Since the finalization of the UN Charter, civil society organizations (CSOs) have not been given formal status in the UN. Even though that there have been 75 years of campaigning for greater civil society engagement, a huge breakthrough is not evident. CSOs are the main channel through which broad participation may occur. Thus, the UN needs to become more inclusive and formalize its partnership with CSOs.
A UN Civil Society Envoy would champion the opening up of the UN to the world citizens and civil society organizations. Currently, engagement of civil society is insufficient because there is a lack of a senior champion in the UN that can make the relationship between the Organization and civil society sturdy, long-term and consistent. A UN Civil Society Envoy would diversify the UN in a way that it would no longer be a state-centric institution, but an Organization that is well-prepared for global challenges. The process of globalization and the trend towards multipolarity have made it impossible for a single government or even a couple of governments to deal with global issues alone. They need the input of civil society organizations that can deliver essential information while making sure that the voice of the community is heard in the decision-making arena. CSOs are the ones who understand the common inequities a certain group shares and who can make the link between people across borders and the institutions that should serve them.
A UN Civil Society Envoy would facilitate the engagement of CSOs across the UN system and monitor the degree of access and deliberation opportunities that those organizations receive. It would ensure that the UN receives significant information from a variety of sources and does not neglect groups that are marginalized and underdeveloped.
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- The presence of a UN Civil Society Envoy in the UN system would ensure that the organization proactively engages with civil society.
- A UN Civil Society Envoy would make civil society engagement across the UN system more consistent and formalized through, for example, promptly addressing inconsistencies.
- A UN Civil Society Envoy would diversify the information the UN has access to and allow for more civil society voices to be noticed and taken into consideration.
A UN Civil Society Envoy should receive a small office and staff, become incorporated into the UN system, but independently from the Executive Office of the Secretary-General. The yearly budget for the Champion should be around $2 million, coming from voluntary donations, both from member states and other relevant sources.
Setting up an office of the civil society champion would be one of the major steps towards designing a UN that we need and want- an Organization that is well-prepared to empower and engage with civil society.
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