Global Policy Forum

UN Requests NGO Input on the


May 7, 1999

At the request of the General Assembly (GA), the Secretary-General is currently soliciting the views of member states, UN agencies, intergovernmental organizations and non-governmental organizations (NGOS) regarding UN/NGO relations.

Non-governmental organizations have had a major presence in UN fora over the last decade, particularly through the UN global conferences on such issues as sustainable development, human rights, women, social development, and population and development. NGOs are accredited through the Economic and Social Council to participate in ECOSOC-related Commissions and meetings. The General Assembly has passed resolutions on a case-by-case basis for NGO participation in Special Sessions of the GA, including the follow-up (or 'plus five') processes to the major inter-governmental global conferences of the nineties. The UN has experimented with diverse ways of hearing from NGOs within inter-governmental fora. Formal NGO participation at the UN, for example, ranges from brief NGO presentations in some ECOSOC Commission meetings to extensive multi-stakeholder dialogues in the Commission on Sustainable Development.

The Secretary-General has welcomed and encouraged the increasing role and influence of NGOs, which 'is contributing to a process of enlargement of international cooperation and spurring the UN system ... towards greater transparency and accountability...' (A/53/170 Para 71). This is evidenced in increased Secretariat outreach and support for NGO presence in UN fora, and access to UN information via a web-site. "At the same time, a number of questions have arisen with regard to the participation of NGOs in UN activities, linked both to the financial and legal constraints within which the organization operates and to the fast-growing number and diversity of NGOs engaged in collaboration with the UN' (A/53/170 para 71).


At the request of member states, in July 1998 the Secretary-General issued a report to the Fifty-third Session of the General Assembly under the agenda item 'Strengthening of the UN system" (A/53/170). That report, Arrangements and practices for the interaction of non-governmental organizations in all activities of the United Nations system, reviews the UN's relationship with civil society, including institutional arrangements, operational partnership, the participation of NGOs from all regions, and enhancing the participation of NGOs in all areas of the UN system. UN General Assembly decision (A/53/452) of 17 December 1998 requested the Secretary-General to:

(a) seek the views of Member States, members of the specialized agencies, observers and intergovernmental organizations, as well as the views of non-governmental organizations from all regions, on the report A/53/170;

b) submit a further report to the General Assembly, at its fifty-fourth session, taking into account the submissions received;

The Secretariat is now gathering this input, and has invited written NGO responses to A/53/170. NGOs are requested to submit their views on the report, together with an accompanying questionnaire, by 7 June 1999.

More Information on the Secretary General's Report


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