20 April 2021 –
Less than two months to go until the first-ever UNGASS against corruption, modalities for civil society participation in the special session are finally becoming clearer, and many CSOs wish to engage and contribute to a meaningful outcome of the high-level meeting, according to the two briefings intended for civil society representatives on the status of preparations for the UNGASS. The briefings, organized by the Coalition on 14 and 15 April, provided details on the format, agenda, opportunities for participation, and the negotiations on the Political Declaration of the UNGASS.
Format of the UNGASS
The special session will take place in a hybrid format: while most in-person participants will be Member States representatives, non-governmental stakeholders will largely be allowed to participate virtually. Only very few civil society representatives will actually attend the session in the General Assembly Hall in New York (between 2-5 participants in total).
The main agenda item will be the General Debate, which will also be broadcast live on UN Web TV and will include statements by high-level representatives, among them heads of States and ministers. Time permitting, the President of the General Assembly (GA) will allow only 2-3 NGOs to deliver statements. These NGOs will be chosen in advance and can deliver a pre-recorded statement. However, they will need an in-person representative in the GA hall to introduce the speaker and the statement.
Virtual side events discussing more specific corruption-related issues will be held on the margins of the General Debate, and a virtual youth forum will take place a week before the Special Session. More information on the youth forum is available, and registration for the event is open until 5 May.
Participation in the session and in side events
The deadline for submitting an application for NGOs that are not in consultative status with ECOSOC has already passed, but there is still time for ECOSOC-accredited NGOs to apply for participation through the NGO Branch of UN DESA.
Civil society representatives who are registered for the session can participate in side events as speakers and co-organizers, joining other main organizers such as the Member States, UN bodies, and other intergovernmental organizations. However, only ECOSOC-accredited NGOs will be permitted as main organizers of side events and could apply to hold such an event. The application period for submitting a request to hold a side event is open until 30 April. See here the guidelines and application form for side events.
The Political Declaration
The negotiations of the high-level political declaration are still ongoing. Paragraphs dealing with the prevention of corruption are mostly agreed upon, which will probably result only in minor progress on most key issues. The main part of the text that is still open relates to the way forward after the UNGASS, the central questions being: What are the steps the international community needs to take to tackle weaknesses in UNCAC implementation and close the gaps in the current anti-corruption architecture? Should the establishment of other multilateral mechanisms be considered for these purposes? Or is the existing framework sufficient?
The negotiations will be finalized in the next couple of weeks, and the draft Political Declaration will be approved in a CoSP special session on 7 May, after which it will also be made public. The declaration will be formally adopted during the UNGASS opening segment on 2 June.
Opportunities for further civil society engagement
Participants discussed ideas for effective advocacy around the UNGASS in the time remaining until the session. Proposals included:
- CSOs can reach out to their governments, urging them to deliver bold and forward-looking statements during the General Debate, in line with good practices that are implemented on the national level.
- CSOs can attract international media coverage, highlighting the links between COVID-19 and corruption-related issues.
- CSOs should closely monitor the commitments that will be made in the Political Declaration, and possibly in national statements, and follow up on them to hold governments to account, including during the upcoming UNCAC CoSP that will be held in December later this year.
- CSOs expressed interest in organizing and participating in official side events, including by reaching out to Member States, or by possibly organizing alternative and independent side events that will allow for a more critical and broader civil society perspective.
The Coalition will hold another briefing for civil society representatives to reflect on the outcomes of the Political Declaration and ways to follow up on the commitments that will be made therein.