United Nations and its Association with NGOs

Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are playing an increasingly more important role
in forming policies that are changing the world today. The United Nations maintains close relations with thousands of NGOs around the world because NGOs play an important role in interactions between civil society and government. The United Nations is both a participant in and a witness to an increasingly global civil society. CSOs play a key role at major United Nations Conferences and are indispensable partners for UN efforts at the country level. NGOs are consulted on UN policy
and programme matters. The UN organizes and hosts, on a regular basis, briefings, meetings and conferences for NGO representatives who are accredited to UN offices, programmes and agencies.

The United Nations has maintained relations with NGOs representing the concerns of civil societies throughout the world ever since it was founded in 1945. The provisions for relations between the United Nations and NGOs are outlined in Article 71 of the United Nations Charter and in ECOSOC resolution 1996/31. The rights and privileges enumerated in detail in the resolution enable qualifying organizations to make a contribution to the work programs and goals of the United Nations by serving as technical experts, advisers and consultants to inter-governmental branches and the Secretariat. Increasingly, as advocacy groups, NGOs espouse UN themes, assist in implementing plans of action, monitoring programs and declarations adopted by the Member States of the UN. All organizations that act in the same spirit of cooperation and unity as the United Nations, regardless of size or influence, have a right to participate in international developments through the UN. There are different mechanisms of NGO cooperation with UN described in detail below.

Consultative Status with Economic and Social Council

Non-governmental, non-profit or voluntary organizations may be admitted into a mutually beneficial working relationship with the United Nations by attaining consultative status with the Economic and Social Council. The first venue by which non-governmental organizations took a role in formal UN deliberations was through the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). 41 NGOs were granted consultative status by the council in 1946; the number has been steadily increasing ever since to 3,400 organizations today.

Learn more on:

How to apply for consultative status with ECOSOC?

Application Form for civil society organizations to formally associate with the United Nations Department of Global Communications