CoNGO Statements

CoNGO’s Pivotal Role Connecting NGOs to the UN System Highlighted at 75th Anniversary Event in Vienna

{Photo from left to right: Cyril Ritchie (CoNGO First Vice President), Regina Wialla-Zimm (International Relations Officer, Chief Executive Office for International Relations, City of Vienna), Shams Asadi (Human Rights Commissioner, City of Vienna), Nikhil Seth (Executive Director, UNITAR), Liberato Bautista (CoNGO President), Martina Gredler (CoNGO Second Vice President), Omar Al-Rawi (Member of Vienna City Council and Provincial Parliament), Manfred Nowak (Secretary General, Global Campus of Human Rights, Venice), and  Helga Konrad (Former Austrian Federal Minister of Women’s Affairs}


Vienna, Austria I 8 May 2023  (CoNGO InfoNews) — The Conference of NGOs in Consultative Relationship with the United Nations CoNGO celebrated its 75th anniversary with a global commemorative event at the United Nations Office at Vienna (UNOV) on April 28, 2023. Founded in 1948, just three years after the establishment of the United Nations itself, CoNGO has played a pivotal role in connecting non-governmental organizations (NGOs) with the UN system to address a wide array of global challenges.

CoNGO stands out among NGO networks for its unique relationship with the entire UN System, encompassing approximately 50 entities, commissions, agencies, institutes, and other bodies dealing with various aspects of human life and endeavor. These include human rights, maritime safety, meteorology, refugee protection, telecommunications, democracy promotion, disaster prevention and relief, the rule of law, and more.

The organization’s core mission is to facilitate and encourage member governments of the UN to engage openly and inclusively with NGOs in the planning and decision-making processes of intergovernmental debates. NGOs bring their professional expertise, grassroots experiences, detailed knowledge of community needs, and innovative thinking to the UN. Throughout its history, CoNGO has tirelessly worked to emphasize the shared values between the UN and the NGO world, advocating for integrating competent NGO inputs into the UN System.

In its 75th anniversary year, CoNGO organized commemorative events across various UN centers and hosted six global thematic webinars. The first celebration began in Vienna in collaboration with the United Nations Office at Vienna (UNOV) and the City of Vienna. The event featured formal statements, presentations, musical performances, and a reception courtesy of the City of Vienna. Distinguished guests included high-ranking UN and Austrian government officials, representatives from the City and the federal province of Vienna, and NGO leaders from around the world. Please take a look at the concept note for the entire program and the list of guests. 

Ambassador Peter Launsky-Tieffenthal, Secretary-General of the Foreign Ministry of Austria, sent a video greeting, extending his warm regards to CoNGO on this significant occasion. In his message, he expressed, “Your strong commitment and active engagement are invaluable in addressing the pressing issues of our times, such as implementing the Agenda 2030 and the SGDs. In its 75 years of existence, CoNGO has established itself as an essential partner for multilateralism. We would like to congratulate you on this outstanding achievement.”

Th Director General of UNOV and Executive Director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime,  Mrs. Ghada Fathi Waly, welcomed the participants, with a core message that “NGOs are an essential voice for the most vulnerable and a valuable partner of [UNODC] work.” CoNGO is “optimally equipped to lead the way and build bridges between various global stakeholders,” she said. Greetings and best wishes were also extended by the Ambassador of Israel to Austria and International Organizations in Vienna, Mr. Mordechai Rodgold.

During his reflections on the occasion, Nikhil Seth, UN Assistant Secretary-General and Executive Director of the UN Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR), emphasized the crucial role CoNGO plays in fostering a new era of multilateralism, stating, “Civil society, academia, and business are leading the charge toward a new multilateralism where young people, enlightened business, and academia cooperate across borders like never before. New coalitions for change are transcending the purely intergovernmental nature of multilateralism. CoNGO must lead the way in empowering these coalitions.” He insisted, “Your special status positions you to do just that. You are close to the grassroots and pivotal to the interface with global and regional processes.” Read Full Speech

Helga Konrad, Former Austrian Federal Minister of Women’s Affairs and Executive Director of the Anti-Trafficking Institute for the Danube Region and Central Europe, stressed the significance of NGOs in confronting the world’s most critical problems: “CoNGO’s motto, ‘Defining the Present, Shaping the Future, Making the Change Now,’ underscores our collective responsibility for the world’s present and future. NGOs play a vital role in addressing social, economic, environmental, and gender issues.” Read Full Speech

Manfred Nowak, Secretary-General of the Global Campus of Human Rights in Venice and Professor of International Human Rights at Vienna University, acknowledged CoNGO’s pivotal contribution in opening doors for NGOs to access UN bodies: “As the umbrella organization of hundreds of NGOs, the Conference of Non-Governmental Organizations in Consultative Relationship with the United Nations (CoNGO), founded in the year of the adoption of the Universal Declaration, played a pivotal role in coordinating civil society and providing NGOs with physical and political access to the Commission and other UN bodies, such as the Commission on the Status of Women.” Read Full Speech

Nowak recalled how, in collaboration with CoNGO, the Ludwig Boltzmann Institute of Human Rights in Vienna and the International Service of Human Rights, he organized an NGO Forum with more than 3,000 NGO participants and a program of more than 400 parallel workshops and seminars, with Nowak serving as the main NGO spokesperson.

