WANGO Annual Conference 2002

Executive Summary


Frederick A. Swarts, Ph.D.

Leaders of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) from throughout the world, as well as select governmental, intergovernmental and corporate leaders, converged on Washington, D.C. from October 18-20, 2002 for WANGO Annual Conference 2002, the flagship event of the World Association of Non-Governmental Organizations (WANGO). In all, 312 prominent leaders from 74 nations participated in this three-day gathering. Including WANGO staff, day guests, and speakers, a total of 353 individuals were involved in making this meeting of the Association one of the more memorable, unique and valuable programs since the organization’s founding.

WANGO’s Annual Conference is one of the world's leading meetings for NGOs dedicated to the ideals of service, world peace, and global well-being. The centerpiece of the Association’s activities, award presentations and professional development program, the forum offers a unique opportunity for WANGO to provide NGOs with the mechanism and support desired to assist them in addressing humanity’s problems. 

This year’s conference took place at the Capital Hilton in Washington, D.C., two blocks from the White House, and was convened on the theme, Culture of Responsibility and the Role of NGOs. It provided a unique crossroads for representatives of civil society to meet, share innovative ideas and practices, and build strategic partnerships that can help NGOs better fulfill their missions. Its varied session formats included plenary sessions where leading authorities delivered presentations, panel sessions where NGO representatives introduced their organizations or discussed their activities or concerns, workshops where experts provided guidance on practical topics of importance to NGOs, and regional breakout sessions where NGOs could better network and explore regional concerns. This event was also the setting for the annual business meeting of the Association. Although WANGO has held other major programs, this was the first annual conference since the adoption of new bylaws on November 30, 2001, which established WANGO as a membership organization.

WANGO Annual Conference 2002 was particularly noteworthy in that it not only brought together major NGO leaders, but also involved them in interactive discussions with governmental representatives, designed to explore how the non-state and state actors could best cooperate to fulfill common objectives. Most of the attendees were executive officers of their NGO, with 194 serving in such a position (President, Secretary General, Director, Chairman of the Board, Founder, Deputy Director, etc.). However, the program also attracted 34 prominent governmental and intergovernmental representatives, including five Ambassadors. 

The program was also noteworthy for the diversity of NGOs represented. The 189 NGOs that sent representatives to the conference span the range from large NGOs, with millions of members, hundreds of staff, and multi-million dollar budgets to small NGOs with few staff. They are active in third world nations and industrialized nations, and represent all geographical regions: Europe, Africa, Middle East, Asia, Oceania, Latin America, the Caribbean, Central America and North America. And the participating NGOs encompass the spectrum of human activity: humanitarian aid, conflict prevention and resolution, health care, the environment, economic and social development, indigenous people, religion, media, women, youth, and so forth. WANGO Annual Conference 2002 provided an unprecedented opportunity for networking across barriers of nationality, culture, speciality, and economic status.

Among the highlights of WANGO Annual Conference 2002 was the Awards Banquet, where recognition was accorded to NGOs that have shown remarkable leadership and sacrifice in their field of endeavor. In this way WANGO recognized the spirit of service among NGOs and acknowledged particularly effective groups. 

Opening Banquet

The Opening Reception and Banquet on Friday, October 18 set the stage for this international gathering. Rev. Dr. Chung Hwan Kwak at Opening BanquetConvened by Taj Hamad, Secretary General of WANGO and Master of Ceremonies for the evening, the Opening Banquet provided a feast not only for the body, but also the mind and spirit. Rev. Dr. Chung Hwan Kwak, Chair of WANGO’s International Council, provided an overview of WANGO’s vision and set the tone for the conference in noting the important moral foundations that should underpin the work of NGOs, including service for the sake of others and going beyond the boundaries that separate us. Dr. Noel Brown, Vice Chair of the Council, as well as President of Friends of the United Nations, offered particularly thought-provoking greetings, recognizing the increasingly important role that NGOs play in addressing society’s ills, and their evolving role at the United Nations. Also presenting particularly cogent U.S. Assistant Secretary Lorne Craner, Dr. Noel Brown, and Dr. Kwakremarks was Lorne W. Craner, United States Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor. Mr. Craner coordinates U.S. foreign policy and programs that support the promotion and protection of human rights and democracy worldwide, and offered sobering remarks along these lines. The evening was capped both by the colorful and moving entertainment, complete with music and Persian costumes and dance, and by the enhanced opportunity for networking, with dessert being served throughout the hotel.

Plenary Sessions

One of the fundamental truths of a just and good society is that it depends on a culture of responsibility. The well-being of nations, corporations, media and non-governmental organizations depend on responsible citizenship, and each of these entities has a role to play in fostering a mutually beneficial culture. U.S. President George W. Bush, in his 2002 State of the Union Address, explained as much when he commented that responsibility implies service to our neighbors and to the pursuit of “goals larger than self.” To this end, he called on Americans to give 4,000 hours – the equivalent of two years of their lives – to the service of others. 

