Background information to assist NGOs in their participation at the CSD

This document was prepared by the Co-Chairs of the CSD NGO Steering Committee.  Its purpose is to provide basic information for NGOs prior to their arrival at the UN to allow them to maximise their time at the CSD.  The paper is divided into six sections.  Use these links to skip to the different sections: BACKGROUND AND HISTORY
The Commission for Sustainable Development (CSD) is the principal focus for international political follow up to the United Nations Commission on Environment and Development (UNCED).  Its mandate is to coordinate the activities of other UN bodies as they relate to issues of sustainable development; to analyse progress at national, regional, and international levels; and to promote the implementation of Agenda 21.  Fifty-three countries are elected to sit on the CSD.  The present Chairman is Mr. Cielito F. Habito, of the Philippines.

Last year a Special Session of the General Assembly was held to mark the five-year review of the Rio Earth Summit (held in 1992).  This session adopted a programme of work for the CSD for the next five years, culminating in another five-year review in 2002.

The overarching themes that the CSD will deal with in the next five years will be poverty and consumption patterns.  These themes will be applied to the different issues being discussed each year.

Looking forward, CSD-7 in 1999 will be considering among other things Consumption and Production Patterns, Tourism and Oceans and Seas.  CSD-8 in 2000 will be looking at Land Management, Trade and Investment and Agriculture.  At each of these meetings we need to be considering preparations for a successful ten-year review in 2002.

The Issues
The CSD Intersessional (February 23 -- March 6) dealt with:   The CSD (April 20 -- May 1) will deal with:  
The Intersessional
 The intersessional meeting of the CSD, although low-key in nature, was hailed by NGOs as a successful meeting.  Most of the points raised in NGO statements and papers, such as institutional follow-up to the Freshwater discussions and the need to undertake a study of voluntary initiatives in industry, were incorporated in the Co-Chair’s text.  The intersessional was also an opportunity to prepare for the Industry Dialogue Sessions, and to build relationships with the other actors that are involved.

Other Lead-Up Events
 Several other events have been held in the lead up to CSD-6, including:
Dialogue Sessions
 The Industry Dialogue Sessions will be held on Tuesday 21 and Wednesday 22 April.  They will primarily be between Governments, Industry, NGOs and Trade Unions.
 These sessions have grown out of the CSD Dialogue Sessions of 1997, which in turn grew out of the Committee II at Habitat II.  This year’s Dialogue Sessions will try and advance the idea of partnership and stakeholder involvement in the UN even further.  At Habitat II and at CSD 97 the Dialogues were not linked into the actual negotiations, but ran parallel.  Here the two days have been kept free of any negotiations other than the Industry Dialogue Sessions.
 Preparations for the Dialogue Sessions have been undertaken by a consultative group made up of the UN Division for Sustainable Development and other relevant UN Agencies, the NGO CSD Steering Committee, the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC), the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) and the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU).
 The Industry two days will be broken into four sessions: For each of these four sections there will be a paper presented by the UN, Industry, Trade Unions and NGOs.  Most of these papers, including all of the NGO papers, have already been released and are available at the following web site:

The papers do not claim to represent all NGO viewpoints.  Rather, each paper forms a starting point for discussion.

The Dialogues will be held in the ECOSOC Chamber, with the inner ring being made up of governments, NGOs, Industry and Trade Unions.  The sessions (and the seating arrangements) will be structured to allow for equal time between sectors, and for sufficient time for meaningful dialogue to take place.  A seat and microphone will be provided to allow for major groups to also participate.

The CSD NGO Steering Committee set up four working groups to coordinate the production of the NGO papers. The contact people for the groups are:

Responsible Entrepreneurship:
The NGO Task Force on Business and Industry;
Contact  Jeffrey Barber
tel: +1 (202) 872 5339
fax: +1 (202) 331 8816
Focusing on voluntary agreements, regulatory frameworks, reporting and partnerships

Corporate Environmental Management for Sustainable Development:
ForUM Norway and Third World Institute
Contact: Anantha Krishnan
tel: +47 222 09870
fax: +47 222 03780
Focusing on workplace conditions, ISO 14000, EMASS, Environmental and Social Auditing, training and social assessment.

