the resulting consultative relationship a place and opportunity to jointly prosper democratic values and practices. CoNGO, for its part, has urged its members to adhere to NGO good practices through a compendium of principles it has adopted.

On Question 4: Once the consultative status is granted to organizations, how best can NGOs access the opportunities to participate in UN processes?

13. The Secretary-General should advise the UN Safety and Security Service that NGOs are just as much UN partners as media representatives (perhaps even more so…) and thus should not be excluded from, or hindered in access to, UN premises. Government representatives, notably those who hold Bureau positions at UN Conferences and Commissions, should be aware of the many positive precedents for NGO access throughout the UN System based on Resolution 1996/31 and beyond and apply them with understanding and agility. The same remark applies to the senior UN Secretariat officials who serve UN fora. The flow of communications from the UN Secretariat(s) to NGOs must be extensive, comprehensive, and targeted. Reference links to appropriate UN websites must invariably be
included, including prior relevant documentation.

14. UN DESA should collaborate with NGOs to develop and prosper “good practice principles” that work for inter-NGO relations and UN-NGO relations. All agencies/departments/entities of the UN System, including the Executive Office of the Secretary-General, should have a civil society focal point charged, among other things, with promoting and facilitating NGO access to UN processes.

CoNGO’s commitment to the consultative relationship with the UN

15. CoNGO has often spoken out in defense of the values that the UN and Civil Society share and has addressed governments with the plea—indeed the demand—that the financial underpinning of the UN is substantially reinforced to enable the UN to adequately respond to the needs of the people and the planet. More sustained and timely funding for the UN is also needed for it to engage more comprehensively with Civil Society, whose inputs are critical to fulfilling the UN’s mandates and activities.

16. Following a Civil Society Summit convened by CoNGO, we urge the UN General Assembly and ECOSOC to ensure the following priorities in all UN Resolutions, mandates, and field programs:

a. Human dignity and human rights must undergird all government and intergovernmental policies.

b. Agenda 2030 and the Sustainable Development Goals remain a basic template and challenge for all governments, all NGOs, and society. Total commitment to implementation is crucial.

c. Peace and the security of people and the planet have been newly and dramatically challenged this year in defiance of the UN Charter. Governments start wars; we call on all governments to end them.

d. The world is plagued by unresolved issues of social justice, managing migration, continuing racism, of guaranteeing good health. We again remind governments of their overriding responsibility – collectively and individually – to respond meaningfully and urgently.

e. Equally, government action remains inadequate in achieving gender justice, involving youth, and promoting intergenerational solidarity. We call on governments to be determined and courageous in tackling these issues.

f. The UN must be better “used” by its member governments to enhance multilateralism, restore democratic discourse, and protect civil space and NGO participation.

17. CoNGO will, during 2023—its 75th Anniversary Year—work tirelessly with its members and other NGOs, the ECOSOC Committee on NGOs, and all relevant United Nations System entities to achieve the peaceable, secure, sustainable, and better world we want and need.

Co-Building an Eco-Social World: Leaving No One Behind, Organizing a Robust and Protected Transborder and Transnational Civil Society

Keynote Speech delivered on June 30 at the Global People’s Summit on Co-Building an Eco-Social World held online from June 29 to July 2, 2022

by Liberato C. Bautista, CoNGO President

Introductory Remarks

  1. Thank you, Priska Fleischlin, for that introduction. Thanks to you and your organization—the International Federation of Social Workers, which is a member of CoNGO—the Conference of Non-Governmental Organizations in Consultative Relationship with the United Nations was invited as a partner of this critical global undertaking—a people’s global summit “to share…solutions to our joint challenges so that all people can live with confidence, security, and peace in a sustainable world.”
  2. The draft People’s Charter that will emerge from this global summit characterizes a world that is imperiled by many challenges. The charter partly says, and I quote, “We recognise that the pledges made by governments after the second world war – on peace, development and human rights – have not yet been realized and rights have been eroded in instances. Inequalities and fractures have grown. Poverty sits alongside extreme wealth. Nature has been degraded, leading to climate warming and environmental destruction. Millions of people have been displaced. As a result, they are adding to the millions more displaced by conflict and violence. The governments that made these commitments have prioritized competition over collaboration and sovereignty over solidarity. They have not yet served the people they represent.”
  3. “They have not served the people they represent.” That’s a bold statement to say. It is a statement that also burdens this Summit, which must identify as close and inclusive a global picture as possible of the issues that keep people worried all day and awake all night. The draft Charter identified “interconnected, diverse values as a basis for forming a holistic, inclusive framework for our everyday relationships and actions.” The Charter enumerated the values as “reference points for the development of our shared futures.” I like this formulation—that values, while named and identified, cannot be exhausted in an effort as global as a people’s summit can undertake, and yet whatever we can already name—collaboratively and together—they are already available reference points for co-building an eco-social world which we will live in in a shared future.”
  4. The organizational mantra that serves as value orientation for the work of CoNGO says, “Defining the present, shaping the future.” And as we launch into our 75th anniversary next year, we have added the call “Making the change, now.” This addition impresses upon us the urgency of now. Defining the present and shaping the future is all very well, but making the change now matters to people and the planet.
  5. I would like to share some thoughts on the general topic, which is the theme of this People’s Global Summit: “Co-building an eco-social world so that no one is left behind. Allow me to approach my contribution to elaborating on this theme around four subheadings: First, the surplus of fear and a deficit of hope in today’s world. Second, the need to revisit multilateralism as an arrangement of global collaboration and delivery mechanism for achieving global public goods and goals. Third is the need for a robust, protected, transnational civil society co-constitutive with solid multilateralism. Fourth, what makes an eco-social world worth building together so that no one is left behind?

