The WCC has its own agenda. We must be attentive to UN and other international developments in setting that agenda, but then develop relationships with the UN system in a way which responds to our own priorities in a way which guards against being diverted from them or coopted by others.
A part of that agenda is to promote effective instruments of global governance. It has, therefore, a responsibility to inform and encourage member churches and related movements in their efforts to improve the UN system and to make it more responsive to the needs of peoples. Here, the CCIA UN Headquarters Liaison Office has a special role to play.
The WCC should make effective use of those UN mechanisms to which it has access to pressure governments to comply with international norms and standards, such as those on human rights. In this process, the WCC should support and enable partners to represent their own interests in appropriate UN forums.
When special events, such as world conferences, can be expected to result in constructive new policies or commitments by governments and the international community that have a direct relationship to the ecumenical agenda, the WCC should use them as a stimulus to help the churches articulate their own analysis and recommendations. One goal is obviously to influence the international agenda. But another valid one is to use such occasions for capacity building of the churches and other partners, and building more effective relationships with others who share our goals. A commitment to engage in such a process requires a commitment to help shape the agenda of such events from the earliest stages of preparation.
The impact of the WCC on the UN agenda can often be maximized through select involvement with other non-governmental organizations and coordinating bodies.
There is the need for clear priority setting for ecumenical involvement with the UN. It cannot, nor should it pretend to relate to the whole range of issues addressed by the UN. It must relate selectively, in relationship to its own programme priorities. Experience shows that day-to-day cooperation with selected specialized agencies and programme bodies are generally more effective than less focused involvements.
The WCC functions in relationship to the UN as a non-governmental organization through the CCIA's formal relationship with the Economic and Social Council and several Specialized Agencies, and through other relationships maintained by other programmes of the Council. Indeed, the WCC may well be the largest, and most representative, in geographical terms, of the international NGOs, and possibly one of those closest to local realities. This is a necessary role for the churches, and one often highly appreciated by partners in the UN.
The WCC should not, however, restrict its role vis-à-vis the UN to that of an NGO. It has a broader responsibility to the world of nations to give voice to ethical, moral and spiritual perspectives which must undergird international relations.
In general, WCC relations with the UN should be viewed in the light of how we might use the instruments it provides to achieve the ecumenical vision of a just and peaceful world. In this way, it becomes not an extra burden, but part of the total work of the Council.