CoNGO President Bautista’s address further highlighted the imperative for ongoing improvements in access while expressing gratitude for global leaders actively working to facilitate such access: “Access to the premises and promises of the UN must be a fundamental element of Multilateralism 2.0. This entails not a mere reboot of the existing multilateral framework but a comprehensive reimagining and rewiring, integrating the NGO network within the architecture rather than leaving it external. 

“It is with deep honor and pleasure that I convey CoNGO’s profound gratitude, on behalf of its leadership and global membership, to those individuals within multilateral institutions, particularly those here in Vienna, who have consistently provided platforms for our members and the broader civil society to voice their perspectives and exert their influence within the UNOV’s premises and the promises it represents.” Read Full Speech

As CoNGO enters its 75th year, it continues strengthening its commitment to fostering collaboration between NGOs and the United Nations, advocating for a more inclusive and cooperative approach to addressing the world’s most pressing challenges.

Information on all the Anniversary Commemorative events and the six Anniversary Global Thematic Webinars is available on CoNGO’s website.



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



NGO Committee on Language and Languages Elects New Executive Board

Photo: IYIL 2019

New York, USA | 24 May 2022 (CoNGO InfoNews) – An NGO Committee on Language and Languages has been established in New York under the auspices of CoNGO, the Conference of Nongovernmental Organizations in Consultative Relationship with the United Nations.  Some 23 NGOs have joined as founding members of the committee, which aims to give greater attention to language issues in the policies, practice and outreach of the United Nations, especially as these relate to the overall importance of language, linguistic justice, and linguistic non-discrimination.

The by-laws of the new committee were approved at a May 18 meeting and an executive board elected. The meeting featured briefings by UNESCO personnel on the organization’s programmes in the field of languages, particularly multilingual education, the International Decade of Indigenous Languages, and the new World Atlas of Languages.

Francis M. Hult and Humphrey Tonkin, representatives of the Universal Esperanto Association to the UN, were elected as chair and vice-chair respectively. Francis Hult is Professor Education at the University of Maryland Baltimore County (UMBC), and Humphrey Tonkin is President Emeritus of the University of Hartford.

Elected as secretary was Linda Fitchett, former president of the International Association of Conference Interpreters. Hans E. Becklin, of the Esperanto youth organization TEJO, was elected as treasurer. Daniel LeBlanc, of VIVAT International, and Allison Rodriguez, of the International Federation of Translators (FIT) were elected as at-large members of the board.

The work of the committee actually began before the formal May 18 meeting: in December 2021, the committee founders sponsored a briefing meeting with the UN Coordinator for Multilingualism, Under Secretary-General for General Assembly and Conference Management, H.E. Mr. Movses Abelian, the Permanent Representative of Bangladesh, H.E. Ms. Rabab Fatima, and the Deputy Director of the News and Information Branch of the Department of Global Communications, Ms. Mita Hosali. The committee, along with a number of other organizations, also sponsored a symposium on “Multilingualism and COVID-19: Lessons Learned and Looking Forward” on May 3 and 4, 2022.


For information about this statement and the work of the NGO Committee on Language and Languages, email its Chair, Francis M. Hult ( Visit to learn more about the work of CoNGO and its substantive committees.

Draw up and enforce legal and moral redlines on crimes against the environment, NGOs urge ongoing CCPCJ session in Vienna

Photo: @CCPCJ Twitter

Vienna, Austria, 18 May 2022 (CoNGO InfoNews) – Close to 50 non-governmental organizations in consultative relationship with the United Nations Economic and Social Council have joined to endorse a statement that asserted “the imperative for the international community to strengthen the international legal framework and international cooperation in the field of crime prevention and criminal justice”.

The statement was drafted under the leadership of the NGO Committee on Sustainable Development in Vienna (NGO CSD Vienna). It was submitted to the thirty-first Session of the Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice (CCPCJ) now meeting in Vienna, Austria,  from 16th to 20th of May. Accredited NGOs participate in meetings of CCPCJ. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, participation in person remains severely limited. Side events to the ongoing session are only online.