The Surplus of Fear and the Deficit of Hope

  1. On with the first—that there is in our world today a surplus, surfeit if you will, of fear and a deficit of hope which is imperiling the achievement of sustainable development goals for people and the planet. Co-building an eco-social world depends mainly on empowering the voice and agency of people as they identify their concerns and craft their futures. This is why decreasing fear and replacing it with increased hope augurs well into assuring people of their dignity and human rights and the planet’s sustainability.
  2. Today, this surfeit of fear and deficit of hope among the world’s peoples is putting humanity’s survival at stake in an ever more imperiled and unsustainable natural ecology. The health of people and the planet is endangered by intersecting crises, not the least brought about by the coronavirus pandemic, global violence, forced migration, economic crisis, climate crisis, racial injustice, and more. Time is of the essence, and we must decrease fear and increase hope in that eco-social world we are building together.
  3. To decrease fear, we must reaffirm that human dignity and rights are non-negotiables. That human dignity is inherent in every person—persons being rights holders—and human rights are buffeted and increased because they are the indivisible and interdependent protections we give to human dignity. To decrease fear among peoples, the pantheon of human rights we struggle to build upon daily must be demonstrable as effective instruments to check government impunity, indeed of state agents, who otherwise may conduct themselves with impunity as to violate and sully people’s dignity without fear of being accountable and punished.
  4. To increase hope, we must build a shared future for all the inhabitants of the earth and their natural ecology by promoting and safeguarding the common public goods and services indispensable to life. We must increase hope through arrangements that genuinely put people and the planet at the center of the local and global public imagination of policy and legislation. And we certainly need today a cadre of leaders from grassroots, local, national, regional, and international arenas to provide leadership for the much-needed catalytic strategies and action for transformative change in social and ecological relations.

Multilateralism: Revisiting, Revising, Transforming

  1. Second, the need to revisit, revise and transform multilateralism as an arrangement of global collaboration among an assortment of varied players focused on addressing the production and development of shared public goods collaboratively, not the least the development of visible, viable, and durable peace and prosperity which underpin an eco-social world responsive to the needs of peoples and ensures the viability of the planet.
  2. As we know today, multilateralism will no longer suffice for that catalytic and transformative change. It must be revisited, rebooted, rewired, or even repopulated beyond its all too nation-state-centeredness. Not only must there be multilateralism where institutions for norms and standards-setting work robustly, accountably, and transparently, but more importantly, a multilateralism where the common, just, and equal flourishing of peoples and the planet are at the heart of its work, and not the self-preservation of the state in ways hitherto buttressed by national security formulations.
  3. The challenge to multilateralism today is not only that the world’s problems have exponentially multiplied compared to the imagination of those who forged the Peace of Westphalia in mid 17th century. That provenance of modern multilateralism endowed us with the notion and reality of sovereign nation-states who contracted treaties and entered into obligations between and among them foremost to protect territories and resources. All in the interest of national security—meaning the protection of the inanimate nation-state!
  4. The urgent challenge to multilateralism today, it would seem, lies in the urgency for these sovereign nation-states to recognize how each of their people and their natural ecology are tied to the survivability and sustainability of all others and that acting together globally is simultaneously in their local and national interest. Today’s international interest must be equally a national interest because the international interest is the interest of nationals acting upon global threats and challenges that no single country can address better except collectively—under the aegis of entities like those that make the United Nations System.
  5. Multilateralism works, but only if the intention to involve civil society moves from rhetoric to reality. By civil society here, I mean its broadest meaning—all the world’s peoples in their varied settings and configurations, including as citizens, people on the move, and stateless persons. Their political and national affinities matter to the nation-state. But being simply human means they are at the mercy of the perils of intersecting social injustices and harsh ecological realities. The reality here means allotting time for them to speak and be heard in every venue. As NGOs (non-governmental organizations) and CSOs (civil society organizations), we claim that citizens and non-citizens alike are indispensable parts of the national, regional, and international governance architecture that cannot be ignored in the pursuit of common and global agendas—to evoke language that the UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, has used in his latest recommendations now in the hands of the member states and for the upcoming General Assembly to consider.