Technological Cooperation and Assessment:
Pauulu Kamarakafego (INSNI) and Vandana Shiva (RAAFI)
Contact: Pauulu Kamarakafego
tel: +1 (441) 292 1599
fax: +1 (441) 295 2933
Focusing on technological choices and the impact of new technologies.

Freshwater and Industry:
The NGO Freshwater Caucus
Contact: Lyn Billman Golemme
tel: 1 508 799 0500
fax: 1 508 366 2021
Focusing on water management in industry, cleaner production and water supply.

Speakers for the NGOs are being identified by the groups that worked on the papers, with final overview for regional and gender balance by the Co-Chair and Co-Facilitators of the Steering Committee.  Teams for each issue are also being identified.  Their role will be to back the speaker up, and to answer questions from the floor.

Other Issues
The NGOs will be actively involved in all of the other issues being considered at CSD-6.  The pre-CSD Strategy Meeting on Sunday 19 April (see section 5.3) will be the best place to ascertain what the different NGOs are doing.

Who Can Participate?
All non-governmental organisations (NGOs) already in Category I or Category II or Roster Status with the UN ECOSOC can participate at the CSD and its intersessional meeting.  In addition, those groups that were accredited to the Earth Summit in 1992 and who then submitted an application for accreditation to the CSD and had it accepted, can attend.

One of the key developments since the Earth Summit has been advancement of the term ‘Major Groups’.  This is an attempt to distinguish among organisations that the UN had all previously identified as NGOs.  For some purposes, trade unions, business and voluntary sector groups are all still classed as NGOs.  Agenda 21, the main text of the Earth Summit, recognised nine Major Groups. These were: farmers, voluntary groups (now technically called NGOs), youth, trade unions, industry, scientists, women, indigenous peoples, and local authorities. Agenda 21 has a chapter on each of these which includes responsibilities for those groups.

NGOs can make very important contributions without being accredited by submitting relevant material to their government on their concerns and wishes, or by working with NGOs which are able to participate. Copies of any submissions made to the government should also be sent to the CSD Major Groups or regional representative as well.

Your accreditation details should be faxed to the NGO Section of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs on your headed note paper, no later than two weeks before the meeting you are going to attend.  The fax number to send to is + 1 (212) 963 4116 or 963 9248.

Why Participate?
Since the Earth Summit in Rio in 1992 the role and access of NGOs and Major Groups to CSD meetings has increased enormously. This has come about because there is a recognition and tacit admission by governments that neither they nor the UN system have the political will, imagination or the ideas in many cases to deliver much of what needs to be done. Over 100 countries have created National Sustainable Development Councils/Round Tables made up of Major Group representatives to help them. Another term for Major Groups now more in vogue is 'stakeholders'.

National: It should be remembered that participation in the CSD is not a substitute for working at local, national or regional levels on the issues. Rather it is a very useful complement to the work done at other levels - providing information which may be useful about ongoing work as well as an important global forum for communicating concerns of constituencies at home.

If you are coming to the events in 1998 then you should be organizing meetings with other NGOs in your country and then with your Government.

International: Participating in the CSD is an opportunity to monitor governments’ policies being placed in front of their peer group, i.e. other countries.  The need for each country to explain the implications of its policies can provide an opportunity to put pressure on a government.

There will be many opportunities to influence each government to sign up to policies that perhaps its representatives did not plan to support when they got on the plane to New York.

Attending is a very efficient way of finding out what's happening on variety of issues relating to sustainable development around the world.  It is also a good way of getting information and messages out to a broad range of governments, international organisations and NGO and Major Group representatives from around the world.

The UN offers NGOs and Major Groups a unique opportunity to maintain pressure on governments and intergovernmental organisations and to strengthen the goals of your organisation.

Political: One of the great things about the UN meetings is the access you have both to Ministers and top civil servants. It is equivalent to being allowed onto the floor of your parliament.  At appropriate moments, you can walk up to any country desk and talk to the relevant civil servant.

As well as the formal sessions there are ‘informal’ sessions to which NGOs have access. There are also ‘informal-informal’ sessions, including the contact groups, where the most difficult issues are negotiated by a restricted number of government delegates.  Under longstanding U.N. protocol, the only NGOs that used to be allowed into these sessions were those on official delegations.  Starting at the 1995 CSD, not only were NGOs allowed in but they also participated in them.  At the 1996 Habitat II PrepCom and the previous year's Informal Drafting Groups, NGOs and other Major Groups were given what amounts to negotiating rights. They were allowed to enter text amendments and have their amendments distributed by the Secretariat.