The importance of fostering a culture of responsibility among people and institutions has particular relevance to H.E. Oscar Arias Sancheznon-governmental organizations (NGOs), which have become a major and increasingly powerful force in society. NGOs have forged an effective middle ground between the state and the corporate world. As they adopt the role of advocates of a more just and caring society, NGOs can help develop and nurture such conscientiousness in our emerging global culture. Similarly, NGOs also have the duty to make sure they themselves are staying on course in terms of their founding visions of giving and service to others. 

The first plenary session explored this theme of NGOs and responsibility and was titled “Fostering a Culture of Opening Plenary Session with Taj Hamad (l), William Reuben (c) and Dr. Arias (r)Responsibility in the 21st Century.” It also dealt with general issues related to NGOs and their importance today, including the accomplishments and constraints of the non-governmental community and recent trends in global non-governmentalism. Addressing this first session were three leading lights: H.E. Oscar Arias Sanchez, former president of Costa Rica and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate for his efforts to secure peace in Central America; William Reuben, Coordinator of the NGO and Civil Society Unit at the World Bank, where he serves as a coordinating point for the Bank’s work relative to civil society; and Ms. Mei Cobb, Senior Vice President of The Points of Light Foundation, an NGO founded by former U.S. Ms. Mei Cobb, Points of Light FoundationPresident George Bush and an organization considered by many to the nation’s leading advocate for and authority on volunteering.

Plenary Session Two dealt with the theme “The Role of NGOs in Building a Human Security Community – Through Combating Terrorism and Weapons of Mass Destruction.” Among the most pressing contemporary crises facing humanity is the menace of terrorism. The September 11 terror attacks in the United States demonstrated that a small, committed group of individuals can thwart even the world’s strongest national defense, and that national security is not confined within national boundaries. One third of the people killed on September 11 were non-Americans, citizens of more than 60 countries. While the cost of the attack was perhaps less than one million dollars, the economic and social impacts were global, resulting in billions of dollars in worldwide economic loss. Likewise, the world continues to face threats from weapons of mass destruction, whether nuclear, biological or chemical. There is an urgent need for the building of a human security community.

NGOs have an important role in any broad-based vision of human security for the 21st Century. Understandably, the definition of NGOs is broad, and thus includes even extremist organizations. Even those NGOs with good programs can hinder peace and security when promoting self-interest over those of the people they serve. However, most NGOs play, or can play, important roles that can advance human security. Certain NGOs address and help to relieve the underlying conditions in which terrorism is spawned, such as poverty and lack of democracy, by providing services and humanitarian relief, health care, advocacy, and so forth. Some offer educational and monitoring programs. Others are directly engaged in conflict prevention and resolution, high-level mediation, land-mine clearance, helping refugees, and infrastructure building. Still others provide expert analyses and consul, and early warning mechanisms. As a third sector between governments and corporations – and what some call the Fifth Estate – NGOs can provide some comparative advantages such as highly motivated staff, regional expertise, and organizational freedom and flexibility. 

Speakers at this second session were three riveting women: Dr. Shireen Hunter, Ruth Wedgwood, and Dr. Laurie Mylroie. Dr. Hunter serves as Director of the Islam Program at the Center for Strategic and Ms. Wedgwood and Dr. MyiorieInternational Studies (CSIS), which with its staff of 190 researches and support staff is dedicated to providing world leaders with strategic insights on – and policy solutions to – current and emerging global issues. Ruth Wedgwood recently was elected to the United Nations Human Rights Committee (September 9, 2002), and serves as Director of the Program on International Law and Organizations at the School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University, as well as a professor of International Law at Yale Law School. Dr. Laurie Mylroie is publisher of Iraq News, an adjunct scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, and is author of Study of Revenge: Saddam Hussein’s Unfinished War Against America. These three leading authorities looked at the current and potential role NGOs play, good and bad, in combating terrorism and weapons of mass destruction – and more broadly in building a human security community, with some emphasis on the situation in the Middle East. 

As might be expected with such a diverse panel and diverse audience, and with a discussion centered on the Iraq situation, the discussion became heated, coming to a head in the question and answer session. However, under the able leadership of the panel chair, Dr. Neil Salonen, President of the University of Bridgeport, all the diverse voices were able to be expressed in an open and embracing environment, and the session ended with one of harmony more than discord.

Concurrent Sessions

Three concurrent sessions allowed greater focus on more specific issues of relevance to the NGOs gathered: NGOs and Human Rights,” “NGOs and Environmental Protection,” and “NGOs, the Family, and International Organization.”