The Need for a Robust and Protected Transborder and Transnational Civil Society

  1. Third, the recognition that the need for a robust and protected civil society is co-constitutive of strong multilateralism at the global and national levels. NGOs, CSOs, and grassroots organizations are placed on a momentous occasion to advance social consciousness and organize to advance human rights principles everywhere in the public square. But in many places in the world today, the voices of civil society are increasingly muzzled in a public square that is shrinking and a public discourse that is curtailed.
  2. The latest report of CIVICUS—the eleventh edition of its State of Civil Society issued a few days ago is alarming. This CIVICUS report “shines a light on a time of immense upheaval and contestation: war, conflict, rising fuel and food prices, climate change…” even as it also reported on where it found hope—”in the many mobilisations for change around the world: the mass protests, campaigns, and people’s movements for justice, and the many grassroots initiatives defending rights and helping those most in need.”
  3. The CIVICUS report identified five key current trends of global significance: A) Rising fuel and food costs are spurring public anger and protests at economic mismanagement. B) Democracy is under assault, but positive changes are still being won. C) Advances are being made in fighting social inequality despite attacks. D) Civil society is keeping up the pressure for climate action. E) Current crises are exposing the inadequacies of the international governance system.
  4. CoNGO, in its public statements, echoes CIVICUS’s refrain on these issues. “CoNGO is concerned about the shrinking space for civil society. Freedom of assembly, opinion, and expression are inherent rights of every human being. Still, an increasing number of countries restrict these rights, treating civil society as a threat rather than as a partner working to achieve common goals. Some governments imprison civil society activists or use force to quell peaceful assemblies and demonstrations. They formally accept the recommendations of the United Nations while ignoring them in practice. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights and relevant international conventions and covenants must be universally applied. The United Nations must ensure that NGOs have full access to United Nations bodies to allow the fullest contributions of their competencies, expertise, energy, and experience.”
  5. It is about time the UN and its member states are seized of the political will (of its people and citizens) to achieve the future we want and the world we need. Formulations of these are already being expressed multifariously by the world’s peoples in various social forums, peoples assemblies, and certainly peoples’ summits such as this. This global people’s summit and the charter that will come out of it should loudly and clearly state the high expectations of NGOs and civil society for the Heads of State and Government assembled during the High-Level Political Forum (July) and at the General Assembly (September)—to demonstrate political courage by making real their declaration at the commemoration of the 75th anniversary of the UN, among them: A) “We will leave no one behind…The peoples have to be at the center of all our efforts.” B) “We will place women and girls at the center.” C) “We will upgrade the United Nations. The world of today is very different from what it was when the UN was created 75 years ago…Our working methods need to keep pace and adapt.”
  6. Beyond the multilateralism we engage in today, we need arrangements that enable civil society to claim spaces and position themselves at political platforms where their presence is visible. Their views are heard to impact decision-making. At the level of NGOs that advocate before the United Nations under consultative arrangements, Article 71 of the UN Charter and ECOSOC Resolution 1996/31 already provide modalities and platforms that must be reinforced and not rolled back to the peril of democratic exchange and participatory decision making.
  7. What matters to me as an NGO leader—as CoNGO President in particular—is that NGO representatives can speak their voice, even in their language, and claim their agency in the settings that present the realities of their localities—be the grassroots, local, national, regional or global arenas. This includes the essential role of CSOs, critical social movements (CSMs), and other civic organizations vying for public attention and rallying for support for action on pressing social, economic, and political issues. The dynamic of co-building an eco-social world such as that propounded loudly by this people’s global summit points to the need to coalesce and forge alliances and networks to multiply our collective power and potential to influence public opinion, affect policy formulation, and effect transformative change.
  8. CoNGO’s working modalities, especially its more than 30 substantive NGO committees organized in New York, Geneva, Vienna, and in four other political regions, exemplify the importance of harnessing collective energy and influence for impact, if not relevance. This organizational mode that gathers NGOs to work on substantive issues and act upon them to make the transformative change today demonstrates what I have called the power of co—the power of consultation, collaboration, and cooperation. The burden of this global people’s summit is not only to address the substantive issues that make an eco-social world. It matters equally and significantly that we employ methods of work that reflect the diversity of the transnational and transborder composition of who the world’s peoples are and how they struggle, organize and mobilize themselves for action.

Making Human Security and Planetary Sustainability Matter, Together

  1. Fourth and last of my subheadings is about an eco-social world we must co-build so that no one is left behind. That eco-social world is where food is secured as much as freedom is advanced, jobs are secured as much as justice is advanced, and land is secured as much as liberation is advanced. At its barest minimum, an eco-social world must be secure for people: a) Food and freedom, b) Jobs and justice, and c) Land and liberation.
  2. This formulation adheres to the indivisibility of social, economic, cultural, civil, and political rights. Easier said than done. Mainly because these are both human rights and human needs receiving the least resources that national budgets provide. But nothing to complicate what the world’s peoples want and need. People need food, shelter, clothing, education, health, and so much more in ways already enumerated by the goals and targets under each of the 17 SDGs. And suppose these needs are not made available, and their human rights are not protected. In that case, people must have venues to air their grievances to act on their marginalization, oppression, and exploitation and, ultimately, feel their liberation.
  3. In the age of the Anthropocene, we need to assert the integrity of the ecological system—and, as responsible human beings, fight for the right of nature to be integrally sustainable. And do this as robustly as we fight for human rights. The anthropocentrism of how our human rights principles have developed must come to terms with the planetary requirements of human survivability. In the age of the Anthropocene, we have tinkered so much with nature that nature’s ability to regenerate has been breached, and its integrity is imperiled unless human intervention is curved and put in check. And those who have contributed the most to its peril have the greater responsibility—morally and resource-wise—to address such matters, not the least that of climate change.

What Needs to be Done?

  1. In its previous statement, CoNGO has called upon the United Nations and Member States “to enter into a dialogue with civil society to create innovative partnerships that respond to changing world challenges. The spirit of Agenda 2030 requires the robust participation of the world’s people so that the benefits of multilateralism are felt in their daily lives. Everyone must work in concert so that the United Nations we need for the world we want prospers in a rules-based international order. We call upon Member States to recognize the vast potential of civil society as an essential element of the international system, defining the present and shaping the future. We must dismantle the hurdles to physical and political access to United Nations processes to achieve internationally agreed development goals and social justice agendas….Humanity cannot wait.”
  2. “The ‘Peoples’ who gave voice to the United Nations Charter and see the Member States as their representatives are demanding that the world body rise to its commitments and bring about transformative change. Peace, justice, and development depend on holistic, human-rights-based, people-centered, and gender-sensitive approaches to the systems underpinning our economy, society, and environment.”
  3. “We must increase momentum to transform the world and ensure that no one is left behind.” This means addressing those issues or concerns that worry “We the peoples.” These are concerns invariably identified or alluded to in the draft and, hopefully, final People’s Charter coming out of this Summit, issues such as: A) Climate Change: issues around global warming, its effects on the relations of people and planet, sustainability and viability of civilizational life itself. B) Global Migration and massive displacement and movement of peoples: realizing that migration today is globalized but xenophobically nationalistic, securitized and militarized, ethnicized and othered, gendered and sexualized, commodified and commoditized, homogenized and hegemonized. C) Global Violence: recognizing that the world’s peoples are not only wary and weary but frustrated and dying in this warring world, arming to the teeth, militarizing not only our borders but our social relations, putting people and planet encircled and occupied, endangered, and in many different manners in death’s way. The aggression by Russia against Ukraine is but one of many wars of aggression and occupation that colonizers and imperial powers have fomented and subjected other peoples and lands over centuries. Ending the scourge of war still is a blight in the multilateral undertaking.
  4. We are a human species in deep need today of the things that flourish life and undergird abundant living. Even more urgently, we need something that extinguishes the power of death and death-dealing forces and instruments that peddle violence. Ending the scourge of war and the proliferation of implements of war is urgent and necessary, even as it is also the greatest failure of the multilateral undertaking.