In the statement, civil society leaders asserted that “criminal law has a crucial role to play in drawing up and enforcing the legal and moral ‘red lines’ upon which the global population’s very ability to thrive and survive in its planetary home may well depend.”

Ingeborg Geyer, Chair of the NGO CSD Vienna, described the work of the committee, saying that “it started two years ago  on topics of crimes that affect the environment and followed up with resolutions which were tabled in previous sessions of UNTOC, Crime Congress and CCPCJ sessions.” This statement reinstates and spotlights once more the need to develop the international legal framework and cooperation in preventing what the statement calls “ecocide”.

The Conference of NGOs (CoNGO) and the NGO CSD Vienna collaborated in gathering endorsements of the statement by NGOs around the world. Many NGOs, including CoNGO members, engage the agenda of CCPCJ through the Alliance of NGOs on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice. See their event here. To learn more about the work of CCPCJ, visit Watch the 31st session live, here.



NGO Statement to the 31st Session of the Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice (Vienna, Austria, 16-20 May 2022)

Strengthening the international legal framework and international cooperation in the context of crimes that affect the environment

“If crime crosses borders, so must law enforcement. If the rule of law is undermined not only in one country, but in many, then those who defend it cannot limit themselves to purely national means.” (Kofi Annan, address to the UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime, 2000).

In the context of crime prevention and criminal justice as they pertain to the environment, the international community faces two major challenges. The first challenge relates to the urgent need to respond forcefully to the rapid rise in crimes affecting the environment. Eurojust,1 the European Union Agency for Criminal Justice Cooperation, ranks environmental crime as the fourth largest criminal activity in the world – on a par with drug-trafficking. Most regrettably, law enforcement in this sector remains pitifully low and out of all proportion to the threat it poses. The reasons are manifold. The most significant factors are: (i) the failure of the criteria set out in the UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime2 to categorize numerous environmental crimes as ‘serious’; and (ii) the inadequacy of training in the law enforcement agencies, whose staff frequently lack the all-essential investigation and prosecution capabilities.

The second challenge relates to the absence of legal provisions addressing the many and varied instances of severe widespread or long-term harm to the environment. All too frequently, the environmental damage caused is a deleterious side-effect of industrial practices which, though patently dangerous, are nonetheless permissible under law. Similarly, those outcomes represent all too common a breach of civil environmental regulations or are attributable to sheer negligence with regard to safety protocols. In many cases, the environmental damage qualifies as a transnational offence as set out in article 3.2 (a) (b) and (d) of the UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime.

An offence is transnational in nature if:

(a) It is committed in more than one State;

(b) It is committed in one State but a substantial part of its preparation, planning, direction or control takes place in another State;

(d) It is committed in one State but has substantial effects in another State.

Both of the above challenges arise in the highly perturbing context of the critical global interlinkage between climate change, pollution and nature (biodiversity) loss. Furthermore, recent international reportstell us that these crises must be addressed with immediate urgency if we are to maintain the ability to support human civilization without severe, even irreversible loss and damage, mass migration and food crises.4

Moreover, the two challenges above relate both directly and causally to the current global crisis. The destruction or removal of carbon sinks and keystone species (e.g. via deforestation, poaching and trafficking), as well as severe soil, water and atmospheric pollution are all factors that inevitably exacerbate ecosystem collapse and climate change.

In the light of the foregoing, the imperative for the international community to strengthen the international legal framework and international cooperation in the field of crime prevention and criminal justice could not be clearer. Criminal law has a crucial role to play in drawing up and enforcing the legal and moral ‘red lines’ upon which the global population’s very ability to thrive and survive in its planetary home may well depend.

What form should this strengthening of frameworks and cooperation take? Recent meetings of this Commission have pointed in some useful directions, as indicated in the Chair’s summary documents of November 2021 and February 20225. Themes that emerged from those meetings included: ‘a robust legislative framework’; ‘measuring the impact of crime prevention’; and ‘treating environmental crimes as serious crimes.

The types of cooperation suggested are noteworthy in that they involve both international and cross-sector cooperation. They include the need for: ‘alternative sustainable livelihoods’, ‘the involvement of the private sector’; and ‘consideration of a crime prevention and criminal justice perspective within the broader “nature agenda”’.

Public perception and understanding are acknowledged as key elements in the successful enactment of criminal law: impunity was mentioned as a factor that undermined trust and perception of security, while a number of speakers noted that a culture of integrity was of crucial importance to crime prevention.

Inclusion was also a recurrent theme. Emphasis was placed on the importance that ‘governments and the international community as a whole, including the UN, listen [to] and support youth voices and recommendations.’

