Non-Governmental Organizations and the United Nations
VN General Secretary Ban Ki Moon and Hanifa Mezoui, Chief of the NGO Section United Nations
© UN Photo/Evan Schneider
Nowadays non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are involved in virtually all aspects of the work of the United Nations. There is, however, no coherent set of rules throughout the United Nations system governing their status and rights of participation. The principal United Nations organs as well as the other UN bodies and specialized agencies have all evolved their own arrangements for NGO participation. Germany has always pushed for the intensive involvement of representatives of civil society in the political processes of the United Nations which resulted not least in a valuable mix of non-governmental organizations taking part in the Millennium Assembly. Germany has also been a member of the ECOSOC Committee on Non-Governmental Organizations since May 2000 and advocates a comprehensive and regulated involvement of non-governmental organizations.
Formal participation of NGOs through the granting of so-called "consultative status" is envisaged under Article 71 of the UN Charter only for the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). The current legal basis for such participation is ECOSOC resolution 1996/31, which also sets out the relevant modalities.
ECOSOC distinguishes between three categories of consultative relationship with NGOs. NGOs involved in most of the areas with which the Council is concerned may apply for the first category (General Consultative Status). NGOs that have particular expertise in a number of areas with which the Council is concerned may apply for the second category (Special Consultative Status). All other NGOs may apply for Roster Status. What rights an NGO has to participate in the work of ECOSOC and its functional commissions depends on its consultative status. Such rights include the right to make oral presentations at ECOSOC meetings, the right to have written statements circulated as official United Nations documents and the right - only for NGOs in the first category - to propose items to be placed on the agenda.
Decisions on whether an NGO should be granted consultative status and in what category are taken by the ECOSOC Council Committee on Non-Governmental Organizations.
Forms for applying for consultative status are available from the Non-Governmental Organization Section, Department for Policy Coordination and Sustainable Development, United Nations DC 1/1076, 1 UN Plaza, New York 10016, Fax 001-212-9633892.
Further information on NGO-ECOSOC relations is available at http://www.un.org/esa/coordination/ngo/ngo.htm.
The United Nations Secretary-General intends to appoint a high-level working group of figures who are to develop the proposals on the future shape of relations between the United Nations and non-governmental players.