For the Habitat II Conference itself, NGOs produced an NGO Composite Text of amendments in advance and circulated it to many governments.  On the second day of the formal negotiations, the governments agreed to bring out the NGO suggestions of text amendments as a U.N. document [A/Conf.165/INF/8].  It was the first time in the history of the U.N. that this had happened.

The document was then given to all governments.  This was the only document that NGOs could make suggestions of text amendments from.  A revision of two sections - Capacity Building and Commitments - was later negotiated between the NGOs. When agreement could not be reached amongst the NGOs, then both viewpoints were represented, but it was agreed not to try to take the microphone on those issues.

The NGOs used floor managers to manage the interventions and the approach was commented upon by many governments as being very professional.  Floor managers also reported back to daily meetings on the progress of the negotiations.

A similar floor managing approach will be employed at CSD-6.  Volunteering as a floor manager will require half a day of your time and is well worth doing to gain a better understanding of the negotiating process.

Different Methods of Participation
4.3.1 Before you arrive
It is important to discuss the agenda of the meeting within your organisation and among others in your field who will not be able to attend the CSD.  A well organised back-up by other NGOs in your country can mean pressure being put on the government at home as well as in New York.  The sharing of resources and information is very important in ensuring NGOs are as effective as possible.

4.3.2  At the CSD
Every day government representatives meet to share what has happened and what they expect will happen that day. NGOs are also well organised and meet daily at 9.15am for morning strategy sessions.

Working with other NGOs from your country, as a team, at the meetings is very useful. It will be impossible for an individual to cover everything, so if there is an opportunity to cooperate with other organisations at the meeting and the work can be shared, it can be far more effective.  This is particularly vital if there are NGOs on the government delegation.
If you are the only representative from your country at the CSD then it would be very useful to work through an NGO regional bloc. There will be a daily diary to keep NGOs abreast of meetings.

The rules of procedure within the UN recognise that NGOs and Major Groups play an important role as representatives of significant constituencies.  Accredited NGOs may represent their constituencies in a number of ways:

 a) Sending an observer to the official sessions. All accredited NGOs are entitled to have an observer at open sessions of the CSD. These NGO observers can bring back information and analysis to their constituencies and to the wider public.
b) Making oral statements to the CSD. The rules of procedure give accredited NGOs the right to make brief oral statements, at the discretion of the Chair and with consent of the members.
 Given that more accredited NGOs may wish to speak than can be heard during the relatively brief sessions, NGOs are usually encouraged to select a small number of speakers to make oral statements. This is best done through the NGO caucuses on different topic areas.  These are also able to balance the speeches among NGOs representing different themes, sectors, regions and gender.  The statements are most effective if they are brief, substantive in nature and reflect the perspective of more than one organisation.
c) Submitting written statements.  The rules of procedure allow for accredited NGOs to circulate written statements: however, these are not issued as official documents, and the NGO bears the costs of translation, printing and circulation.  There will be a table usually outside the official conference room where your papers can be put.  Though this is a good idea it is vital that you personally hand copies of your material to the key delegations you want to influence.
 Consolidated NGO statements representing a wide range of relevant constituencies carry a significantly greater weight with governments.  On most issues there will usually be list-servers set up through the CSD NGO Steering Committee.  This will enable initial positions to be brought together before arriving at the meetings.
 The usual way of presenting information is to take the Government text and reproduce it with NGO parts in bold. It helps the delegates understand what you want added and where.  Text which does not fit into the document under discussion will not usually be well received.
d) Formal consultations.  Every year at the CSD, key country blocs such as the Group of 77 (G77) or the European Union (EU) meet with the NGOs.  When such consultations are organised it will probably be through the NGO Steering Committee.
e) Meeting with your government delegation.  In the two week period of the CSD Intersessional and the CSD it is useful to have regular, possibly even daily, meetings with your government delegation. This is a way to put over your concerns as a group, and conversely, convince governments of your abilities.
 For the CSD some governments allow Major Groups and NGO representatives to go on their delegation.  This means the people who are on delegation have access to the most up to date information. To have people on delegation can be very important to ensure that the views of the Major Groups are represented in delegation meetings.
 Someone on delegation for the first time can miss a lot of useful information as they will be not used to the process. There will be a lot of people at the CSD who have been on a governmental delegation before. The CSD NGO Steering Committee will be able to help you find someone to talk to about it.
 To ensure that the views of NGOs/Major Groups are represented there should be daily contact with your representatives on the government delegation.
 In the negotiations there may be many occasions when the NGOs and the government representatives will want the same outcome. This then enables the government to utilise the support of their NGOs. Do not make the mistake of thinking that the civil servants are always representing the views of the governing party.  Some may want exactly what the NGOs want and therefore it is important to have a good relationship with them.
f) Targeting other governments.  Your country may work in a bloc. For example, the UK operates within a joint EU line. Therefore the ability to persuade them to propose amendments is much more difficult. It is well worth targeting the Canadian, Australian and US governments. Also the six East European countries - Poland, Russia, Belarus, Bulgaria, Hungary and the Ukraine are worth targeting.  They do not operate as a group and so they can be much easier to persuade to your views.
 If your country isn't on the CSD Bureau (the 53 countries that may up the CSD) then target countries in your region.
g) Informal contacts with delegates. Much of the work of conveying constituents' views to countries happens informally. The key places are:  
4.3.3 Substantive contributions
Many NGOs/Major Groups have expert or technical expertise in issues under consideration. They can therefore:

a) Propose agenda items, a right held by NGOs/Major Groups in Category I Consultative status only
b) Submit papers or reports.  NGOs/Major Groups may submit papers and reports to the CSD secretariat directly. Where relevant they will be forwarded to the UN Task Manager for that subject area.
c) Draw attention to urgent and emerging issues - a category of unspecified issues which is on the CSD Agenda every year. Particularly in the High Level segment - the part when Ministers are there.  NGOs/Major Groups can use this to draw attention to problems not adequately covered in Agenda 21, either by encouraging a government to raise the issue in the High Level Segment or by issuing its own statement of concern
d) Prioritizing issues - because the CSD will not be able to take up every issue every year, it must prioritize and focus. NGOs/Major Groups can provide the insights as to which issues they should take up.

e) Participate as outside experts - NGOs/Major Groups can create a close relationship with the UN Task Manager for a particular chapter therefore enabling them to become an ad hoc advisor.
f) Form NGO/Major Groups caucuses. As the CSD starts to develop the opportunities for issue-based networks to be created and evolved into the official proceedings will increase.


CSD NGO Steering Committee
This body, elected annually by the NGOs attending the CSD has acted for NGOs since CSD-2.  Elections for a new Committee will take place in the second week of the CSD.  The role of this Committee at the CSD and the CSD Intersessional is to:  Esmeralda Brown, of the Service for Peace and Justice in Latin America, is the Southern Co-Chair of the CSD NGO Steering Committee.
 Michael McCoy, of the US Citizens' Network, and Felix Dodds, of UNED-UK, are the Northern Co-facilitators. (see addresses)  The Co-Facilitator arrangement was adopted last year as a temporary arrangement until the elections this year.
 The Steering Committee is composed of representatives of regional, major groups and issues-based caucuses, with liaison to other major networks (CONGO, Earth Council and the CSD Chair) The caucuses are listed in section 5.9  below.
 The Steering Committee will meet formally at least twice during the CSD.  The first meeting has been set for 9.30 a.m. – 5 p.m. on Saturday 18 April at the Church Center.  Anyone can attend as an observer.
 Administrative support for the Steering Committee is provided by the Northern and Southern Clearinghouses (see section 7, Key Contacts).

Non Government Liaison Service, NGLS
 NGLS is an office of the UN that supports the NGOs in their efforts to monitor the social and economic agenda of the UN.  NGLS usually books a room (probably Committee Room A, B or C) where they put computers and other materials that you may need to use.  Each day NGLS produces a diary of events.
 NGLS will also be in charge of booking of rooms.  If you want to organise a meeting you need to request a room from Abby Neville at least the day before and receive confirmation that the room has been booked (see section 7, Key Contacts). It is important to note that there is very high demand for rooms this year.  The Church Center will also be available for meetings.