In this context it is worth focusing on the consistent demand for the recognition of ecocide as a crime before the International Criminal Court that the young as well as citizens’ assemblieshave voiced in recent years. Criminalizing ecocide would serve several purposes: to hold to account the leaders of criminal organisations and key decision-makers in government and industry alike; remove impunity; and to deter dangerous practices that incur environmental damage, thus strengthening the efficacy of current civil regulations.

We note that an independent expert panel convened by the Stop Ecocide Foundation reached consensus on the legal definition of ‘ecocide’ in 20217. The definition has since gained significant political traction around the world, while the European Law Institute, for its part, is moving ahead on a related EU- specific definition8.

In the light of the foregoing, the undersigned non-governmental organizations in consultative relationship with the United Nations urge the participants in the 31st Session of the Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice, in particular the States Parties to the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime, to strengthen the international legal framework and international cooperation in the context of crimes that affect the environment.

We call on Member States to:

(a) strengthen the sanctioning of crimes incurring severe environmental effects, especially transborder effects, and treating them as ‘serious’ crimes as defined in the UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime;

(b) encourage international cooperation between law enforcement agencies so as to improve awareness-building and training related to investigation into and prosecution of transnational offences that affect the environment;

(c) encourage consideration of criminal law frameworks in the context of the broader ‘nature agenda’;

(d) assess current international legal frameworks in the context of the global ‘triple crisis’ and their impact on climate change, pollution and nature loss;

(e) acknowledge and support the recommendations of civil society, in particular the voices of the young, with respect to the international legal framework in the context of the ‘triple crisis’;

(f) ensure participation of local populations and stakeholders in the scope of the Aarhus Convention and Escazú Agreement;

(g) support expansion of existing international legal frameworks for combating crimes affecting the environment, including hazardous legacies, abandoned sites and zones afflicted by war and other belligerent activities;

(h) recognize ‘ecocide’ as a new international crime;

(i) enact policies and enforce legislation with the highest integrity, as well as investigate and punish corruption with respect to crimes that affect the environment;

(j) encourage consideration of the relationship between economic factors and environmental neglect, and its impact on criminal activities;

(k) secure the support of the private sector by providing a reliable framework for combating the destruction of nature and the persistence of corruption, thus enabling those concerned to proceed without incurring existential risks;

(l) strengthen communication with and cooperation between secretariats of the relevant UN agencies so as to sharpen the focus on crimes affecting the environment; and

(m) cooperate with the relevant UN agencies in the implementation of reporting systems so as to facilitate assessment of the impact of crime prevention measures.



1   Eurojust, Report on Eurojust’s Casework on Environmental Crime, January 2021
UNCTOC Article 2 (b)
4 In the context of preparations for Stockholm+50 conference, there have even been references to the current mindset of humanity as “war on nature”.
5 mentation.html
6 Citizens Climate Assembly, France 2020; Global Citizens Assembly, Glasgow 2022
7  See
8  See projects/current- projects/ecocide


Endorsing organizations as of 11 May 2022 were gathered under the auspices of the Conference of NGOs in Consultative Relationship with the United Nations (CoNGO) and its NGO Committee on Sustainable Development-Vienna which drafted this statement. Endorsements for purposes of showing continued collaboration among NGOs on the issues raised in this statement are still welcome. To endorse the statement, send an email to the CoNGO President at

  1. African Action on Aids (AAA)
  2. American Association for Psychosocial Rehabilitation (AAPR)
  3. Bangladesh Mahila Parishad (BMP)
  4. CGFNS International, Inc.
  5. Credo-Action (Lomé, Togo)
  6. Criminologists Without Borders
  7. Fracarita International
  8. Graduate Women International (GWI)
  9. Imam Mahdi Association of Marjaeya (I.M.A.M.)
  10. International Alliance of Women (IAW)
  11. International Association of Applied Psychology (IAAP)
  12. International Association of Democratic Lawyers (IADL)
  13. International Council of Psychologists (ICP)
  14. International Council of Women (ICW)
  15. International Federation of Business and Professional Women (IFBPW)
  16. International Federation of Women Lawyers (IFWL)
  17. International Federation of Women in Legal Careers (IFWLC)
  18. International Federation on Ageing (IFA)
  19. International Inner Wheel (IIW)
  20. International Organization for the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (EAFORD)
  21. International Progress Organization (IPO)
  22. International Women’s Year Liaison Group, Japan (IWYLG)
  23. Islamic Relief Worldwide (IRW)
  24. Japan Asia Cultural Exchanges, Inc. (JACE)
  25. Le  Comite Francais des ONG pour la Liaison et l’ Information des Nations
  26. New Humanity
  27. Organization for Defending Victims of Violence (ODVV).
  28. Pan Pacific and South East Asia Women’s Association (PPSEAWA)
  29. Pax Romana | ICMICA
  30. Servas International
  31. Sisters of Charity Federation (SCF)
  32. Socialist International Women (SIW)
  33. Soroptimist International
  34. Sovereign Military Order of the Temple of Jerusalem (OSMTH)
  35. Teresian Association
  36. United Methodist Church-General Board of Church and Society (UMC-GBCS)
  37. Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA)
  38. Universal Peace Federation International (UPFI)
  39. Verein zur Förderung der Völkerverständigung
  40. VIVAT International
  41. WUZDA Ghana
  42. Women’s Federation for World Peace International  (WFWPI)
  43. Women’s International Zionist Organization (WIZO)
  44. World Circle of the Consensus (CMDC-SPOC)
  45. World Society of Victimology  (WSV)
  46. Zonta International


