In the Year 2001, WANGO not only completed some major international conferences, but it also approved new Bylaws that placed it in a better position to be able to serve and be responsive to its membership. And it quickly responded to the worldwide crisis precipitated by the terrible events of September 11.
In January 26-30, 2001, WANGO played an instrumental role in conducting Dialogue and Harmony Among Civilizations, an international conference convened at the New York Hilton and the United Nations Headquarters in New York. The co-sponsors for this conference were the Permanent Missions to the United Nations of Comoros, Indonesia, Iran, Mongolia, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan, the League of Arab States, and the Organization of the Islamic Conference. Over 800 participants attended this conference from 138 nations, including 40 former heads of states and governments, representatives of NGOs, and political and religious leaders, academics, journalists, artists and youth leaders. Taj Hamad, the International Executive Director of WANGO, served as one of the organizing co-chairs of the event.
A major component of this conference was sessions on the role of NGOs in the 21st Century. Dr. Wally N'Dow, Secretary General of WANGO, conducted this part of the program and emphasized two concepts: the need to bring civil society, particularly non-governmental organizations, under one roof of working in partnership (the aim of the World Association of NGOs), and the concept of 'enablement' so that people in their communities can self-manage without dependence. As expressed by Dr. N'Dow, the 21st century calls not for the deterioration of culture but for an exchange, a "willingness to take to the table and take from the table of ideas, a world that works better for everyone. It is not about competition and contest or winning and losing." It must be recognized, he said, that the human journey is a spiritual journey, not just a material one. These features are characteristic of what he called the 'new conversation' or the 'grand listening.' A Dialogue of Civilizations has to be the effort to create a new global neighborhood, a common search for a new pathway to civilizational change. Among other presentations given were those by Dr. Clovis Maksoud, Director of the Center for the Global South at American University, Dr. Roger Mellet, President of WebForce International, and Dr. J. J. Hurtak, Director, Academy for Future Science.
In February, 2001, WANGO sponsored two seminars in Washington, D.C. on the same theme of "Dialogue and Harmony Among Civilizations. These three-day seminars gathered representatives from over 80 nations in total, and were instrumental in launching WANGO even more substantially.
From May 25-27, 2001, WANGO co-sponsored the international gathering, "Serving the Nation, Serving the World: Establishing Peace by Renewing Families, Communities, and Nations" which was held at the New York Hilton Hotel. This event was also co-sponsored by the League of Arab States, the Organization of the Islamic Conference, the IIFWP, and the Permanent Missions to the UN of Bangladesh, Indonesia, Mongolia, and Uzbekistan. Over 260 participants from 108 nations participated in this symposium, including 19 former heads of state and governments, as well as directors of NGOs, political and religious leaders, academics, journalists and other leaders of civil society. This international symposium was convened in order to join with the United Nations as it celebrated the International Day of Families (May 15) and the International Year of the Volunteer (2001).
The horrendous events of September 11, 2001 shook the world. WANGO had been planning to do an international conference in New York City titled "The Role of NGOs in Creating a World Fit for Children: Building Strategic Partnerships in Response to the 2001 United Nations Special Session on Children." The United Nations Special Session on Children, which was to have taken place September 19-21, 2001, was naturally postponed, and likewise the WANGO conference. (See "Letter from the WANGO Secretary General.") With the WANGO office located in New York City, in the United Nations Plaza, our staff witnessed first-hand the circumstances and consequences of these attacks.
WANGO quickly partnered with the IIFWP to put together a hastily-arranged, and critically important conference, in New York City, on the theme of Global Violence: Crisis and Hope. Held from October 19-22, at a time when many were hesitant to travel anywhere, much less to New York City near the rising smoke at Ground Zero, around 380 political and religious leaders, media and NGO representatives, scholars and peace activists from 101 nations gathered to address the root causes and potential solutions for global violence. Among the speakers were such luminaries as former U.S. Vice President Dan Quayle, former Indonesian President Abdurrahman Wahid, former Costa Rican President Rodgrigo Carazo, religious leader Dr. Jerry Falwell, and other former heads of state and international leaders. WANGO held a special session on the theme of "The Current Crisis and Protecting Our Future, " with Dr. Noel Brown, President of Friends of the United Nations; Rt. Honorable Kennedy Simmonds, Former Prime Minister of St. Kitts and Nevis; Rt. Honorable Sir James Mancham, Founding President of Seychelles; and others addressing this part of the program. (See Executive Summary).
At the center of this conference was the effort to bridge the gap that divides and alienates one from the other, religions, cultures, and civilizations. In this light, this assembly brought into dialgoue diverse representatives of Islam, Christianity and Judaism, in an encounter that was at time charged and challenging, but ultimately both constructive and enlightening. In addition to the dialogue among religions and cultures, this conference explored new models of leadership and governance, searching for insights and initiatives that might contribute to more relevant and successful efforts to address our critical global problems. Of particular concern, were models of governance more inclusive of religious and non-governmental perspectives. The events of September 11 provided a background of immediacy and urgency that made this gathering unique and the participants, who were fully engaged, left with a feeling of hope, rather than despair, and a clearer direction on how to work together to realize that hope in the midst of crisis.
From November 21-24, 2001, at the United Nations Convention Center in Bangkok, Thailand, WANGO organized, with the Asia University Federation, an international conference on "The United Nations, East Asia and World Peace in the Age of Global Governance." This program was attended by scholars and NGO leaders from China, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Mongolia, Philippines, Russia, and Thailand. This program reviewed and assessed the achievements and present and future role of the United Nations for the world and for East Asia, and developed strategies of mutual cooperation among NGOs and between the United Nations and the NGO community in the context of East Asia.
On November 30, 2001, the WANGO Board announced a dramatic step in the growth of WANGO -- the adoption of new Bylaws that establish WANGO as a leading membership organization. These Bylaws, which were drafted by a Bylaws Committee composed of scholars and NGO representatives, recognize membership classes, eligibility and voting privileges, outline issues of governance and the mission, purposes, and founding principles for WANGO, specify rules for establishing WANGO chapters, and stipulate means for creating membership councils, among other provisions. Until the adoption of these Bylaws, WANGO was lead by the founding Board of Directors. These Board of Directors, having guided the initial direction of the Association, were to be replaced by an International Council elected by, and responsive to, the WANGO membership.
At the same time, on November 30, 2001, Tageldin "Taj" Hamad was elected Secretary General by the Board of Directors, to hold office until the new International Council was convened. He had been serving as the Acting Secretary General since September 1, 2001, repalcing Dr. Wally N'Dow, WANGO's founding Secretary General, who guided WANGO during its critical, formative stage, and who felt the time had come for him to return to his native Africa to take care of a long-awaited opportunity. Previously, Taj Hamad had served WANGO as its International Executive Director.
On December 1, 2001, WANGO also opened a new international headquarters in Westchester Country, New York, in order to house its expanded operations, and to serve as the Association's center for administration and finance. It continued to maintain an office for U.N. Relations at 866 United Nations Plaza in New York City. During 2001, WANGO also launched its website.