Civil Society Conference

Until 2020 and the forced postponement of in-person events at the UN, the Civil Society Conference was the most important gathering of civil society organizations anywhere.  Typically over 3,000 participants from 700 NGOs around the world attended to hear from senior UN officials, public opinion makers, and international media and to interact with each other in workshops and round-table discussions. Until the UN is open again for visitors, there are numerous virtual events available for NGO participation on line.

There have been sixty-eight (68) annual conferences to date. Originally, the conferences were held at UN headquarters in New York, then several were held internationally in Paris; Mexico City; Melbourne, Australia; Bonn Germany, and Seoul, Korea. In 2019, the 68th Civil Society Conference was held in Salt Lake City, the first time in the U.S. not at headquarters. The gathering in Salt Lake broke all attendance records at 4,000 participants from more than 100 countries, almost half youth.

Annual Conferences have been organized by the Global NGO Executive Committee (GNEC) in cooperation with the UN Department of Global Communications (UN DGC) (formerly the Department of Public Information).

The focus of each Conference has been on an issue of global importance, such as climate change, human rights, disarmament, global health, etc. Today the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are especially relevant. In Utah, in 2019, the topic was Building Inclusive and Sustainable Cities and Communities.

Workshops

NGO enthusiasm for conducting workshops at the 68th Civil Society Conference in Salt Lake City in August 2019 was outstanding with over 200 different organizations applying for inclusion in the program. A small committee of dedicated volunteers from GNEC carefully reviewed each application. Never before had so many individual NGOs been able to participate in organizing their own meetings at an Annual Conference. The size of the Salt Palace Conference Center in Salt Lake City made this possible and gave the NGOs opportunities to share information and best practices and to develop partnerships to help achieve the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030. The NGOs thus played a vital role in promoting the informal SDG motto, “Leave No One Behind.”

Topics of the workshops in Salt Lake City were all related to Goal 11 of the SDGs: Building Sustainable Cities and Communities. Under this banner, the NGOs addressed the needs of people of different ethnicities, cultural traditions, languages and religious beliefs and focused on issues of economic development, climate change, peaceful societies, youth empowerment, infrastructure, emerging technologies, women and girls, media and communication and interfaith dialogue. 

During the GNEC year, numerous workshops are organized to address important issues. One of the most popular GNEC workshops held yearly is the Communications Skills Workshop designed to help NGOs become better communicators. 

UN Relationships

NGOs Relationship with the Department of Global Communication (DGC) begin in 1946.

The United Nations recognized that working alongside NGOs would be an integral part of the UN information activities when the Department of Public Information (DPI) was established in 1946. In resolution 1(13)1, the General Assembly instructed DPI (now DGC) and its branch offices to actively assist and encourage national information services, educational institutions and other government and non-governmental organizations in spreading information about the work of the United Nations.

The Global NGO Executive Committee (GNEC) through its affiliation with UN DGC works with other entities operating at different levels within the United Nations system. These include UN agencies and the Conference on Non-Governmental Organizations in Consultative Status with the UN (CoNGO).

The working relationships between these groups provide information on UN programs and issues directly from experience in the field, as well as helping to raise public awareness of relevant issues that impact the work of NGOs and the UN. These relationships play a major role in advancing UN goals and objectives.

Leadership

There are eighteen (18) officers and directors on the board of the Global NGO Executive Committee (GNEC). All are elected by entities formally associated with UN DGC. Each term is two years. Nominations for 2021 Elections are accepted before March 31. (See details) Election results will be announced at the Annual Meeting in June. 

Board members are expected to attend monthly meeting (now on-line) and to actively serve on at least one Sub-Committee: Bylaws, Development, Finance, Future Conferences, NGO Reporter, Nominations and Elections, Outreach & Public Relations, Website and Social Media, Youth and Intergenerational.