For information about this statement and the work of the  NGO Committee on Sustainable Development–Vienna, email its Chair, Dr. Ingeborg Geyer ( and visit the Committee’s website ( Visit to learn more about the work of CoNGO and its substantive committees.

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.

Synthesis Report of the Civil Society Summit on Substantive Issues

Download report.

  1. The October 2021 Civil Society Summit, conceived and organized by the President of CoNGO, Liberato Bautista, surpassed expectations. Its title was challenging: “Shaping the Future: The UN We Need for the World We Want”. Panelists and participants contributed their experience, their competence, their doubts about the world we currently have, their aspirations and proposals for the world we want and must achieve. This Outcome Document highlights some of the Summit’s key thoughts, some key concerns, some key intentions. It is made available to all participants, and will form the basis for a follow-up discussion at the CoNGO 27th General Assembly being held on November 29-30 and December 1, 2021.
  2. The Summit’s Panels touched upon almost all the major issues confronted on a daily basis both by innumerable Civil Society Organizations and by the United Nations System: Human dignity and human rights; Sustainable development and humanitarian action; Peace and threats to security of people and the planet; Social justice, including migration, racism and health; Gender justice, youth and intergenerational solidarity; UN-NGO relations — enhancing multilateralism, ensuring access, protecting civic space and discourse. The Summit became all too aware of the importance of communication—both communication in languages people understand and internet accessibility and connectivity, especially in the developing world. The Summit took into account the inspiring words and proposals of the UN Secretary General in his document “Our Common Agenda”, and also the well-thought-out texts that CoNGO and its members have issued in the recent past to pinpoint what needs to be done to strive towards the UN we need for the world we want. The Civil Society Summit was rich in outlining concepts and actions needed to shape the future. An initial selection of principal points is set out herewith, not in an order of priority, but rather grouped in relation to several of the questions posed in the Summit Concept Note. They take account of further inputs from Summit Chairs and Rapporteurs. The submitted statements and panel reports are available on the CoNGO website (
  3. What must we understand about today if we are to contribute to building tomorrow?
    1. Some 3.7 billion people still do not have access to the internet: this needs investment today in existing technology and also in skills directed towards achieving a technological breakthrough. Specifically, the development in recent years of Information and Communication Technologies has created opportunities to use innovation for better inclusion of women and protection of their rights: this must be pursued by all actors. Much of the UN’s communication with its publics is in languages they do not understand: far more attention needs to be paid to multilingualism and to linguistic justice generally.
    2. Public information is increasingly lacking in integrity: fake news abounds. The UN and Civil Society have to unremittingly uphold and advance the highest information standards and convince governments and media conglomerates to do the same.
    3. Ancient repugnant practices and attitudes are still extant and even being reinvigorated: slavery, colonialism, racism, militarism, xenophobia, homophobia, ageism, patriarchy, misogyny. They are historic injustices that must be combated, and their intersecting complicities have to be exposed. We must multiply our efforts at eliminating structural and systemic racism.
    4. The world counts some 274 million migrants and 16 million Internally Displaced Persons: inadequately resolving such issues is a sure cause of instability, increased vulnerability, and perpetual conflict. We heard migrants assert their voice and agency, saying, “For a long time others spoke on our behalf. Now we speak for ourselves.” Indeed, migrants and refugees must be at the table when their human rights, needs and concerns are at stake. Both the Global Compact on Migration and the Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement, inadequate as they are to protect the rights of migrants and refugees and their families, remain short on implementation. The same holds true for the Global Compact on Refugees.
    5. The shrinking of civil space and the rollback of fundamental freedoms has grown to proportions threatening democracy, human rights and the Rule of Law. This also harms human development and the security of the entire population. The UN and Civil Society must push back against the pushback on human rights and fundamental freedoms.
    6. Delayed and/or inadequate action by governments and big business on the threats posed by climate change are leading inexorably to climate chaos, imperiling the future of humanity. Climate change is a key driver of poverty and an inhibitor for sustainable development, exacerbating population displacement and conflicts. Action today, not promises today, are what the world needs.
    7. The creation of “new” money to respond to the CoVID-19 pandemic has not resolved inequalities in the availability of vaccines, still less led to the preparedness of nations and communities to meet future pandemics. The CoVID-19 situation is a further illustration of the interests of the few taking precedence over the needs of the many. A cardinal principle should be prioritizing people and the planet over profit.
    8. If there are lessons for world peace and security to be learnt from today, we need look no further than Afghanistan, Haiti, Lebanon, Libya, Myanmar, Syria, Yemen. Or to our collective responsibility for managing climate change, the health of the oceans, or the control and distribution of water. Contrary to governmental and military power ploys, civil society actors are the conscience of the world, and the last line of defence that separates us from catastrophe and extinction or the survival of humanity, flora and fauna, and the planet. Their sustainability are intricately linked to human and planetary security.
  4. What values must we engender and what actions must we take, both to anticipate future expectations and to build the world we want ?
    1. Quality education, including education for global citizenship, is of capital importance. It must provide choices for people, and be based on a culture of peace, of dialogue, of ethics and of respect. Education at all levels must also specifically foster the appreciation of cultural diversity, promote self-determination towards emancipation, and be delivered in the languages the learners understand.
    2. The UN and Civil Society must raise up solidarity as an essential universal standard, proclaiming it a global public good. We need a new social contract that is not about economic recovery alone, but an approach based on broad consensus and not on special deals, and brings to the fore the voices of civil society and impoverished and marginalized communities. This ties in with the undisputable assertion that all civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights are equal and on par. The defence of human rights is a necessary and noble mission of solidarity, to be carried out everywhere by and for all of humanity. The UN and Civil Society must also work more closely together on disaster risk reduction, strengthening community resilience, livelihoods and climate change adaptation.
