Human Rights

Back to listDec 7, 2007

Conference of NGOs (CONGO) General Assembly Held in Geneva

CONGO General Assembly's plenary session

December 5-7, 2007, CONGO, the Conference of NGOs in Consultative Relationship with the United Nations (UN), held its 23rd General Assembly at the International Conference Center in Geneva, Switzerland. CONGO is a membership association with more than 500 member NGOs from 74 countries, working to ensure that NGOs are present when governments discuss issues of global concern at the UN and to facilitate NGO discussions on such issues. Some 300 representatives from CONGO organizations participated, including Kazunari Fujii, representative of the SGI UN Liaison Office in Geneva and chair of the Geneva-based NGO Working Group on Human Rights Education and Learning (WG on HREL) of CONGO.

At the assembly, Rev. Liberato C. Bautista, the United Methodist Churches representative, was approved as the new CONGO president. Speakers at the opening session included: Director General of the UN Office at Geneva Mr. Sergei Ordzhonikidze; Human Rights Council President Ambassador Doru Romulus Costea from Romania; and Kyung-wha Kang, deputy UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR). Mr. Ordzhonikidze expressed his expectations for civil society to further contribute to tackling various issues of concern to the UN. Ambassador Costea stated that NGOs have played an important role in adopting all major international human rights treaties, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (December 10, 1948). He stressed that governments and civil society share responsibilities in the UN as equal partners. Ms. Kang stated that partnership between NGOs and the UN is necessary for advancing the UN's human rights agenda.

Under the theme of the conference, "Moving from Consultation to Partnership in Promoting Rights and Responsible Governance at All Levels," a number of roundtable and panel discussions and workshops were held on issues related to peace, gender, development, human rights, the empowerment of civil society, solidarity and governance.

Mr. Fujii (second from left) speaks at the workshop

Representing SGI, Mr. Fujii chaired a workshop on "Dynamic Partnerships for Human Rights Education and Learning." Thérèse Björk, associate human rights officer at OHCHR, Felisa Tibbitts, executive director and founder of the Human Rights Education Associates, and Cynthia Gervais, director of the Geneva Office of Rights and Democracy (International Centre for Human Rights and Democratic Development) based in Canada, spoke at the workshop. One of the outcomes of the workshop was integrated in "Call for Action," the final report of the assembly, which sets the course for CONGO and its member organizations for the next three years. The report states "...CONGO should support in 2009 a Civil Society Forum on Human Rights Education and Learning." SGI is expected to continue to play a leading role toward the realization of this event.

[Adapted from an article in the December 18, 2007 issue of the Seikyo Shimbun, Japan; and a report from SGI UN Liaison Officer Kazunari Fujii in Geneva; photos courtesy of Mr. Fujii]