Global Policy Forum

Panel of Eminent Persons on United Nations-Civil Society Relations (Cardoso Panel)


2002 - 2004

UN Secretary General Kofi Annan proposed the Panel on September 30, 2002 as part of a broad set of reform measures. Annan's mandate hinted at problems from the very outset, since the Panel was told to consider UN relations not only with NGOs but also with "other civil society actors" -- taken to include parliamentarians, think-tanks and even business firms. After more than a year of consultations and deliberations, the Panel issued its report on June 21, 2004. The jargon-filled report proposed changes that could weaken the role of NGOs and even undermine the UN's legislative function in favor of ill-defined "multi-constituency dialogues." A number of NGOs issued sharply critical statements over the summer of 2004 and delegations expressed strong displeasure too. On September 17, 2004, the Secretary General released a short report of his own that eliminated the worst features of the Panel's proposals but retained some of the basic architecture. Criticism continued, sharpened by rumors that the highly-effective Non-Governmental Liaison Service (NGLS) might fall victim to the bungled Cardoso process. Postings below include the basic documents as well as NGO responses.


Key Documents | UN & Related Documents | NGO Contributions & Responses | Articles | Links and Resources

Key Documents

Report of the Secretary General on Cardoso Follow-Up (September 17,2004)

The Secretary General draws on the Cardoso Report, setting out those proposals he intends to promote. This report is far shorter than Cardoso and it avoids some Cardoso features that NGOs found most objectionable. It proposes NGO accreditation to the General Assembly, a de-politicized accreditation process, a trust fund to promote more participation by Southern NGOs and better UN-NGO relations at the country level.

We the Peoples: Civil Societ, the United Nations and Global Governance (June 11, 2004)

The panel proposed a radically new approach to the UN's relationships with NGOs, framed no longer in terms of NGO input to multilateral decisions but instead participation in "multi-constituency dialogues" that would include business, parliamentarians, indigenous peoples and others identified as key players by UN staff. Loaded with feel-good jargon about "partnerships" "dialogue" and "paradigm shifts," the report is dangerous and may lead to weakened NGO rights and access and a sharply-increased role for business in the UN system.

Letter to the Secretary General about NGLS (October 25, 2004)

This letter warns that the Cardoso process has created uncertainties about the future funding of the UN Non-Governmental Liaison Service (NGLS). The signatories, which include Global Policy Forum, The World Federalist Movement, Amnesty International, Social Watch, Third World Network and others, ask the Secretary General to prevent the disruption of this important NGO-supportive inter-agency program by 'reinforcing' the NGLS budget through 2006.

Comments by Global Policy Forum on the Crdoso Panel Report (August 2004)

This paper suggests that the Cardoso Panel was flawed from the beginning by its composition and terms of reference. It discusses the serious problems with the "multi-constituency" and "dialogue" process proposed for the UN of the future. And it considers all 30 proposals with comments on each. It concludes that the report poses a danger to the NGO community and to the UN itself. (Global Policy Forum)

GPF Statement to the Cardoso Panel (November 2003)

This paper, submitted to the Panel of Eminent Persons on UN-Civil Society Relations, raises many issues of concern to NGOs.

UN & Related Documents


Brazilian Draft Resolution on UN-Civil Society Relations (February 16, 2005)

In this draft resolution on UN-civil society relations following up on the Cardoso report, the Brazilian delegation invites NGOs to participate in General Assembly (GA) main committee meetings and offers informal, interactive hearings before major events, but stops short of calling for NGO participation in the GA's annual plenary meeting. The resolution also welcomes the trust fund for NGOs particularly of developing countries, and decides to establish a working group to analyze a single NGO accreditation system at the UN.

General Assembly Debate on UN Reform and the Cardoso Panel (October 4-5, 2004)

In this two-day General Assembly debate, most delegations did little more than support the need for UN reform and agree that NGO participation benefited the UN. A few speakers raised questions on the recommendations for a single accreditation process, an NGO trust fund and specific methods of NGO participation. (UN News)

The Eminent Persons Panel Program of Work (June 2003)

The Panel's work program from June 2003 through April 2004. At the first Panel meeting in June 2003, the Panel agreed on a Work Program that emphasizes an open, transparent and consultative process.

The Eminent Persons Panel Terms of References (February 2003)

NGO Contributions & Responses


Too Close For Comfort: Should Civil Society and the Global Compact Live Under the Same UN Roof? (September-October 2004)

The CIVICUS UN Representative criticizes the Cardoso Report's Proposal 9 (The Global Compact initiative) on UN partnership with corporations because it will increase NGO distrust of the UN. In his previous monthly column, the Representative stated that "The Global Compact needs to clean-up its act and to show some real progress toward its mission before it can gain its own credibility." (CIVICUS - World Alliance for Citizen Participation)

WFUNA Response to the Cardoso Report (September 24, 2004)

The World Federation of United Nations Associations (WFUNA) responds favorably to the Cardoso Panel report, noting WFUNA's agreement with the basic principles of the report, including multi-constituency dialogue. The paper includes ways that UNAs can adopt the framework for their own national action in support of the UN.

WFUNA Comments on the Secretary General's Report (September 21, 2004)

The World Federation of United Nations Associations, along with several partners, has issued this statement urging NGOs and governments to support the Secretary General's proposals. The paper offers responses to various government objections, including concerns that the proposed reforms will erode state sovereignty, undermine the intergovernmental process and give too much legitimacy to NGOs. It also speaks to NGO fears that existing rights might be eroded, that more restrictive standards of accreditation may be imposed and that business firms overshadow NGOs.

