United Nations

U.S. Participation in the Fourth World Conference on Women Gao ID: NSIAD-96-79BR February 15, 1996

This briefing report focuses on the Fourth World Conference on Women, sponsored by the United Nations (UN). GAO discusses (1) the cost of U.S. participation in the conference and the parallel, independently convened nongovernmental organizations' forum, (2) the UN process for accrediting nongovernmental organizations, and (2) the handling of conference travel visas by the Chinese. A summary of GAO's discussions with 28 U.S. nongovernmental organizations about their views on the accreditation process, the adequacy of accommodations, and physical access to conference and forum facilities is included.

GAO found that: (1) the UN estimated the costs of convening the Conference to be approximately $13 million to $14 million, with financial support coming from voluntary donations, the host government, and the UN regular budget; (2) the total cost to the United States for the Conference and Forum was approximately $5.9 million; (3) this amount includes $4.8 million in direct costs incurred by 13 U.S. government agencies and the White House, and approximately $1.1 million of the UN cost for the Conference, which was paid out of the UN regular budget; (4) of the $4.8 million in direct expenditures, $2.2 million was spent for preparatory activities, $1.8 million for participation in the Conference, and $0.8 million for Forum activities; (5) the UN invited NGOs to apply for accreditation to participate in Conference activities; (6) of the 2,450 NGOs worldwide that applied for accreditation, 277 were not accredited; (7) of the 588 U.S. NGOs that applied, 69 were not accredited; (8) the UN's process for accrediting NGOs, although it underwent changes to include a broader representation of NGOs, was generally viewed by U.S. officials as fair and unbiased; (9) GAO did not identify a pattern or particular agenda among U.S. NGOs not recommended for accreditation; (10) although two Tibet-based NGOs were accredited, no NGOs based in Taiwan were accredited to the Conference because they did not meet the Conference Secretariat's requirement of being incorporated in their country of origin; (11) Taiwanese interests were represented by NGOs from other countries, including the United States; (12) U.S. officials characterized the access to the UN Conference from the Huairou site of the NGO Forum as adequate; (13) the Chinese provided buses to shuttle NGO participants from the Forum site in Huairou to the Conference in Beijing, and electronic communications linked the two sites; (14) although the Chinese were late in processing visas, an official of the U.S. Mission to the UN stated that most applicants did receive one; and (15) possible causes of problems include the overwhelming number of visa requests received by the Chinese (about three times the expected number) and the requirement to have a confirmed hotel reservation before applying for a visa.

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