President of the UN General Assembly, Csaba Körösi, addresses NGOs in Geneva: “Civil Society has a powerful influence within the UN.”

(From left to right: Cyril Ritchie (CoNGO), Elena Cedillo Vargas (The Lutheran World Federation) and Hoi Shan Fokeladeh (International Council of Nurses)

Geneva, Switzerland | 10 March 2023 (CoNGO InfoNews) – The President of the 77th session of the UN General Assembly (UN.PGA), His Excellency Csaba Körösi, held a Town Hall meeting at the United Nations Office at Geneva (UNOG) on February 27, 2023. Some 80 NGO representatives attended.

The President of the Conference of Non-Governmental Organizations in Consultative Relationship with the United Nations (CoNGO), Liberato Bautista, was invited to select three principal NGO respondents, including Cyril Ritchie, First Vice President of CoNGO; Elena Cedillo, Lutheran World Federation; and Hoi Shan Fokeladeh, International Council of Nurses. Tatiana Valovaya, UNOG Director-General, opened the Consultation with civil society.

In his introductory remarks, Mr. Körösi said, among other things, “I am here to learn, and I’m greatly honored to have this opportunity. In times of crisis, our opportunities and responsibilities are enormous. If we don’t understand the interlocking nature of today’s challenges, we will not be able to resolve them.”

Among matters he brought to the attention of NGO representatives included the following:

  • “Civil Society has a powerful influence within the UN, and without you, we cannot achieve Agenda 2030, the Paris Agreement on climate change, or the Addis Ababa Action Agenda. We need Civil Society because no segment of the international community has a monopoly on wisdom. Civil Society is exemplary in representing those who have no voice or are marginalized. Governments are not always the best representatives of accountability, so we need the regular contributions of Civil Society.
  • “There are currently 16 negotiating processes under the UN General Assembly, including Summits, declarations, and action plans. I asked all the process facilitators to consult Civil Society to gain your evidence-based knowledge. 
  • “For the SDGs, we are further away from their implementation than in 2015! Civil Society needs to help member states towards implementation, posing the right questions and giving the right encouragement. I’m committed to ongoing dialogue with Civil Society.”

Responding to the PGA’s thematic concern regarding solidarity within societies and among countries, and in particular regarding governments honouring the commitments they have made within the United Nations System, the CoNGO First Vice President, Cyril Ritchie, remarked that governments honouring the “commitments they have made within the United Nations System is indeed of the highest importance and significance, legally and morally.”

Hoi Shan Fokeladeh, the senior policy advisor of the International Council of Nurses, addressed the PGA’s thematic concern for finding “solutions through solidarity, sustainability and science” by saying that the “global shortage of six million nurses and 18 million healthcare workers before the pandemic” is showing us “increased turnover rates which are highly likely to increase these numbers.” “Countries need to take urgent action to safeguard, protect, invest in and sustain a skilled and robust health workforce as part of the concrete solutions to our shared goals,” she advised.

Addressing the PGA’s concern on solutions through sustainability, Elena Cedillo, the Program Executive for Climate Justice of The Lutheran World Federation, made her remarks from “an angle of climate change and human rights” and asserted that “Many challenges for sustainability (poverty, inequality, food security, access to healthcare, and education) are affected by climate change; addressing climate change is, therefore, one of the most important steps toward protecting lives, livelihoods, and the full and effective enjoyment of human rights.”

In response to remarks made by NGO speakers, the PGA said, among other things:

  • “Implementation of intergovernmental agreements is a must if we want accountability. Some legal agreements are a mixture of legal and political commitments. When we started adopting international goals, it was a recognition that if we only followed the rules, we may go astray. Destinations such as the SDGs, biodiversity, and Sendai were designed to change the state of affairs, which may contradict the rules. How do we harmonize goals and laws? In some countries, CS is bringing court cases against governments for not implementing political commitments. Courts have sometimes ordered governments to change the rules, e.g., reducing greenhouse gases. I welcome the Human Rights Council and the UNGA resolutions on a healthy, clean and sustainable environment; the question now is whose responsibility is it: collective or individual?
  • “I agree science can contribute to solutions, but science will not replace political decision-making. Science must help shape policy-making, telling politicians the options and the consequences of inaction.
  • “Quite a number of countries resist Civil Society modalities of inclusion, but as PGA, I will always argue for the participation of all stakeholders who have the necessary knowledge and can bring solutions.”