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The UN and civil society

December 9, 2009

After just attending the meeting of observer organizations where the Chair of AWG-LCA Mr Michael Zammit Cutajar addressed “civil society”, I couldn’t help but wonder if those present were truly reflective of civil society.

According to the UN:

The United Nations is both a participant in and a witness to an increasingly global civil society. More and more, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and other civil society organizations (CSOs) are UN system partners and valuable UN links to civil society. CSOs play a key role at major United Nations Conferences and are indispensable partners for UN efforts at the country level. NGOs are consulted on UN policy and programme matters. The UN organizes and hosts, on a regular basis, briefings, meetings and conferences for NGO representatives who are accredited to UN offices, programmes and agencies.

The United Nations

The United Nations

Therefore, I think it is safe to say that only accredited members of civil society are represented at high level UN negotiations such as COP. It is unfair to conclude then that we are truly reflective of the needs of diverse individuals and households out there whose needs are not being brought forward here. Earlier at the Conference of Parties at 10am, it was clear that vulnerable groups from small island states (AOSIS) were strong in their message that their needs have to be addressed here at COP15 and there is an urgency in developing a legally binding agreement together with all nations.

However, what about others who are not represented here? It may be safe to say that many people do not have access to COP, cannot afford to be here or those whose needs go unnoticed or unheard. What about these people? It is not fair to assume that all parties will bring domestic issues to the table here at COP and some issues tend also to dominate others. The needs of the Alliance Of Small Island St ates  is a clear example. So much so that Algeria’s intervention this morning highlighted the need to also look into other areas such as land degradation and desertification.  There are many other substantive issues at COP that have not been brought forth and it is up to the people here who have the power to speak up.

Civil society cannot be represented only by Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) or NGOs here at COP but needs to incorporate wider audiences and people, all of whom are stakeholders in the global flight for climate actions. I encourage all our readers then, to voice out and comment or let our delegation know if you have any ideas or grievances. We will try our best to let your voice be heard and to reflect Singapore’s civil society’s view on climate change here at COP, simply because we can.

I urge you to take action and to task us to ask questions or be more critical here in Copenhagen!

Live from COP15,



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