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted in 1948, recognized that every person has inalienable rights and fundamental freedoms that cannot be denied. Nonetheless, human rights violations occur all over the world. From disappearances and arbitrary arrests and detentions, to the use of torture and police abuse, to abrogation of the freedom of religion, peaceful assembly and association, to enslavement of people, and to violations of the rights to education, food, and housing, many human beings are denied the full extent of their recognized rights. NGOs have often been at the forefront of promoting human rights around the globe. Indeed, the existence of the Universal Declaration itself is due in large part to the determination of NGOs. As advocacy, humanitarian, and investigative organizations, human rights NGOs have influenced the human rights practices of governments and the popular perceptions of human rights, and they have helped to care for victims of human rights abuses. They have been involved in lobbying political officials, international financial institutions and intergovernmental organizations; mobilizing public opinion; advancing treaty negotiations with governments; monitoring and reporting on human rights violations; providing services and training programs; and increasingly directing humanitarian assistance to disaster areas. 

The concurrent session on “NGOs and Human Rights” assessed the impact of NGOs on human rights around the world, as well as examined some of the significant human rights NGOs and the agendas and strategies they employ. Dr. Claude E. Welch, Director of the Human Rights Center of the State University of New York at Human Rights PanelBuffalo, as well as Director of the University’s Program on International and Comparative Legal Studies, served as both Chair of the session and as one of the principal speakers. Dr. Welch brought particular depth to the subject matter: he is the author of NGOs and Human Rights: Promise and Performance and Protecting Human Rights in Africa: Role and Strategies of Non-governmental Organizations, as well as numerous other texts on human rights. Joining him on the panel were Ms. Alexandra Arriaga and Mr. Paul Marshall. Ms. Arriaga serves a Director of Government Relations for Amnesty International USA, and in this capacity is a chief liaison in representing Amnesty International’s human rights concerns to U.S. and foreign government officials. Amnesty International has more than one million members, subscribers and regular donors in more than 140 countries, and thus Ms. Arriaga was able to provided special insight on the work of this NGO in addressing human rights concerns around the globe. Mr. Marshall is one of the world’s leading authorities on religion freedom. He serves as Senior Fellow and Coordinator for the Survey on Religious Freedom at Freedom House, and is the General Editor of Religious Freedom in the World: A Global Report on Freedom and Persecution (2000). In this capacity, he was able to provide particularly riveting understanding of issues of religious persecution worldwide.

The second concurrent session examined the role of civil society in protecting the environment. During the past century, we observed major environmental change. Among the deleterious trends observed were collapsing fisheries, shrinking forests, an accelerating extinction of plant and animal species, rising global temperatures, and falling fresh water tables. During the 20th Century we observed 11 of the 15 most important oceanic fisheries and 70 percent of the major fish species being fully- or over-exploited, and more than half of the world’s coral reefs dead or dying. In the past 50 years, major ecosystems, such as the Everglades, experienced a catastrophic decline in terms of both species and hydrology, leading to such sobering headlines for newspaper articles as the one titled, “Can the Everglades be Saved.”  Mr. Gary Gardner, Director of Research at the Worldwatch Institute, provided attendees at the second session with a good overview of the environmental trends we have been experiencing in recent years. Worldwatch is a major non-profit research organization and is devoted to the analysis of global environmental and resources issues; it is particularly adept at identifying and communicating global environmental trends. 

This environmental session also dealt with concrete measures being involved in tackling those deleterious trends observed. The Chair of the session, Dr. Frederick Swarts, identified several measures by which society strives to protect the planet on which we live, and the values and limitations of those means. For example, one obvious measure for protecting the environment is the instituting of legal protections, such as national, state and local laws and regulations. Environmental care is also commonly advanced through environmental education, such as explaining why it is in the interest of individuals, societies, or nations to preserve the environment. 

An increasingly important third measure for guiding human behavior toward the environment is the providing of actual economic incentives for individuals, communities and nations to protect the environment and advance sustainable development. A prominent example of this is the promotion of ecotourism. The fact that the United Dr. Donald Conroy and Ms. Megan Epler WoodNations has declared 2002 the International Year of Ecotourism highlights the importance of this approach. One of the foci of the concurrent session “NGOs and Environmental Protection” explored this component of ecotourism, with emphasis on the role of NGOs in promoting this activity as a means for environmental protection. Presenting information on this theme was one of the foremost experts on ecotourism, Ms. Megan Epler Wood. Ms. Wood is the Founder and President of The International Ecotourism Society (TIES), which has been at the forefront of the current  focus on ecotourism and its value in environmental protection.

