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Non-Governmental Organizations (NGO)

UN-NGO Cooperation

The United Nations and Civil Society
The United Nations is both participant in and a witness to increasingly global civil society. The United Nations system has significant informal and formal arrangements with civil society organizations, collectively known as non-governmental organizations (NGOs). More and more, NGOs are UN system partners and valuable UN links to civil society. NGOs are consulted on UN policy and programme matters. CSOs play a key role at major United Nations Conferences and as indispensable partners for UN efforts at the country level. At the same time, the UN is helping to promote the emergence of Civil Society Organizations in the developing countries.
Global NGO Community
This site is the home page for our global NGO community (Non-governmental organizations associated with the United Nations). Its aim is to help promote collaborations between NGOs throughout the world, so that together we can more effectively partner with the United Nations and each other to create a more peaceful, just, equitable and sustainable world for this and future generations.
Integrated Civil Society Organizations (iCSO) System (UN)
The integrated Civil Society Organizations (iCSO) System, developed by the Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA), facilitates interactions between civil society organizations and DESA. The system provides online registration of general profiles for civil society organizations, including address, contacts, activities and meeting participation, 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.
List of Accredited UN NGOs
The non-governmental organizations which are in consultative status as at Sept. 1, 2010.
The U.N. Non-Governmental Liaison Service
The United Nations Non-Governmental Liaison Service (UN-NGLS) promotes dynamic partnerships between the United Nations and non-governmental organisations. By providing information, advice, expertise and consulting and support service, NGLS is part of the United Nations effort to strengthen dialogue and win support for economic and social development.

Non-governmental Organizations helped to found the United Nations and Article 71 of the United Nations Charter embeds arrangements for UN consultations with NGOs.  NGOs interact with the UN Secretariat, programs, funds, agencies, and UN Member States.  NGOs work with the UN comprises a number of activities including information dissemination, awareness raising, development education, policy advocacy, joint operational projects, and providing technical expertise.  This work is completed through formal and informal channels, both at the national level and at the UN.

Official UN Secretariat relations with NGOs fall into two main categories:

  1. Consultations with governments (Department of Economic and Social Affairs)
  2. information servicing by the Secretariat (Department of Public Information)

However, broadly speaking, NGOs may cooperate with the UN in at least four ways:

  1. NGOs may receive accreditation for a conference, summit, or other event organized by the UN.
  2. NGOs may establish working relations with particular Departments, Programmes or Specialized Agencies of the United Nations System, based on shared fields of interest and potential for joint activities complementing the work of the United Nations office in a particular area.
  3. International NGOs active in the field of economic and social development may seek to obtain consultative status with the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC).
  4. NGOs that have at their disposal regular means of disseminating information, either through their publications, radio or television programs, or through their public activities such as conferences, lectures, seminars or workshops, and that are willing to devote a portion of their information programs to dissemination of information about the United Nations, may apply for association with the United Nations Department of Public Information (DPI)

World Bank - NGO Cooperation

The World Bank and Civil Society
The World Bank first began to interact with civil society in the 1970s through dialogue with non-governmental organizations (NGOs) on environmental concerns. Today the World Bank consults and collaborates with thousands of members of Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) throughout the world, such as community-based organizations, NGOs, social movements, labor unions, faith-based groups, and foundations.
World Bank Publications on Civil Society Engagement
The site includes a listing of studies, reports, publications, and other materials produced by the World Bank on its civil society engagement work as well as other development topics related to civil society and social development. These are produced by different regional, network, country, and other units throughout the institution.


The World Bank defines NGOs as "private organizations that pursue activities to relieve suffering, promote the interests of the poor, protect the environment, provide basic social services, or undertake community development" (Operational Directive 14.70).  In wider usage, the term NGO can be applied to any non-profit organization which is independent from government.  NGOs are typically value-based organizations which depend, in whole or in part, on charitable donations and voluntary service.  Although the NGO sector has become increasingly professional over the last two decades, principles of altruism and voluntarism remain key defining characteristics.

