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UN - NGO Relations

Non-governmental organizations have been active in the United Nations since its founding.  They interact with the UN Secretariat, programmes, funds and agencies and they consult with the Member States.  NGO work related to the UN comprises a number of activities including information dissemination, awareness raising, development education, policy advocacy, joint operational projects, and providing technical expertise and collaborating with UN agencies, programmes and funds.    This work is undertaken in formal and informal ways at the national level and at the UN.

Official UN Secretariat relations with NGOs fall into two main categories: consultations with governments and information servicing by the Secretariat.  These functions are the responsibility of two main offices of the UN Secretariat dealing with NGOs: the NGO Unit of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA) and the NGO Section of the Department of Public Information.  Formal interactions between NGOs and the UN are governed by the UN Charter and related resolutions of ECOSOC.  In February 2003, the Secretary-General also appointed a High Level Panel of Eminent Persons to produce a practical set of recommendations as to how the UN's work with Civil Society could be improved.  The final report of the Panel has been presented to the Secretary-General in June 2004.

Broadly speaking, NGOs may cooperate with the United Nations System in at least four ways:

1.  NGOs may receive accreditation for a conference, summit or other event organized by the United Nations.  Such accreditation is issued through the Secretariat preparing the event and expires upon completion of the event.  It entitles NGOs to participate in the preparation process and in the event itself, thus contributing to its outcome. For a compilation of all legislation regarding NGO accreditation and participation in UN Conferences and Summits from 1990 - 2001, please click here.

2. NGOs may establish working relations with particular Departments, Programmes or Specialized Agencies of the United Nations System, based on shared fields of interest and potential for joint activities complementing the work of the United Nations office in a particular area.  For a list of NGO Focal points throughout the UN System, please click here.  The NGLS Handbook also provides a wealth of information on Civil Society engagement throughout the UN system.

3. International NGOs active in the field of economic and social development may seek to obtain consultative status with the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC).  For requirements concerning consultative status with ECOSOC, please contact the ECOSOC NGO Section by clicking the link above.

4. NGOs that have at their disposal regular means of disseminating information, either through their publications, radio or television programmes, or through their public activities such as conferences, lectures, seminars or workshops, and that are willing to devote a portion of their information programmes to dissemination of information about the United Nations, may apply for association with the United Nations Department of Public Information (DPI).  Please click here for additional information.

Whether affiliated with the United Nations system or not, NGOs can obtain United Nations public information materials from the United Nations Information Centres in countries of their operations (  ) .  They can also access the UN information on the web at

Further information on the role of NGOs at the UN can be found on the Global Policy Forum website