    3. Peace is not only the absence of war but the presence of justice in society. It is peace derived from the weight of reason and democratic suasion and not by the force of arms and military arrangements. Sustainable peace and human security reinforce each other. We must cultivate peace with each other, and with nature and the earth. Gender equality and justice foster conditions that make peace possible for all.
    4. The climate-gender-youth intersection requires our full engagement, recognizing that women and girls consistently carry the main social burdens. In all current and post-pandemic economic recovery efforts, macrolevel finance policies with a people-centred approach are crucial to address the existing inequities in access to health, education, social protection and employment. Financing must also be gender-transformative.
    5. Security must be defined as human security of the individual and of peoples and their communities, rather than the security of the state or of its elite. Human security includes protection for the vulnerable, gender justice, redress for victims, empowerment for rights holders and accountability for perpetrators of human rights violations. Human security is closely linked with Agenda 2030 and the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals.
    6. While preserving undiluted human rights standards and law, new instruments must be adopted, such as a Convention on the human rights of older persons.
  5. What role for the United Nations System (and therefore also for member states)?
    1. There must be much greater national recognition, ratification, and implementation of international law, conventions and treaties. National implementation of Declarations and Programmes of Action from all UN Summits and World Conferences is also weak. All these commitments are equivalent to promises made by governments to their population and as such must be fulfilled, without backtracking because of political self-interest or short-term electoral goals.
    2. To achieve its intended purposes in fostering human rights, social justice and the rule of law, the UN needs more resources for the training both of UN and government officials, and of judges, lawyers and police forces.
    3. Governments are called on to endorse (and fund) the Secretary-General’s intention to appoint a Special Envoy for Future Generations. (It is recalled that the 2014 CoNGO General Assembly supported a similar proposal, then entitled Ombudsman for Future Generations). CoNGO must engage its membership in the shaping and empowerment of future generations as envisaged by the UN SG’s “Our Common Agenda”, including the proposed convening in 2023 of a Summit of the Future. A robust, responsible and responsive UN – and multilateralism itself – must invest in our children and youth.
    4. The UN – and therefore member-states – must take more practical steps to extend political and physical access to responsible civil society organizations, including youth, indigenous peoples, feminist and community voices, defenders of the environment, technical bodies, and others engaged in liaison with the UN. These are valuable partners for the UN, bringing knowledge and experience that enhances governmental deliberations and policy-making. (References were made to some UN entities that offer good practices in this area, for example OHCHR, UNHCR, UNICEF, UN Women, WFP, WSIS). UN notifications to civil society of opportunities to attend UN Conferences must be timely and effective, and ensure transparent and accountable registration processes. Whatever steps are needed or taken (or not taken…) to improve UN access, the work of Civil Society will continue unabated and with intense commitment to human values, including UN Charter values. It behooves the UN to take maximum advantage of the links to “the peoples” of the United Nations.
    5. e. Before UN summits or major conferences, the UN should continue to encourage, facilitate and support inclusive civil society fora, to bring people’s pressure, voice and recommendations directly to the UN body. (It is recalled that CoNGO has inestimable experience in organizing such fora.)
    6. There can be no relaxation of determination to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, in full and on time. Multilateral collaboration must be reinforced, as key to achieving the 2030 Agenda, based on human rights approaches. This effort naturally requires cooperation engaging the widest range of civil society. Nothing short of these will achieve peace and prosperity for people and the planet.
    7. The budgets of the United Nations System are miniscule in relation to the tasks assigned to it in the UN Charter and by governments. Member States must substantially increase unrestricted funding for the UN, especially to its core budget, on a predictable and timely basis.
  6. What role for CoNGO?
    1. Since a major role for so many civil society organizations is in monitoring governments and holding them accountable on as many fronts as possible, CoNGO’s experience and facilitation services need to be built up. CoNGO must be ever more a bridge-builder, and be visible as such, including in underserved parts of the world. CoNGO’s collective memory on UN-NGO relations is unrivalled.
    2. In working together – more and better – the role of CoNGO Substantive Committees is central: this NGO committee system requires competence, efficiency, outreach, reliability and democracy.
    3. One of CoNGO’s current initiatives merits full support. A “Compendium of Principles for NGO Good Practice” has been drafted by CoNGO and will be submitted to the upcoming General Assembly for approval. This guidance document should be a valuable tool for the wider civil society community when drawing up internal and public standards.
    4. The strength of international laws and agreements lies in their incorporation in national law and implementation at the local level so that they matter to peoples and communities on the ground. CoNGO must foster and demonstrate the relevance of NGOs in underserved parts of the world, where alternate representation at the UN can become meaningful, lest the international community is bereft of local grounding and consigned to irrelevance to peoples and their day to day struggles.
    5. All organs of CoNGO – all members of CoNGO – must spread the word about the extraordinary good the UN System does throughout the world every day, preserving and improving the lives of ordinary people.
    6. CoNGO also requires a more solid financial base that will enable it to be proactive in promoting consultation, collaboration, and cooperation.
  7. Some felicitous “take-away” phrases from the Summit:
    1. In regard to UN access and to dealing with migrant or refugee issues: “Nothing about us without us”. For migrants and refugees, “For a long time others spoke on our behalf. Now we speak for
    2. In regard to shrinking of civil space and to protecting human rights defenders: “We must push back against the pushback” and “Transformational and sustainable development is about acting
      so that all peoples’ human rights are upheld”.
    3. In regard to peace, and indeed to civil society’s role in the world: “We in civil society are the foot soldiers of peace” and “The UN Charter’s ‘We the Peoples’ are the ones to take decisive and
      forward-looking actions towards a more inclusive, sustainable and cohesive humanity”.
    4. In regard to military interventions and to civil wars: “Silence the guns”. “Global ceasefire now”.
    5. “There is no Planet B”. The planet we now live in is all we got. We must ensure it to be livable, peaceable, and sustainable.