As noted by Dr. Swarts, there is a fourth fundamental arena of potential value in guiding human behavior toward the environment and this involves the human spiritual and religious dimension and the role that faith-based NGOs can play in environmental preservation. One main focus of this concurrent session explored what role religious traditions have historically played with respect to the environment – both good and bad – and what current or potential role faith-based NGOs can play in conserving the environment. Dr. Mary Evelyn Tucker and Dr. Donald B. Conroy addressed this issue. Dr. Tucker is an Associate Professor of Religion at Bucknell University (Lewisburg, PA), and with her husband directed a series of ten conferences on World Religions and Ecology at the Harvard University Center for the Study of World Religions, which culminated in such books as Worldviews and Ecology, Buddhism and Ecology, Confucianism and Ecology, and Christianity and Ecology. Dr. Conroy serves a President of the North American Conference on Religion and Ecology (NACRE), which is involved in communicating a new vision of collaboration between environmentalists and religious leaders, and in developing a network among ecologists, economists and ecumenists to promote this new vision.

The third concurrent session, “NGOs, the Family, and International Organization,” dealt with the role of the family. Article 16 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states, “The family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the State.” One of the major policy frontlines in the 21st Century, however, centers on the issue of what actually constitutes a family and what moral and social norms are to be protected. Since the adoption of the Declaration in 1948 much has changed, and the traditional concept of what constitutes a family, marriage, and the parent-child relationship is being countered by radical new conceptions. Major international and intergovernmental organizations, such as the United Nations, often reflect some of the same societal changes. Some NGOs, as well as some governmental leaders, consider such international organizations and their various agencies as moving in a direction inimical to the nuclear family and advancing an agenda that would actually promote family breakdown. Other NGOs not only welcome the changes but also actively promote such policies in intergovernmental organizations. 

This session examined current trends with respect to the family, the societal value of the traditional family, and the role of NGOs in impacting the perspective on the family on the international level and in intergovernmental organizations, with particular emphasis on the United Nations. In this session, Dr. Richard Wilkins, Managing Director of the World Family Policy Center in Utah, provided a legal framework for understanding this issue, and how the concept of what constitutes international law itself has been evolving, to the detriment of the nuclear family. Dr. Seriah Rein, Chairman of the Council on the American Family, offered the conclusions of her findings on the evolving situation of the concept of the family in American society. Dr. Vijay Rao, Director of International Relations for the World Peace Centre of MAEER's MIT  (India) served as session chair. 

Panel Sessions

The Saturday afternoon panel sessions offered NGO leaders an opportunity to present the work of their organizations or to explore some issue of particular importance to them. A total of 27 NGO leaders presented papers in these sessions, with abstracts of their talks having been reviewed and approved by the program committee. Presentations were made in such areas as humanitarian relief, environmental protection, NGO networking, educational issues, health care, HIV/AIDS prevention, social, political and economic development, peace and conflict resolution, and women, youth, elderly and the disadvantaged. 

Education Panel SessionTo give a taste of the diversity of speakers and presentations, the following are some of the presenters and the title of papers they presented during this part of the program: Dr. David Randle, President of the WHALE Center (USA), “A Call to Global Healing: Ethical Imperatives for Sustainable Development”; Mrs. Yvonne Hinds, President of the Guyana Relief Council, “NGO Relief Service: The Guyana Experience”; Professor Woon Ho Kim, Associate Dean of the Graduate School of NGO Studies, Kyung Hee University (Korea), “Searching for a New Vision: A Global Common Society”; Mr. Mohammad Abdus Sabur, Secretary General of the Asian Resource Foundation (Thailand), “The Changing World: NGO and Interfaith Partnerships in Asia”; Dr. Ljudmilla Priimagi, Director of the Estonian Anti-AIDS Association, who reviewed her Association’s 12 years of AIDS education; Fuad Mammedov, President of the Association of Culture of Azerbaijan, “Structural Change in Azerbaijan,” Mr. Nhek Sarin, Executive Director of STAR Kampuchea, “Advocacy and Social Development in Cambodia”; Dr. Ahamada Msa Mliva, President of Comores-Espoir, who provided an overview on that organization; Mr. David Kemzeu, President of NIRMA Foundation (Cameroon), “Alternative Approaches to HIV/AIDS Prevention: A Critical Issue in Cameroon”; Professor Mihaela Dimitrescu, Vice President of the Romanian Association for European Integration Democracy, “Conflict Prevention in Europe and the Economic Dimension,” Mr. Ebenezer Okroh Akutteh, Executive Director of Plan Peace International (Ghana), “Countering Tribal and Political Tensions in Ghana”; and Mr. Yuriy Bugay, Board of Directors of the Ukraine Peace Council, “The Right of Ukraine to Call for Nuclear Disarmament.”