And what can we do to make the change now?

  1. What can we do, what must we do, to make visible the change we want and need now? Can we redo civics education so that it is relevant today? How about glocal civics education that engenders glocal citizenship? What would it entail to ratchet up the co-building of an eco-social world where no one is left behind? Let me suggest three areas that reimagine and transform civics: A) Cultivate CIVIC VALUES, where obligations generated by the multiplicity of relations between and among peoples and nations go beyond traditional notions of national security and sovereignty into ones that foster people’s security, human rights, and global peace. Here we have to start fortifying our calls and acts for food security, water security, climate security, and the like. B) (En)gender CIVIC ENGAGEMENT, where citizenry goes beyond national allegiances and sovereign assertions. In a global world and cosmological existence, we need global citizenry and human solidarity where human welfare and cosmological well-being are primordial over activities that sever our human relations and deal with death rather than life—activities such as wars and extractive mining that generate other death-dealing activities and natural catastrophes and human-induced vulnerabilities, including climate change, and contemporary manifestations of the historical evils of slavery, colonialism, and racism. C) Foster CIVIC ACTION, which is oriented towards social justice, so that every activity—from grassroots, local, national, regional, to international—by peoples, governments, and multilateral institutions—redound to the improvement of the relations of peoples and nations, thus providing the possibility of (re)constituting ourselves—our relationships, associations, and communities—and readying all for catalytic leadership and transformative change.
  2. Let me come back to my initial statement that in our world today, there is a surplus of fear and a deficit of hope. And the urgency to reverse this is acute and necessary. In his famous “I Have a Dream” speech of August 23, 1963, at the Lincoln Memorial on the Washington, DC National Mall, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., exclaimed: “We are now faced with the fact that tomorrow is today. We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now. In this unfolding conundrum of life and history, there “is” such a thing as being too late. This is no time for apathy or complacency. This is a time for vigorous and positive action.”
  3. That fierce urgency spoken of by Dr. King is a moment for us to seize—because the future is upon us now. The future is today. And vigorous and positive action is expected of us. That us is everyone; we have a stake in that future now. Time is of the essence. At such a time and space as ours, we must act—with a determined voice and empowered agency. In an auspicious time and in a space where we can affect vigorously and positively, we must work collaboratively for the sufficiency and sustainability of the planet and peace and prosperity for all peoples.
  4. On this day, the fierce urgency of now admonishes us to recognize the things that make for peace and bring justice so that we recover better for a sustainable and equitable world and recover justly and peaceably. And safely for people and the planet. The human rights of people and the planet’s ecological health are at stake. And there is no time for delay.
  5. Because the future is now, we must make the change now. Just peace, now. Climate justice, now. Health justice, now. Vaccine justice, now. Racial justice, now. Economic justice, now. Gender justice, now.
    Migration justice, now.
  6. The future of humanity is intertwined with the planet’s future. Now is the time to demand that we look at the pillage that social pandemics have visited upon us and address the lingering social, economic, political, and cultural inequalities that trouble our peoples and lands. Now is the time to be kind to one another—in or out of pandemics. Kindness is hard currency when fear is in surfeit, and hope is in deficit. Let us make kindness available in all the ways we can as much as we can. Kindness is co-constitutive with solidarity, and kindness demonstrates our interdependencies in life and living as one humanity on one planet.
  7. Collaboration at all levels is needed to triumph over crises across locales worldwide. Greater humility is required knowing that collaborative thinking and working far outweigh individual proclivities and comforts we have individually valued. In the time of the CoVID-19 pandemic, and the like, we must wash our hands frequently and vigorously for our health and that of others.
  8. However, that is not the same with social pandemics and injustices. We must not wash our hands to diminish our complicity and entanglement with the injustices and unpeace that have sullied our human relations and endangered our planetary existence. Hope may be what holds life from death and peace from destruction. Let us recommit ourselves to an eco-social world that is just. Justice and just reparations for our relations with each other and the planet are doable now in mercy and compassion. Kindness is indeed next to godliness. Let us be kind even as we limp our way to recovering better, justly and peaceably, towards a sustainable and equitable eco-social world.

Lisbon, Portugal
30 June 2023

Food Security, Food Sovereignty: An Insurance Policy for Inclusive and Resilient Recovery for Future Generations

Food Security, Food Sovereignty: An Insurance Policy for Inclusive and Resilient Recovery for Future Generations


(Presentation by Liberato C. Bautista, President of CoNGO (Conference of NGOs in Consultative Relationship with the United Nations and Main Representative to the UN of The United Methodist Church-General Board of Church and Society), at the IFSW Virtual Parallel Event “Social Workers on the Frontlines of Inclusive and Resilient Recovery” convened by the International Federation of Social Workers (IFSW)on the occasion of the 60th Session of the United Nations Commission on Social Development.)

16 February 2022 | New York | Virtual

1. Good morning, NGO colleagues, ladies, and gentlemen. Thank you, Dean Elaine Congress and IFSW, for having me on this panel on a crucial and urgent topic. I am especially delighted that IFSW has recently been elected to the global Board of CoNGO.

2. Today, there is a surplus of fear and a deficit of hope among the world’s people. I have often spoken about fear and hope, including my New Year’s message to the CoNGO constituency last year, 2021 because the future of people and our planet is at stake. That future is imperiled. People and the planet are imperiled. I thank the International Federation of Social Workers
here in New York for organizing this timely side event focused on inclusive and resilient recovery.