Summit Chair
Liberato C. Bautista, CoNGO President

Chief Rapporteurs
Cyril Ritchie, CoNGO First Vice President
Martina Gredler, CoNGO Second Vice President
Humphrey Tonkin, CoNGO Board Member

NGO access to and at the UN is also UN’s access to the voice, expertise and support of civil society to the multilateral body, CoNGO President asserted at a meeting called by the ECOSOC President

New York City, 7 April 2021 (CoNGO InfoNews) – The United Nations and non-governmental organizations are each the poorer without the other. Grassroots, national, regional and international diplomacy have benefited from UN and NGO consultation and collaboration in addressing wide-ranging issues and problems confronted by governments, peoples, and humanity’s shared habitat.

This is the gist of the presentation by Liberato Bautista at the February 1, 2021 joint meeting of the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) with the Chairs of its functional commissions and expert bodies. Bautista, the president of the Conference of Non-Governmental Organizations in Consultative Relationship with the United Nations, was invited  to address the meeting by the ECOSOC President, Ambassador Munir Akram.

“It was a laudable gesture by Ambassador Akram to invite me to address the meeting, and calling me to speak in the middle of a crowded two-hour schedule, when all participants were still online to hear what the sole NGO representative had to say,” Bautista recollected.

“Engaging in dialogue and maintaining accessible lines of communication is critical to the consultative relation between NGOs and the UN System. NGO support for robust multilateralism entails access by NGOs to and at the UN, which in the same measure, also means UN’s access to the voice, expertise and support offered by civil society,” Bautista stated.

Bautista, addressing the ravages of the COVID-19 pandemic and how it has affected NGO access to and at the UN, asserted that NGOs, like CoNGO, “stand ready to secure together the public space so that inclusive, participatory and democratic institutions thrive and prosper” rather than curtailed and pushed back during the pandemic.

