President of the General Assembly Townhall with Civil Society
Hundreds of civil society representatives joined the President of the United Nations General Assembly (PGA), H.E. Mr. Abdulla Shahid, for a one-on-one discussion at UN Headquarters in New York.
With the UN headquarters closed to the public since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and strict safety protocols in place – which included limited presence by essential staff and delegates – the participation of civil society groups in UN activities was primarily through virtual engagement.
Thanks to the excellent arrangements by the UN Secretariat, the President's Town Hall was the first instance in the last two years that the General Assembly saw a significant return of CSOs to the UN.
Commenting on CSO participation, UN General Assembly President Abdulla Shahid said, "the UN has always relied upon civil society groups to ensure we are closer to the people we serve. Not having that direct engagement has been difficult. We are all very glad that this period seems to be coming to an end and I am particularly pleased that we were able to host such a large group, to really usher in this new period of engagement."
The one-on-one with civil society included an introductory statement from the President, where he outlined his five priorities, or 'rays of hope' for the 76th session of the General Assembly. This was followed by statements from five separate CSOs covering each of the five topics. The President also spent an hour taking questions from attendees, covering everything from gender equality to COVID-19 and vaccine equity, from youth empowerment to the revitalization of the United Nations.
In addition to the in-person attendance, which represented civil society groups from across all regions, viewers also tuned in to the global webcast, which was broadcast with interpretation in all six official languages.
The President assured the attendees that the Office of the President of the General Assembly is working with the UN Secretariat to ensure that civil society participation will continue to be welcomed at all upcoming events.
The President also welcomed the recent announcement by the Secretary-General that grounds passes for CSOs would once again be processed as of 3 January 2022.
In his vision statement "Presidency of Hope: Delivering for People, for the Planet and for Prosperity", the President of the General Assembly (PGA), in addition to laying out his "Five Rays of Hope", highlighted that he will work on building trust and cohesion with Member States, the Secretariat, United Nations major groups and international organizations.
The PGA has further asserted that a more effective and responsive United Nations will require engagement with an array of relevant stakeholders, including civil society, businesses, philanthropic organizations, academia, the scientific community, and other partners on the key issues under discussion in the General Assembly.
Building on this strong support for the meaningful involvement of civil society with issues on the agenda of the General Assembly, the PGA will convene a meeting with civil society representatives to discuss his priorities for the 76th session, as well as issues related to the challenges of and recovery from COVID-19 and how these issues are reflected in the work of the General Assembly.
- Introductory remarks by moderator
- Opening statement by the President of the General Assembly
- Remarks by keynote speakers from Civil Society Organizations
- Discussions and questions
- Closing statement by the President of the General Assembly