United Nations


General Assembly

Distr. GENERAL  

10 July 1998


                                                      Original: English
General Assembly
Fifty-third session
Item 58 of the provisional agenda*
Strengthening of the United Nations system

     * A/53/150.

            Arrangements and practices for the interaction of
         non-governmental organizations in all activities of the
                         United Nations system

                   Report of the Secretary-General

                                                      Paragraphs   Page

  I.  Introduction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   1-4         2

 II.  Institutional arrangements . . . . . . . . . . .   5-31        2

III.  A growing operational partnership. . . . . . . .  32-47        8

 IV.  Building bridges between civil society and the 
      United Nations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  48-59       11

  V.  Participation of non-governmental organizations 
      from all regions . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  60-70       13

 VI.  Enhancing the participation of non-governmental 
      organizations in all areas of the United Nations 
      system . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  71-80       15
        I.     Introduction

1.   Following the adoption by the Economic and Social
Council of its decision 1996/297, by which the Council
recommended that the General Assembly examine the
question of participation of non-governmental organizations
(NGOs) in all areas of the United Nations, the General
Assembly, by its decision 52/453 of 19 December 1997,
requested the Secretary-General to prepare and circulate for
consideration at its fifty-third session a report on:

               (a)     Existing arrangements and practices for the
interaction of non-governmental organizations in all
activities of the United Nations system;

               (b)     The legal and financial implications of
modifications in the current arrangements for participation
of non-governmental organizations with a view to enhancing
their participation in all areas of the United Nations system;

               (c)     The question of the participation of 
non-governmental organizations from all regions, in particular
from the developing countries.

The present report is submitted pursuant to the request
contained in that decision. It is based on the information
conveyed to the Secretary-General by departments,
agencies, funds and programmes for this specific purpose.

2.   The General Assembly's increased interest in the issue
of NGOs and their relation to the United Nations reflects
the striking changes which have marked these relations in
the last two decades. From the 41 NGOs granted
consultative status by the Economic and Social Council in
1948, and 377 in 1968, the number of NGOs in consultative
status has now expanded to over 1,350. There were 200
NGOs associated with the Department of Public Information
in 1968; there are now 1,550. Approximately 1,800
representatives of 637 organizations from 61 countries
attended last year's Department of Public Information/NGO
Conference. In terms of net transfers, non-governmental
organizations collectively constitute the second largest
source of development assistance. In December 1997, the
Nobel Academy recognized the role of NGOs in the Ottawa
process which led to the adoption of the Convention
banning anti-personnel landmines. These facts vividly
illustrate the universal movement towards greater citizen
action, sometimes described as the "global associational
revolution", which has characterized the past few years.
Other examples abound of the dramatic rise in people's
capacity to organize themselves and in the influence exerted
by social movements in virtually all areas of concern and
at all levels of governance.

3.   The activity of non-State actors has become an
essential dimension of public life in all parts of the world.
Reform and restructuring of the United Nations thus
coincide with the emergence of a new participatory
international system responding to the forces of
globalization sweeping our world. The growing influence
and role of non-State actors has been both a hallmark and
a cause of our changing international environment. NGOs
are the clearest manifestation of what is referred to as "civil
society", that is, the sphere in which social movements
organize themselves around objectives, constituencies and
thematic interests. Other actors, however, have also taken
on an increasingly important role in shaping national and
international agendas and policy dialogues. They include
local authorities, mass media, business and industry leaders
and the research community, including academia and think-tanks. 
With lesser bureaucratic and institutional restraints,
all have embraced and benefited from the profound impact
brought about by the information and communication
revolution. NGOs have been particularly effective in
utilizing the instant access to information made possible by
new technologies, and have themselves become primary
sources and disseminators of information.

4.   To varying degrees and with varying rates of success,
the United Nations has attempted to adapt to this
phenomenon and to open its doors to civil society. This has
been most visible in the series of world summits and
conferences held in the first half of the 1990s. In their
aftermath, measures to strengthen cooperation with NGOs
are being taken across the entire United Nations system and
in virtually all areas of its activity. The present report aims
to provide a comprehensive overview of the present
institutional arrangements which frame the relations
between the United Nations and NGOs, while also depicting
the multiple forms which these relations have taken in
practice. It also attempts to answer a number of important
questions which have arisen in this regard, such as the need
for the United Nations to ensure a balanced geographical
representation among its partners in civil society, or ways
in which it can respond to the growing demands of NGOs
for of access to information and increased participation.

       II.     Institutional arrangements

5.   The relationship between the United Nations and
NGOs is not a new phenomenon. The United Nations as a
whole derives its mandate to work with civil society from
the Charter itself and its opening words "We, the
peoples...". Article 71 provides that the Economic and
Social Council may make "suitable arrangements for
consultation" with NGOs. For nearly three decades,
arrangements for consultation of the Economic and Social
Council with NGOs were governed by resolution 1296
(XLIV) of 23 May 1968. In 1996, after a thorough review,
the Council adopted resolution 1996/31 which established
three categories of status for NGOs. General consultative
status is for large, international NGOs whose area of work
covers most of the issues on the Council' s agenda. Special
consultative status is for NGOs that have special
competence in a few fields of the Council's activity. The
third category, which is inclusion on the Roster, is for NGOs
whose competence enables them to make occasional and
useful contributions to the work of the United Nations and
who are available for consultation upon request. NGOs on
the Roster may also include organizations in consultative
status with a specialized agency or other United Nations

6.   Those NGOs which are granted consultative status
acquire certain rights and responsibilities. The provisional
agenda of the Council is communicated to all of them and
NGOs with general status have the right to place items on
this agenda and that of the Council's subsidiary bodies.
Organizations with general and special status may designate
authorized representatives to sit as observers at public
meetings of the Economic and Social Council and
subsidiary bodies. NGOs on the Roster may have
representatives at such meetings concerned with matters
within their field of competence. Organizations in general
and special status may submit brief written statements which
can be published as United Nations documents and
circulated to members of the Council or subsidiary bodies.
Organizations on the Roster may also be invited to submit
written statements. Economic and Social Council resolution
1996/31 makes provision for oral presentations by
organizations in general or special consultative status during
certain meetings of the Council. NGOs in consultative status
with the Economic and Social Council must report every
four years on their activities.

7.   The Secretary-General is authorized to offer facilities
to NGOs in consultative status, including:

             - Prompt and efficient distribution of documents of the
               Economic and Social Council and its subsidiary
               bodies as appropriate;

             - Access to United Nations press documentation

             - Arrangement of informal discussions on matters of
               special interest to groups or organizations;

             - Appropriate seating arrangements and facilities for
               obtaining documents during public meetings of the
               General Assembly that deal with matters in the
               economic, social and related fields.

8.   NGOs have been particularly involved in the work of
some of the Council's subsidiary bodies, including the
Commission on Human Rights, the Commission on
Sustainable Development and the Commission on the Status
of Women. For instance, NGOs in consultative status with
the Economic and Social Council participate in the
Commission on Human Rights and the Subcommission on
Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities,
to which they may make oral or written statements. In
accordance with procedures established by the Council and
the Commission, NGOs, whether in consultative status or
not, may submit information regarding allegations of human
rights violations. The Working Group on Indigenous
Populations of the Subcommission, attended by nearly 1,000
NGOs annually, has instituted the practice of accepting
statements from NGOs, mainly indigenous ones, few of
which have consultative status. As required by Agenda 21,
adopted in 1992 at the United Nations Conference on
Environment and Development, the Commission on
Sustainable Development has included representatives of
"major groups", 1/ including NGOs, in its deliberations. The
Commission has also adopted new modalities, such as
including NGO representatives on United Nations panel

9.   Consultative status with the Economic and Social
Council remains at the core of the formal relationship
between the United Nations and NGOs. While no such
arrangement has been established by the General Assembly,
practice has already evolved to allow a certain degree of
informal participation by NGOs in the work of the
Assembly's Main Committees and several of its subsidiary
bodies. NGOs participate in the work of the Special
Political and Decolonization Committee (Fourth
Committee) in their capacity as petitioners. In all instances,
NGOs have requested permission to petition the Committee
and it is in that capacity that they have addressed the
Committee or participated in its work. In a similar manner,
NGOs participate in the work of the Special Committee on
the Situation with regard to the Implementation of the
Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial
Countries and Peoples.