The challenges that lay ahead for both the UN and NGOs for which their consultation and collaboration are needed were laid bare by Bautista. “It is time that the multistakeholder actors of our collaboration, including us NGOs, are put to work to address this coronavirus pandemic and the intersecting pandemics resulting from climate change, from hunger and poverty, from forced migration, from racism and xenophobia, employing every principle and approach, not the least of which include whole-of-government and all-of-society.”

Advocating for robust consultation and collaboration between the UN and NGOs is at the core of CoNGO’s key aims and objectives. And addressing the ECOSOC at this meeting is not CoNGO’s first time. Before this February meeting this year, Bautista also addressed the briefing for civil society organized by the ECOSOC presidency of Norway on May 4, 2020.

At the May 2020 meeting, Bautista maintained that “policy-making in a time of pandemic must strengthen our resolve to work together to address underlying fundamental inequalities in our society that hinder the full realization of the SDGs. In this important task,  a genuine engagement of civil society at the national and global levels is primordial.”

Are women making any progress in participation in leadership and decision-making? Three NGO leaders ask on the eve of 2021 International Women’s Day

New York, 5 March 2021 (CoNGO InfoNews) – “Women enable a just, equitable and peaceful world,” said the presidents of Soroptimist International (Sharon Fisher), International Alliance of Women (Cheryl Hayles), and Associated Country Women of the World (Magdie de Kock) in a joint statement they issued on the occasion of the 2021 International Women’s Day on March 8.

“Women and girls of all ages deserve a seat at the table in public life, leadership and decision-making. Women belong in all places where decisions are being made. To make that a reality, all states, the private sector, civil society, non-governmental organizations, and other stakeholders must work in collaboration,” the women leaders asserted.

The statement also called on the sixty-fifth session of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (CSW65) to take leadership in the development and implementation of new laws, regulations and social justice programmes that respond to women’s and girls’ under-participation and under-representation in leadership. The theme of CSW65 is focused on women in public life and equal participation in decision-making.

The joint statement was warmly received by Liberato Bautista, the president of the Conference of Non-Governmental Organizations in Consultative Relationship with the United Nations (CoNGO), who helped produce it. The three organizations issuing the statement are full members of CoNGO. Soroptimist International and International Alliance of Women are current members of the CoNGO Board.

“Joint statements are an effective means of conveying to the United Nations our collective understandings of, and agreements and unities, as segments of civil society, on substantive issues that are on the UN agenda,” Bautista said. “Consultation and collaboration are valued good NGO practices,” he added.

Other CoNGO members that have issued statements on the International Women’s Day include the International Council of Women and the Universal Esperanto Association.A statement issued on November 15, 2020 and submitted to the CSW65 by members of the NGO Committee on the Status of Women Vienna, underscored many of the points raised by these statements.

NGO concerns on the overall agenda of gender equality, equity and justice are highlighted once again this year at the NGO CSW FORUM65 with varied program offerings starting on March 14 and ending on March 26.

See related story by International Alliance of Women here and by Soroptimist International here.

Commitments made 25 years ago in Beijing not matched by action, investments and accountability, NGO Committee on Status of Women Vienna asserts in a statement

Vienna, Austria, 28 January 2021 (CoNGO InfoNews) – “Gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls are inextricably linked to achieving sustainable development for all. We acknowledge the recognition by global leaders that the commitments made 25 years ago in Beijing have not been matched by action, investments and accountability. We welcome the commitment of governments to significantly accelerate concrete actions towards achieving Sustainable Development Goal #5, Gender Equality,” says the opening paragraph of a statement by members of the NGO Committee on Status of Women Vienna submitted to the sixty-fifth session of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (UN CSW).

Twenty-two non-governmental organizations in consultative status with the United Nations Economic and Social Council who are members of the NGO Committee joined to submit the statement (E/CN.6/2021/NGO/16).

This year’s session is a follow-up to the Fourth World Conference on Women and to the twenty-third special session of the General Assembly entitled “Women 2000: gender equality.” It will meet from 15 March 2021 and closes on 26 March.

Among the Committee’s fifteen calls to UN member states is the enactment of  “policies and commit funds to enable women’s full participation in public life, including: elimination of all discriminatory laws, structural barriers, social norms and gender stereotypes; strengthening institutions to promote gender equality; providing child care and parental leave to enable the redistribution of care work in households; recognizing the value of women’s unpaid care work in gross domestic product or income account indicators.”

The NGO Committee on Status of Women Vienna is one of 37 substantive and regional committees of CoNGO.

Open here for the full statement.

NGO Access to and at the United Nations in the Time of the COVID-19 Pandemic

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