3. The concept for this event is well put. “Social workers play a global role in addressing issues that impact the well-being and dignity of populations through providing services, collaborating with communities and partners to strengthen social solidarity through advocating for just and equitable policies and centering the voices and leadership of the most marginalized, especially
indigenous people.”

4. The event’s focus on promoting inclusive and resilient recovery from COVID-19 for sustainable livelihoods, well-being, and dignity for all to eradicate poverty and hunger and achieve the 2030 Agenda is not only urgent but foundational. The advocacy here for vaccine equity, local capacity-building through transformative social protection systems, the right to development that includes socially just international trade agreements that advance human rights, and the promotion of the concept and practice of food sovereignty is foundational to what makes for resilience and inclusion in

5. The survival of humanity is at stake in an ever more imperiled and unsustainable natural ecology. The health of people and the planet is endangered by intersecting crises, not the least brought about by the coronavirus pandemic, global violence, forced migration, climate crisis, racial injustice, and more.

6. To decrease fear, we must affirm the fundamental principle that human dignity and human rights are non-negotiables. To increase hope, we must build a shared future for all the inhabitants of the earth and their natural ecology by promoting and safeguarding the common public goods and services indispensable for life.

7. At face value, you may think that decreasing fear and increasing hope are fundamental tasks of nation-states. That the task of ensuring the rights of citizens and the integrity of the territory that bind them into one nation is what sovereignty means. It is, and the task of nation-states to protect sovereignty is fundamental. But my focus today is on another sovereignty—food sovereignty. How is this food sovereignty the same as our traditional notions of national sovereignty? How is it different from the original proponents of food sovereignty?

8. I would like to locate the notion and practice of food sovereignty in the context of its urgency. That urgency is mediated by fear as much as by hope. By fear because the survival of people and the planet are at stake. By hope because the notion and practice of food sovereignty are forcing us to reimagine sovereignty beyond nation-state constructs into constructs that are people-centered, human rights-based, and planetary in orientation.

9. Recovery from the intersecting pandemics that people and the planet face today must not only be inclusive of and resilient for people and the planet but also just. Justice must be at the heart of recovery. After all, we are recovering from past historic injustices, including slavery, colonialism, and racism, that have marginalized peoples plundered their lands and resources, and subverted their human dignity and their communities, especially indigenous communities. When inclusion, resilience, and justice come together, we are moving away from the prevalence of fear into the resurgence of hope.

10. Justice is what rights the wrongs that pandemics are made of. When justice is pursued, resilience goes beyond the human capacity to adapt. When people who have undergone injustices in their lives for centuries and generations in their families and communities endeavor to unyoke themselves from such injustices, I refuse to call that recovery. It is a transformation in its most fundamental, if revolutionary, sense. We must not consign resilience to resignation as if we will weather every climate and economic crisis without structural and systemic changes. Nay, resilience must be about uprooting the intersecting pandemics and injustices that bring people and the planet to hunger and poverty.

11. The impoverization that has resulted from shameful acts of injustice in human history has plunged our planet into the precipice of unsustainability and the resulting dehumanization and commodification of people and populations everywhere. The concerns this side event is trying to address—vaccine equity, transformative social protection systems, socially just international trade agreements—are an array most commendable because on this call are people, you and me, who can summon and mobilize both material and moral resources to undo the entanglements of public policy with such injustices that allow for poverty and hunger and for wars and violence to linger longer. And if this happens, our yearnings for successfully implementing the SDGs will have come to naught.

12. We must increase hope and decrease fear through arrangements that genuinely put people and the planet at the center of the local and global public imagination and public policy action. We certainly need global leadership to help identify catalytic activity and strategies for transformative change. Social workers are a well and wealth of that transformative leadership, and Multilateralism and sovereignty as we know them today will no longer suffice for that catalytic and transformative change.

13. This year’s CSocD60 is even more crucial if only because it must address what civil society is clamoring for. Not only must there be multilateralism, where institutions for norms and standards-setting work robustly, but more importantly, a multilateralism where the common, just, and equal flourishing of peoples and the planet are at the heart of its work.

14. Under the leadership of the NGO Committee on Social Development, civil society leaders around the world are gathering in solidarity to “end discrimination and invest in human dignity and well-being; to end hunger by building resilience for food security everywhere; to invest in decent and sustainable jobs; and to bridge the digital divide to access fundamental rights.” These demands are at the core of sovereign state duties, and NGOs must call governments to their responsibility as duty bearers. The original proponents of food sovereignty have taught us that NGOs are genuinely the rights holders, and as such, they have a fundamental role in defining what makes them secure. Food sovereignty is about food security.

15. The challenge to multilateralism today is not only that the world’s problems have exponentially multiplied over as imagined since the Peace of Westphalia in the early 17th century that bequeaths us with the notion of sovereignty and sovereign nation-states who can contract treaties between and among them. The true challenge to multilateralism lies in the urgency that these sovereign nation-states recognize how each of their people and their natural ecology is tied to the survivability and sustainability of all others and that acting together globally is in their local and national interest.

16. Food sovereignty is truly about crossing boundaries worldwide—crossing sovereign territorial demarcations—ensuring that the wherewithal to address hunger is not hampered by political brinkmanship and exacerbated by the uneven economic development of nations. The faster we enact socially just international trade agreements, the better we will have food on every table, not the least in the mouths of children whose nourishment ensures the flourishing of the future. Food sovereignty is an insurance policy for future generations.

17. Food sovereignty is close to my heart. My parents were small farmers and rural agriculturists in the northern Philippines. My father was a high school and vocational school graduate; my mother only finished fifth grade. Their meager income from tilling the land always made them insecure—not knowing how long the harvest would last so that there would be food on the table and they could put their children to school. Food security and education—they thought—were the ways to increase hope and decrease fear.

