THOUGHTS ON THE UNITED NATIONS; ACTIONS BY  CoNGO AND ITS MEMBERS

A. THE UNITED NATIONS

1. The goals and principles of the United Nations as set out in the UN Charter have been beacons of light and hope in the constantly and increasingly troubled world that has been the frame for UN actions for the past 67 years. NGOs have most often  been much more committed supporters of, and ambassadors for, those goals and principles than many of  the UN’s member governments which  send their official Ambassadors to UN meetings. Governments are often lukewarm about harnessing the UN’s ideals and potential, too frequently preferring short-term political interest over the policies needed to secure the planet for future generations. Indeed, democracy is often relegated to the background in the horsetrading of multilateral governmental negotiations, and multilateral institutions are often kept deliberately weak, in the supposed  interests of  “national sovereignty”. However, working for the long-term,  CoNGO and its Members TOGETHER cooperate and partner effectively with the United Nations, rising above the deadweight of so many governmental processes.

2. Even high school students
Even high school students are aware that these days there is no longer any “sovereign nation”. Epidemics do not stop at sovereign borders, and must be countered or remedied by enhanced multilateral cooperation through strong multilateral institutions. The same trans-border response logic  is true for Climate change, Migration flows, Narcotics  trading, Trafficking in arms or in persons, Corporate economic crime, and a host of other modern-day challenges. A strong, adequately-financed, adequately-governed, adequately-transparent United Nations System must be at the heart of meeting these challenges. CoNGO and its Members TOGETHER  proclaim these principles in many fora.

3. Two  UN “mechanisms” 
Two  UN “mechanisms” have played a significant part in seeking solutions to these challenges  –  and in  mobilizing NGO and  public attention to, and support for, these solutions. These mechanisms have  been the series of UN Conventions and World Conferences, covering every conceivable aspect of human endeavour, human frailty, human aspirations, human betterment. To take  only some examples, one might cite Criminal Justice, Disarmament,  Food, Environment, Children, Women, Biodiversity, Population, Human Rights, Small Arms, Landmines,  Labour standards, the Law of the Sea, Financing for Development, the Information S! ociety.        CoNGO and its Members TOGETHER  have been initiators of some, and vital participants in most, UN Conventions and Conferences.

4.  UN Conference on Sustainable Development
Most recently,  the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (a world trans-border  programme in only two words !)  was expected to provide an  occasion for renewal of commitment to democratizing international relations and international governance,   and for enhancing  the essential role of civil society in UN processes. While UNCSD certainly did not meet the aspirations of civil society, there were enough positive elements for us now to focus on its follow-up,  and to focus unswervingly on Implementation. This  will necessarily require intense cooperation between governments and Civil Society, particularly as we move towards the Post-2015 framework. Here too,  CoNGO and its Members TOGETHER have th! e requisite competence and commitment.

B. ACTIONS BY  CoNGO AND ITS MEMBERS

5.  Three Things In Mind
I have written these introductory paragraphs with three things in mind: a. to recall the context in which CoNGO exists and in which its Members carry out much of their work; b. to underline the continuity of the commitment(s)  of CoNGO and its Members; c. to remind us all how much more needs to be done, and done  TOGETHER. You may recall that TOGETHER was a keyword in my acceptance speech on acceding to the CoNGO Presidency in January 2011.

6.  CoNGO Presidency
This Presidency will soon be approaching the half-way mark in its 2011-2014 mandate. In the year 2011, thanks to outstanding engagement and rigour by New York Officers and by  Geneva and New York staff, we turned around the deficit of January 2011 and ended the year with a small surplus that enabled us to reduce our carry-forward by some 27%. We achieved this despite a serious short-fall in membership contributions in 2011: many of you have received a request and reminder to pay these outstanding 2011  dues. I hope those concerned will do so urgently:    this is not a matter of philanthropy but of solidarity and mutual accountability. The external audit review for 2011 gives us a clean bill of health, but underlines the fragility of our financial base

7.  Active Membership Serious
And to my regret, the membership fees situation is equally serious in 2012. We are almost two-thirds way through the year, yet THUS FAR ONLY 30 % OF MEMBERS HAVE PAID THEIR 2012 DUES. What is the consequence of this?? Firstly, we are unable to continuously provide the programmes and communications that you rightly  expect.  Secondly, we cannot vigourously pursue the many opportunities we have to work TOGETHER vis-à-vis the United Nations, in the domains illustrated in the first paragraphs of this memorandum . Thirdly, we have to cut current expenditure drastically, the most dramatic case being that we have to release from CoNGO service the most valuable person we have employ! ed in recent years, namely Beatriz Schulthess in the Geneva Office.    Over the past four years  Beatriz has been a CoNGO pillar in advocacy, outreach,  communications,  administration, finance,  working in five languages.  Losing her is an amputation for CoNGO, yet there is no choice: we simply cannot  pay her salary. I want to declare publicly that Beatriz Schulthess has been outstandingly competent and devoted, working long hours well beyond a normal work schedule. THANK YOU BEATRIZ.

8.   How can you, the Members, help?  
First and foremost, those who have not yet  paid for 2012 have all received a reminder: please act on it without delay.  “Without delay” does not mean next month: it means tomorrow morning.

Secondly,  with the termination of the subventions regularly received over the past decade from the Swiss Development Agency, efforts are being made to seek other external funding. Some of you may have ideas or leads that you or we could follow up:  in this case,  please communicate urgently with me, with the First Vice President, or with the Treasurer,  to see how we can take action.

Thirdly, any Member able to do so is encouraged to make a voluntary contribution – earmarked by activity, or not – to help see us through the current downturn. Some of you have received a specific request letter from me along these lines, but if your budget permits it, please do not wait to be asked ! And if your budget for 2012 does not permit it, how about looking ahead to your budget for 2013 !!

CONCLUDING NOTE

9.  NGO Access
For 64 years CoNGO has pursued its mandate, providing continuity in promoting and defending  NGO relations with, and access to,  the United Nations System. There have been many ups and downs in those 64 years, so at this moment in history  no-one – least of all the current President – need be exceedingly discouraged ! But we all need to be realistic, and to be realistic TOGETHER.   Like most NGOs, and certainly most NGO networks, membership income is the bedrock on which activity is built. I therefore must repeat my urgent call to those Members which have not paid in 2011 or in 2012 to do so without delay. In my next message, around the half-way point of the current mandate,  I will let you know how we are doing, and I wil! l outline decisions the Board will be taking to carry us forward TOGETHER.

Cyril Ritchie,
President of  CoNGO