Mandat Interational: an Idea that Became a Reality
In 1995, we were a group of people attending the Human Rights Commission. We realized how difficult it was for a number of non-governmental representatives coming from developing countries to attend the conference. I remember some delegates navigating their way around the UN with their luggage because they had no place to sleep. Others were unable to submit statements because they had no computers with which to type them out for the interpreters. Others were just lost, trying to understand how it all worked. We decided to do something about it. A few months later Mandat International was born as an association, and nine years later it was transformed into a foundation. Here is a brief overview of our activities supporting non-governmental representatives and their participation in inter- national meetings. It is a collective effort to which you can contribute.
Mandat International is now a foundation with public utility status, relying on a network of members covering the various fields of activity on the international agenda. We collaborate closely with most international organizations and we are independent of any political or religious affiliation. We have consultative status with ECOSOC, UNCTAD and DPI. Our aims can be summarized as follows:
To promote international dialogue and cooperation.
To welcome, inform and facilitate the participation of non-governmental delegates in inter- national conferences.
To support and host delegates from developing countries.
In 1997, thanks to many volunteers, we renovated an old house in Bellevue
and opened the Welcome Centre for Non-Governmental Organizations and
Delegations. Since then, it has facilitated the participation of non-governmental
representatives in international conferences. It provides support, a
meeting room, work infrastructure and affordable accommodation, with
priority for those coming from developing countries. The price for lodging
including breakfast varies according to the delegates country
of residence: 16.- CHF for LDCs and indigenous peoples; 22.- CHF for
other developing and «in-transition» countries; and
28.- for industrialized countries. More importantly, it is a place where delegates can meet and share their experiences.
Informing delegates is another important part of our work. They often have questions concerning current conferences, practical matters related to their stay, accreditation procedures, etc. In order to help them to contact other organizations (UN, NGOs, etc.), we have set up a database with over 5000 organizations, including 1,148 organizations located in and around Geneva. We also organize trainings and information sessions. When requested, we provide some guidance on International Public Law. However, as a facilitator, we never interfere with the delegates positions.
Our documentation centre gives access to information concerning conferences in various fields of activity. It is comprised of about 10,000 reference documents, over 250 periodicals, a multimedia library, several databases and access to the ODS. Documentation is sup- plied by delegates and international organizations. We also facilitate access to other specialized libraries. If you have documentation that could be of interest to delegates, please do not hesitate to send it to us.
We run several trilingual information web- sites (French, English and Spanish). They give access to information on participating in conferences and cooperating with international organizations. They include an interactive calendar of international conferences, several guides (on attending conferences in Geneva, the UN system, NGOs, etc.), a portal with over 1,000 useful links, international conventions, etc. An information platform enables organizations to present themselves, to share information and to search for partners or volunteers. An on-line voluntary fund allows us to collect contributions to support our activities and to provide financial support for delegates attending conferences. Altogether, these sites have received millions of visits from all over the world. Your comments and links to our website are most welcome: www.mandint.org.
Our support activities aside, we work on substantial issues. Having the privilege to be in direct contact with NGO representatives from all over the world and working in all fields of activity, it gives us a unique outlook on UN Civil Society cooperation. This expertise was further developed through several studies on international cooperation. In 2002, we coordinated the World Civil Society Forum on international cooperation, with the participation of several UN agencies. Last December, at the Palais des Nations, we organized a working group with NGOs based in developing countries in order to identify the main obstacles and the solutions they propose to improve their relationship with the UN system. The report is available on our website (www.mandint.org). We are also coordinating two surveys on inter- national cooperation, both of which can be filled on the web www.worldcivilsociety.org In order to contribute our knowledge and expertise to the UN system, we have also made statements to various conferences (Millennium Forum, World Conference on LDC, etc.).
Welcome Centre for Non-Governmental
Organizations and Delegations
31, chemin William Rappard 1293 Bellevue
+41 22 959 88 55
Finally, through meetings and events, we try to develop a better understanding between non-governmental delegates, the UN system and the local population. Our last event took place in July, when we hosted an Indigenous Peoples Cultural Day at our Welcome Centre in Bellevue. It was an opportunity for the representatives attending the UN Working Group on Indigenous Peoples to present their cultures and to meet the local population. Visitors had the opportunity to take a journey around the world through dance, music, food, videos and a handicraft market. All continents were represented, illustrating the increasing participation of indigenous peoples in the work of the UN. The event was a success. It gathered together families, children, NGOs, UN civil servants and indigenous peoples with a strong sense of common humanity, with all its diversity. Their cultural richness aside, indigenous peoples also reminded us of the vital role they play in promoting sustainable development, as well as their expectations at the international level.
As confirmed by the recent report of the UN High Level Panel on cooperation with civil society (Cardoso Report), cooperation between the UN and civil society is not an option it is a necessity. Non-governmental representatives are invited to attend conferences because of their expertise, grass-roots knowledge and the vital role they play in the elaboration and implementation of international policies. Through our activities, we try to facilitate this cooperation; bringing the various stakeholders and sectors of the international arena closer together. We also try to establish greater equality in North-South relations and to turn Geneva into a truly democratic forum, accessible to all regions.
What about the future? We are currently working on several projects:
Since 1999, we have been working on the opening of a new centre, close to the UN, in order to welcome, inform and provide work infrastructure for non-governmental representatives. It will be located at la Pastorale, where we already have a small office. The project is well advanced and will complete the services offered by the Geneva Welcome Centre. It will allow us to provide an information desk, a work infrastructure, Internet access, conference rooms, and our documentation centre; all easily accessible for delegates.
We are trying to increase our capacity to provide affordable accommodation. It will take time, but it is necessary due to the rising number of demands we receive.
We are developing a new database on human rights and humanitarian law, which will facilitate access to international norms.
Finally, we are coordinating the follow-up on the World Civil Society Forum. Another conference on international cooperation may be organized in 2006.
Our activities rely largely on voluntary work. You can help us, too. You can volunteer, send us documentation, create links with our web- site or simply support our activities. If you are interested, feel free to contact us.