The United Nations is an organization of the world’s sovereign states gathered together for peace, development and the betterment of each and every nation and of the world as a whole. In the words of Pope John Paul II, however, “No organization…not even the United Nations or any of its specialized agencies, can alone solve the global problems which are constantly brought to its attention…It is then the privileged task of non-governmental organizations to help bring these concerns into the communities and the homes of the people, and to bring back to the established agencies the priorities and aspirations of the people” (Address at the United Nations, 2 October 1979).
This is why the UN charter begins with “We the peoples.” The charter itself thus makes provision for NGOs of all persuasions and outlooks, and many peoples’ organizations have become associated as NGOs with the UN—NGOs of secular or of religious origin, of many languages and regions, of many interests and needs. For more information about the United Nations system, please visit http://www.un.org.
Department of Public Information: NGO Relations
The NGO Relations Cluster is the link to over 1,500 non-governmental organizations (NGOs) associated with the Department of Public Information; it supports their efforts to interact effectively with the United Nations in their areas of expertise.
The Cluster is also responsible for facilitating the exchange of information and developing partnerships with civil society. It plays a coordinating role within the UN Secretariat to reach out to civil society partners around the world and enhance their interaction with, and understanding of, the work of the UN.
The Cluster proactively reaches out to representatives of civil society who seek information about the UN and look for opportunities to support each organization at the international, regional, national and community levels.
The annual UN DPI/NGO Conference is the NGO Relations Cluster’s premier event at the United Nations, attracting around 2,000 NGO representatives from approximately 70 countries.
Throughout the year, the Cluster sustains partnership with the NGO community by providing weekly briefings, communications workshops, orientation for new NGO representatives, and an NGO resource centre.
For more information regarding NGO/DPI relations, please visit their official website: www.un.org/dpi/ngosection.
Economic and Social Council
The Economic and Social Council, or ECOSOC, is one of the five main bodies of the United Nations. It is the central forum for discussing international economic and social issues, and coordinates related work of 14 specialized UN agencies, functional commissions, and five regional commissions. ECOSOC has the power to make and initiate reports and studies on issues such as standards of living, employment, international cultural and educational cooperation, universal respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, and international social, economic and health problems.
Approximately 3,500 NGOs are affiliated with ECOSOC through the Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA). An NGO with consultative status with ECOSOC has access to almost all the intergovernmental processes at the UN concerning economic, social and sustainable development, human rights, gender issues, and small arms. ECOSOC-accredited NGOs can also attend international conferences convened by the UN, as well as preparatory meetings. There are three levels of consultative status with ECOSOC: general, special, and roster. General status is reserved for large international NGOs whose work covers most of the issues addressed by ECOSOC; special status is given to NGOs which are concerned with only certain specific areas of ECOSOC’s activities; roster status is accorded to NGOs which do not fit into either of the above categories, and tend to have a more narrow or technical focus in their work.