The UN Civil Society Conference (originally the NGODPI Conference) has been the most important gathering of civil society organizations anywhere on the planet. There have been sixty-eight (68) annual conferences to date; typically over 3,000 participants from 700 NGOs around the world attend to hear from senior UN officials, public opinion makers, and international media and, most importantly, to interact with each other in workshops, round-table discussions, and unique informal sessions. During 2020 and beyond, there has been forced postponement of in-person events at the UN. Alternatively, there are now numerous virtual events available for online NGO participation. While the pandemic has curtailed the already limited participation of NGOs at United Nations Headquarters, it has in some ways ‘democratized’ access to its major events. GNEC will continue to take advantage of the opportunities to exchange, and the platform it has to provide access, while the major conferences are on hold.
Originally, all of the large, UN NGO-related conferences were held at UN headquarters in New York. After the 2008 Master Plan, several were held internationally, in Paris, Mexico City, Melbourne, Bonn, and Seoul. In 2019, the 68th Civil Society Conference was held in Salt Lake City, the first time in the U.S. but not at Headquarters. The gathering in Salt Lake broke all attendance records at nearly 6,000 staff, guests, and NGO delegates – from more than 100 countries, and almost half were youth.
These major Annual Conferences have been organized by the UN Department of Global Communications (UN DGC) (formerly the Department of Public Information) in cooperation with the Global NGO Executive Committee (GNEC). The focus of each Conference has been on an issue of global importance to civil society, 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.
Beyond the plenaries and roundtables, the GNEC organizes all of the Workshops and Exhibits. Those are populated by the UNDGC associated NGOs and special guests, and adjudicated each year by GNEC board members as part of the UN/GNEC Conference Planning Committee.
During the year, the GNEC organizes numerous briefings, workshops, and other informal get-togethers to address important issues, connect NGOs with state-of-the-art thinking on vital issues that are central to UN activity, and enable NGOs through the platforms we provide. One of the most popular GNEC workshops held yearly is the Communications Skills Workshop designed to help NGOs become better communicators. A popular series has been the intergenerational Climate Justice series. Associated NGOs even enjoyed a Holiday Zoom to share each others’ celebratory customs.
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. GNEC adjudicated the applications and the NGOs thus played a vital role in promoting the informal SDG motto, “Leave No One Behind.”
The GNEC is currently planning its next two years of Briefings and Annual Conferences. Watch for the announcement in early September: the first GNEC Briefing this fall takes place in late October or early November.
NGOs Relationship with the Department of Global Communication (DGC) begin in 1946.
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.
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.
The Global NGO Executive Committee (GNEC) was founded in 1962 to promote a closer working relationship between the United Nations and the non-governmental organizations (NGOs) associated with it. GNEC acts as a liaison between the NGO community and the UN's Department of Global Communications (DGC). GNEC provides strategic guidance to help NGOs become more effective partners of the UN.
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