The United Nations and Civil Society
70 Years Working Together: How Do We Make a Difference from Geneva?
“Expanding and deepening the relationship with non-governmental organizations will further strengthen both the United Nations and the intergovernmental debates on issues of global importance”.
Report of the Secretary-General in response to the report of the Panel of Eminent Persons on United Nations-Civil Society Relations (A/59/354)
The United Nations works in partnership with civil society on issues of global concern. Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) may engage with the United Nations through consultative status with the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC)
or association with the Department of Public Information (DPI)
. Formal relations with ECOSOC are based on Article 71 of the Charter
and governed by ECOSOC resolution 1996/31
, which sets out eligibility requirements, rights and obligations of NGOs in consultative status.
Since the first NGOs were granted consultative status in 1946, the participation of NGOs in intergovernmental bodies has increased significantly. Today, more than 3,400 NGOs have consultative status with ECOSOC, and over 1,500 NGOs are associated with DPI. In the Millennium Declaration
, world leaders resolved to give greater opportunities to the private sector, non-governmental organizations and civil society, in general, to contribute to the realization of the Organization’s goals and programmes.
The Secretary-General’s report on the reform of the Organization, “Strengthening the United Nations: an agenda for further change” (A/57/387)
reflected on this growing importance of NGOs to the work of the United Nations. At the same time, the Secretary-General noted that the system for facilitating this interaction needed to be strengthened. Therefore, the Secretary-General appointed in February 2003 a High-Level Panel of Eminent Persons on United Nations-Civil Society Relations, chaired by the former Brazilian President Henrique Fernando Cardoso, to produce a set of practical recommendations as to how the Organization’s work with civil society could be improved. UNOG provided support to meetings of the Panel taking place in Geneva in December 2003.
In June 2004, the panel’s report (A/58/817)
was presented to the Secretary-General, who submitted his own response (A/59/354)
to the General Assembly in September 2004. In this Report, the Secretary-General emphasized how expanding and deepening the relationship with NGOs would further strengthen both the institution and the intergovernmental debate.
Of the over 10,000 meetings that take place annually at the United Nations Office at Geneva, more than half are open to NGOs. The Director-General, through the NGO Liaison Unit, maintains liaison with non-governmental organizations in consultative status with ECOSOC and facilitates their participation in United Nations activities.