10.  NGOs have also participated very actively in special
sessions of the General Assembly. NGO representatives
addressed the General Assembly at the plenary meetings of
its  nineteenth special session, held in June 1997, to review
the implementation of Agenda 21. Some 1,000
organizations were accredited on that occasion. At the
twentieth special session of the General Assembly, held in
June 1998, accreditation was granted to all NGOs with a
serious interest in the questions of drug abuse and illicit
trafficking, including many which neither held consultative
status with the Economic and Social Council nor were
associated with the Department of Public Information, but
which had enjoyed a working relationship with the United
Nations International Drug Control Programme or were
listed in the Programme's directory of NGOs. NGOs were
invited to make an input into the draft guiding principles of
drug demand reduction adopted by the General Assembly
at the special session.

11.  The United Nations Secretariat's relationship with
NGOs is manifold. The functions of facilitating the
consultative process with and disseminating information to
the non-governmental community are the responsibility of
two offices of the Secretariat, namely, the NGO Section of
the Department of Economic and Social Affairs and the
NGO Section of the Department of Public Information. The
main function of the former is to serve as the substantive
secretariat of the Economic and Social Council Committee
on NGOs, composed of 24 Member States, which reviews
NGO applications for consultative status and makes
recommendations thereon to the Council. This servicing
involves the screening and processing by the Section of all
applications submitted to the NGO Committee, a task that
is becoming increasingly demanding as the yearly number
of applications continues to rise. The Section also receives
and processes the quadrennial reports submitted by the
NGOs for the Committee's review. It provides accreditation
to representatives of NGOs in consultative status with the
Economic and Social Council and maintains close contact
with the Conference of non-governmental organizations in
Consultative Relationship with the United Nations. At the
United Nations Office at Geneva, an NGO Liaison Office
carries out accreditation procedures and provides other
types of logistical or substantive assistance to NGOs in
consultative status.

12.  The relationship between NGOs and the Department
of Public Information is based on General Assembly
resolution 13 (I) of 13 February 1946, by which the
Assembly decided that the Department and its branch
offices should actively assist and encourage national
information services, educational institutions and other
governmental and interested groups in spreading
information about the United Nations. Formal association
with the Department was given legislative authority by the
Economic and Social Council in its resolution 1297 (XLIV).
In cooperation with United Nations information centres and
other United Nations offices worldwide, the Department's
NGO Section evaluates applications from NGOs wishing
to enter into formal association with the Department. A
Department of Public Information Committee examines the
applications and takes decisions on whether or not to
include NGOs in the annual Department of Public
Information/NGO Directory. The NGO/Department of
Public Information Executive Committee, composed of 18
members elected by NGOs in association with the
Department of Public Information, serves as the liaison
between NGOs and the Department. Services offered by the
Department to NGOs are described in section IV of the
present report.

13.  Over the years, most substantive departments have
appointed one or several NGO liaison officers to facilitate
access by NGOs to the United Nations and improve
communications between officials in these departments and
NGO experts in the relevant fields. These relations vary
greatly from department to department and according to the
issue at hand. The relations established between the
Department for Disarmament Affairs and NGOs are briefly
described here as an example. The Department for
Disarmament Affairs works mainly with those peace and
disarmament-related NGO members of the NGO Committee
on Disarmament (a subsidiary body of the Conference of
Non-Governmental Organizations in Consultative
Relationship with the United Nations based in New York
and comprising 56 organizations) and the Special NGO
Committee on Disarmament (another Committee of the
Conference based in Geneva, and comprising 42
organizations). Collaboration with NGOs focuses on two
main areas, namely, (a) implementation of the United
Nations Disarmament Information programme in New York, 
Geneva and in various regions of the world and
(b) coordination of NGO participation in disarmament-related 
meetings and conferences. Reference is made to the
United Nations Disarmament Information campaign in
section IV below. As for NGO participation in meetings, the
Department coordinates the participation of NGOs in
intergovernmental conferences and meetings (under United
Nations auspices or related to the review of international
treaties) to the fullest extent permitted by the relevant rules
of procedure. In the case of treaty review conferences, when
serving as secretariat, the Department makes
recommendations to the States parties on the accreditation
of NGOs, also in accordance with the rules of procedures
established for such bodies. Arrangements for NGOs
include allowing access to premises and meeting rooms, the
receipt and presentation of documentation, the provision of
office space and supplies and the setting up of briefings by
officers and other delegations participating in the meeting.

14.  In his report entitled "Renewing the United Nations:
a programme for reform" (A/51/950), presented to the
Assembly in 1997, the Secretary-General called for all
departments that had not yet done so to designate a NGO
liaison officer. In an effort to coordinate better the activities
of all these focal points, and to ensure consistency in the
Secretariat's dealings with NGOs, an Inter-Departmental
Working Group on NGOs was revived three years ago and
is currently chaired by the Assistant Secretary-General for
External Relations. A similar group meets at the United
Nations Office at Geneva and is chaired by a representative
of the Director-General. The main objective of the working
groups is to develop common guidelines and exchange
information, without curtailing the necessary flexibility that
should govern each department's dealings with specific
NGOs. They are a useful device for fostering contacts
among officials working with NGOs and channelling
information to the Office of the Secretary-General.

15.  The majority of funds, agencies and programmes of
the United Nations system have also received a clear
mandate from their governing bodies to work with NGOs,
and have developed a wide range of mechanisms to do so.
Many of their own procedures and arrangements in this field
reflect those of the Economic and Social Council
consultative status. Most involve the granting of a formal
status for consultation and many include annual consultation
between United Nations officials and their main partners in
the non-governmental community. While formal
responsibility for cooperation with NGOs often resides in
external relations services, or their equivalent, staff in the
other units of the secretariats maintain informal contacts
with NGOs, maintaining liaison and collaborating on
technical and operational matters.

16.  Arrangements for the participation of NGOs in the
intergovernmental activities of the United Nations
Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), for
instance, are governed by the rules of procedure and the
decisions of the Trade and Development Board. Those
organizations which exercise functions and have a basic
interest in most of the activities of the Board are placed in
the general category, while those with special competence
in specific activities fall into the special category. National
NGOs of recognized standing deemed to have a significant
contribution to make to the work of UNCTAD are placed
on the Register after consultation with the Member State
concerned. There are currently 177 NGOs in status with
UNCTAD, 95 in the general category and 82 in the special
category. NGOs in status receive notifications of and
documents for conferences and meetings convened by
UNCTAD. Their representatives are entitled to participate
as observers, without the right to vote, in the public
meetings of the intergovernmental bodies.

17.  As early as 1950, the United Nations Children's Fund
(UNICEF) was specifically called upon by the General
Assembly to "obtain from ... non-governmental
organizations having a special interest in child and family
welfare the advice and technical assistance which it may
require for the implementation of its programmes"
(resolution 417 (V) of 1 December 1950). Accordingly,
UNICEF has granted consultative status to those
international development organizations which already hold
consultative status with the Economic and Social Council,
engage in child-related activities and wish to formalize their
relationship with UNICEF. This allows them to be
represented as observers at meetings of the Executive
Board, and, with the agreement of the Board's Chairperson,
to take the floor and circulate statements if they express a
particular interest in the agenda items under discussion.
Currently, 191 NGOs hold consultative status with

18.  The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)
does not have formal accreditation procedures for NGOs,
but draws up memoranda of understanding and cooperation
agreements for specific areas of cooperation with individual
NGOs, as needed. UNDP's relationship with what it refers
to as civil society organizations are now guided by a policy
statement issued in June 1997. In June 1997, the
UNDP/United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA)
Executive Board also adopted rules of procedure allowing
it to invite, when it considers appropriate,
intergovernmental organizations and NGOs in consultative
status with the Economic and Social Council to participate
in its deliberations for questions that relate to their
activities. At Headquarters, the UNDP Civil Society and
Participation Programme is responsible for strengthening
UNDP policy and operational methods to collaborate
effectively with civil society organizations. The UNDP
Division of Public Affairs works to advance UNDP relations
with civil society organizations in advocacy and public
information. In response to proposals from its civil society
organization/NGO partners, UNDP is currently working to
create a civil society organization/NGO Committee which
could facilitate relations between UNDP and NGOs on
operational, policy and advocacy matters.