18. What is food sovereignty? First, its origins. Let’s listen to the international peasants’ movement called La Via Campesina, which originated the concept. In a Guide to Food Sovereignty, they produced, it said, “Food Sovereignty has emerged from peasant organizations organized at the transnational level as a proposal for humanity to rethink how we manage food and agricultural production, distribution and trade, how we make use of land and aquatic resources and how we interact, exchange and organize with one another.

19. Food Sovereignty is not a simple set of technical solutions or a formula that can be applied – it is instead a “process in action” – an invitation to citizens to exercise their capacity to organize themselves and improve our conditions and societies together. The concept of Food Sovereignty was developed by the people most threatened by the consolidation of power in food and agricultural systems– peasant farmers. Instead of being destroyed by the forces of history, they are offering a proposal to solve the multiple crises which humanity is facing.”

20. Food sovereignty is a lynchpin to just, inclusive, resilient, and transformative recovery.
a. “Food is a fundamental need – access to food is essential to human survival and a basic human right.”
b. “Food is also political – the production of, access to, and distribution of food are essential for our society to function, and control of our food system confers power.”
c. “Trade in foodstuffs – the exchange and transport of food from one human population to another – is also a highly politicized and
complex process. Control of the rules and regulations governing international and interregional trade confers even greater power
and leverage.”
d. “Despite the political and economic pressures they face, human beings continue to manage and nurture the ecosystems around
them to ensure a food supply. For thousands of years, peasant farmers, pastoralists, and other peoples who live from the land and sea have developed and refined resilient food and water systems, plant and animal breeds and cultivated plant varieties to ensure their continuation and long-term sustainability.

21. Today, the notion and practice of food sovereignty provide a powerful method of work and a way of being, becoming, and belonging that is local, global, transnational, and transborder. We need leadership today whose focus and locus recognize the geopolitical nuances of location and orientation. We need glocal leadership whose consciousness and practice are developed and nurtured through transborder and transnational organizing and mobilizing.

22. We also need leaders whose practice—indeed, advocacies and activism—is rooted on the ground as much as oriented to the larger horizon of human and planetary flourishing. Social workers, it seems to me, have true potential to be transborder and transnational agents on a mission to realize a just, transformative, and inclusive recovery from the social, economic, and cultural pandemics that people and the planet wrestle with today.

23. In my former office as human rights staff for the National Council of Churches in the Philippines, hang a poster produced by the Peace and Justice Center in Marin, California. The text on the poster said these words that continue to influence my thinking and doing: “At the table of peace shall be bread and justice.” Food invokes images of a table around which we break bread together; around which we tell stories of lives and living; around which families forge solidarity; around which peace talks are held. Food sovereignty is ultimately about what makes for peace—food on the table for everyone, irrespective of political and economic ideologies and systems of governance.

24. Around a table where we share food, we can discuss those that create fear and diminish hope today: a) climate change and global warming that is changing the way people and the planet relate to each other—affecting the sustainability and viability of civilizational and planetary life, b) forced migration in which the world is ever more globalized yet also xenophobically nationalistic; ever more securitized and militarized, vilified and criminalized, ethnicized and othered, gendered and sexualized; human beings—their bodies commodified and their services commoditized; and worse is racism and racial discrimination that would rather homogenize our ethnicities and play our sexes, classes, and religions against each other.

25. And this is why food sovereignty is crucial because many wars and imperial conquests were launched in search of food that eventually became the foothold of hegemonic pursuits. Food sovereignty is a way to decouple hegemonic sovereignty from the true sovereigns—peoples, indeed “we the peoples.” Many wars have been fought, and violence inflicted on peoples and the planet in the guise of searching for spices and securing food and commercial routes—be they in the high seas or skyways.

26. At the table of peace shall be bread and justice. That is my wish. The struggle to make this wish come true is what I see when I read about the work of this transnational agrarian movement called La Via Campesina, whose story I want to end this presentation. I want to give Via Campesina the privileged narrative—for theirs is the actual work for food sovereignty: I will read from the article, “From Food Sovereignty to Peasants’ Rights: an Overview of La Via  Campesina’s Rights-Based Claims over the Last 20 Years”—originally a paper presented at an international conference on food sovereignty at Yale University in 2013.  “La Via Campesina developed in the early 1990s as peasant and small-scale farmers from Central America, North and South  America, Europe, and elsewhere, sought to articulate a common response to the neoliberal onslaught that had devastated their lives (Desmarais 2008; Borras 2004). Since then, the movement has opposed “global depeasantization” (Araghi 1995) and the emerging “corporate food regime” (McMichael 2009). It has developed a “food sovereignty” model to counterpose the dominant “market economy” paradigm (Rosset and Martinez 2010, 154) and has managed to build a common agenda across the North-South divide. To do this, La Via Campesina has deployed a powerful “rights master frame” (R. D. Benford and Snow 2000, 619). Rights occupy a central place in most Via Campesina statements, whether in local struggles over seeds, land, territories, and resources or in international struggles over trade and investment in food and agriculture. Rights have provided a common language to peasants and small-scale farmers organizations that are politically, culturally, and ideologically radically different. The concept of food sovereignty itself is often defined as “rights-based” (Patel 2007; Houtzager 2005; Rosset and Martinez 2010; Borras 2008). In this paper, I argue that La Via Campesina has claimed food sovereignty as a collective right (Claeys 2012, 852) and that it could, in the future, become a new human right.”

27. Given another round, beyond food sovereignty and food security would have been other issues—indeed of food and freedom, jobs and justice, land and liberation—that make a recovery just and lasting, inclusive and transformative. Thank you, social workers. Thank you, IFSW New York. As CoNGO president, I feel proud that IFSW is a CoNGO full member and serves on the CoNGO board, sharing in leadership so that the NGO’s voice is heard and the agency empowered at multilateral halls and on issues such as what this event has highlighted.