Membership Meeting

The membership meeting of the World Association of Non-Governmental Organizations was held on Saturday, October 19. Mr. Taj Hamad, Secretary-General of WANGO, offered his annual report to the membership. He began by reviewing the purpose of WANGO, its By-Laws, and initial activities, including an overview of the worldwide conferences and symposiums with the latest one held in Johannesburg, South Africa in September of this year, on the theme of Sustainable Development. He indicated that these meetings and conferences were effective in connecting the work of numerous NGOs. Mr. Hamad went on to inform the membership that the Association has grown from the initial 500 NGOs that were invited to the first meeting in 2000 to today’s fulltime membership of over 1,000 NGOs. Mr. Hamad informed the membership of the website, the newsletters that have been published, and the database. In addition, the Secretary General discussed new plans for WANGO to go out to the NGOs in the field and listen to them. In particular, he pointed out the newest program, “WANGO Listens to the World,” as evidence of the Association’s potential to present NGO concerns on particularly timely issues to the larger world community.

The membership also voted in three new International Council Members: Dr. V. Mohini Giri (India), Chairperson of Guild of Service, Rabbi Dr. David Ben Ami (United States), President of the American Forum for Jewish Christian Cooperation, and Michael Marshall (United Kingdom), Executive Director of the World Media Association. 

The membership also discussed plans for WANGO for 2002-2003, with emphasis on education and enhanced communication among the membership in the coming year. Beginning with the Annual Conference, the Chair offered that it was vital for the organization to experience on-going communication, education concerning resources, and skill building as a means to support its membership, and that WANGO would work on a regional level for the next year with special focus on the Far East, Africa, and Europe. He opined that this would be an effective way of reaching out to the membership as well as to NGOs in general. Mr. Hamad also indicated that it was important for there to be increased collaboration between NGOs and governments to improve society effectively. WANGO would seek to encourage that collaboration in the coming year. Dr. Noel Brown, a member of the International Council and Chair of the Awards Committee, also explained the symbolic meaning of the WANGO Award and introduced the seven awardees for 2002. 

WANGO 2002 Award Recipients with Award Presenters

Awards Banquet

One of the highlights of WANGO Annual Conference 2002 was the Awards Banquet. Seven awards were given to individuals and NGOs selected by the Awards Committee and approved by the International Council, with the awardees being recognized for their outstanding service and for having made exceptional contributions to their communities, nations and society-at-large. 

The WANGO Peace and Security Award was given to the Arias Foundation for Peace and Human Progress and was received by the Founder, Dr. Oscar Arias Sanchez. The former President of Costa Rica, H.E. Oscar Arias Sanchez and Peace and Security AwardDr. Arias had a vision of Central America free from war, strife and repression that was widely known as the Arias Peace Plan. As a direct result of his efforts, Dr. Arias was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1987. In 1988, Dr. Arias founded the Arias Foundation for Peace and Human Progress. The mission of the Foundation is to promote just and peaceful societies and the Foundation has conducted extensive studies in many topics of vital importance for peace, including civil-military relations in small democracies, the challenges of demilitarization for leadership in Africa, identifying the causes of conflict in Central America, the involvement of Central American militaries in business activities, and the construction of gender identity in Central American security forces.  In taking the decision to present the Arias Foundation with the WANGO Peace and Security Award 2002, its inaugural award in this category, the WANGO International Council recognized the remarkable achievements and the continuing outstanding service of the Arias Foundation in its dedication to bringing about a world of peace and security.

The WANGO Education Award was given to the African American Islamic Institute (AAII) and was Shaykh Hassan Ali Cisse and Education Awardreceived by its Founder, Shaykh Hassan Ali Cisse. AAII was founded as a non-governmental organization in Senegal, West Africa in 1988 by Shaykh Cisse, a respected Islamic scholar and leader. AAII has since grown to be an international NGO headquartered in Senegal but with affiliates in Africa, Europe and North America. AAII’s mission is to develop a capability for sustainable human and natural resource development that focuses on education, as well as human rights, health care, food and water availability, alleviation of poverty, and peace. The AAII commitment to education in conjunction with a code of personal responsibility along with numerous other programs serves as the basis for the inaugural WANGO Education Award 2002. 

