30 May 2016 – The sixty-sixth United Nations Department of Public Information/Non-Governmental Organizations Conference kicked off today in Gyeongju, Republic of Korea, with Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon highlighting the vital role that NGOs, academia and youth play in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
“We need governments, the private sector and civil society,” Mr. Ban told the more than 2,000 people gathered for the opening session. “Without the participation of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and civil society groups, no initiative, however visionary, can be fully achieved,” he added.
From 30 May to 1 June, a series of roundtable discussions, workshops and youth caucuses with civil society representatives and groups will focus on education as an entry point towards realizing the SDGs.
“Education is critical to nurture global citizens who can rise to the challenges of the 21st century,” continued Mr. Ban, encouraging young people everywhere to be global citizens and for governments and NGOs to boost the participation of and with their national youth groups.
“Let us work together to foster education for global citizenship – education that empowers people to contribute to our common future,” he underscored.
“NGOs are on the vanguard of international action,” asserted the UN chief, adding that “throughout history, when governments reach a stalemate, NGOs work to break it.”
Recalling that just four days ago, at the Jeju Forum for Peace and Prosperity, in Seoul, he had denounced the shrinking democratic space, and urged freedom for civil society organizations, NGOs and human rights defenders, the Secretary-General noted that unfortunately, such freedom is under threat, “including at the last place this should happen: at the United Nations.”
“I am deeply disappointed that the Member States on [the UN Economic and Social Council] ECOSOC NGO Committee recently denied the Committee to Protect Journalists consultative status,” he told the Conference, adding that he was also opposed to the exclusion of LGBT organizations from the upcoming High-Level Meeting on Ending AIDS. “These NGOs are close to communities affected by the epidemic and they must be part of the response,” he stated.