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.


About NGLS

NGLS Publications

UN-Civil Society Engagement

Strengthening Dialogue

UN Experience with Small Farmers Organizations and Indigenous Peoples

Civil society interaction with the United Nations (UN) system has increased significantly over the past 15 years. So far, the majority of these relations have been with non-governmental organizations of various kinds, including humanitarian and development NGOs, advocacy groups and faith-based organizations.

As Strengthening Dialogue: UN Experience with Small Farmer Organizations and Indigenous Peoples demonstrates, there is room to explore better interaction with some other sectors of civil society, especially small-scale farmers, rural women, indigenous peoples, slum dwellers and other constituencies who still have limited access to global decision-making forums. The UN needs the direct input of these people’s movements in order to ensure that the policies it adopts and the programmes it implements incorporate the insights and proposals of those they are intended to support. Engaging them is particularly relevant in a moment in which global challenges have emerged with force – climate change, energy, water, food – which cannot be addressed by Member State governments alone.

Strengthening Dialogue suggests a core set of principles and practices, and some specific initiatives that could be undertaken in order to enhance this engagement. It highlights some of the potential benefits of closer engagement, examines the obstacles that need to be addressed, and notes the distinct challenges of cooperation at the country level.

The study focuses on two specific cases: small farmer organizations and indigenous peoples. It looks at concrete examples of interaction at both the global and country levels that can provide valuable lessons for strengthening future engagement.

The project adopted a participatory approach aimed at building dialogue among selected people’s organizations and indigenous peoples, and UN system entities as an integral part of the inquiry. It draws from case studies as well as nearly one hundred interviews with representatives of UN entities, from operational officers to senior managers, and representatives of small farmers and indigenous peoples.

Strengthening Dialogue aims to heighten awareness and increase debate, both within UN circles and, between the UN system and people’s movements, about the principles and practices of meaningful engagement. It suggests next steps and encourages action on its recommendations.