The WANGO Environment Award was given to the Inuit Circumpolar Conference (Canada) and was received by its President, Ms. Sheila Watt-Cloutier. Founded in 1977, the Inuit Circumpolar Conference (ICC) has grown into a major, international, non-governmental organization representing approximately 150,000 Inuit indigenous people of Canada, Alaska, Greenland, and Chukotka (Russia). The principal goals of the ICC are to develop and encourage long-term policies that safeguard the Artic environment; to strengthen the unity among the Sheila Watt-Cloutier, President, Innuit Circumpolar Conference (Canada)Inuit of the circumpolar region; to promote Inuit rights and interests on the international level; and to seek full and active partnership in the political, economic, and social development of the circumpolar regions. Under the guidance of its President, Ms. Sheila Watt-Cloutier, the ICC (Canada) has been in the vanguard of international efforts to negotiate and conclude a global agreement to address persistent organic pollutants (POPs) that end up and accumulate in the Arctic region, contaminating traditional food resources. The global convention on POPs, finalized in South Africa in December 2000 and signed in Sweden in May 2001, singles out Indigenous people and the Artic as a fragile and vulnerable region – the first global convention to do so. ICC (Canada) is currently working to promote early ratification of the convention. WANGO is proud to recognize and support the efforts of the ICC (Canada) in this regard.

The WANGO Human Rights Award was given to the Bahrain Women’s Society (BWS) and was received by its President, Mrs. Wajeeha Sadiq Al-Baharna. BWS is one of the few women’s organizations in Bahrain. Young, active, and effective, the BWS has been pioneering the rights of women and children in Bahrain, and has launched five different ongoing projects and two national campaigns dealing with the most pressing societal Wajeeha Al-Baharna, President, Bahrain Women's Societychallenges in Bahrain today. Established in July 2001 by influential society women, the BWS has as its goal the integration of Bahraini women, in particular, and Bahraini society, in general, with desired, contemporary, social, legal, cultural, and environmental norms. BWS works to bring about the realization of the full value and significance of Bahraini women and how they best can utilize the opportunities provided in this globalized era, as well as by assisting them in recognizing and practicing their civilian and social rights. Because of BWS’s pioneering efforts in terms of the rights of women and children in Bahrain, as part of a mission that also includes environmental citizenship, health, community service, and cultural affairs, the WANGO International Council is delighted to recognize the Society with the inaugural WANGO Human Rights Award 2002. 

The WANGO Family and Peace Award was given to the Institute for Responsible Fatherhood and Family Revitalization and accepted by its Founder, Mr. Charles A. Ballard. The Institute is one of the pioneering institutions in tackling a most fundamental challenge to individual and family well-being and happiness, societal health, and world peace: the growing trend of fatherlessness. Founded in 1982 by Mr. Ballard, with the mission of empowering and encouraging fathers to become comprehensively engaged in the lives of their children in a loving, compassionate, and nurturing way, the Institute has grown to 13 centers in the United States. This Charles and Frances Ballardnon-profit organization has successfully helped thousands of fathers become responsible, healthy members of their families. More than 24 million children in the United States live in homes where fathers are absent. The repercussions to the children, parents, and society at large have been proved to be far-reaching. The Institute provides an innovative, non-traditional, home-based service to fathers and their families through one-on-one, group and family outreach.  In taking the decision to present the Institute for Responsible Fatherhood and Family Revitalization with the WANGO Family & Peace Award 2002, the WANGO International Council was impressed with the sacrificial effort, serious commitment, and substantial accomplishments of this NGO in addressing a most fundamental problem related to families and peace on all levels. The Institute works in the most difficult communities, tackling the problems one family at a time. The sincere dedication of the founder, Charles Ballard, his wife Frances, and the Institute’s staff, and their continual service and follow-up with each family, has yielded most impressive results, reuniting fathers and families across the United States. 

The WANGO Interreligious Cooperation Award was given to Bishop William E. Swing and the United Religions Initiative [URI] and was accepted by Rev. Sanford Garner. For more than 100 years, visionaries have been dreaming of a day when the world’s religions could work together for peace, where people of diverse religions, spiritual expressions and indigenous traditions throughout the world -- Hindus, Christians, Muslims, Jews, Zoroastrians, Buddhists, Shintos, Confucians, Indigenous Peoples, Baha’is and others would work together for a just peace that includes each other. The United Religions Initiative has been the culmination of such a vision. The URI began in 1995 and held its first Global Summit in 1996. Since then, it has held five global Rev. Sanford Garner receives Bishop Swing/URI awardsummits and countless regional summits and consultations in all regions of the world. More than one million people from over 60 nations have participated in URI activities and the URI membership includes over 15,000 people in 47 nations, representing more than 88 spiritual traditions. The URI’s purpose is to promote enduring, daily interfaith cooperation, to end religiously motivated violence, and to create cultures of peace, justice and healing for the Earth and all living beings. Under the innovate leadership of the Rt. Rev. William E. Swing, who since 1993 has been a primary catalyst for the creation of a United Religions Initiative, the URI has built support for a permanent forum, similar in concept to the United Nations, where all the world’s religions are represented, a place in which conflicts and disagreements can be discussed and mediated effectively.  In taking the decision to present the URI with the WANGO Interreligious Cooperation Award 2002, the WANGO International Council was most impressed with Bishop Swing’s lifetime devotion to cultivating the best in the human spirit and in promoting cooperation among the world’s religions, and the URI’s concrete efforts toward the fulfillment of that vision. 

