The United Nations Non-Governmental Liaison Service (UN-NGLS) is an inter-agency programme of the United Nations mandated to promote and develop constructive relations between the United Nations and civil society organizations.
A Short History
The United Nations Non-Governmental Liaison Service (NGLS) was established in 1975 by several UN agencies to serve as a UN System-civil society interface. Since its creation, the UN General Assembly has recognized the value of NGLS’ work on several occasions, in 1982 and again, in 1993.
The United Nations Non-Governmental Liaison Service (NGLS) promotes constructive relations between the United Nations and civil society through dynamic partnerships to foster greater coherence around cross-cutting and emerging issues on the UN’s agenda and by facilitating meaningful civil society engagement in UN processes.
Drawing on its inter-agency nature and UN system-wide perspective, NGLS provides strategic information, analysis and support to a wide range of constituencies, using its unique convening and networking capacity to strengthen multistakeholder dialogue and alliance-building on core UN issues.
To fulfill its mandate, NGLS carries out the following activities:
Providing information within reach. NGLS closely monitors and reports on ongoing deliberations at the UN on its broad economic and social development, human rights, environment, peace and security agenda. It produces accessible and concise information, which is widely circulated among civil society actors, as well as UN and diplomatic circles through a database of more than 30,000 entries. Its communication and information programme includes a number of newsletters and handbooks on the UN System (Go Between, Roundups), as well as an extensive electronic outreach, including the bi-monthly Civil Society Observer, the bi-weekly NGLS Update and the French newsletter Infolettre.
Facilitating civil society participation in UN processes and deliberations. NGLS offers its expertise and support to civil society organizations (CSO) in their work with the UN. NGLS advises organizations on opportunities to engage with the UN and facilitates their participation in various UN processes and events (conferences, hearings, workshops, etc.). NGLS has a specific commitment to enhance the participation of southern and underrepresented civil society actors.
Supporting the UN System in developing productive relationships with civil society. With system-wide experience and expertise on civil society engagement, NGLS assists UN bodies and agencies in the implementation of their civil society strategies and helps address gaps and fill needs as they arise on the UN System-civil society interface. Upon request, it facilitates the coordination of civil society’s participation in inter-agency projects and initiatives. NGLS also organizes the annual CSO focal point meetings, bringing together all the staff responsible for external relations in the organizations of the multilateral system. These meetings provide an opportunity to build a strong community of practice for multi-stakeholder involvement in global affairs through the sharing of best practices and lessons learnt.
Providing strategic analysis on emerging trends in UN-civil society relations. NGLS promotes debates and provides analysis on emerging trends in UN-civil society relations, tracking the political dynamics, as well as the evolution of global civil society. NGLS is continuously exploring new ways of interaction between the UN and civil society. It regularly engages in participatory research projects to examine the UN System’s engagement with new and emerging actors of global governance, (such as grassroots organizations, social movements and indigenous peoples’ organizations), with the view of showcasing best practices, stimulating debate within UN circles and between the UN and civil society actors.
Since 2000, NGLS has accelerated its pace in providing services for both the UN System and its civil society constituents by providing substantial input to all of the major UN events involving civil society organizations. During these processes, NGLS has organized and conducted briefings, orientation sessions and workshops, and has co-hosted NGO consultations with a number of UN agencies, programmes and funds to raise awareness around substantive themes under discussion, and to provide an exchange of views.
Over the years NGLS has pioneered many of the practices which today have become relatively mainstreamed. For example, NGLS was called upon to facilitate the selection process of civil society representatives and their input in the first Interactive Hearings of the General Assembly (GA) with Civil Society, held prior to the 2005 World Summit. Since then, NGLS expertise has been sought in 2006, 2007 and 2008 to spearhead civil society participation in the series of GA Hearings that focused on various issues (international migration and development, the least developed countries, HIV/AIDS). NGLS has also been instrumental in other recent processes, including: Consultations of civil society around the Panel of Eminent Persons on UN System-wide Coherence in 2006 and; Participation of civil society organizations in the International Review Conference on Financing for Development in 2008.