United Nations

The Millennium Forum refines its program and opens on-line registration

UNITED NATIONS - A tentative pro-gram and tighter criteria for registration were among the topics addressed at a meeting of the Millennium Forum Planning Consultative Council in December.

Scheduled for 22-26 May 2000 at United Nations headquarters in New York, the Millennium Forum will bring together representatives of civil society from all over the world to consult about the role of the United Nations in 21st Century. The Forum will also serve as an adjunct to the Millennium Summit of world leaders being organized by the UN for September 2000.

As proposed to the Planning Consultative Council on 14 December 1999, the format for the Forum aims for a high level of interaction among participants. Under this proposal, morning plenary sessions focusing on each of the six main themes of the Forum will feature short keynote presentations followed by active interchanges. In the afternoon, working group sessions will narrow the focus of the discussions, aiming to produce a final document for presentation to world leaders at the Millennium Summit.

The main themes of the Forum are: 1) peace, security and disarmament; 2) the eradication of poverty, including debt cancellation and social development; 3) human rights; 4) sustainable development and the environment; 5) the challenges of globalization; and 6) strengthening and democratizing the United Nations.

Also discussed was the need to tighten the criteria for participation in the Forum, due to the fact that the United Nations General Assembly Hall can only accommodate some 1,400 people.

"Although holding the Forum at the United Nations gives it the highest degree of credibility and impact, it also means we must limit the number of people who can physically attend the main Forum," said Techeste Ahderom, co-chair of the Forum's Executive Committee. "We hope to have satellite and on-line events that will facilitate participation at other venues. But we will have to strictly hold the line in New York."

As a result, said Mr. Ahderom, the Executive Committee has established a working set of criteria for participation. Those criteria will seek to "create a gathering that truly represents the diversity, depth, and breadth of global civil society," said Mr. Ahderom.

The Forum's Executive Committee hopes to do this by assigning priority to participation by duly appointed representatives of non-governmental organizations and organs of civil society that have been the most active and/or have the most expertise in addressing the major themes of the Forum; that have democratic structures and/or most appropriately and genuinely represent major groups that have often been neglected or under-represented in the global arena (such as women, youth, workers, and indigenous peoples) and which meet the need for an equitable geographic representation of civil society.

To facilitate the selection process, a special application form that seeks to collect basic data about an organization's size, structure and expertise has been designed. It is available on-line at the Forum's website at http://www.millenniumforum.org. The Executive Committee is also working to distribute paper-based versions of the application form to major regional civil society networks and focal points.

To give regionally based selection committees enough time to process the applications, a tentative deadline of 1 March 2000 has been established for applications.

"Because of the low level of financial resources that are generally available to NGOs, we must rely largely on the Internet for our registration and communications processes," said Mr. Ahderom. "Although this puts an extra burden on those organizations without Internet access, our hope is that brother and sister organizations around the world with computers and access will assist other NGOs and local organizations in applying, either by printing and distributing paper forms or helping them register on-line and also in terms of communicating news of the Forum."

More information can be found at the Forum's Website at: http://www.millenniumforum.org