UN NGO community

From Yochai Benkler - Wealth of Networks
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UN NGO community

The UN NGO community serves as the basis for an excellent case study of the role of the networked information economy in a rapid phase of growth and development of the community, beginning with the preparations for the 1992 Earth Summit - aka UNCED (UN Conference on Environment and Development) held in Rio de Janeiro. Prior to Rio, NOs in Consultative Status tended to be large international organizations; since that time there has been a rapid growth in accreditation of national and even local NGOs, leading to a much greater represnetation of NGO si developing countries. The Earth Summit broke new ground in encouraging broad participation of nongovernmental organizations - NGOs - in the preparations for the conference, that was reflected in the princple outcome document Agenda 21. in which 10 of the 40 chapters were devoted to "Strengthening the Role of Major Groups". The final chapter of Agend 21 was on "Information for Decision-making" [1]
With strong support from the UNCED Secretariat, a small group of NGOs and the networks of the Association for Progressive Communications (APC) - including IGC / Econet US)), GreeNnet (UK), Alternex (Brazil), Pegasus (Australia) and the Web (Canada) - a Global Electronic Network was launched on April 22 1990, Earth Day. The combination of a set of electronic conferences hosted by EcoNet and mirrored on the other APC sites and the use of electronic mail played a vital role in facilitating NGO communication and cooperation that has continued to evolve through the "Rio cluster" of conferences - culminating in the 1996 Habitat II conference in Istanbul - and beyond.

Here is a preliminary outline of some of the key processes in which the networked information economy played a key role

Sustainable Development

Earth Summit

Global Elecronic Network
Agenda 21
NGO Alternative Treaties

Commission on Sustainable Development

Gopher for CSD documents
NGO Steering Committee
Electronic mailing lists

World Summit on Sustainable Development

Social Development

World Summit on Social Development

NGO Committee on Social Development

NGO Values Caucus


Beijing Women's Conference

Human Settlements

Habitat II

NGO Committee on Human Settlements

Habitat Partners Network

Millennium Forum

NGO Committees

Until the Earth Summit, the substantive committees of CONGO - Conference Of NonGovernmental Organizations in Consultative relationship with the United Nations [2] - had played the leadership role in organizing NGO participation in major UN conferences. However, the leadership of CONGO has tended to be relativley elderly, and had developed their information management skills in an industrial information economy and were both generally slow in appreciating the value of ICT and in their willingness to adopt the unfamiliar ways of electronic mail.
However, by December 1997, it had become clear that information and communication technologies were the way of the future, and a resolutionon Information and Communications [3] was adopted at CONGO's 20th General Assembly.

NGO Committee on Education

The NGO Committee on Education has recently embarked on a major initiative with a broad focus on key international decades, and with a commitment to develop a conprehensive interactive web site. The first stage in the web site development has focused on the compilation of an extensive, hyperlinked body of UN documents - General Assembly Resolutions, Global Conference Agreements, Conventions, Declarations, etc - see http://www.un-documents.net

UN Decade of Education for Sustainable Development
International Decade for a Culture of Peace and Non-Violence for the Children of the World

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