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NGO related Questions & Answers
Q. How many NGOs are there in consultative status?

Currently there are 3187 NGOs in consultative status with the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), and some 400 NGOs accredited to the Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD), a subsidiary body of ECOSOC. NGOs in the CSD roster need to contact the NGO Branch of DESA in order to apply to consultative status.

Q. What is consultative status?

Non-governmental, non-profit public or voluntary organizations may be admitted into a mutually beneficial working relationship with the United Nations by attaining consultative status with the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). This status is based on Article 71 of the Charter of the United Nations and on ECOSOC Resolution 1996/31 adopted in 1996. The rights and privileges enumerated in detail in ECOSOC resolution 1996/31, enable qualifying organizations to make a contribution to the work programmes and goals of the United Nations by serving as technical experts, advisers and consultants to governments and Secretariat. Sometimes, as advocacy groups, they espouse UN themes, implementing plans of action, programmes and declarations adopted by the United Nations. In concrete terms this entails their participation in ECOSOC and its various subsidiary bodies through attendance at these meetings, and also through oral interventions and written statements on agenda items of those bodies. In addition, organizations, qualifying for General Category consultative status, may propose new items for consideration by the ECOSOC. Organizations granted status are also invited to attend international conferences called by the U.N., General Assembly special sessions, and other intergovernmental bodies. (The participation modalities for NGOs are governed by the rules of procedure of those bodies).

Q. What are the procedures for obtaining consultative status with the ECOSOC?

In order to obtain consultative status an organization's application must be reviewed by the Committee on NGOs of the ECOSOC which meets twice a year. The Committee, composed by 19 States members of the United Nations, recommends to the ECOSOC which organizations should be granted one of three categories (General, Special, and Roster). The recommendation then goes to the ECOSOC meeting, with the full ECOSOC making the final decision. The section HOW TO OBTAIN STATUS of this site explains the process in detail.

To begin the process for applying for such status an organization must contact in writing the NGO Branch of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs. This letter of intent should be on the organization's letterhead and signed by its secretary-general or president. Once the NGO section receives the letter of intent, an application package containing the questionnaire and all the background materials is mailed to the organization. The deadline for receiving completed applications is June 1 of each year. For example, complete applications, (which include a completed questionnaire and all the required supporting documentation) received by the NGO Branch before 1 June 2003, will be taken up by the Committee on NGOs in the year 2004.

NGOs in the CSD roster need to contact the NGO Branch of DESA in order to apply to consultative status.

The application forms and guidelines for the association between NGOs and the UN are also available for download at the documents section of this site.

Q. What are the requirements for obtaining consultative status?

Non-governmental, non-profit voluntary organizations may be admitted into consultative status with the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). The types of NGOs that can apply for consultative status, the requirements for obtaining status, as well as duties and responsibilities of the NGOs in consultative status are enumerated in detail in ECOSOC Resolution 1996/31. Among other requirements, the organization's activities must be relevant to the work of ECOSOC. The NGO must have a democratic decision making mechanism. The NGO must be in existence (officially registered with the appropriate government authorities as an NGO/non-profit) for at least 2 years in order to apply. The basic resources of the organization must be derived in the main part from contributions of the national affiliates, individual members or other non-governmental components.

NGOs in the CSD roster need to contact the NGO Branch of DESA in order to apply to consultative status.

Q. What is the difference between General category, Special category and Roster?

Organizations wishing to apply for General Category must be "concerned with most of the activities of the ECOSOC and its subsidiary bodies". These tend to be fairly large, established international NGOs with a broad geographical reach. Special Category 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 which "can make occasional and useful contributions to the work of ECOSOC or its subsidiary bodies" are included in the Roster. These NGOs tend to have a rather narrow and/or technical focus.

  General Special Roster
Relevance to the work of ECOSOC All areas Some areas Limited
Are in consultative status with ECOSOC
Attend UN meetings
Designate UN representatives
Invited to UN International Conferences
Propose items for ECOSOC agenda
Circulate statements at ECOSOC meetings 2000 words 500 words
Can speak at ECOSOC
Circulate statements at ECOSOC subsidiary bodies' meetings 2000 words 1500 words
Can speak at ECOSOC subsidiary bodies' meetings
Must submit quadrennial reports

Q. We are in the process of completing the questionnaire to obtain consultative status. How do we make sure we do it correctly?

The section HOW TO OBTAIN STATUS of this site explains the process. Guidelines for association between the UN and NGOs are available for download at the documents section. Please read both for detailed information.

Q. There used to be NGOs in consultative status Category I and Category II. Now we keep hearing about General and Special category. How do all those categories relate to each other?

Under the terms of ECOSOC Resolution 1996/31, what used to be known as Category I, is now "General Category". Category II became "Special Category". In other words, if your organization was in Category II, it is currently listed in "Special category".

Q. We are an NGO in consultative status with the ECOSOC. Aren't we supposed to submit reports from time to time to keep our status?

If you are and NGO in General or Special category, you are required to submit a quadrennial report once every 4 years detailing your activities in support of the UN. This reporting requirement does not apply to NGOs on the Roster. Quadrennial reports run on a somewhat complicated schedule, so your organization will be contacted by the NGO Branch and advised of the modalities and deadline of submission of your report. We suggest you keep detailed records of your cooperation with the UN. Please download and read carefully the guidelines for the submission of quadrennial reports available in the documents section of this site.

Q. Are there alternative formal arrangements for NGO association with the U.N.?

NGOs which have an information component in their programmes can become associated with the U.N. Department of Public Information (DPI). In addition to that, many U.N. specialized agencies operate their own accreditation programmes for NGOs which are relevant to their area of work. Examples include: * International Labor Organization (ILO) - Geneva, Switzerland* Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) - Rome, Italy* United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) - Paris, France* World Health Organization (WHO) - Geneva, Switzerland* International Telecommunication Union (ITU) - Geneva, Switzerland* International Maritime Organization (IMO) - London, UK* World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) - Geneva, Switzerland* United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) - Vienna, Austria* United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) - Geneva, Switzerland

Q. Are NGOs in consultative status part of the UN?

No, they are not. They are not representatives or agents of the UN, nor are they authorized to enter into business arrangements on behalf of the UN. Consultative status does not entitle them to special privileges, tax exemptions, diplomatic passports, etc.

Q. Are NGOs in consultative status entitled to use the UN logo?

NO!, they are not. Not unless the NGO obtains a written authorization from the UN Office of Legal Affairs first. Under no circumstances is this permission granted for use on stationery or business cards.

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