Women, Peace & Security Working Group Statement on Cardoso (September 17, 2004)

This group, which includes WILPF, WEDO, the Hague Appeal for Peace and others, proposes three initiatives concerning the UN Security Council: all briefings should include gender analysis and women's input, field missions should always meet with women's groups, and the Council should have periodic seminars with civil society groups.

Letter on Cardoso from Human Rights Watch, the Quakers, the Lutheran World Federation and others (September 1, 2004)

The letter welcomes the Cardoso Report's proposals to increase UN engagement with civil society at the country level and particularly in the South. But the letter expresses concern that the report may undermine NGOs role, which is based in Article 71 of the Charter. Like other NGO comments, the letter expresses concern at the "ambiguity" of many proposals that provide much "potential for misuse."

WEDO Statement on the Cardoso Report (September 2004)

Women's Environment and Development Organization welcomes some of Cardoso's "valuable proposals" but it warns that the report is flawed in many respects. It expresses concern about the report's vision of the UN as a "facilitator" and "convenor" and notes that multi-stakeholder forums are often unproductive. It insists that the UN give more attention to gender in its relations with civil society, warns of many "ambiguities" in the report, and notes that the "partnership" model favored by the report privileges private companies at the expense of NGOs.

Amnesty International Comments on the Cardoso Report (August 31, 2004)

In this letter, Amnesty International welcomes the report's premise that the UN will be more effective if it increases its dialogue and cooperation with civil society. Amnesty favors the report's proposal to depoliticize the NGO accreditation process. Amnesty expresses concern that the report does not recognize the unique role of public-benefit NGOs under the charter and warns that the recommendations are vague and could be implemented in ways that might harm NGOs.

CONGO Comment on Cardoso Report (August 27, 2004)

A letter from the Conference of NGOs to UN Secretary General Kofi Annan expressing concern that the report indiscriminately mixes NGOs, parliamentarians and business firms. It calls for better funding of UN-NGO programs, it urges a clearer approach to new accreditation procedures, and it complains that the report represents little original thinking on how to bring more Southern NGOs into UN.

World Federalist Movement's Letter on the Cardoso Panel's Report (August 24, 2004)

In a letter to Secretary General Kofi Annan and Deputy Secretary General, Louise Frechette, the World Federalist Movement (WFM) expresses its support for the Panel and some concerns with the report. WFM calls for clearer rules of engagement for the business sector at the UN and the extension of NGO consultative status to the General Assembly.

Lutheran Office for World Community Response to the Report (August 3, 2004)

Addressing an NGLS briefing on New Modalities for Engagement, the Lutheran Office offers initial thoughts on the Cardoso Panel's Report. It warns against the risk of confusion between NGOs and other groups such as business and parliamentarians if these entities are collected under a single Secretariat's Office. This could result in a "dilution of attention to the needs of NGOs."

Third World Network Comment on the Cardoso Report (August 2004)

This report concludes that the Cardoso Report is seriously flawed and, if implemented, would not improve UN-NGO relations. The report raises questions about the "partnership" and "multi-constituency" models offered by the report and it urges a more fundamental critique of global institutions and power relations. (Third World Network)


UN Should Forge Stronger Ties with Civil Society, Deputy Secretary-General Says (October 4, 2004)

In a General Assembly debate on the Cardoso Panel report, Deputy Secretary General Louise Fréchette reiterated the Secretary General's call for incorporation of NGO contributions into the General Assembly's regular business. She also supported increased NGO access to documents and information. Better NGO-UN relations, said Fréchette, could "help improve the services we provide to the world's people." (UN News)

UN Plans to Boost NGOs Come Under Scrutiny (June 21, 2004)

In its final report the Eminent Persons Panel on UN - Civil Society Relations suggested the creation of a new UN office under the leadership of a high level person to mediate between "civil society" and the UN. While some NGOs welcome the idea, most remain guarded because the term "civil society would encompass both NGOs and the business community." (Inter Press Service)

Civil Society and Global Governance (June 13, 2003)

This contextual paper prepared by the Panel´s Chairman Fernando Henrique Cardoso looks at the emergence of "global politics" and analyzes challenges faces by the panel.

Do the Watchdogs Need Watching? (June 13, 2003)

Increasing representation of NGOs at the United Nations requires basic legal guidelines to which all NGOs will have to be accountable. How will the Panel solve these matters and at the same time acknowledge that NGOs need some freedom to work efficiently? (Inter Press Service)

Press Conference on United Nations-Civil Society Relations (June 3, 2003)

The Panel of Eminent Persons on UN Relations with Civil Society continues the search of how to integrate the non-State actors in the decision making process. NGO access to the Security Council seems to be impossible as the Charter identifies states as the members of Organization. (UN News)

UN System and Civil Society - An Inventory and Analysis of Practices (May 2003)

This background paper is intended to assist the work of the Panel by describing the changing role of civil society in the UN processes. The paper also aims at helping the Panel identify the concerns and problems described by civil society.

UN-Civil Society Relations Panel Established by Secretary-General (February 13, 2003)

UN Secretary General Kofi Annan asks the Panel for an assesment of interaction beween United Nations and civil society organizations and to give recommendations. (UN Press)

Links and Resources

Panel of Eminent Persons on United Nations-Civil Society Relations

Link to the Panel's web site, includes background papers, documents and updates on meetings of the Panel.

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