19.  Since its inception, UNFPA has maintained close
operational relationships with NGOs. In 1995, UNFPA
established an NGO Advisory Committee at the
international level to advise it on policy and programming
matters and to promote a more active involvement of NGOs
in its work, especially in its advocacy activities. The
Advisory Committee, which meets annually, is composed
of from 25 to 30 representatives of community-based,
national, regional and international NGOs. A Working
Group on NGO accreditation reviews applications by NGOs
seeking a collaborative relationship with UNFPA. NGOs
which meet certain criteria are recommended by the
Working Group to the Policy and Planning Committee for
approval. UNFPA has also recently established the
NGO/Civil Society Theme Group to formulate, recommend
and implement strategies, procedures and activities that will
promote, strengthen and facilitate UNFPA interaction and
collaboration with civil society. Both UNFPA staff at
Headquarters and in the field participate in the work of the
Theme Group.

20.  The World Food Programme (WFP) also invites
NGOs to attend its Executive Board meetings as observers
and, as such, they are allowed to take the floor, upon
request. In addition, WFP conducts a regular policy
dialogue with its major operational partners through an
annual "WFP-NGO Consultation" which is jointly managed
and organized by the NGOs and WFP. The agenda and
membership of the Consultation are proposed by the NGOs
themselves. Likewise, the Office of the United Nations High
Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) allows NGOs to
participate as observers in both its Executive and Standing
Committees. A UNHCR/NGO Consultation precedes the
Executive Committee meeting.

21.  The International Fund for Agricultural Development
(IFAD) does not give formal or consultative status to NGOs.
However, subject to formal approval by the Executive
Board, NGOs may participate as observers in meetings of
the IFAD Governing Council.  The annual consultation
which IFAD has also been holding with selected NGO
partners since 1990 provides a forum for dialogue between
the Fund and representatives of the NGO community on
past, ongoing and future cooperation. The consultation
always reviews a range of issues arising from IFAD/NGO
cooperation as well as some specific themes. An Advisory
Group of NGOs was formed to choose these themes, select
the participants, and provide ongoing advice on ways to
strengthen IFAD/NGO collaboration.

22.  Many specialized agencies of the United Nations
system grant consultative status to NGOs whose goals and
activities are directly related to these agencies' mandate,
and from which they can obtain information or expert
advice. For instance, the International Maritime
Organization (IMO) grants consultative status to NGOs
whose activities are directly related to its purposes. These
NGOs (54 at present) are invited to be represented by
observers at sessions of the governing bodies of IMO and
its committees and their subsidiary bodies. The IMO Rules
require reciprocal privileges to be accorded to IMO by the
NGOs to which consultative status has been granted. Those
organizations have also undertaken to support the activities
of IMO and to promote the dissemination of its principles
and work.

23.  The Basic Texts of the Food and Agriculture
Organization of the United Nations (FAO) also provide for
formal arrangements for consultation, cooperation and
liaison with NGOs. Three kinds of formal relations are
granted, namely, consultative status, special consultative
status and liaison status. At present, 190 international NGOs
have formal relations with FAO. They can be invited to send
observers to the sessions of the FAO Council and
Conference and to participate in experts' meetings and
technical conferences and seminars. A Unit for Cooperation
with the Private Sector and NGOs has been established to
review and strengthen cooperation with civil society.

24.  Initial provisions for the United Nations Educational,
Scientific and Cultural Organization's (UNESCO) relations
with NGOs were set out in UNESCO's constitution. These
provisions were completed in 1960 by a set of Directives
adopted by the General Conference. Guided by these
Directives, UNESCO established formal relations, at three
different levels or categories with some 580 international
NGOs. The new Directives adopted in 1995 did away with
the "hierarchy" inherent in the previous ones and placed
greater emphasis on operationality, direct action in the field
and closer contact with grass-roots organizations. However,
the new Directives still draw a distinction between national
and international or regional NGOs. While they provide for
the continuation of close relations with a small group of
international NGOs, they also introduce a new, more
flexible, set of arrangements. Thus, UNESCO can cooperate
with NGOs at all levels (international, regional, subregional,
national, local and grass-roots) under what are termed
"operational relations", with the purpose of helping the
organization amplify its concrete action in the field.
Provisions are also made for regular meetings with
representatives of NGOs having a formal relation with
UNESCO, both at the global level and through regional

25.  Article 71 of the constitution of the World Health
Organization (WHO) stipulates that WHO may "on matters
within its competence make suitable arrangements for
consultation and cooperation with non-governmental
international organizations and, with the consent of the
Government concerned, with national organizations,
governmental or non-governmental". Unlike the Economic
and Social Council, WHO has only one category of formal
relations, and in principle, only international NGOs are
eligible. The Executive Board decides whether an NGO is
to be admitted into what it refers to as "official relations
with WHO". Each NGO in official relations is appointed a
designated technical officer who is responsible for the
development and maintenance of joint collaboration. NGOs
in official relations have the right to participate, but not to
vote, in WHO's meetings or in those of the committees and
conferences convened under its authority. All other contacts
with NGOs, including working relations, are considered to
be of an informal character. With the exception of
administrative programmes, most WHO programmes have
some type of formal or informal interaction with NGOs. In
fact, official relations normally result when contacts and
joint activities develop over the years into mutually agreed
programmes of work in international health or health-related
activities. There are more than 180 NGOs enjoying official
relations with WHO. WHO regional offices can establish
working relations with national and regional organizations.

26.  Article 19 of the Constitution of the United Nations
Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) provides
that the Director-General can establish appropriate relations
with non-governmental and other organizations the work of
which is related to that of the Organization. When
establishing relations with national NGOs, the Director-General 
must consult with the Governments concerned. At
present, more than 100 NGOs enjoy consultative status with
UNIDO, which is granted by the Industrial Development
Board and which enables them to participate in the meetings
of the Industrial Development Board, the General
Conference and in other activities. Within the office of the
Director-General, it is the task of the External Relations
Service to coordinate UNIDO activities with NGOs.

27.  Since the early 1980s, the World Bank's dialogue with
NGOs has been guided primarily through the NGO-World
Bank Committee, which was formed in 1982 to provide an
avenue of exchange between NGOs and Bank management.
The Committee's meetings provide a formal, international
arena for policy discussions among senior bank managers
and 26 NGO leaders from around the world. The NGOs
determine the membership through a staggered election
process, which allows for annual rotation and diversity of
NGO representation. The Committee is currently in the
process of being decentralized to the regions, where it is
envisioned that its work will have greater focus on regional
and country-specific issues. In the Bank, the NGO Unit,
housed in the Social Development Department, works with
Resident Missions and headquarters offices on issues related
to NGOs and broader civil society participation in the
Bank's activities. There are now staff in 63 Resident
Missions with full or partial responsibility for NGO matters.
An NGO thematic group brings together representatives
from each region and the central vice presidency to facilitate
discussion of matters related to both operational and policy
work with NGOs.

28.  Owing to the nature of their activities, a number of
United Nations agencies have established very specific
relations with non-governmental entities. Among them, the
International Telecommunication Union (ITU) has a long-standing 
tradition of private sector participation, which has
intensified in recent years. Its partners in civil society,
which include recognized operating agencies, scientific or
industrial organizations and financial or development
institutions, are referred to as "sector members". Sector
members have the right to participate in and submit written
contributions to ITU Conferences (other than those
empowered to conclude legal instruments having treaty
status), assemblies and meetings.