The WANGO Universal Peace Award, WANGO’s highest award to individuals, was given to Dr. Federico Mayor Zaragoza. For twelve years, from 1987 to 1999, Dr. Mayor served as Director General of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organizations (UNESCO), where he advocated education in underdeveloped nations as an effective way to address fundamental problems of poverty, overpopulation and disease. He tackled traditional areas, such as the need for a dialogue between scientists and society, and took on cutting edge issues such as the human genome project and the problem of child pornography on the Internet. He Prof. Dr. Federico Mayorhas been a courageous leader who has worked to revitalize and reaffirm free press principles, and has advocated for important initiatives related to the environment, ethics, and democracy. In taking the decision to present Dr. Mayor with the Universal Peace Award 2002, the WANGO International Council was most impressed with Dr. Mayor’s distinguished leadership of UNESCO and the many innovative and creative initiatives that he has launched, which have had far-reaching global implications. In this connection, WANGO is especially grateful to recognize Dr. Mayor’s role in spear-heading the International Year for Tolerance, which has provided the world with a set of Principles that well help guide human relations in a world awash with intolerance, racism and various fundamentalisms. Under Dr. Mayor, UNESCO also launched the Year for the Culture of Peace. For these, and other many significant causes, WANGO is pleased to recognize Dr. Federico Mayor Zaragoza with the Universal Peace Award 2002.

The WANGO Awards Ceremony also featured topnotch local talent and was said to be the “Academy Awards” of the NGO Community. “This premiere Awards Ceremony will no doubt quickly assume its place in the frontline of Awards Ceremonies, recognizing the truest and most able of human aspirations,” said Dr. Noel Brown, Chair of the Awards Committee.

Regional Discussions

On Saturday night, numerous NGO leaders took advantage of discussions divided according to geographical region: Europe, Africa, Northern Africa and the Middle East, Asia and Oceania, North America, English-speaking Caribbean, and Latin America. Reports on the meetings proved that such regional discussions were quite productive. Some regions, such as the Asia and Oceania region, set up Internet discussion groups or E-mail addresses in order to foster greater communication. Other delved into discussion of such issues as: How can WANGO best serve our NGO? How can we best serve WANGO? What is the value of the Annual Conference and how can it be improved for the future? How can we establish WANGO chapters in our nation?

Interactive Sessions: Fostering Greater Cooperation Between Governments and NGOs

There were five roundtable discussions that were designed to bring governmental representatives and NGOs together to discuss how they can best work together to tackle humanity’s problems. Whatever the issue, greater cooperation between these two arenas can advance solutions toward many difficult challenges with which each nation’s citizens are faced. 

These sessions were divided into five areas of focus: Human Rights; Environmental Affairs; Families and Youth; Conflict Resolution, Peace and Security; and Development Issues (Poverty, Health, Education, Trade). In each session, NGO leaders and governmental representatives examined how to increase cooperation between governments and competent NGOs that have substantial capabilities in their areas of focus and with which cooperation would be appropriate and mutually beneficial. Explored was how governments can integrate NGO experience, knowledge and expertise into their operations to increase effectiveness in dealing with issues and priorities in their agendas, as well as what mechanisms are in place for government-NGO cooperation and how to strengthen the process for government-NGO consultation and dialogue. There was a particular emphasis on how governments can develop a new compact with their civil society organizations to treat them as allies, rather than as adversaries, and thus using their strengths to benefit the citizens and deliver services.

The sessions were fortunate to have quite a number of governmental representatives, who came from the local embassies in order to interact with the NGOs. In each of the five sessions, one embassy representative made a formal presentation in order to help frame the discussion: Dong Liao, Counselor, Embassy of the People’s Republic of China (Human Rights), Juan Jose Pena, Counselor, Embassy of the Dominican Republic (Families and Youth), Johannes Lehne, Counselor, Embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany (Development Issues), Takaguki Yagi, First Secretary, Embassy of Japan (Environment), and Francesco Forte, Embassy of Italy (Conflict Resolution, Peace and Security).  All five sessions were done “off-the-record” in order to foster greater freedom in interaction.

These interactive sessions were quite productive and insightful. For example, in the Human Rights session, it was noted that in any discussion of human rights it is necessary to recognize that human rights advocacy groups and national governments have prioritized human rights (e.g., freedom of speech, freedom of association, freedom of religion, freedom from want, etc.) differently. It was also noted that any broad discussion of human rights should not be based solely upon what a government or an advocacy group has identified as the most important human right, but should also attempt to understand what others have identified as the most important human rights and the rationale for those choices. Governments and NGOs need to engage each other but, from the start, be aware of the implicit challenges in realizing constructive engagement. In the case of the People’s Republic of China, often cited for abuses, it is also important to note progress, including being the signatory of some 18 international conventions on human rights, and to note the potential challenge of installing democratic institutions precipitously. 