Categories of NGOs

The term NGO is very broad and encompasses many different types of organizations. In the field of development, NGOs range from large, Northern-based charities such as CARE, Oxfam and World Vision to community-based self-help groups in the South.  They also include research institutes, churches, professional associations and lobby groups.  The World Bank tends to interact with two main categories of NGOs: 1) operational NGOs - whose primary purpose is the design and implementation of development-related projects, and; 2) advocacy NGOs - whose primary purpose is to defend or promote a specific cause and who seek to influence the policies and practices of the Bank.  A growing number of NGOs engage in both operational and advocacy activities, and some advocacy groups, while not directly involved in designing and implementing projects, focus on specific project-related concerns.

NGOs and Development

Over the past several decades, NGOs have become major players in the field of international development. Since the mid-1970s, the NGO sector in both developed and developing countries has experienced exponential growth.  From 1970 to 1985 total development aid disbursed by international NGOs increased ten-fold. In 1992 international NGOs channeled over $7.6 billion of aid to developing countries.  It is now estimated that over 15 percent of total overseas development aid is channeled through NGOs.  While statistics about global numbers of NGOs are notoriously incomplete, it is currently estimated that there is somewhere between 6,000 and 30,000 national NGOs in developing countries.

Operational NGOs

The World Bank classifies operational NGOs into three main groups: 1) community-based organizations (CBOs) - which serve a specific population in a narrow geographic area; 2) national organizations - which operate in individual developing countries, and; 3) international organizations - which are typically headquartered in developed countries and carry out operations in more than one developing country. Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, most examples of World Bank-NGO collaboration involved international NGOs.  In recent years, however, this trend has been reversed; an increasing number of projects involve community based organizations.

Community-Based Organizations

CBOs (also referred to as grassroots organizations or peoples' organizations) are distinct in nature and purpose from other NGOs.  While national and international organizations are "intermediary" NGOs which are formed to serve others; CBOs are normally "membership" organizations made up of a group of individuals who have joined together to further their own interests (e.g.: women's groups, credit circles, youth clubs, cooperatives and farmer associations).  In the context of Bank-financed activities, national or international NGOs are normally contracted to deliver services, design projects or conduct research.  CBOs are more likely to be the recipients of project goods and services.  In projects which promote participatory development, grassroots organizations play the key function of providing an institutional framework for beneficiary participation.  CBOs might, for example be consulted during design to ensure that project goals reflect beneficiary interests, undertake the implementation of community-level project components, or receive funds to design and implement sub-projects.  Many national and international NGOs work in partnership with CBOs, either channeling development resources to them or providing them with services or technical assistance.

NGO Strengths and Weaknesses

Because the nature and quality of individual NGOs vary greatly, it is extremely difficult to make generalizations about the sector as a whole.  Despite this diversity, some specific strength generally associated with the NGO sector includes the following:

  • strong grassroots links
  • field-based development expertise
  • the ability to innovate and adapt
  • process-oriented approach to development
  • participatory methodologies and tools
  • long-term commitment and emphasis on sustainability
  • cost-effectiveness

The most commonly identified weaknesses of the sector include:

  • limited financial and management expertise
  • limited institutional capacity
  • low levels of self-sustainability
  • isolation/lack of inter-organizational communication and/or coordination
  • small scale interventions
  • lack of understanding of the broader social or economic context

Source: World Bank website "Nongovernmental Organizations and Civil Society/Overview." <> Accessed June 8, 2001 (no longer available)

IMF-NGO Cooperation

The IMF and Civil Society Organizations

Over the years, the IMF has become more transparent and has sought to become more accountable, not only to the governments that own it, but also to the broader public. This has led to a more active involvement with CSOs, as well as legislatures. When the IMF began to engage with CSOs in the 1980s, it was usually at a global level, in response to advocacy by groups concerned with economic and social justice. Such engagement remains central in IMF-CSO relations.

Guide For Staff Relations With Civil Society Organizations

EU-NGO Cooperation

The NGO Discussion Paper
The Commission adopted the Discussion Paper "The Commission and NGOs : building a stronger partnership" on 18 January 2000 (COM (2000) 11). On this website you can find the Discussion Paper and comments received, which were useful in further development of the Commission's relations with NGOs. In December 2002, the Commission adopted a Communication "General principles and minimum standards for consultation of interested parties", which sets up a coherent and flexible framework for consultation of stakeholders, including NGOs.
The European Commission and Civil Society
This site provides information on the dialogue and consultations of the Commission with civil society.

