CoNGO and civil society

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.