29.  The International Labour Organization (ILO) is the
only tripartite institution within the United Nations family.
Its constituents are Governments, employers' and workers'
organizations, the latter two being represented in national
delegations on equal footing with Governments.
Representatives of employers and organized labour are thus
full-fledged members of the organization's decision-making
bodies, such as the International Labour Conference and the
ILO Governing Body, and participate equally in regional
and sectoral meetings. In addition, the Constitution of ILO
provides for consultative relationships with "recognized
non-governmental international organizations, including
international organizations of employers, workers,
agriculturists and cooperatives". This provision has been
put into effect with the establishment of three different
categories of NGOs, the first of which applies to
international NGOs with an important interest in a wide
range of activities of the Organization that are granted
general consultative or regional status. Standing
arrangements have been made for the participation of those
enjoying general consultative status in all ILO meetings, and
in regional meetings for those with regional consultative
status.  Those NGOs which demonstrate an evident interest
in at least one area of the work of the ILO and adhere to
established procedures may be admitted to the second
category, namely, ILO's Special List of NGOs. Finally, the
ILO Governing Body extends an invitation to international
NGOs which meet certain established criteria to attend the
different ILO meetings for which they have demonstrated
a particular interest.

30.  Worthy of mention is the unique example of the Joint
United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), the
first programme of the United Nations system to include
NGO representatives on its governing body as full
participants, rather than observers. The Programme
Coordinating Board is comprised of representatives of 22
Member States (including both donor and recipient
countries), the programme's six co-sponsors (UNICEF,
UNDP, UNFPA, UNESCO, WHO and the World Bank),
NGOs and people with HIV/AIDS.

31.  Thus, over the last decade, arrangements for
consultation with NGOs have been revised, improved and
extended across the United Nations system, allowing NGOs
to shape in significant ways the international development
and political debates. The advantages of this increased NGO
participation cannot be overestimated. NGOs have
introduced additional knowledge and information into the
decision-making process; they have raised new issues and
concerns which were subsequently addressed by the United
Nations; they have provided expert advice in areas where
they were the main actors; and they have contributed greatly
to a broad consensus-building process in many areas which
ensured commitment by all actors to a global agenda. This
participation has proven to be a very useful addition to the
regular intergovernmental work of the Organization. It
should also be noted that, throughout the years, and despite
their numbers, very few incidents of a disruptive nature
involving NGOs have occurred.

      III.     A growing operational partnership

32.  Practical cooperation in operational matters between
the United Nations and NGOs has also undergone vast
qualitative and quantitative changes in recent years. For a
long time, and with the notable exception of relief work,
there was little functional interaction between the United
Nations system and NGOs in the field. However, as the
comparative strengths of NGOs and the potential for their
complementarity with the United Nations grew more
evident, they have become indispensable partners, not only
in development and relief operations, but also in public
information and advocacy. Often, these close partners do
not hold any formal status of association or consultation
with the United Nations, in fact, formal relations are rarely
a prerequisite for cooperation. Nevertheless, as their role
as implementing partners, clients, advocates or funding
sources for United Nations programmes increases, the need
arises to provide flexible but clear guidelines to those
United Nations officials dealing with NGOs.

33.  The comparative advantages of NGOs in operational
matters, as clearly summarized by UNIDO in a 1997
working paper entitled "UNIDO's approach to Non-Governmental 
Organizations", "lie in the proximity to their
members or clients, their flexibility and the high degree of
people's involvement and participation in their activities,
which leads to strong commitments, appropriateness of
solutions and high acceptance of decisions implemented".
Most agencies, funds and programmes of the United Nations
system would agree to the following list, drawn up by
UNIDO, of the assets provided by NGOs:

             - Local accountability;

             - Independent assessment of issues and problems;

             - Expertise and advice;

             - Important constituencies;

             - Provision and dissemination of information;

             - Awareness-raising.

34.  There also exist a number of constraints or potential
difficulties which limit the scope of United Nations
collaboration with NGOs. They lie principally in the sheer
number of organizations and their diversity, their occasional
organizational weaknesses, the fragility of certain
grass-roots organizations and the sometimes divergent
positions among NGOs and between NGOs and
Governments. Furthermore, over-dependence on external
financing can sometimes undermine the sustainability and
even independence of NGOs. Nonetheless, the balance
remains overwhelmingly favourable to a strengthened
cooperation between the United Nations system and NGOs
in operational matters, at Headquarters and in the field.

35.  Within the Secretariat, the Office for the Coordination
of Humanitarian Affairs has established strong mechanisms
of cooperation with NGOs. In the six years since the
General Assembly called for a coordinated system of
humanitarian response to crises (resolution 46/182 of 19
December 1991), much progress has been made in
mobilizing the collective efforts of the international
community, including NGOs, to deliver assistance in a
coherent and timely manner. NGOs are often the first to
alert the international community to impending
humanitarian crises, and are inevitably in the forefront of
any response.

36.  The Inter-Agency Standing Committee, chaired by the
Emergency Relief Coordinator, is the central humanitarian
policy-making body in the United Nations system. It is
unique in that its composition comprises not only the heads
of United Nations agencies engaged in humanitarian action
(such as the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian
Affairs, the World Food Programme or the Office of the
United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees), but also
the heads of the International Committee of the Red Cross,
the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent
Societies and three NGO consortiums, namely, InterAction
(a coalition of over 150 private non-profit agencies involved
in development and relief assistance worldwide), the
International Council of Voluntary Agencies (a consortium
of some 100 private relief and development organizations
based in Africa, Asia and the Pacific, Europe, Latin
America and North America) and the Steering Committee
for Humanitarian Response (an alliance of major NGOs
involved in relief operations). The NGO consortiums thus
fully participate in formulating system-wide responses to
specific emergencies and in determining priorities and aims
in support of the work carried out in the field.

37.  Other mechanisms for consultation and exchange of
information on humanitarian matters between the United
Nations and NGOs at Headquarters include monthly
meetings between the Office for the Coordination of
Humanitarian Affairs and InterAction, which are co-chaired.
At the field level, NGOs provide expertise and advice for
United Nations activities related both to natural and
man-made disasters. There are NGO liaison officers
assigned to all of the Office for the Coordination of
Humanitarian Affairs's coordination structures in the field.
Since NGOs are frequently the implementing partners for
many United Nations operational humanitarian agencies,
they are increasingly involved in the consolidated appeal
process, through their participation in assessment missions
and in formulating programmes in their specific areas of
competence and their activities and projects are often
reflected in the United Nations consolidated appeal
documents presented to potential donors. Their involvement
in the process benefits populations in need by promoting
closer coordination and encouraging better use of finite
resources and providing potential donors with a more
complete picture of requirements and actors in emergency
situations. It is also worth mentioning that the Steering
Committee for Humanitarian Response has developed a
code of conduct for NGOs active in this field. Thus far, 144
NGOs have adhered to the code.

