Introduction to ECOSOC Consultative Status

UN Economic and Social Council Chamber

The first venue by which non-governmental organizations took a role in formal UN deliberations was through the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). In 1945, 41 NGOs were granted consultative status by the council; by 1992 more than 700 NGOs had attained consultative status and the number has been steadily increasing ever since with more than 5,000 organizations today.

Article 71 of the UN Charter opened the door by providing suitable arrangements for consultations with non-governmental organizations. The consultative relationship with ECOSOC is governed by ECOSOC resolution 1996/31, which outlines the eligibility requirements for consultative status, rights and obligations of NGOs in consultative status, procedures for withdrawal or suspension of consultative status, the role and functions of the ECOSOC Committee on NGOs, and the responsibilities of the United Nations Secretariat in supporting the consultative relationship.

Consultative status is granted by ECOSOC upon recommendation of the Committee on NGOs, which is composed by 19 Member States.

Who is Eligible?

Consultative relationships may be established with international, regional, sub-regional, national non-governmental organizations, non-profit organizations, public sector or voluntary organizations. NGOs affiliated to an international organization already in status may be admitted provided that they can demonstrate that their programme of work has direct relevance to the aims and purposes of the United Nations.

To be eligible for consultative status, an NGO must have been in existence (officially recognized by a government) for at least two years, must have an established headquarters, a democratically-adopted constitution, authority to speak for its members, a representative structure, appropriate mechanisms of accountability and democratic and transparent decision-making processes. The basic resources of the organization must be derived mainly from contributions of the national affiliates or other components or from individual members.

Organizations established by governments or intergovernmental agreements are not considered NGOs.

General, Special and Roster status

There are three categories of status: General consultative status, Special consultative status and Roster status.

General consultative status is reserved for large international NGOs whose area of work cover most of the issues on the agenda of ECOSOC and its subsidiary bodies. These tend to be fairly large, established international NGOs with a broad geographical reach.

Special consultative status is granted to NGOs which have a special competence in, and are concerned specifically with, only a few of the fields of activity covered by the ECOSOC. These NGOs tend to be smaller and more recently established.

Organizations that apply for consultative status but do not fit in any of the other categories are usually included in the Roster. These NGOs tend to have a rather narrow and/or technical focus. NGOs that have formal status with other UN bodies or specialized agencies (FAO, ILO, UNCTAD,UNESCO, UNIDO, WHO and others), can be included on the ECOSOC Roster. The roster lists NGOs that ECOSOC or the UN Secretary-General considers can make "occasional and useful contributions to the work of the Council or its subsidiary bodies."

Participation in International Conferences

Non-governmental organizations in general, special or roster consultative status that express their wish to attend conferences convened by the United Nations shall be accredited for participation. Other non-governmental organizations wishing to be accredited may apply to the Secretariat of the conference for this purpose.

Basic facts about ECOSOC status

  • As of April 2021, 5,593 NGOs enjoy active consultative status with ECOSOC.See the INF list.
  • There are three types of consultative status: General, Special and Roster. Most new accreditations are in the Special category.
  • Consultative status 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. See News and Events for samples.
  • ECOSOC accreditation is separate and distinct from NGOs who are associated with the UN Department of Global Communications (DGC). See list of DGC-associated NGOs here. See website here.
  • You can sort and review all NGOs with ECOSOC consultative status in an online database. Access the database here.
  • General and special status NGOs are required to submit a 'quadrennial report' every four years. Learn more.
  • The Committee on NGOs reviews new applications for consultative status twice a year, in January ('regular session') and in May ('resumed session').
  • The Committee does not decide but recommends. These recommendations, contained in one report for the January session and one report for the May session, are reviewed by ECOSOC in June and July respectively. See past reports here.
  • In most cases, ECOSOC decides to approve the recommendations. In very rare cases, it does not.
  • The deadline for applications is 1 June of the year before the Committee reviews the application. Therefore the upcoming deadline for new applications is 1 June 2021. The Committee will review those applications in 2022.

Choose an option in the left menu to know more, or to start the application process.

Click here to download our booklet "Working with ECOSOC - an NGOs Guide to Consultative Status".