New York City

16 February 2022



Toward a just, inclusive, and peaceable digital society: promises and perils, ethical and moral considerations

Presentation by Liberato C. Bautista, President of CoNGO, at the WSIS Forum 2022 Special Track on “Opening of the ICTs for Industry 4.0 and Emerging Digital Technologies for Sustainable Development”


11 April 2022 | Geneva, Switzerland | Hybrid

Toward a just, inclusive, and peaceable digital society: promises and perils, ethical and moral considerations

Excellencies, esteemed UN officials, NGO colleagues, ladies, and gentlemen:

Thank you, Ms. Sah, for inviting me to this panel as the President of CoNGO—the Conference of NGOs in Consultative Relationship with the United Nations. The collaboration between WSIS and CoNGO is alive; I want to claim it from the outset.

Please let me respond to the two questions you asked me to address from the vantage point of a civil society and faith-based NGO leader and as a social ethicist. You asked me what concerns come to mind when today we discuss emerging digital technologies, especially sustainable development. 

You also asked me about specific moral and ethical concerns when discussing emerging digital technologies. On this point, I will focus on WSIS Action Line 10, which is about the ethical dimensions of the Information Society, dealing with the common good, ethics, human rights, prevention of the abusive uses of ICTs, and shared values.

Given five minutes to respond, I’ll try a few responses. 

In 2009, during my first term as President of the Conference of NGOs, we entered into a memorandum of agreement with the ITU Director General for CoNGO to be a  civil society focal point for the WSIS Forum. From the WSIS Summits in Geneva (2003) and Tunis (2005), CoNGO has taken a lead role in organizing civil society presence unprecedentedly in many ways at a major UN conferences. 

The CoNGO President during the WSIS Summits, Renate Bloem, later reflected on her experience in the summits, and her comments remain in our assessment even today. Ms. Bloem recounted that  “the substantial and procedural nature of WSIS has been a major step forward in building a new model for global governance and a constructive way of engaging civil society into the process.” 

Looking back, Ms. Bloem reflected that  “WSIS was a successful test of the capacity of the multilateral system to find alternative and innovative ways to integrate a wider range of actors, including NGOs, academic institutions and local authorities, in a long-standing political process. Therefore, the stronger involvement of civil society was a very relevant factor in dealing more adequately with the specific challenges raised by the Information Society.” 

Almost 20 years later, civil society participation in the WSIS process remains crucial. CoNGO Presidents Ms. Bloem, Mr. Cyril Ritchie, and I have spoken annually at these Forums with the message that civil society voice is critical to elaborating for what makes, among other values, a just, inclusive, solidarious, participatory, and sustainable information society. 

“Competent and responsible civil society input enhances coherent and implementable governmental output.” We remain committed to this enterprise every time we, as NGO representatives, claim a place at the table, just like this WSIS Forum and this panel.

On the second question, I would like to say that the digitization of knowledge and the digitalization of information—in all its applications, but especially in industry and commerce, are fraught with moral and ethical considerations. These moral and ethical considerations point to the digital divide and inequalities already raised earlier, including their intersections with more significant economic, political, social, and cultural divides.

These moral and ethical considerations are even more crucial as we deal with digital communications technology like the “Internet of Things” (IoT), cloud computing, artificial intelligence, machine learning, digital twin, and the like. 

Knowledge is indeed power. We must therefore strive for an information society—including its technologies—so that knowledge is produced and shared justly, equitably, and peaceably. If the magnetic pull of the moral compass were to point to the common good, are these communications and information technologies close to being common good, indeed common public goods? 

Because communication is intrinsic to our humanity and the relations we build, the right to communication and access to it are “basic human rights, essential to human dignity and a just and democratic society.” Nothing in our pursuit of new technologies should derogate peoples’ dignity and human rights.

Building a future with technologies changing by the second and besieged by intersecting pandemics, including health, economic and social pandemics, is fraught with promise and peril. It could spell the leaving behind of many that would then frustrate the achievement of the SDGs.

The alarm is already sounded in places where analog services will be cut in favor of digitalized streaming, even as more than three billion people from developing countries remain dependent on radio for their information source.

Two NGOs that I represent at the UN—CoNGO and United Methodist Church-General Board of Church and Society—have invariably asserted in their advocacy work that a strong moral compass is needed to direct digital communication and technology to the true ethical north whose elements must constitute respect for peace and the upholding of the fundamental values of freedom, equality, solidarity, tolerance, shared responsibility, and respect for nature and its sustainability.  

These are values of moral significance in the crafting of normative multilateral frameworks. At the core of these ethical values are the voice and agency of human beings who must be conscious rather than passive producers and consumers of digitalized knowledge and information.

Crucial to the principle of access to and stewardship of information communications technology is recognizing that vulnerable and marginalized peoples, especially migrants, indigenous peoples, internally displaced peoples, older persons, people with disabilities, and refugees, will have varying difficulties accessing such digital technologies. 

For indigenous peoples, two concerns about the digitization of indigenous knowledge and the digitalization of information they have produced are whether the principle of free, prior, and informed consent has been recognized and whether indigenous peoples will have the technology to access back what is digitally stored. 

Nothing storing knowledge and information should alienate these from their owners and producers. Speaking of perils, digital technologies must refuse to be the purveyor of the evil of systemic racism, xenophobia, and racial discrimination. Digitalization must be the handmaiden of transborder solidarity and global citizenship. These and more are concerns related to the achievement of digital justice, which also includes free and equitable access by people to information communication technologies, respect for privacy, freedom from being manipulated, misinformed, and undue appropriation of people’s information by digital media.

The Digital Society we ought to foster must be peaceable and secure—for the people and the planet. This is in keeping with a global ethic already inscribed in Agenda 2030 and the 17 SDGs. We must ensure that technologies of digitization and digitalization do not diminish but rather enhance and flourish human,  social and planetary connections. 