38.  All United Nations offices directly involved in
humanitarian and relief operations, but also those working
in the field of development, have established very strong
operational relations with NGOs. UNHCR has a direct
operational partnership with some 400 to 500 NGOs and,
in 1997, funded 443 NGOs in 131 countries, in order to
implement 931 projects at a cost of US$ 272 million. A Plan
of Action for "Partnership in Action" was adopted by
UNHCR and some 500 NGOs from all continents at a major
conference held in Oslo in 1994. A tangible step in that
process is the agreement by UNHCR and NGOs on the
concept of and the need for an operational partnership
agreement. This agreement, to be signed between UNHCR
and NGOs, is intended to assist all concerned in setting out
a basic common understanding on standards of conduct,
field coordination, the technical and assistance standard at
which both partners aim, and the guidelines which will be
used in planning and implementation of refugee operations.
In addition, both the Emergency and Technical Sections of
UNHCR have a number of formal stand-by arrangements
with NGOs for the provision of staff in the early days of an

39.  The World Food Programme (WFP) has an
operational collaboration with about 1,200 NGOs
worldwide that covers a broad range of activities, which
include data collection, exchange of information,
identification and formulation of projects, needs assessment,
nutritional survey, secondary transportation from storage
point to final distribution site, distribution of food,
reporting, monitoring or impact assessment. In emergency
situations, the main areas of cooperation relate to food
distribution and monitoring. In recent years, WFP has
negotiated a "Memorandum of Understanding on
collaborative working arrangements" with its major partners
at the Headquarters level. These agreements aim at
establishing a clear division of tasks and responsibilities
between WFP and its NGO partners, thus building on the
comparative advantages of both organizations and
maximizing the effectiveness of the operations. The
memorandum of understanding also makes reference to
qualitative and socio-economic considerations, such as
involvement of women in the planning and management of
food aid operations, sustainability and environment issues.
Memorandums of understanding on stand-by arrangements
have also been concluded with a number of NGOs with a
view to increasing WFP's preparedness capacity.

40.  As stated above (para. 17), UNICEF has collaborated
with NGOs ever since it was founded. Over the years, NGOs
and community-based organizations have become a central
element in the implementation of programmes and projects
at the country level. Traditional areas of NGO involvement
include child health, nutrition and development, basic
education and water and environmental sanitation. In
addition, since the adoption by the General Assembly of the
Convention on the Rights of the Child (resolution 44/25 of
20 November 1989, annex), UNICEF has worked with
NGOs in the area of child protection, child labour, children
in armed conflicts and disabled children, early childhood
care and development and youth health and development.

41.  Cooperation between IFAD and NGOs effectively
began in 1980 with the Fund's support to the Small Farmer
Agricultural Credit Project in Bangladesh. An initial IFAD
loan, along with a subsequent one in 1984, helped an NGO --
the now well-known Grameen Bank -- to expand its
operations of credit delivery to the rural poor. Since then,
IFAD, in recognition of the vital role of NGOs in
micro-development, has established a special IFAD/NGO
Fund and an Extended Cooperation Programme, with an
individual grant ceiling of US$ 75,000, for direct grant
financing to NGOs. The aim of the Programme is to lay the
groundwork for future IFAD investments, or to back up
ongoing projects. To date, 107 grants have been extended
and 228 NGOs have been involved since 1977 in the
implementation of IFAD projects. The activities in which
NGOs are involved include implementation of rural credit
programmes, water resources development, crop
production, small-scale enterprises and marketing support
and institution-building. One third of cooperating NGOs are
involved in credit delivery, tied with savings mobilization.

42.  In 1997, UNDP formalized guidelines for the
execution of projects by NGOs. Such arrangements must be
approved by the Government concerned and must meet
UNDP requirements for execution and legal status. Global,
regional, interregional and country projects may be
executed by NGOs. The procedures determine the role of
NGOs as executing agents, project appraisal and approval
criteria, implementation standards, and financial
management, accounting and reporting. Last November, the
Administrator urged all resident representatives to organize
consultations and policy dialogue with civil society
organizations and to secure their involvement in the
formulation, design and evaluation of UNDP programmes
and projects. He also called on them to increase NGO
execution in line with the new procedures mentioned above.

43.  The World Bank also recognizes that achievement of
its overarching goal of reducing poverty in its client
countries requires the active and substantive involvement
of a broad range of actors, NGOs prominent among them.
NGO involvement in the portfolio of projects approved each
fiscal year has risen from an average of 12 per cent in the
1980s, to nearly 50 per cent in the past several years. In
1997, 47 per cent of projects approved anticipated some
degree of involvement by NGOs. While historically, NGO
involvement has been most prevalent during project
implementation, there is also a growing trend to increase
upstream involvement of NGOs in project preparation.

44.  The main goal of UNFPA's operational collaboration
with NGOs is to supplement and strengthen the national
capacity to implement programmes in the sectoral areas
within the Fund's mandate. UNFPA has been steadily
increasing the amount of programme resources allocated to
NGO-executed projects, both in absolute terms and in the
percentage of total programme expenditures. By 1997,
NGO-executed project expenditures had increased to almost
15 per cent of total UNFPA programme expenditures. In
general, at the country and regional levels, funding
assistance for NGO-executed projects was primarily for
reproductive health activities. At the interregional level,
such assistance was primarily for population and
development activities, although support was also provided
for NGO-executed reproductive health and advocacy

45.  Likewise, many NGOs are involved in the operational
activities of the United Nations International Drug Control
Programme, the majority of them in the field of drugs
demand reduction. A number of NGOs have also executed
major projects aimed at supply reduction (alternative
development projects to reduce the economic dependence
of peasant farming communities on illicit narcotic crops).
Furthermore, UNDCP has established a special fund to
provide grants to grass-roots organizations in developing
countries and countries in transition. NGOs acting as
executing agencies must have proper accounting procedures
and be able to make accounts available for audit. They must
be recognized by both their national Government and the
host Government. All organizations, whether acting as
executing agencies or in receipt of grants, must have the
necessary managerial and technical capacity to undertake
projects, with a demonstrated track record. NGOs acting as
project executing agencies sign an executing agency
agreement and a project document, and are subject to the
same reporting procedure as any other executing agency.

46.  Thus, NGOs are actively involved in United Nations
operational activities, either as executing agencies of United
Nations-led projects or as beneficiaries (or "clients") of
projects or grants. Over the last few years, this involvement
has increased and moved "upstream" as NGOs participate
more and more commonly in the design of projects. Many
United Nations agencies, programmes and funds have
established or updated frameworks, guidelines or
procedures, which sometimes include the signing with NGO
partners of memorandums of understanding or contracts, to
provide coherence and direction to their operational
dealings with NGOs, and to balance the need for
accountability to Governments and donors with the required
programmatic flexibility at the country level.

47.  NGOs are not only recipients of United Nations
assistance. They have also become important sources of
funding for some United Nations programmes and funds.
UNICEF National Committees thus contribute roughly one
third of UNICEF's overall income. Service-club
organizations such as Rotary International (so far Rotary
International has contributed US$ 240 million towards the
Polio Eradication Campaign, of which US$ 105 million
went to UNICEF) and Kiwanis International (which has
pledged over US$ 25 million towards the Elimination of
Iodine- deficiency Disorders) contribute considerably to the
successful outcome of such broad-based programmatic
efforts. Other examples include a number of projects led by
UNDCP which have also benefited from funds raised by
NGOs ranging from the Norwegian Church Aid to the Drug
Abuse Prevention Centre of Tokyo.

       IV.     Building bridges between civil
               society and the United Nations

48.  The range of operational collaboration with NGOs
actually goes much beyond fund-raising and programme
delivery, to cover activities such as research and
information outreach, policy dialogue and advocacy.
Through the latter, NGOs have played a very significant and
helpful role by establishing bridges between the United
Nations and civil society at large. They have effectively
disseminated information related to United Nations goals
and programmes, publicized and gathered support for major
campaigns carried out by the Organization, while at the
same time transmitting the concerns and the views of
various sectors of civil society to United Nations forums.

49.  Over the years, the association of NGOs with the
Department of Public Information has proved to be a very
useful tool and a central feature of NGOs relations with the
United Nations system. The main criteria for association
with the Department is that NGOs have a demonstrated
interest in United Nations issues and a proven ability to
reach large or specialized audiences, including the general
public, educators, media representatives, policy makers, and
the business community. These NGOs must have the
commitment and means to conduct effective information
programmes focusing on issues of concern to the United
Nations through their own publications, Web sites, radio
and television programmes, or during their conferences,
seminars, or round tables.

