On 17th December 2020, the UNODC Executive Director, Ms Ghada Waly, held an online meeting with three of the Vienna-based NGO committees to discuss the importance of civil society space and areas of collaboration for 2021. The Chair of the NGO Alliance on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice, the Managing Director of the UNCAC Coalition, and the Chair of the Vienna NGO Committee on Drugs (VNGOC) attended the call. For all three, this was a first opportunity to speak directly with Ms Waly since she took up her position in February, and an important opportunity to introduce our respective work and mandates.

On the call, Ms Waly reiterated her support for civil society and her personal experience working with, and for, NGOs. The committee heads were able to refer to the recent statement by the Conference of Non-Governmental Organizations in Consultative Relationship with the United Nations (CoNGO) on civil society access during the COVID-19 pandemic. In particular, the brief discussions highlighted the need to protect civil society space at some of the significant moments coming in 2021: the Kyoto Crime Congress, the Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND), and the UNGASS Against Corruption. The committee heads also acknowledged the new UNODC Strategy 2021–2025, and welcomed its positive references to civil society engagement – but encouraged Ms Waly to create an opportunity to present this to UNODC’s countless civil society stakeholders at some point in 2021, and also to explore ways in which NGOs could support its design, implementation and evaluation.

The NGO Alliance, UNCAC Coalition and VNGOC look forward to continuing positive discussions with Ms Waly and the UNODC senior management team in the coming year.

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