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 United Nations Summits

Conferences have played a key role in guiding the work of the UN since its inception. In fact, the world body was born when delegates from 50 nations met in San Francisco in April 1945 for the United Nations Conference on International Organization. At the very outset it was recognized that a forum for discussion was needed to resolve both security issues and make progress on every aspect of human development. The recent high-profile conferences on development issues, often held at the Summit level, have continued a series that began in the 1970s and broken new ground in many areas.

By involving Heads of state and government and other high-profile world leaders from intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations as well as from civil society and the private sector, Summit events have put long-term, difficult problems like poverty and environmental degradation at the top of the global agenda. By grabbing front-page headlines, they have helped mould world opinion and persuaded world leaders to provide political support. The participation of thousands of NGOs, citizens, academics and businesspeople, in both the official and unofficial meetings, has turned these conferences into true "global forums". The UN has encouraged this, knowing that the support of a wide spectrum of society is needed to implement the policies being discussed.

UN Summits have been held on a variety of issues that have commanded the attention of the world, including the pioneering World Summit for Children (1990), the Earth Summit on Environment and Development (Rio de Janeiro, 1992), the World Conference on Human Rights (Vienna, 1993), the International Conference on Population and Development (Cairo, 1994), the World Summit for Social Development (Copenhagen, 1995), the International Conference on Women (Beijing, 1995), and the Financing for Development Conference (Monterrey, Mexico, 2002). The Millennium Summit (New York, 2000) brought together world leaders in a unique display of solidarity to achieve far-reaching development goals by 2015. The World Summit on the Information Society is unique in that it was envisaged to meet in two phases: The Geneva Summit in December 2003 laid the foundations with a Declaration of Principles and a Plan of Action. The Tunis Summit, meeting in 2005, will monitor and evaluate progress on the Action Plan and devise an Agenda that will target goals for achievement by 2015.

UN Summits provide the grounds for a free exchange of views. UN Conference venues are designated United Nations territory and governed by the rules and regulations of the international body. All delegates and accredited participants as well as the media must be provided access by the host government and enjoy all internationally recognized rights and freedoms wherever the conference may be held.

Part of this text was extracted from the fact sheet 'United Nations Conferences: What have they Accomplished?' published by the United Nations Department of Public Information 



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Updated : 2004-03-11