50.  The NGO Section of the Department of Public
Information serves the NGOs associated with the
Department in a number of ways . It organizes an annual
three-day conference, held at United Nations Headquarters
in September. The conference, attended most recently by
some 1,800 NGO representatives, has become a major
event, which provides a significant platform for the
dissemination of information to active NGOs and for
genuine in-depth dialogue between them, United Nations
officials and representatives of Member States. The Section
has successfully encouraged United Nations information
centres to organize parallel NGO conferences at the national
and regional levels, so that NGOs unable to attend the
Headquarters conference can network and exchange
information with other national NGOs working on United
Nations-related issues. Over the years, the network of
United Nations information centres and services has
developed close working relationships with national and
regional NGOs, thereby increasing the Department's
information outreach to many hundreds of organizations.

51.  The Section also organizes weekly briefings for NGO
representatives at United Nations Headquarters,
highlighting a different issue of priority concern to the
Organization each week. An average of 200 NGO
representatives participate in this direct exchange of
information on United Nations activities between United
Nations experts, representatives of Member States and
representatives of NGOs. The Section produces a weekly
"DPI/NGO Link" with selected news and information on
recent material available at the Department of Public
Information/NGO Resource Centre. The Resource Centre,
located at Headquarters and serviced by the NGO Section,
provides current information materials from the Secretariat
and many agencies, funds and programmes.

52.  Another crucial link to the non-governmental
community has been established in the last three years by
the Department of Public Information through the creation
of the United Nations Web site. Although the Web site is
not specifically geared to NGOs, their knowledge of modern
information technologies and frequent use of the Internet
make them primary beneficiaries of United Nations efforts
in this field. The United Nations Web site has witnessed
phenomenal growth in the years since its creation, both in
terms of the number of accesses and the scope of
information material it contains. The number of accesses to
the site reached 42.7 million in 1997 and continues to
increase rapidly, averaging 141 access every minute in the
first quarter of 1998. These accesses are from individuals
or organizations located in 132 countries. The Web site
(with related gopher sites) contains a wealth of information
on United Nations activities and official documentation,
which is now available in all countries to computer users
with access to the Internet. The NGO Section maintains a
United Nations/NGO link page on the site. The Department
of Public Information is now engaged in a major redesign
of the United Nations home page through which it hopes to
target more specific audiences, and which should further
facilitate NGOs' access to United Nations-related
information. Twelve United Nations information centres
have developed their own Web sites.

53.  A very important mechanism for the dissemination of
information and the fostering of a greater understanding and
dialogue between the United Nations and NGOs was created
in 1975, when several United Nations agencies established
a joint project known as the United Nations
Non-Governmental Liaison Service. The Service reports
annually to the Joint United Nations Information
Committee, its governing body, and through the Committee,
to the Administrative Committee on Coordination. The
Service works with Secretariat departments, United Nations
agencies, programmes and funds, Convention secretariats
and other bodies and organizations of the United Nations
system working in areas of economic and social
development, sustainable development, humanitarian
emergencies and human rights. It brings important United
Nations policies, issues and activities in these fields to the
attention of NGOs through publications and meetings. Its
publishes, in particular, a bi-monthly newsletter,
"Go-Between", which provides news and information on the
United Nations system and on United Nations cooperation
with NGOs. The Service also produces Roundup Reports
on major United Nations events and conferences, as well as
manuals, handbooks and directories designed to provide the
NGO community with United Nations contacts and entry
points, as well as information and guidance on the rules,
procedures and scope for collaboration with the United
Nations system. Most of the Service's publications are
distributed to the 6,000 NGOs featured on its databases, and
are uploaded onto electronic mail networks. Furthermore,
as a trusted interlocutor between the United Nations system
and NGOs, and to facilitate direct communication,
interaction and dialogue, the Service organizes, or helps to
organize, from time to time, consultations between United
Nations agencies and NGOs on specific sectoral issues. It
also organized two inter-agency consultations in 1997 to
discuss cooperation with civil society, one entitled
"Working with Civil Society: Issues and Challenges" and
the other focusing on operational collaboration with NGOs.

54.  Many substantive departments of the Secretariat, as
well as agencies and funds of the United Nations system
publish regular newsletters on their activities. NGOs, who
are normally the primary recipients of these publications,
disseminate the information received to their constituencies
through their own publications or during their meetings. The
Division for the Advancement of Women of the Department
of Economic and Social Affairs, for instance, maintains a
large mailing list of NGOs accredited to the Fourth World
Conference on Women (2,500 organizations) and other
NGOs and individuals, totalling about 10,000 for some of
its regular publications.

55.  Some departments have also been specifically
mandated to cooperate with NGOs to strengthen information
efforts on important topics. For instance, NGOs are actively
involved in the United Nations Disarmament Information
Programme, which was launched at the first meeting of the
second special session of the General Assembly devoted to
disarmament in 1982. NGOs receive, develop and
disseminate information and education materials produced
by the Department for Disarmament Affairs. The
Department also works closely with NGOs on special
events, such as the celebration of Disarmament week,
starting on 24 October every year. The Division for Social
Policy and Development of the Department of Economic
and Social Affairs convenes a biennial World Youth Forum
attended by hundreds of non-governmental youth
organizations, through which the Forums have built
important bridges between the United Nations system and
youth groups worldwide.

56.  Owing to the unique capacity of NGOs to gather
public support for and raise general awareness on a number
of important subjects, joint advocacy campaigns with
NGOs, at the international and national levels, have often
met with considerable success. The Ottawa process, which
led to the adoption, in December 1997, of the Convention
banning anti-personnel landmines was a landmark in this
regard, and is a striking example of effective partnership
between intergovernmental, governmental and
non-governmental actors. The process and the role played
in it by the International Campaign to Ban Landmines, an
umbrella group of NGOs active in this field, have shown
that determined, knowledgeable and well-organized NGOs
that are willing to form caucuses and alliances can achieve
successes in advocacy and lend tremendous weight to
International and United Nations-led campaigns. Other
examples include UNICEF's strong reliance on NGOs in its
advocacy campaigns, such as those on the implementation
of the recommendations of the United Nations report on the
impact of armed conflicts on children, the "Child-friendly
city initiative" or the subject of the sexual exploitation of
children. NGOs' involvement in the latter was particularly
important. The Conference on Sexual Exploitation of
Children, held in Stockholm in 1996, was co-sponsored and
organized on an equal footing by the Government of
Sweden, UNICEF and the NGO called End Child
Prostitution and Trafficking.

57.  Although NGOs neither hosted nor organized the
global conferences of this decade, their involvement in the
process of collective analysis of the economic and social
fields by the United Nations through these conferences
reached unprecedented levels and led to an important
breakthrough in the perception by United Nations officials
and Member States alike of the role of NGOs. The latter are
no longer seen only as disseminators of information, but as
shapers of policy and indispensable bridges between the
general public and the intergovernmental processes. Since
the United Nations Conference on Environment and
Development, held in Rio in 1992, United Nations world
conferences have aimed to encourage the increased
participation of international and national NGOs from
developed and developing countries, grassroots and
community-based organizations and regional and
international networks. Indeed, the degree to which a world
conference mobilizes the attention of NGOs and other
organizations of civil society has become an important
criterion for judging its success. The massive presence of
NGOs in the conferences increased public awareness of the
conferences and the issues they dealt with and, ultimately,
of the United Nations, and was a driving force for the
setting of international norms and standards. NGOs
participating in the conferences also provided :

             - Technical input and expertise on the issues under

             - A linkage between the national and international
               deliberations on the issues, thereby enlarging the
               transparency of the process and the accountability of
               actors involved;

             - An interested and informed constituency, at both the
               international and national level, for the
               implementation and monitoring of the results of the

NGOs have also worked with national Governments towards
the implementation of the agreements reached and decisions
taken at the conferences.

