Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are key partners in the quest of the UN to achieve peace and prosperity for all people, regardless of their circumstances, region, ethnicity or religion. Their specialized knowledge and understanding of local populations, regional issues and implications for policy often help enable governments and UN programmes to deliver aid to those who need it most.
Their participation in UN meetings and consultations is also a critical connecting point, bringing the voice of grassroots organizations and communities to UN decision-making bodies.
Global crises are still a challenge and renewed efforts of governments and civil society are needed. As Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon emphasized in his remarks to the Civil Society Forum of LDC-IV in Istanbul on 8 May, “Governments cannot win the battle against poverty alone. Civil society is a key partner and ally.”
Indeed, due to joint efforts of Governments, NGOs and the private sector, significant results had been achieved in many least developed countries, such as increased enrollment in schools, enhanced access to health care and more women finding employment and participating in public life.
The Committee on NGOs, a subsidiary body of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), was established by the Council in 1946 to enable NGOs to participate in the economic and social development activities of the UN. There are currently more than 3,400 NGOs accredited to the Council.
“The work of the NGO Committee has tremendous implications for promoting an enabling environment to engage civil society in constructive and lasting ways in the work of the United Nations”, emphasized Nikhil Seth, Director of the Office for Economic and Social Council Support and Coordination.
During the 2011 Resumed Session of the Committee on NGOs, that ended on 24 May, delegates addressed 333 applications and reviewed 174 quadrennial reports from NGOs working in various fields and on multiple and diverse issues on the UN development agenda.
They work in such diversified areas as research, advocacy, policy advice, operational activities dealing with issues including youth, health care, human rights, freedom of expression and democracy building, gender equality, education, and economic and social assistance.
The Committee recommended a record 146 NGOs for special consultative status with the ECOSOC. Organizations in special and general consultative status can attend meetings of ECOSOC, make oral statements and present written statements and NGOs in general status can even propose agenda items for meetings of ECOSOC and its subsidiary bodies.
Strengthening dialogue between NGOs and the UN system enhances the work of ECOSOC and helps ensure that the international community is synchronized with realities on the ground.