Annual NGO/DPI Conference Checks the Health of the Millennium Development Goals
Three members of the Carmelite NGO joined some 2,500 representatives of non-governmental organizations affiliated to the United Nations Department of Public Information (NGO/DPI) for the annual conference at UN Headquarters in New York, USA. This year focused on the theme of fostering partnerships for security and sustainable development.
The conference ran from September 6-8 and featured a wealth of "roundtable discussions" on a variety of topics relating to the conference’s theme.
Raymond Sommereyns, Director of the Outreach Division in the UN Department of Public Information (DPI), which sponsored the three-day event, said participants had come armed with specific examples of "effective partnerships to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs)" – a set of international targets for eradicating poverty and other global ills by 2015.
Participating in this year’s conference before returning home to face elections was General Assembly President Jan Eliasson from Sweden. "We have such huge tasks now that I sometimes ask myself, ‘Will we make it?’" Eliasson told the gathering. He said those present faced a "huge test of multilateralism" and pointed to the need to prove that "working together, creating international structures, creating strong and effective international cooperation, strengthening the United Nations, is a good thing for the world."
Looking around the room, he said the NGOs had worked with the UN "at the barricades together" on such issues as AIDS, disability and disarmament. "We need your voices; we need your contribution," he stressed. "I want you to feel that you are partners with us in the work of development, security and human rights, and the basic pursuit for a dignified life for all."
Also present for the first time in several years was the out-going Secretary General of the UN, Koffi Annan. His wife was present through several of the plenary sessions. Mr. Annan told the participants "There is no security without development and there is no development without security," a theme throughout his 10 year tenure which ends at the end of 2006.
Expected to address the conference via satellite link was President Evo Morales of the Republic of Bolivia. However, Mr. Morales had to travel to Cuba unexpectedly and his Vice-President, Alvaro Garcia Linera spoke. In his 15 minute address he spoke of the new means of development that are taking the place of the old paradigms and allowing a new paradigm to emerge.
In his "Special Message" to the Conference, Japan’s Senior Vice Minister for Foreign Affairs, Katsutoshi Kaneda, gave concrete examples of partnerships between NGO’s and UN organizations which lead to positive developments.
A number of representatives of governments and NGOs also addressed the opening session, which was held in the morning. While there have been some complaints about NGO’s being underappreciated at the UN, that too many Americans are involved or hold leadership positions in the NGO sectors, and that there is not adequate translation of conference and websites into a variety of languages, participants appeared to enjoy the conference and were networking with one another in the halls and in the cafeteria.
There is palatable uncertainty about what comes after Kofi Annan’s term as UN Secretary General. There are an increasing number of voices calling for UN reform, and for clarification of the role of the UN in the world’s trouble spots. In addition, there is major concern about the impact on NGO’s of the ten year project to renovate the UN’s physical plant in New York.
The span of participants’ ages in this year’s conference was 59 years. One-fifth of the representatives were "youth" and this was evident in the preponderance of laptops in each meeting. There were 60 speakers addressing over 2500 representatives from 1,500 NGO/DPI. Some 51 countries were represented.
The website of the Carmelite NGO is: carmelites.info/ngo
Carmelites held an International Conference on Justice and Peace at Fatima, Portugal, from August 1 – 15. The meeting took place at the Casa Beato Nuno, the retreat and conference center of the Portuguese General Commissariat.
Fifty Carmelites – priests, religious women, brothers, and lay Carmelites from 20 different countries met to exchange the experience of Carmelites working in Justice and Peace ministries. All of these ministries represented were directly related to the poor, the emarginated, and those excluded from society. Some focused at the same time on the structures that cause poverty and exclusion. All see their ministry as a response to the Church’s option for the poor.
Conferences and reflections led by experts treated the political aspects of the global economy, the call to a prophetic witness to justice and peace in the Carmelite charism, in the example of Mary, Mother and Queen of Carmel. The logic of the conference followed that of See - Judge – Act. The two week program led to a whole series of actions to be promoted in the on-going work of the members.
One key conclusion was to give ever stronger support to the Carmelite NGO which holds status with the United Nations organization.
A statement addressed to the US Ambassador in Lisbon was also drawn up during the conference calling for an end to US aggression and war and calling for a US policy truly committed to building peace and respect among nations.
The Conference website is: carmelites.info/peaceandjustice/course.family.htm
Periodic e-bulletins with news of the Carmelite NGO, the United Nations, and the Justice and Peace Initiatives of the Carmelites are being sent out from the Carmelite NGO. Those wishing to receive the e-bulletins can register for the mailing list at carmelites.info/ngo.
Previous issues of the bulletin can be viewed by selecting the links from the Carmelite NGO website (carmelites.info/ngo)