58.  NGOs benefited in different ways from their
participation in the conferences. They were encouraged, in
particular, to organize themselves into regional or thematic
caucuses, which enabled them to manage better their
participation in the international policy dialogue and
mobilize themselves into effective forces for advocacy work
by facilitating the development of shared perspectives and
approaches. By forming alliances, networks and caucuses,
NGOs also demonstrated that their fast-growing numbers
do not necessarily lead to increased logistical or political
difficulties for the organizers of United Nations
conferences. In addition, the global conferences led to
innovative forms of NGO participation, some formal and
some informal. On a significant number of occasions, NGOs
participated in intergovernmental working groups, informal
sessions and even "informal informal" discussions. In some
of these, and always at the discretion of the Chairman, NGO
representatives were permitted to comment. Finally, the
positive experience of the involvement by NGOs in the
global conferences also gave impetus to the Economic and
Social Council to review and update its  arrangements for
consultation with NGOs (as described in section II above),
in the course of which the Council established arrangements
for their participation in future conferences, which had
hitherto been determined on a case-by-case basis for each

59.  NGO attendance and involvement in all major
conferences from United Nations Conference on
Environment and Development to Habitat II has
demonstrated the existence of a worldwide constituency for
United Nations activities and has allowed the Organization
to build new bridges with civil society at large.

        V.     Participation of non-governmental
               organizations from all regions

60.  The collaboration between NGOs and United Nations
agencies and programmes, in particular in operational
matters, involves a great number of organizations based in
developing countries. These NGOs participate in the
activities of the United Nations, either as beneficiaries of
projects or as full partners. As the United Nations continues
to decentralize its activities, and as efforts by programmes,
funds and agencies are increasingly defined at the country
level, the participation of local and national NGOs is likely
to expand further in the years to come.

61.  UNDP encourages participation of NGOs from
programme countries on a widespread basis through project
execution and other cooperative mechanisms. Examples also
abound of participation by local NGOs in the
implementation of UNICEF's country programmes. IFAD
has also cooperated mainly with southern partners in
implementing projects. Of the 319 NGOs with which it has
worked, 255 (or 80 per cent) were from developing
countries. Of the 1,200 NGOs collaborating with WFP
worldwide, 200 are "international" organizations based in
industrialized countries, which are important partners in
emergency food aid operations. The others are all national
southern organizations, more frequently involved in
protracted refugee operations or development projects.

62.  Similarly, the policy of UNHCR is to work with
national NGOs whenever possible. While the primary
objective of its strategy in support of national organizations
is to ensure appropriate local capacity to meet the
humanitarian assistance needs of refugee operations in the
most effective manner, a secondary aim is to build the
capacity of national organizations to work beyond the needs
of a UNHCR operation and to contribute, in the longer term,
to rehabilitation and development. UNHCR supports
national NGOs through the identification and assessment
of their capacities followed by training and
capacity-building programmes. UNHCR also encourages
international NGOs to work directly with national NGOs,
with a view to handing over activities when feasible.
Similarly, in order to promote local NGO participation and
ensure long-term benefits of food aid assistance, WFP
requests international NGOs to involve local partners in
their activities. In some cases, this request has been
included in the contract determining the modalities of
collaboration with the international NGO.

63.  Efforts to promote the role and participation of NGOs
from developing countries in United Nations activities must
first concentrate on facilitating the emergence of such
organizations and on building their capacity to work
effectively with the United Nations. The policy environment
for NGOs and civil society varies enormously from country
to country, which is a powerful determinant in influencing
both the contribution and growth of the NGO sector. In
particular, there is a great variation in the legal framework
relating to NGOs in each country. In response to this
situation, the World Bank, through its NGO Unit, has
developed a programme to give best practice advice on
NGO law. The Unit has been working with the International
Centre for Not-for-Profit Law since 1995 to analyse existing
NGO laws in 100 countries. The result has been the
publication, in draft form, of a "Handbook on Good
Practices for Laws Relating to NGOs". Together with the
Centre and other experts, the Bank is working in many
countries to assist Governments and other parties to analyse
the weaknesses of existing laws in this field and to draft
more appropriate ones.

64.  Other United Nations programmes engaged in
capacity-building for national NGOs include the United
Nations Drug Control Programme, which provides technical
assistance to strengthen technical, legal, training and
managerial capacities of NGOs involved in reducing the
illegal production, cultivation, manufacture, sale, demand,
trafficking and distribution of narcotic drugs. In fact, the
Programme endeavours to include capacity development in
all its activities in order to ensure their sustainability.
Capacity-building of civil society organizations is,
therefore, almost inherent to its technical cooperation

65.  Southern NGOs are particularly important partners of
FAO, because of their knowledge of local situations and the
services they provide to needy farmers and rural
communities. FAO has learned that a key form of
cooperation with NGOs in developing countries is through
capacity-building programmes, designed specifically to
strengthen the effectiveness of southern NGOs in areas of
work which fall within its technical mandate. Such actions,
however, are limited, as FAO does not have any sizeable
resources earmarked specifically for NGOs. Its normative
or operational activities in favour of NGOs have to be
funded mainly through extrabudgetary resources.

66.  Lack of financial means and inadequate access to
relevant information have also prevented southern NGOs
from contributing as much as other NGOs, based in the
north, to the policy dialogue conducted in United Nations
forums. It is striking, in this regard, that of the 1,550 NGOs
associated with the Department of Public Information, only
251 are based in developing countries. The United Nations
Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) also
notes that only 25 per cent of organizations formally
associated with it are southern NGOs, and that they rarely
participate in the Trade and Development Board and
Commission meetings because of financial constraints.

67.  By allowing national, regional and subregional NGOs
to apply for consultative status, Economic and Social
Council resolution 1996/31, adopted at the conclusion of
the review by the Council of existing arrangements for
consultation, should ensure a greater contribution by
organizations from developing countries to the
policy-making process in the economic and social fields.
National NGOs now account for the majority of applications
for consultative status. The need will soon arise, as an
increasing number of organizations from developing
countries seek consultative status with the Council and other
United Nations bodies, for specific arrangements and
mechanisms to assist them in making proper use of this
status. This assistance will be manifold and, to be most
effective, should be provided at the national level through
United Nations field offices.

68.  Efforts are already being undertaken by United
Nations programmes, a number of Member States as well
as large international NGOs to provide financial and other
assistance to organizations based in developing countries
and to facilitate their participation in United Nations policy
discussions. With modest levels of financial support from
donor Governments, the United Nations Non-governmental
Liaison Service, for instance, has established an effective
and credible system for identifying and financing
participation by representatives of developing country
NGOs in United Nations conferences and forums such as
meetings of the Commissions of the Economic and Social
Council. Thus, since the United Nations Conference on
Environment and Development in 1992, the Service has
raised funds to finance and facilitate the participation in
United Nations meetings or conferences of over 700 NGO
representatives, almost entirely from developing nations.

69.  As a result of such and other efforts, the global
conferences of the 1990s were marked by a sharply
improved regional balance among NGOs, as compared with
previous large conferences held by the United Nations.
These global conferences and the parallel civil society
forums have also allowed national and regional
non-governmental organizations from the south to establish
useful links and networks with counterparts in the north.

70.  Often, NGOs themselves provide resources to ensure
a more balanced geographical representation among their
representatives. Examples include the financing by NGO
committees on Disarmament in Geneva or New York of
travel and accommodation expenses for selected
organizations to participate in their sessions or special
events. The Department of Public Information/NGO
Executive Committee, for its part, has in the last few years
appealed to all NGOs associated with the Department of
Public Information for funds to assist representatives of
NGOs in developing countries to attend and speak at the
Annual Department of Public Information/NGO
Conference. The United Nations also encourages NGOs to
form regional specialized committees away from
Headquarters to allow easier participation by local
organizations in substantive discussions. The United
Nations Drug Control Programme, for instance, which has
long worked with the Vienna NGO Committee on Narcotic
Drugs and the New York NGO Committee on Narcotics and
Substance Abuse, recently assisted Asian NGOs to form a
similar Committee in Bangkok. Finally, Member States
sometimes provide funds to finance participation by NGOs
from developing countries in meetings organized by the
United Nations, as is the case for UNCTAD's annual
NGO/Trade Union consultations.

