Statement to the Millennium Summit
THE MILLENNIUM SUMMIT
CO-CHAIR, MILLENNIUM FORUM
New York, 8 September 2000
Madam and Mr. Co-Chairs, Distinguished Heads of State and Government,
Mr. Secretary-General, Excellencies,
Last May, representatives of civil society and non-govern mental
organizations from all over the world gathered in this great hall to
consult about humanity's common future and, particularly, about the role
of the United Nations in the 21st Century.
The meeting was called
the Millennium Forum, and, in light of the wide ranging concerns of its
participants, the geographic reach they embodied -- including broad
representation from developing countries - and the depth and breath of
the organizations they represented, it was one of the most diverse -- and
significant -gatherings of civil society organizations ever held.
The Forum was significant for its attempt to accelerate the process among
NGOs of networking and coalition building across issue areas that has
proved to be such a powerful force for change and social action in today's
world. The issues we considered included how to establish a just and
lasting peace; how to eradicate poverty; how to set humanity on a path of
sustainable development while protecting our shared environment; how to
see that human rights everywhere are upheld at all times, by all,
nations; and how to face up to the urgent challenges of globalization.
In the end, despite our great diversity, we successfully agreed on a
powerfully worded "Declaration and Agenda for Action." It offers a bold
vision for humanity's future and outlines a series of concrete steps that
the United Nations, governments, and members of civil society themselves
can take to address the global problems facing humanity today.
After hearing your speeches here over the last three days, I must say that
our vision and plan of action are consonant with much of what has been
I am personally heartened by this and feel that this historic Summit
may well be remembered as having opened the door to a long-awaited era
of peace, justice and prosperity for all humanity. This new era will,
of course, require concrete deeds and not just words.
We in civil society stand ready to work with you and your governments,
side by side, in a strong new partnership to create this new world. At
the same time, civil society also stands ready to hold you to your
commitments if you do not deliver on your words.
history, from the abolition of slavery to the recognition of the equality
of women and men, most great social movements have begun not with
governments but with ordinary people.
Even the idea of creating an international organization to end war and
establish a permanent peace originated with civil society. Before the
outbreak of the First World War, the leaders of a number of international
NGOs argued for the establishment of a "Commonwealth of Nations" or
"League of Nations" in which all states would band together in collective
security. These same organizations actively supported the work of the
League of Nations in the late 1920's.
In 1945, civil society again played an important role in shaping many of
the key articles found in the Charter of the United Nations, especially
in the area of human rights.
More recently, NGOs have played a leading role in shaping and supporting
an International Criminal Court, in the movement for debt cancellation,
and in the International Campaign to Ban Landmines. Likewise, NGOs have
led in creating such partnerships with the UN and governments as with
the NGO Steering Committee for the Commission on Sustainable Development.
On a number of occasions, Secretary General Kofi Annan has said
that civil society participation in and partnership with the United
Nations is not an "option," but a "necessity."
We appreciate his efforts to facilitate effective partnership with
civil society at the United Nations. We thank him especially for opening
the UN to the Millennium Forum last May. As many of you know, the idea
for our Forum essentially originated with Mr. Annan some three years ago
when he called for a "companion People's Assembly" to this Summit. And we
thank Mr. Annan for making the Millennium Forum Declaration available to
this Summit as a UN document.
The Millennium Forum itself grew out of long-established NGO committees
and networks. Planning began with the Conference on NonGovernmental
Organizations (CONGO), and included the UN DPI/NGO Executive Committee.
We sought to build upon an impressive series of global NGO gatherings
held last year, such as the Hague Appeal for Peace, the Seoul
International Conference of NGOs, World Civil Society Conference, and
the Young People's Millennium Assembly, as well as all of the great
global NGO forums held in parallel with the major United Nations
conferences of the last decade, including Earth Summit, the Beijing
Women's Conference, and the Social Summit, among others.
We ask that you review carefully our Millennium Forum Declaration. I
think you'll find that, for the most part, we are simply calling on
governments to live up to the commitments and the principles that they
agreed to in the great global conferences of the 1990s. We are also
seeking increased NGO access to the UN General Assembly and its main
Allow me to give you a few highlights of what the Forum called for in
The Forum's participants believe that, when a' billion people go to bed
hungry, it is a gross violation of human rights. The Declaration calls
for immediate debt cancellation. It also calls for a "Global Poverty
Eradication Fund," aimed at offering the poor access to credit.
On globalization, the Forum took the view that, while it offers
"significant opportunities for people to connect, share and learn from
each other," in its currently unregulated form it increases "inequities
between and within countries, undermines local traditions and cultures,
and escalates disparities between rich and poor, thereby marginalizing
large numbers of people in urban and rural areas."
The Declaration urges governments to make serious "commitments to
restructure the global financial architecture based on principles of
equity, transparency, accountability, and democracy...," stating clearly
that the United Nations should be the preeminent international
organization overseeing the World Bank, the IMF and the WTO.
The Declaration also calls for a greatly strengthened and democratized
United Nations, the most important global institution in the world today
and the only one currently capable of providing the international
framework and coordination needed to address the critical challenges
Specifically, the Forum called for a strengthened peacekeeping regime,
with the establishment of permanent police and peacekeeping forces. It
also calls for a reformed Security Council, invigorated through an
enlarged membership, more democratic procedures, and eventual elimination
of the veto. It also urges the formulation of a draft proposal for global
disarmament, to be discussed in a Special Session of the General Assembly.
In this day of global interdependence, a much strengthened United
Nations is our best protection against global calamity, be it economic,
environmental, the spread of a new epidemic or a major new conflict.
To conclude, the Millennium Forum Declaration seeks to articulate
the hopes and aspirations of the peoples of the world. As its opening
"Our vision is of a world that is human-centered and genuinely
democratic, where all human beings are full participants and determine
their own destinies. In our vision we are one human family, in all our
diversity, living on one common homeland and sharing a just, sustainable
and peaceful world, guided by universal principles of democracy,
equality, inclusion, voluntarism, non-discrimination and participation
by all persons ......"
Thank you for your attention.
©Copyright 2000, Bahá'í International Community