United Nations Non-Governmental Liaison Service
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The United Nations Non-Governmental Liaison Service (UN-NGLS or NGLS) is an inter-agency programme of the United Nations mandated to promote and develop relations between the United Nations and civil society organizations.
The NGLS operates autonomously across the United Nations system and with civil society constituencies and social movements on cross-cutting and emerging issues on the UN agenda. For example, NGLS currently focuses on the Post-2015 Development Agenda.
UN-NGLS advises organizations on opportunities to engage with the UN and facilitates their participation in various UN processes and events (conferences, hearings, workshops, etc.).
Since its creation in 1975, the Service’s original sponsors have been joined by additional UN agencies, funds and programmes, private foundations, and several donor country governments.
Objectives and Structure
The NGLS facilitates civil society participation in intergovernmental policy deliberations at the UN and monitors and reports on ongoing developments in the UN and summarizes information.
The Service assists UN bodies and agencies in the implementation of their civil society strategies and helps address gaps and fill needs as they arise on the UN System-civil society interface.
In 2004, the Cardoso Report (the Report of the UN Secretary-General’s Panel of Eminent Persons on UN-civil society relations (We the Peoples: Civil Society, the UN and Global Governance) identified NGLS as a key player to reposition the UN in addressing challenges related to the need for more participatory and coalition-based forms of global governance.
NGLS is a voluntarily-funded trust fund. It receives a grant from the UN regular budget and voluntary funding from a number of UN agencies, governments and funds.
Since 1988 NGSL has been administered by the Secretariat of the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) in Geneva.
With offices in New York and Geneva, the Service’s lead agency is designated from among NGLS’s sponsoring agencies for a term of two years and the lead agency chairs NGLS’s Sponsors Group, which reviews its annual report and programme of work.
The NGLS does not fund NGOs.
History of UN-NGO relations
Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have been active in the United Nations (UN) since its founding. They interact with the UN Secretariat, programmes, funds and agencies and they consult with the Member States. Since its creation, the UN has committed itself to ensure that NGOs have a role to play in the work of the organization.
The UN Charter Article 71 states:
"The Economic and Social Council may make suitable arrangements for consultation with non-governmental organizations which are concerned with matters within its competence. Such arrangements may be made with international organizations and, where appropriate, with national organizations after consultation with the Member of the United Nations concerned." Since 1945, the engagement of NGOs in the work of the UN has considerably evolved. The 1970s and 1980s witnessed a significant increase in their participation in the activities of the organization. In this period, there was a recognition of their ability to shape the global agenda as well as of their important role as operational actors. However, NGOs involved were mostly Western-based international NGOs and, with a few exceptions, their relations with the UN remained of a formal nature.
UN-NGOs relationships changed a lot in the 1990s, both quantitatively and qualitatively. The involvement of NGOs in the UN-organized world conferences, in particular, marked a turning point. Tony Hill, former head of Office in Geneva, talks about a "second generation" of UN-NGOs relations. This generation "is marked by the much larger scale of the NGO presence across the UN system, the more diverse institutional character of the organizations involved, now including national, regional and international NGOs, networks, coalitions and alliances, and the greater diversity of the issues that NGOs seek to address at the UN. Above all, the second generation of UN-NGOs relations are essentially political and reflect the motivation of NGOs to engage with the UN as part of the institutional architecture of global governance". One institutional response of the UN to these changes was to review the consultative status with the ECOSOC. Resolution 1296 of 1968 was replaced by resolution 1996/31 adopted in 1996, which allows, among other things, subregional, regional, and national NGOs to be accredited. Before, only international NGOs could apply for consultative status.
Since then, the necessity to strengthen UN/NGOs relations has been underlined in various documents, in particular in the United Nations Millennium Declaration of September 2000. The commitment of Member States to give greater opportunities to NGOs has been reaffirmed in the 2005 World Summit Outcome Document (para 172-174).
Other UN engagements with NGOs
Several UN agencies have dedicated NGO Focal Points and UN-NGO relations are conducted on a broad range of issues.
In addition to the NGLS, the UN NGO Liaison office also assists NGOs in relations with the UN system based on ECOSOC Resolution 1996/31. According to the UN, NGOs and other civil society organizations (CSOs) are system partners and valuable UN links to civil society. CSOs play a key role at major United Nations Conferences and are indispensable partners for UN efforts at the country level. NGOs are consulted on UN policy and programme matters. The UN organizes and hosts, on a regular basis, briefings, meetings and conferences for NGO representatives who are accredited to UN offices, programmes and agencies.
The NGO Section of the Department of Public Information oversees partnerships with associated NGOs and provides a wide range of information services to them.
The UN Democracy Fund (UNDEF), which is supported by 36 Member States, is funding projects that strengthen the voice of civil society in democratic processes around the world. The large majority of UNDEF funds go to local civil society organizations—both in the transition and consolidation phases of democratization.
The Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA) maintains a database of registered CSOs counting more than 13 000.
Once registered with DESA, CSOs can also apply for consultative status with the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). If consultative status with ECOSOC is granted, the organization can participate in relevant international conferences convened by the United Nations and in meetings of the preparatory bodies of these conferences.
- The Secretary-General's Panel of Eminent Persons on Civil Society and UN Relationships, Final Report (A/58/817), 2004, p. 62.
- Geneva Environment Network, UNEP Program. "United Nations Non-Governmental Liaison Service". UNEP. Retrieved 13 January 2014.
- "Charter of the United Nations: Chapter X: The Economic and Social Council". Un.org. Retrieved 2014-01-17.[dead link]
- Union of International Organizations, UIO. "Changing relationships between International Non-Governmental Organizations and the United Nations". Retrieved 13 January 2014.
- Hill, Tony. "Three Generations of UN-Civil Society Relations: A Quick Sketch". Retrieved 13 January 2014.
- "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on August 12, 2015. Retrieved June 23, 2015.
- "UN and Civil Society". Un.org. 2009-01-29. Retrieved 2014-01-17.