   VI.  Enhancing the participation of non-governmental organizations in all
        areas of the United Nations system

71.  In his report on "Renewing the United Nations: a
Programme for Reform" (A/51/950), the Secretary-General
stressed how the increasing role and influence of civil
society, and of NGOs in particular, is contributing to a
process of enlargement of international cooperation and
spurring the United Nations system and other
intergovernmental structures towards greater transparency
and accountability and closer linkages between national and
international levels of decision-making and implementation.
This is a positive process which the Secretary-General
welcomes and encourages. At the same time, a number of
questions have arisen with regard to the participation of
NGOs in United Nations activities, linked both to the
financial and legal constraints within which the
Organization operates and to the fast-growing number and
diversity of NGOs engaged in collaboration with the United

72.  The NGO sector constitutes a very diverse
institutional category with significant variations with
respect to size, resources, impact, methodology, objectives
and approach to international organizations. In order for the
United Nations to interact better with NGOs and to continue
to cooperate with them in a mutually beneficial relationship,
it needs to learn more about this complex and expanding
universe. The great majority of departments, funds,
programmes and agencies which have established
consultative and/or operational relations with NGOs have
set up computerized databases allowing them to organize
the information they hold in terms of contact points for
these organizations, activities and/or fields of interest.
While efforts have been made in recent years to integrate
some of the databases within the same department or
agency, the creation of a single database encompassing all
NGOs working with the United Nations system would
neither be feasible nor necessarily useful. However, efforts
must be made to harmonize existing databases so as to
facilitate the exchange and compilation of information on
NGOs across the system. As a first step, and if necessary
resources can be identified, the Secretary-General will
entrust the United Nations Non-governmental Liaison
Service with carrying out a survey of all NGO databases that
currently exist in the United Nations system.

73.  The United Nations must attempt not only to draw a
composite picture of the NGO community but also to
provide its staff with the tools to deal with their
fast-growing number. NGO sections or liaison offices are
frequently understaffed and sometimes ill-equipped to
service large groups of NGOs. The Secretary-General will
encourage all departments, programmes and funds of the
system to ensure that these sections are appropriately staffed
and are, to the extent possible, allocated the necessary
logistical and financial resources. In this regard, the
Department of Economic and Social Affairs has reallocated
additional staff and resources to its NGO Unit in 1998 to
allow it to cope with its tremendous caseload. The staff
assigned to work with NGOs must be the primary recipients
of any training programmes specifically dedicated to
cooperation with civil society.

74.  Within the Secretariat, procedures and policies
governing relations with NGOs are set out in the
Secretary-General's bulletin ST/SGB/209 of 21 December
1984. The Secretary-General will instruct the Department
of Management, in collaboration with the Office of Legal
Affairs, to study and update the Bulletin to ensure that it
reflects not only the present practices in this field but also
the new arrangements set out in Economic and Social
Council resolution 1996/31. A new Bulletin will also serve
to improve consistency in the Secretariat's relations with
NGOs and increase awareness among Secretariat officials
of the mandates given to them in this field by the governing
bodies of the Organization.

75.  In the broader context of the United Nations system,
relations with NGOs vary widely in nature and scope from
programme to programme, as described in previous
sections. While these relations are governed by the specific
goals and regulations of each organization of the system,
it is imperative that all officials concerned share their
experiences and best practices so as to promote coherence
and efficiency in our dealings with civil society while
ensuring a proper implementation of existing mandates and
rules in this field. The Inter-Departmental Working Group
on NGOs mentioned above (para. 14) is a useful tool in this
regard, and the Secretary-General will encourage all
relevant departments that have not yet done so to designate
representatives to attend its regular meetings, in New York
and Geneva. All programmes, funds and specialized
agencies are also invited to send representatives to the
meetings, as many already do. The Secretary-General also
welcomes initiatives such as the one taken last year by the
Consultative Committee on Programme on Operational
Questions in collaboration with the United Nations Non-governmental 
Liaison Service to organize an inter-agency
consultation on operational collaboration with NGOs.
Participants in the consultation, held in Geneva in
November 1997, established a number of groups tasked with
the elaboration of general principles to underpin operational
collaboration with NGOs, updating guidelines to Resident
Coordinators in this field and undertaking a system-wide
survey of experiences and best practices in NGO

76.  If NGOs are to continue making a meaningful
contribution to the work of the United Nations, it is crucial
that their access to information and documentation be
secured in a timely and appropriate manner. United Nations
efforts in this regard are described in section IV of the
present report. The Secretary-General will pursue and
expand these efforts, in particular those related to the
United Nations Web sites. In order that NGOs, in particular
those based in developing countries, benefit from
information exchanges and discussions on matters of
interest to them, the Secretary-General will also encourage
departments that have the technical ability to do so to
conduct electronic conferences on the Internet through the
World Wide Web as was done recently by the United
Nations Institute for Disarmament Research and the
Secretariat of the International Decade for Natural Disaster

77.  Due to the financial and legal constraints of the
Organization, however, NGO demands for prompt and
comprehensive information cannot always be adequately
satisfied. Member States may wish to consider a number of
measures which could remedy, at least partially, this
situation. For instance, allowing representatives of
organizations in consultative status with the Economic and
Social Council to occupy, on an as available basis, a number
of seats in an appropriately designated area of the General
Assembly Hall during public debates on items in the social
or economic fields, could facilitate their access to the
Assembly's official documentation without any additional
financial expense on the part of the Secretariat. Currently,
NGO representatives can only sit in the public balcony from
which they cannot access document distribution counters
and where acoustic and technical problems sometimes
impede them from following important debates on matters
of direct relevance to their work with the United Nations.

78.  Another topic frequently brought up by
representatives of NGOs interested and involved in United
Nations activities is that of the access to the Organization's
Optical Disk System (ODS). ODS was originally developed
as a storage and archival system for the use of the United
Nations Secretariat and the Permanent Missions of its
Member States. Later, in 1996, access to ODS via the
Internet was developed. Any expansion of the system to
accommodate additional users requires funds to improve the
technical infrastructure, as otherwise it would impede access
by the current users. Member States have specifically
requested the Secretariat to ensure that their access be
maintained without limitations. Expansion of ODS to allow
access by NGOs can thus only be done by instituting a
charge-back fee which is used to enhance the infrastructure.
Smaller NGOs, in particular those based in developing
countries, may not be able to afford this fee and to benefit
from this service. While a great number of documents are
now posted on the United Nations Web site, ODS offers a
much wider access to United Nations documents in all
official languages, including complete United Nations
parliamentary documentation since 1993, resolutions and
decisions of the General Assembly, the Security Council,
the Economic and Social Council and the Trusteeship
Council since 1946, certain official records of those four
bodies since 1946 and administrative issuances of the
Secretariat. Member States may, therefore, wish to review
funding for ODS, in order to allow for wider dissemination
of its products.

79.  Member States may also wish to consider the
establishment of a trust fund for the purpose of facilitating
the participation of NGOs from developing and least
developed countries, and countries in transition, in activities
of the Organization. This fund could serve to provide such
NGOs with the means of retrieving important information
from United Nations sources as well as attending important
meetings or conferences of relevance to their work.

80.  In the aftermath of the global conferences and with the
emergence of a new international environment characterized
by unrestricted flows of information, the United Nations has
entered a new era in its relations with NGOs and other civil
society actors. The Economic and Social Council
recognized this changed relationship when it adopted
resolution 1996/31. Many agencies, funds and programmes
of the United Nations system have followed suit. The
Secretariat, for its part, has tried to adapt to this new
situation in creative and innovative ways and will pursue
its efforts in this field. The United Nations is committed to
seek the participation and contribution of NGOs in its work.
New approaches, attitudes, methods and responses are
required throughout the United Nations system if we are to
meet this challenge effectively.


          1/   In section III of Agenda 21, the following nine "major groups"
               were identified: women, children and youth, indigenous
               people, NGOs, local authorities, workers and trade unions,
               business and industry, scientific and technological
               communities, and farmers.



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Date last posted: 10 January 2000 10:05:30
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