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The United Nations & Civil Society



“Dialogue and cooperation with civil society will, I’m sure, be a central aspect of the activities of the UN in the next few years, not only because of my own activities, but because of the concerns that all the UN bodies have, making sure that partnership becomes a key element in solving global problems.”

Informal meeting of the Secretary-General-designate António Guterres with the UN General Assembly, in preparation for his assumption of office, 19 October 2016, New York.


Civil society actors have been involved in the creation of the United Nations and the drafting of the UN Charter. They have actively engaged with the United Nations since its inception, strengthening and promoting the UN Charter’s three pillars: peace and security, human rights, and development. The UN system relies on the expertise and active involvement of civil society at all levels. Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) may engage with the United Nations through consultative status with the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) or association with the Department of Public Information (DPI). Formal relations with ECOSOC are based on Article 71 of the Charter and governed by ECOSOC resolution 1996/31, which sets out eligibility requirements, rights and obligations of NGOs in consultative status.

Since the first NGOs were granted consultative status in 1946, the participation of NGOs in intergovernmental bodies has increased significantly. Today, more than 5,000 NGOs have consultative status with ECOSOC, and over 1,300 NGOs are associated with DPI. Through the
2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, world leaders resolved to give greater opportunities to strengthen partnerships with non-governmental organizations and civil society in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.


Geneva - home to hundreds of NGOs - plays a vital role in nurturing this partnership, which keeps growing in substance and in numbers. In 2017, 981 NGOs in consultative status with ECOSOC were accredited to UN Geneva, 13.5% more than the previous year.

To sustain the ties that bind the UN with NGOs, the UN Geneva Director-General meets regularly with NGOs and civil society representatives and holds dialogues twice a year with the Geneva NGO community on the UN agenda and priorities.

The Director-General, through the NGO Liaison Unit, maintains liaison with non-governmental organizations in consultative status with ECOSOC and facilitates their participation in United Nations activities.