G8-NGO Cooperation

G8 and Civil Society
The Civil Society and Expanded Dialogue Unit of the G8 Research Group conducts research and analysis on the G8’s ongoing relationship with major external stakeholders, including emerging economies and civil society. The CSED also publishes thematic reports on the G8's past and present involvement in issues that will be discussed at the summit.

OAS-IGO Cooperation

Civil Society - OAS
As of April 25, 2007, 223 organizations have been accredited within the Organization of American States.
Registry of Civil Society Organizations Within OAS

There are three ways for civil society organizations to participate in the activities of the Organization of American States (OAS).  First, a civil society organization can register to the OAS.  If for any reason a civil society organization would like to participate without registering, they can attend meetings of the General Assembly, the Inter-American Council for Integral Development (CIDI), and other specific Conferences of the OAS by soliciting to become a Special Guest. The third and last way of participating in OAS activities is through cooperation agreements  with the General Secretariat or other OAS organs.

There are numerous benefits in becoming a registered CSO with the OAS:

  • Request and comment on draft General Assembly resolutions
  • Receive special identification during General Assembly sessions and other specialized conferences organized in the OAS framework
  • Gain access to virtual consultations on issues and initiatives promoted by the OAS
  • Help organize and pick the theme of an annual meeting, to be held within the Permanent Council, on a matter of special interest to registered civil society organizations
  • Observe public and closed meetings of the Permanent Council, CIDI, and their subsidiary bodies
  • Present written documents, not exceeding 2,000 words, on questions that fall within the particular sphere of competence of the organization and have this appear on the agenda of public meetings.  The General Secretariat will then distribute these documents to member states

As of June 15, 2006, 171 organizations have been accredited within the Organization of American States.  To see the list of registered civil society organizations, please click here.

WHO-UN Cooperation

Civil Society Initiative (CSI)
The World Health Organization (WHO) has a long and rich history of working with nongovernmental organizations.  The objectives of WHO's relations with NGOs are to promote the policies, strategies and activities of WHO and, where appropriate, to collaborate with NGOs in jointly agreed activities to implement them.  WHO may also seek to harmonize intersectoral interests among various sectoral bodies concerned in a country, regional or global setting.
NGO's and Health
Evolving concepts about health and the articulation of its links to poverty, equity and development have recently widened the range of WHO’s partners. No longer the domain of medical specialists, health work now involves politicians, economists, lawyers, communicators, social scientists and ordinary people everywhere. The involvement of civil society has profoundly affected not only the concepts underpinning public health but the formulation and implentation of public health programmes and policies as well. Nongovernmental organizations and other civil society actors have engaged with WHO to implement health programmes at country level, made outreach to remote areas and populations possible, advocated public health issues to a broad audience, addressed sensitive issues and worked in alliance with WHO to raise funds more effectively.
Principles Governing WHO's Relations With Nongovernmental Organizations
List of Accredited WHO NGOs
NGO/WHO Statistics

FAO-NGO Cooperation

Partnership With Civil Society Organizations

FAO Policy and Strategy for Cooperation with Non-Governmental and Civil Society Organizations

Working with Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) enables FAO to increase the effectiveness and quality of its work in agriculture and the fight against hunger. Through dialogue and consultation with CSOs, FAO ensures that its decision-making, policies and scientific research reflect the interests of all sectors of society.

CSOs work with FAO in a number of ways: in technical areas such as sustainable agriculture, gender and environment; in institutional areas such as representation and legislation and in capacity-building, advocacy and technical support.

FAO works closely with federations, associations and local groups representing farmers, fisherfolk and herders to ensure that the aspirations of the poor, the disadvantaged, the marginalized and the hungry are successfully voiced. FAO's work with Civil Society is also guided by major international initiatives, notably the UN Millennium Development Goals with ambitious targets for dramatically reducing hunger and poverty by 2015.

See also: International NGO/CSO Planning Committee (IPC) for Food Sovereignty