NGO Meetings During CSD-6
 A pre-meeting NGO Strategy Session has been organised by the CSD NGO Steering Committee for Sunday April 19, 10 a.m. - 4 p.m.  The session will be held at the Church Center (on 44th Street between 1st and 2nd Avenues).
 Daily NGO Strategy Meetings will be held at 9.15 a.m. in one of the conference rooms (look for the announcement of the room in the NGLS Daily Diary).  These meetings are important as they offer a chance for NGOs to share information, make announcements and plan for the day ahead.
 There will also be regional caucus and issue-based caucus meetings.  If your country is operating in a bloc then it is useful to organise relevant bloc meetings of the NGOs with that bloc, e.g. the EU.
 One of the important caucuses at CSD2 was made up from those Major Groups represented on government delegations. They work on preparations for the high level segment of the CSD when Ministers arrive.

 On 20th April you should expect a long accreditation procedure.  It may take up to an hour to get your pass. This is done in the visitor entrance to the UN. You will not be let in until 9 a.m. You will need to take with you the following:   If you arrive a few days early it is well worth sorting out your accreditation then.

Documentation and Press
 There may be problems with initial access to all the UN documentation as they become available.  Try not to take more than one copy and if you are not interested in a particular paper leave it for someone who is.  The CSD NGO Liaison Office or NGLS will provide some papers.  But if there really are none around a good place to look for spares is on the press floor.  There are two levels in the UN Tower which the press have rooms and where papers are put out for them.
 On one of those floors the press have a café which is a good place to meet some of them.

 Outreach: This is the daily newsletter of the CSD NGO Steering Committee.  It is produced throughout CSD meetings, and is published by WFUNA (the World Federation of U.N. Associations).  Outreach contains commentary from a range of NGO perspectives, reports on NGO meetings, and analysis of the official sessions.  To contribute articles contact the WFUNA office at Room 1177, One U.N. Plaza, tel. 212 963 5610, fax 963 0447 or
 Earth Negotiations Bulletin: This is produced by a small group of NGOs. It comes out daily and summarises the debate from the formal session. It also includes information on informal and informal-informal meetings.
 Earth Summit Times: This was originally set up in the Rio process but has been coming out regularly at all UN events.  It is funded by various companies and foundations.  It will have articles and reasonably up to date information.
 ECO: This is a newsletter that is produced by environmental NGOs at different intergovernmental meetings.  It sometimes has been produced at the CSD.
 NGLS Daily Diary: This will list all the meetings that are occurring.

Communications between meetings
 Regular mailings are sent out from the Steering Committee Clearing houses.  For those NGOs with access to e-mail, there is a listserv for CSD NGOs.  To subscribe, send an untitled message to with the message:
 subscribe csdgen
 Other listservs have been set up on specific issues. For Freshwater, send an untitled message to with the message:
 subscribe ngowater [your e-mail address]
 For Industry, send an untitled message to with the message:
 subscribe ngoindustry [your e-mail address]
 It is anticipated that lists will be established for the topics under consideration at the 1999 session of the CSD.

NGO Relations
 Sometimes NGOs from the North fail to take account of the concerns of the Southern NGOs. Southern NGOs rightly feel limited by the lack of translation facilities (NGO meetings are usually in English), can feel that their views are not adequately represented - there are more Northern NGOs than Southern ones.  This can be seen particularly when trying to agree a joint NGO position paper.
 It does take longer when NGOs come together to try to negotiate an agreed position. It is much easier just to put your own paper out, but it also carries much more weight if there can be an agreed position. It's worth the extra time.
 This CSD will be working under considerable financial pressure due to the financial crisis in the UN. A result of this is that evening meetings that NGOs used to have translation for will now not have translation and will cost around $60 an hour for the microphones to be left on.

Caucuses and Major Groups
 The Caucuses and Major Groups that were recognised by the Steering Committee in 1997 are as follows.  Not all of these caucuses will be attending CSD-6, as the meeting is working on a reduced agenda that will not cover all of the caucuses’ issues.  

…at the U.N.
Food and drink.
There are several restaurants in the UN, the Cafeteria in the Secretariat is located on the first floor, south annex, south side of the building. There is also a cafeteria located in the DC1 building on level 3 and in the UNICEF building on the ground floor.

