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UN and Civil Society



"Our times demand a new definition of leadership - global leadership. They demand a new constellation of international cooperation - governments, civil society and the private sector, working together for a collective global good."


Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon
Speech at World Economic Forum
Davos, Switzerland (29 January 2009)

The United Nations is both a participant in and a witness to an increasingly global civil society. More and more, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and other civil society organizations (CSOs) are UN system partners and valuable UN links to civil society. CSOs play a key role at major United Nations Conferences and are indispensable partners for UN efforts at the country level. NGOs are consulted on UN policy and programme matters. The UN organizes and hosts, on a regular basis, briefings, meetings and conferences for NGO representatives who are accredited to UN offices, programmes and agencies.

DPI/NGO SectionThe NGO Section of the Department of Public Information oversees partnerships with associated NGOs and provides a wide range of information services to them. These include weekly NGO briefings, communication workshops, an annual NGO conference and an annual orientation programme for newly associated NGOs.

UN Democracy FundThe UN Democracy Fund was established by the Secretary-General in July 2005 as a UN General Trust Fund. Supported by 36 Member States, its chief function is funding projects that strengthen the voice of civil society in democratic processes around the world. The large majority of UNDEF funds go to local civil society organizations -- both in the transition and consolidation phases of democratization.

Integrated Civil Society Organizations SystemOver 30,000 CSOs have established a relationship with the Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA). The vast majority of these CSOs are NGOs; there are also institutions, foundations, associations and over 1,000 Indigenous Peoples Organizations (IPOs) listed as CSOs with DESA - which maintains a database of registered CSOs.

Once registered with DESA, CSOs can also apply for consultative status with the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). If consultative status with ECOSOC is granted, the organization can participate in relevant international conferences convened by the United Nations and in meetings of the preparatory bodies of these conferences.

Non-Governmental Liaison Service (NGLS) The Non-Governmental Liaison Service (NGLS) promotes dynamic partnerships between the United Nations and non-governmental organizations. By providing information, advice, expertise and support services, NGLS is part of the UN's effort to strengthen dialogue and win public support for economic and social development.

The Secretary-General's Panel of Eminent Persons on Civil Society and UN Relationships, which concluded its work in 2004, produced a set of practical recommendations on how the UN's relationship with civil society, as well as with the private sector and parliaments, could be improved.

The Panel issued its final report (A/58/817) in 2004.