by Elizabeth Aguilar, Lindsey Di Silvestri, and Sydney Lantz
June 22, 2022
On Wednesday June 15, 2022, WFUNA’s Geneva office were invited to attend the meeting of the President of the General Assembly with NGOs at the Palais des Nations. The President of the seventy-sixth session of the UNGA, Abdulla Shahid, had requested a meeting with civil society organizations to discuss his vision for his “Presidency of Hope”.
Before giving the floor to the CSOs and NGOs, President Shahid used the opportunity to recognize a variety of global issues that are ongoing during our time: – i.e., Ukrainian and Russian War, COVID-19 and its impacts, and youths' disillusionment with multilateralism. In addition to this, His Excellency spoke about the initiatives of engagements of this past year including an in-person Town Hall with over 200 CSO representatives, a Climate Action meeting in October, a Vaccine Access meeting in February and a Sustainable Tourism initiative in May, all while touching upon the topic of Our Common Agenda and its influence to create a “UN 2.0.”
The opening remarks of the President of the General-Assembly noted the trend of insufficient recognition of NGOs within the field of global governance and expressed the importance of civil engagement to the multilateral decision-making processes. The participation of civil society is critical for an increasingly representative and effective United Nations. His Excellency stressed the idea that multilateralism can only work if it is working for and with the people. With the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights moderating, the discussion between the President of the General Assembly and more than 50 NGO representatives concluded that global challenges necessitate global responses.
During his Excellency’s discussion with present NGOs, variety of global issues were discussed, for example, the work of health care providers in the COVID-19 pandemic or the intrinsic connection between environmental justice and the rights of indigenous people. Amongst the range of issues, one theme integral to them all was the revitalization of the United Nations. Building capacity and accountability within the UN system are key elements to the President’s plan to create a “UN 2.0,” guided by the steps laid out in the Secretary General’s, Our Common Agenda Report.
Towards the end of the Meeting of the President of the General Assembly with NGOs, President Abdulla Shahid reiterated again the importance of NGOs on the global stage. “NGOs are the strength of the UN work in Geneva... [NGOs] hear the voice of the voiceless,” said President Shahid. The meeting provided practical representation of the President’s Five Rays of Hope: recovering from COVID 19, rebuilding sustainably, responding to the needs of the planet, respecting the rights of all, and reforming the United Nations. Representatives from the World Federation of United Nations Associations present at the meeting expressed its value in terms of including the Five Rays of Hope in ongoing discussions surrounding the 2030 Agenda and WFUNA’s own Strategic Plan.