Thank you for your kind attention.


The Rev. Dr. Liberato C. Bautista is President of CoNGO–the Conference of NGOs in Consultative Relationship with the United Nations and represents the United Methodist Church–General Board of Church and Society at the United Nations.

Statement by Liberato C. Bautista President of the Conference of Non-Governmental Organizations in Consultative Relationship with the United Nations (CoNGO) at the joint meeting of ECOSOC with the Chairs of its Functional Commissions and Expert Bodies

Educate to Increase Hope and Decrease Fear in a Time of Intersecting Pandemics Joint Statement on the International Day of Education

Education is a human right, essential to well-being and dignity, and is key to achieving the United Nations Agenda 2030. Further, an ethos of global citizenship is required in order to fulfil this bold, people-centered, universal, and planet-sensitive development framework. (Gyeongju Action Plan).

CoNGO President’s New Year Message, 2021

IPPNW, PEAC Institute and CoNGO welcome 50 states ratifications and imminent entry into legal force of the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons

16 November 2020

Always immoral, but now a new treaty bans nuclear weapons.

On October 24, 2020, exactly 75 years from the day the United Nations opened for business, Honduras became the 50th member state to ratify the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW). By crossing the 50 ratifications threshold, this means that in 90 days, on 22 January 2021, the treaty will enter into legal force and become international law, binding on the states that have already ratified it and all those which subsequently ratify the treaty.

Outlawing these genocidal weapons, which International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW) and Peace, Education, Art, Communication (PEAC) Institute have been working as partner organizations in the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN)—now joined by the Conference of Non-Governmental Organizations in Consultative Relationship with the United Nations (CoNGO) in this statement, representing the will of nongovernmental and humanitarian organizations worldwide, is an essential step toward the prevention of nuclear war. The TPNW’s entry into force is a massive win for planetary health.

The growing danger

The treaty is especially needed in the face of the real and present danger of nuclear war climbing higher than ever. All nine nuclear-armed states are modernizing their arsenals with new, smaller, and more accurate weapons, and some of their leaders are making irresponsible explicit nuclear threats. The cold war is resurgent—hard-won treaties reducing nuclear weapons numbers and types are being trashed while nothing is being negotiated to replace them, let alone build on them. We expect that the incoming Joe Biden administration, in cooperation with the administration of Vladimir Putin, will not allow the New START Treaty to expire before 5 February 2021, narrowly averting a situation where, for the first time since 1972, there would have been no treaty constraints on Russian and US nuclear weapons. This close call demonstrates the risky environment we have entered.  Armed conflicts which could trigger nuclear escalation are increasing in a climate-stressed world.  Armed conflicts which could trigger nuclear escalation are increasing in a climate-stressed world. The rapidly evolving threat of cyber-warfare puts nuclear command and control in jeopardy from both nations and terrorist groups. Close to two thousand nuclear weapons remain on hair-trigger alert, ready to be launched within minutes of a leader’s fateful decision.

The radioactive incineration unleashed by a nuclear war involving even less than 1% of the global nuclear arsenal targeted on cities in one part of the world would be followed by a worldwide nuclear ice age and nuclear famine, putting billions of people in jeopardy.

As medical organizations, including the World Health Organization, International Committee for the Red Cross, the World Medical Association, the World Federation of Public Health Associations, and the International Council of Nurses have confirmed, health and emergency services could not respond substantively to the needs of the victims of even a single nuclear weapon exploded on a city. When there is no cure, prevention is imperative.

Treaties work

A consistent lesson is provided by experience with biological and chemical weapons, antipersonnel landmines, and cluster munitions. Treaties that have codified the rejection of an unacceptable weapon in international law have provided a crucial basis and motivation for the progressive work of eliminating these weapons. Providing one legal standard for all nations has been essential to the substantial progress made in controlling banned weapons. All the weapons subject to treaty prohibition are now less often justified, produced, traded, deployed, and used. No indiscriminate and inhumane weapon has been controlled or eliminated without first being prohibited.

Nine nuclear-armed states, the 30 nuclear-dependent members of NATO, Australia, Japan, and South Korea, appear unlikely to join the TPNW soon. Yet they are already being affected by it, just as some have been influenced by the other treaties banning inhumane weapons, even if they opposed and haven’t joined them. Their hostility to the TPNW and shameful pressure on other states not to support or join it show that the treaty matters, stigmatizes nuclear weapons, and puts them on the wrong side of history. Already the world’s largest sovereign wealth fund, major banks, and pension funds have divested from companies manufacturing nuclear weapons. Now that the treaty is entering into force, every responsible financial institution should do the same.

The TPNW fills a gap in international law that for far too long saw the most destructive weapon ever invented, the only weapon which poses an acute existential threat to all humanity and the biosphere, as the only weapon of mass destruction not expressly prohibited under international law.

In a dark time, the TPNW shines a light on the most promising path to free the world from the risk of indiscriminate nuclear violence. The treaty provides a comprehensive and categorical prohibition of nuclear weapons, and the only internationally agreed framework for all nations to fulfill their legal obligation to eliminate nuclear weapons.
Further, the TPNW obliges nations that join to provide long-neglected assistance for the victims of nuclear weapons use and testing and to undertake feasible remediation of environments contaminated by nuclear weapons use and testing.
The NGO community—including humanitarian, development, peace, and human rights organizations worldwide—calls on all states to add their signature and ratify the treaty as a matter of utmost urgency and to faithfully implement it. Time is not on our side, and the TPNW provides our best hope against our worst weapons.

Liberato C. Bautista, President
Conference of Non-Governmental Organizations in
Consultative Relationship with the United Nations (CoNGO)

Rebecca Irby, President
Peace, Education, Art, Communication (PEAC) Institute

Michael Christ, Executive Director
International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW)


1 2