Banking facilities.
The Chemical Bank is situated in the Secretariat building at the south end of the fourth floor. Hours are 9.30 a.m. to 3.30 p.m.

Post Office.
There is a US Post Office located in the Secretariat building, through the glass doors at the base of the escalator. In addition you can purchase UN stamps in the visitor's area of the General Assembly building.

Medical Service is located in the Secretariat building room S-0557, ext 3.7090.

Photocopying and Computers.
A photocopier and computers will probably be available to NGOs in one of the small conference rooms.  However, you will need to supply your own paper.  The Church Center also has a photocopier.  To photocopy outside the UN you need to go to Kinko’s which is on 46th Street between 1st and 2nd Avenue. They also have computers you can go in and hire.

Other Buildings and Facilities.
UNDC1 and UNDC2  are two adjoining buildings located on the northwest corner of 44th Street and First Avenue.

Many UN program departments and some specialized agencies have offices in the buildings. For example you will find UNDP, INSTRAW, FAO and the IMF in UNDC1. The UNESCO, DPCSD and WHO are in UNDC2.  UNICEF is on 44th Street directly across from UNDC2.

The Dag Hammarskjold Library occupies a three story building on the south side of the UN. It is open Monday to Friday a.m. to 6 p.m.  It has photocopying facilities.

… in New York
Arriving at JFK/LaGuardia Airport.  At all the New York Airports you can use the Carey Bus to get into New York.  From JFK it costs $13.  The bus takes about 55 minutes and arrives at 42nd Street or 125th Street.  For LaGuardia it costs $10 and goes to the same stops.  Taxis are also available from the airports, although they are more expensive.

It is possible to take the subway; to do this you take a courtesy bus to the subway station then it costs $1.50 to 42nd Street. This takes about 1 hour 30 minutes.

A small selection of lower priced accommodation close to the U.N.  All rates are daily:

Big Apple Hostel
119 West 45th Street
tel. 212 302 2603
Shared: $25 Private: $65

Hampshire Ambassador Hotel
132 West 45th Street
tel. 212 921 7600
Single/Double: $139 + 13.25% tax, incl. breakfast

Hotel Wolcott
4 West 31st Street
tel. 212 268 2900
Single/Double $120 + tax

Iriquois Hotel
49 West 44th Street
tel. 212 840 3080
Single/Double: $175 + tax

Pickwick Arms
230 East 51st Street
tel. 212 355 0300
One person: $90; 2 people: $110; 3 people: $135 + tax

Vanderbilt YMCA
224 East 47th Street
tel. 212 756-9600
Single: $55 Double: $68 (no tax charged)

Taxis are easily hailed on the street. Official license cabs are painted yellow and a light on the roof of the vehicle indicates that the taxi is available for hire.  Subways are a fast means of travel. Most go North to South in Manhattan. Cross-town trains run between Grand Central Station and Times Square on 42nd St. The fare is $1.50.  You need to purchase a token or a ‘Metrocard’ to get on to the platform.  With the Metrocards, purchasing ten rides gives you one extra ride free.

Buses also cost $1.50.  You need the exact fare and can use coins (not notes), subway tokens or a Metrocard.  There are more cross-town services than on the subway.


UNHQ: Visitors Entrance (for accreditation) 1st Avenue at 45th Street

Church Center: 777 UN Plaza (44th St between 1st and 2nd Avenues).

NGO Unit in DPCSD (This is for accreditation), UNDC2 Room DC2-2340, 44th Street
Tel (212) 963 4842 Fax (212) 963 4116 or -9248

Steering Committee:
Northern Co-Facilitator: Felix Dodds,
Tel: + 44 171 839 1784; Fax: + 44 171 930 5893;

Northern Co-Facilitator: Michael McCoy
Tel/Fax: + 1(212) 243 1855;

Southern Co-Chair: Esmeralda Brown
Tel: + 1(212) 682 3633; Fax: + 1(212) 682 5354;

Northern Clearinghouse:  Megan Howell
Tel: + 1 (212) 963 0963; Fax: + 1 (212) 963 0447;

Southern Clearinghouse: Glen Gilpin and Kathia Boisrand
Tel + 1 718 773 8437; Fax + 1 718 774 6946;

NGLS: Room 6015, 866 UN Plaza New York, NY 10017 Tel (212) 963 3125