It was also noted in this session that in some countries, Zimbabwe being cited, the ruling government senses that many NGOs have become partisan, that instead of working with the ruling government to improve well-being and human rights, NGOs have tended to align with the opposition parties, resulting in a rift between the NGOs and government. Another issue discussed was how NGOs can work to expand human rights without become tools of those who fund them. It was further noted that governments feel more comfortable, when engaging NGOs on human rights, when they are not “targeted” but instead are invited to be part of a conversation that includes representatives of numerous nations who seek to advance the general well-being of their citizenry. It was concluded that the paradigm of sincere, frank, constructive engagement between governments and NGOs is one that needs to be expanded in contrast to the confrontational approach of the past.

Also included was one special interactive session on the media, an “Editor’s Roundtable,” where four media leaders engaged civil society representatives in a dialogue on the role of media in fostering a culture of responsibility in civil society. The basic question explored was: “What can the media do, or do more of, in encouraging and promoting the development of a culture of responsibility?  Other questions included: “Should various publics be given greater access to media in expressing responsibility options and in shaping the national and social dialogue?” and “Should greater critiques of NGOs be encouraged?”  Addressing this session was John O’Sullivan, Editor in Chief, United Press International, Ambassador Phillip V. Sanchez, Publisher, Tiempos del Mundo and Noticias del Mundo, Melissa Hopkins, President of the communications company, The Hopkins Group, and Michael Marshall, Executive Director of the World Media Association. 


One of the most highly lauded components of the conference were the four workshops, in which practical skills for NGOs were presented. Theresa Rudacille, the Director of Development for the Empowerment Resource Theresa Rudacille and Fundraising WorkshopNetwork, guided the workshop on “Fundraising and Getting Grants.” Dr. Margaret E. Hayes, the President of MEH Associates, presented a workshop of “Strategic Management of NGOs.” James Weidman, Director of Public Relations for The Heritage Foundation, a large and influential public policy research organization, served as the trainer on “Media Relations.” And Karen M. Woods, Executive Director for The Empowerment Network, gave the workshop on “Networking Skills.” 

Closing Luncheon

After three days of networking, insightful and at times provacative presentations, rich entertainment, and valuable discussions, the conference concluded on Sunday with the Closing Luncheon. With Ambassador Phillip V. Sanchez serving as Master of Ceremonies, participants were treated to a number of final remarks offered by select guests. H.E. Jerry J. Rawlings, former President of Ghana, delighted the audience with his insightful presentation on the role of NGOs – and his presentation at the podium of his wife and former childhood H.E. J. J. Rawlings and Nana Rawlingssweetheart, Nana Agyeman-Rawlings, who herself is President of one of the largest NGOs in Africa, the 31st December Women’s Movement, which claims a membership of about two million. Also speaking at the Closing Banquet was Mrs. Yvonne Hinds, President of the Guyana Relief Council, and wife of the Prime Minister of that country. Dr. Donald Tinotenda Charumbira, Secretary General of the World Assembly of Youth, a major association of youth and youth organizations headquartered in Malaysia, also addressed the assembly.  Ian Hall, President of the Bloomsbury International Society, provided some impromptu entertainment, prior to the remarks of Taj Hamad, which capped and closed the conference.. 


By all accounts, WANGO Annual Conference 2002 was an outstanding success, and the reflections of those participating were generally highly laudatory. We found time to network and build partnerships, attend training sessions, and hear from a selection of an almost 70 presenters, including 48 international speakers, who graced the podium during the program. We also celebrated together select accomplishments in offering the inaugural WANGO Awards, with recognition being given to outstanding individuals and NGO leaders from throughout the world: Africa, Middle East, Europe, Latin America and North America. The business of the Association was advanced through our first membership meeting. Overall, there was a feeling of great hope in seeing the continuing evolution of the NGO community in playing a leading role in building a "Culture of Responsibility." 

Of course, this being WANGO’s first annual conference as a membership organization -- since the approval of new bylaws less than one year earlier - there were areas in which our Association and its secretariat can develop and improve. Utilizing the recommendations received from those who attended this conference, the goal is to make WANGO Annual Conference 2003 a greater success, and for WANGO itself to grow to have even heightened value for its membership. As an Association, it is important that all members feel ownership of WANGO. The expressed commitment of the membership, the International Council members, and the International Secretariat personnel is to build on the success of this first conference in order to best support our NGO membership and the worldwide NGO community.

As requested, the proceedings of WANGO Annual Conference 2002 are being produced, and should be available to WANGO members in the near future.