On June 22, ECOSOC held an interactive dialogue to discuss the relationship between Non-Governmental Organizations and the United Nations. The NGO Committee on the Family was able to make a statement at the meeting, the full text of which is below.
If you are interested in watching the entire session, the link is available here. The NGO Committee on the Family’s statement starts at approximately 2:40.15.

“Lowering Barriers; Raising Engagement”

Good afternoon.

My name is Ryan Koch, and although I represent LDS Charities, I am speaking today in my capacity as the co-chair of the NGO Committee on the Family – New York. As a committee, we believe that the family is the “natural and fundamental” building block of society, and essential for stable communities, stable nations, and a stable world.  Therefore, the mission of the NGO Committee on the Family is to promote, preserve, and protect the well-being of the family.

The work of the NGO Committees, which are organised under the auspices of the Congress of NGOs, and whose members are all ECOSOC accredited, cannot be overstated – not only do we enable multiple NGOs to speak with one voice, making it easier and more streamlined to interact and to hear from us, but we provide a transnational perspective on specific issue areas, such as the family.

Despite our successes, we often find that our work is hampered by barriers to participation that have a detrimental effect on working within the UN framework.  Only through lowering the barriers to participation can you raise engagement to a level where civil society can truly have a voice at the UN.

Let me give you just three examples.

The first is lowering the barriers to space. As my colleagues have said, in order to properly convene, educate, and share ideas, we need to have more meeting space opportunities.

The second is lowering the barriers to working with missions. A small but significant example happened last Spring. When working on having an event co-sponsored, before the scheduling team would schedule a room for the mission, we were ordered to completely revamp our website, removing even any oblique references to the United Nations, and even going so far as being told to take down the newsfeed that the UN itself provides. The purpose of the committee is to work with the UN, and also to promote the work of the UN within our respective organizations and the community writ large. If we cannot even make mention of the UN, such advocacy becomes very difficult indeed.

Most importantly, we need to lower the barriers to providing input to the work of UN. Former Secretary General Ban Ki Moon has said that “without the participation of non-governmental organizations and civil society groups, no initiative, however visionary…can be fully achieved.” When debating significant documents, every effort should be made to bring in the voice of the NGOs early and often.

I remember very well attending a meeting, much like this one, to provide input into the SDG process, where the NGO community was basically told that although we were getting a chance to speak, nothing we said would really be taken into consideration during the negotiations. Having consultative status is an empty title if we are unable to consult.

In conclusion, former Secretary General Ban Ki Moon has also said, “I am such a strong believer in NGOs, I constantly call on governments to expand space, some political, economic, social space for NGOs to work freely, without any hindrance.”

The NGO Committee on the Family echoes the same call to the United Nations – lower the barriers, raise engagement, and expand the space for NGOs to work freely, without any hindrance.

Thank you.