Civil Society

Civil society is the “third sector” of society, along with government and business. It comprises civil society organizations and non-governmental organizations. The UN recognizes the importance of partnering with civil society, because it advances the Organization’s ideals, and helps support its work. Here are some useful websites for members of civil society and also for those interested in the work of the UN.

UN Photo/Evan Schneider
Participants at the opening of the 62nd annual UN Department of Public Information (DPI) and Non-governmental Organizations (NGOs) Conference in Mexico City on 9-11 September 2009.

Non-Governmental Liaison Service

The UN's Non-Governmental Liaison Service provides strategic information, analysis and support to a wide range of constituencies, using its unique convening and networking capacity to strengthen multistakeholder dialogue and alliance-building on issues like culture and education, human rights, peace and security, environment, economic and social development, health, and population, all from the perspective of the entire UN system.

Working with the UN System

Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) can participate in the work of the UN in one of two ways:  either through consultative status with the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), or association with the UN Department of Public Information (DPI). 

Consultative status with ECOSOC

Consultative status with the Economic and Social Council provides NGOs with access to not only ECOSOC, but also to its many subsidiary bodies, to the various human rights mechanisms of the United Nations, ad-hoc processes on small arms, as well as special events organized by the President of the General Assembly. There are three types of ECOSOC consultative status for NGOs. ECOSOC consultative status is separate and distinct from association with DPI.

Association with DPI

The NGO Relations Section of the UN Department of Public Information is the link from the Organization to the approximately 1,300 Non-governmental Organizations (NGOs) that are associated with the UN and support its efforts to disseminate information on the priority issues on its agenda, including sustainable development, creating a safer and more secure world, helping countries in transition, empowering women and young people, and addressing poverty, among others. NGOs associated with DPI help build knowledge and support for the Organization at the grassroots level.

The UN Democracy Fund

The United Nations Democracy Fund (UNDEF) was built to support projects that strengthen the voice of civil society, promote human rights, and encourage the participation of all groups in democratic processes.  The large majority of UNDEF funds go to local civil society organizations -- both in the transition and the consolidation phases of democratization.

The Integrated Civil Society Organizations (iCSO) System

The Integrated Civil Society Organizations System provides online registration of general profiles for civil society organizations, including address, contacts, activities and meeting participation.  It facilitates the application procedure for consultative status with the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), and assists accredited NGOs in submitting quadrennial reports and in designating representatives to the United Nations.

Academic Impact

Academic Impact is a global initiative that aligns institutions of higher education with the United Nations in actively supporting ten universally accepted principles in the areas of human rights, literacy, sustainability and conflict resolution.

United Nations University

The United Nations University (UNU) is a global think tank and postgraduate teaching organization headquartered in Japan. Its mission is to contribute, through collaborative research and education, to efforts to resolve the pressing global problems of human survival, development and welfare that are the concern of the United Nations, its peoples and Member States.

UN Foundation

The United Nations Foundation links the UN’s work with others around the world, mobilizing the energy and expertise of business and non-governmental organizations to help the UN tackle issues including climate change, global health, peace and security, women's empowerment, poverty eradication, energy access, and US-UN relations.

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