How to get involved
How to Participate
Participating in the Five-Year Review
In order to participate effectively in the process of global diplomacy, it is critical to have all the background information about the process. Crucial background information includes: key documents that establish the context for the Special Session, as well as the documents being drafted; an understanding of the process, including the outcomes of national and regional meetings as well as previous PrepCom sessions; and a grasp of the negotiating process and the procedures by which consensus is reached.
There are a number of choices to make about the kinds of activities to become involved in during WSSD+5. Based on experiences of other reviews, some choices about how you focus your activities for the meeting might include:
Assessing government accountability: To what extent have governments taken the steps they agreed to take? What are the good practices, gaps in implementation and lessons learned?
Working on national and alternative reports: Governments and UN Agencies are reporting on implementation of the commitments made in Copenhagen in 1995. NGOs and other stakeholders can prepare their own reports about the situation in their countries and on their governments' implementation efforts. NGOs can have an important role to play in providing substantive information to governments and in monitoring efforts toward implementation.
Establishing processes for effective
review and assessment of the implementation of the Copenhagen Commitments:
Lessons learned from completed conference review processes reflect
disappointment with: implementation at the national level; resource
commitments at the international level; and the process of the review itself.
The final documents that emerge from the five-year review will specify mechanisms for the follow-up and monitoring of implementation of the Copenhagen agreements. The outcome documents will also look at issues that have emerged as key issues affecting social development, such as globalisation, trade, HIV/AIDS; etc. They will aim to spell out the relevant responses for actors at the national and international level. Finally, they will indicate the future process towards achieving social development for all.
The priorities and targets agreed to in the five-year review will reflect governments' political intentions or policy priorities. Effective implementation of the commitments on social development, however, requires commitment to building or bolstering the infrastructure and financing that is needed to meet these goals.
In order to monitor the commitments that governments have made, it is important to remember these points:
The documents that emerge from UN meetings result from political negotiation and compromise and are written in formal language. However, they are of use to stakeholders organisations worldwide.
UN resolutions and recommendations are but the first step in the process of achieving the aims that they express. The central importance of these resolutions lies in the follow-up undertaken at the national level. UN resolutions and recommendations are not legally binding. Signing or endorsing the program of action or series of resolutions is not equivalent to passing legislation or ratifying a treaty. Rather, it is a signal of political intention, around which work may be mobilized. A program of action is effective when it is used as a guide for national legislation and action and when it helps shape international priorities.
UN resolutions and recommendations are
addressed to different bodies. Many of the final documents or programs of
action resulting from UN conferences contain recommendations to
governments, to the UN system, to NGOs, and to other specific types of
institutions. In addition, UN resolutions and recommendations generally
specify a mechanism for monitoring implementation.
Planning Your Participation
If you plan to participate in a regional meeting, a PrepCom, or the Special Session, you should carefully prepare your on-site strategy in advance. For example, consider the following:
Define what you want to achieve at the meeting.
Be aware that many aspects important to you may not be explicitly on the UN agenda.
Be well-informed about the agenda and the issues of WSSD +5.
Think strategically about who should attend and how many representatives your organization might send. Who in your organization has relevant experience and is interested in attending these types of meetings? Who will be best at lobbying, participating in caucuses and coalitions, and representing your organization's interests? Remember that many of the decisions will probably be made at the final PrepCom (April 2000) rather than at the Special session itself. Also, there might be an additional week of negotiations before the Special Session to resolve remaining differences.
Collect the meeting documentation that is available in advance. Use UN and NGO materials as a way of researching the international dimensions of the issues. Have your name placed on the mailing list of the preparatory body as well as with other organizations that regularly provide conference information. For example, you can subscribe to an information service at Geneva2000 (www.geneva2000.org), at UNRISD (www.unrisd.org) and at SocialWatch (http://www.socwatch.org/1999/eng).
Explore working with NGOs within your country to prepare alternative reports about implementation of the Copenhagen Platform for Action.
Contact other NGOs working nationally, regionally, and internationally about their priorities and preparations (see Links and Existing List Servers). Regional collaborative preparations by NGOs often help to generate political momentum, add impact to your statements, and avoid unnecessary duplication of work. Are other organizations from your area sending representatives with whom you can work? Can a number of organizations work together to raise funds for one person to attend and represent all? Are you participating in any national, regional or global networks that are also engaged in monitoring the review? Are these networks trying to establish common positions and lobbying points?
Cooperate with NGOs that are working on the same issues but will not be able to travel to the Special Session or preparatory meetings. Being physically present at an inter-governmental meeting is not the only effective way to influence the process. Much of the national-level work can be carried out very effectively through networking and information sharing.
Prepare position papers. These are very useful conference tools. Keep them short - from 2-5 pages if possible. Each paper should clearly state your proposals for action to be taken by governments and the UN system.
Send your position papers and reports to the relevant government departments and other NGOs, both in your region and elsewhere, and to the Conference Secretariat. NGOs are increasingly using electronic communication networks to disseminate their reports.
Work with the media to help mobilize public support for your views and encourage governments to accept them. Media activities (press releases, contact with journalists, etc.) should be integrated into your preparation.
When attending a Special Session, plan to stay at least 24 hours beyond the official end of the meeting as they frequently run late.
Bring a portable office to the meeting. While limited on-site facilities and computer access are sometimes available to NGOs, it is likely that you will need additional capacity.
Important: To ensure that you satisfy the accreditation procedures when you register, bring a copy of the letter sent by your organization to the conference Secretariat identifying you as their official representative, as well as a passport or some other photo identification to be used for the issuing of a UN grounds pass.
Whether you attend WSSD+5 or not, the resolutions and recommendations contained in the resulting documents can be used as local organizing tools. Here are some suggestions for how to follow-up on the issues raised and the decisions made:
Check official websites for any final documents, since most will be posted on-line, or contact the Secretariat. We will also frequently update this site referring you to the latest documents.
Identify the appropriate department(s) in your government that are responsible for implementing the social development agenda and incorporating the recommendations from WSSD+5 after the Special Session.
Continue to work in regional and international networks as these will provide a powerful source of information for sharing strategies and building accountability practices.
Organize a meeting within two to three months after the Special Session to develop an action plan and commitments to follow-up. Invite relevant actors - government representatives, NGOs, the media, academics, private sector representatives, donors, UN organizations - to brainstorm together on next steps.
How to Participate without Leaving Home
Ideas for NGOs working at the national level: A great deal of important work can be done without being physically present at a PrepCom or a UN meeting. In fact, it could be said that the work at the international level counts for little without corresponding and complementary work at the national and local levels. Here are some ideas on what can be done at the national level:
The regional preparatory process: In order to most effectively influence the regional process, you should establish contact with the relevant Regional Economic Commission. You might also consider the following:
Collaborate with groups at the national level before the regional preparatory meeting.
Develop a regional NGO position or program for the conference.
Work with other NGOs in your region to prepare regional alternative reports.
Explore the possibilities of having representatives of women's organizations and other NGOs appointed to your national delegation.
Organize or participate in caucuses and other relevant meetings.
* based on:
UNIFEM, 2000: Gender on the Agenda. A Guide to Participating in Beijing+5.
NGO Steering Committee to the UN Commission on Sustainable Development, 1999. Guide to the 7th Session.
Click here to download the complete 'Get Involved' section as TXT file (41 KB) or as ZIP file (15 KB).