United Nations

Millennium Forum planning structure set

UNITED NATIONS - At a two-day meeting here in February, representatives from various non-governmental organizations (NGOs) gave concrete structure to the planning process for a proposed NGO-sponsored "Millennium Forum," agreeing to a set of organizational by-laws and confirming the membership of the Forum's main organizing committees.

The meeting, held 22-23 February 1999, capped a year-long series of consultations that saw the gradual coming together of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and NGO coalitions or groups with the aim of organizing some sort of civil society forum or gathering that would associate with the UN's proposed "Millennium Assembly," as the regular UN General Assembly meeting scheduled for September 2000 has been designated.

About 100 people attended the February meeting. Most represented international NGOs with multiple national-level affiliates around the world, although some represented various national-level NGOs. In a series of consensus votes, the assembled gathering approved, with a few minor amendments, a set of proposed by-laws for the Forum. The group also confirmed the proposed membership of the Forum's "Planning Consultative Council" and its "Steering Committee," which are the two main decision-making bodies for the Forum.

According to by-laws adopted at the meeting, among the "aims" of the "Millennium Forum" are "to promote innovative visions and ideas of non-governmental organizations and civil society at the local, national, regional, international and global levels in regard to the objectives of the Millennium Summit/Assembly, as well as channel implementation concepts to the appropriate bodies."

The by-laws define the Planning Consultative Council as the "primary body" of the Millennium Forum. Its membership, which is expected to number more than 100 people, is composed largely of representatives of large international or regional NGOs, as well as NGO "confederations" or associations with a strong track record in the major global issue areas that the Forum hopes to address.

Although the issues to be addressed by the Forum are not defined in the by-laws, the discussion at the meeting indicated that the Forum should closely follow topics that are to be addressed by the UN's Millennium Assembly. While the agenda for the Millennium Assembly - and the proposed coinciding "Millennium Summit" for world leaders - is still under discussion, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan has suggested such a meeting might focus on peace and security, development cooperation, international economic and social affairs, humanitarian affairs, and human rights. In the planning process for the NGO-sponsored Millennium Forum, which is tentatively scheduled for May 2000, these issue areas have further been broken down into a number of subcategories, including topics such as food, aging, religion, disarmament, and education.

The Forum's Steering Committee is defined as "the primary planning and decision-making body" of the Council and will consist of about 30 individuals, as defined by the by-laws. Some 31 people were appointed to the Steering Committee at the meeting. Most had been proposed by the Interim Steering Committee, which was appointed at a meeting of NGOs at the UN last July. Among the 31 people confirmed are representatives from a diverse range of global and regional NGOs.

Also among those serving on the Steering Committee are the leaders of other major civil society and NGO gatherings scheduled for the coming year - such as the May 1999 Hague Appeal for Peace and the December 1999 World Civil Society Conference in Montreal. Organizers of the Forum hope that the outcomes from these and other upcoming civil society meetings will be incorporated into the Forum's final report, which is to be presented to the UN Secretary General and the Millennium Assembly.

For updated information, see the Millennium Forum's website at http://www.millenniumforum.org