Informal Non Governmental Organization Regional Network (IRENE) &
•  UN/NGO IRENE Western Europe Terms of Reference of the Coordinator


ECOSOC Resolution 1996/31 - Consultative relationship between the United Nations and Non Governmental OrganizationsNGOs Guide to Consultative StatusAbout ECOSOC Status
The first venue by which non-governmental organizations took a role in formal UN deliberations was through the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). 41 NGOs were granted consultative status by the council in 1946; by 1992 more that 700 NGOs had attained consultative statusand the number has been steadily increasing ever since to 3,052 organizations today.

Article 71 of the UN Charter opened the door providing for suitable arrangements for consultation with non-governmental organizations. The consultative relationship with ECOSOC is governed today by ECOSOC resolution 1996/31, which outlines the eligibility requirements for consultative status, rights and obligations of NGOs in consultative status, procedures for the withdrawal or suspension of consultative status, the role and functions of the ECOSOC Committee on NGOs, and the responsibilities of the UN Secretariat in supporting the consultative relationship.

Consultative status is granted by ECOSOC upon recommendation of the ECOSOC Committee on NGOs, which is comprised of 19 Member States.

Who is Eligible?
Consultative relationships may be established with international, regional, sub regionaland national non-governmental, non-profit public or voluntary organizations. NGOs affiliated to an international organization already in status may be admitted provided that they can demonstrate that their programme of work is of direct relevance to the aims and purposes of the United Nations. In the case of national organizations consultation with the Member State concerned is required.

To be eligible for consultative status, an NGO must have been in existence (officially registered with the appropriate government authorities as an NGO/non-profit) for at least two years, must have an established headquarters, a democratically adopted constitution, authority to speak for its members, a representative structure, appropriate mechanisms of accountability and democratic and transparent decision-making processes. The basic resources of the organization must be derived in the main part from contributions of the national affiliates or other components or from individual members.

Organizations established by governments or intergovernmental agreements are not considered NGOs.

General, Special and Roster Status
There are three categories of status: General consultative status, Special consultative status and Roster status.

General consultative status is reserved for large international NGOs whose area of work covers most of the issues on the agenda of ECOSOC and its subsidiary bodies. These tend to be fairly large, established international NGOs with a broad geographical reach.

Special consultative status 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 that apply for consultative status but do not fit in any of the other categoriesare usually included in the Roster. These NGOs tend to have a rather narrow and/or technical focus.NGOs that have formal status with other UN bodies or specialized agencies (FAO, ILO, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNIDO, WHO and others), can be included on the ECOSOC Roster. The roster lists NGOs that ECOSOC or the UN Secretary-General considers can make "occasional and useful contributionsto the work of the Council or its subsidiary bodies."

Participation in International Conference
Non-governmental organizations in general consultative status, special consultative status and on the Roster, that express their wish to attend the relevant international conferences convened bythe United Nations and the meetings of the preparatory bodies of the said conferences shall as a rule be accredited for participation. Other non-governmental organizations wishing to be accredited may apply to the secretariat of the conference for this purpose.

Applying for ECOSOC Consultative Status
The online application form can only be accepted in the two UN Secretariat working languages: English and French. All required documents submitted excluding publications should also be translated in English or French. If a document is too long, a translated summary may be accepted.

Components of supporting documents are:

  • Copy of constitution/charter and/or statutes/by-laws and amendments to those documents (pursuant to paragraph 10 of ECOSOC resolution 1996/31).
  • Copy or certificate of registration. According to resolution 1996/31 an organization "should attest that it has been in existence for at least two years as at the date of receipt of the application by the Secretariat". Please provide a copy of the registration paper or, if your country does not require registration, please provide other proof of existence.
  • Copy of most recent financial statement and annual report.
  • Copy of examples of your publications and recent articles or statements.
  • Optional: Organization chart (if available).

Completed applications must be received by the first day of June of the year before the year the NGO wants to be considered for recommendation by the Committee. For example, complete applications, (which include a completed questionnaire and all the required supporting documentation) received by the NGO Branch before 1st June 2009, will be taken up by the Committee on NGOs in the year 2010. Applications received between the 1st June 2009 and 1st June 2010 will be taken up in the year 2011.

NGO Branch screening of applications
The period between 1st June and the date the Committee meets is dedicated by the NGO Branch to review the applications. During this time the NGO may be contacted and asked for more information or clarifications. Only after reviewed by an officer and considered complete, an application is submitted to the NGO Committee.

When an application becomes part of the agenda of the NGO Committee a letter is sent to the NGO informing them of the upcoming session and inviting to send no more than two representatives to be present during the session. The presence of NGO representatives in the room is in no way mandatory and it does not imply any advantages. NGOs simply have the right to be present when their applications are being considered. Considering the cost involved in traveling to New York most NGOs do not attend the first time they are being considered. If the application raises many questions from member countries and gets deferred to another session, NGOs might consider useful to be present at the following session in order to be able to reply in person and avoid being deferred again.

Among other requirements for obtaining consultative status are the following:

  • Applying organization's activities must be relevant to the work of ECOSOC;
  • The NGO must have been in existence (officially registered) for at least 2 years in order to apply;
  • The NGO must have a democratic decision making mechanism;
  • The major portion of the organization's funds should be derived from contributions from national affiliates, individual members, or other non-governmental components.

The Committee on Non Governmental Organizations
The Committee meets twice a year to decide which NGOs applying for consultative status it will recommend to the ECOSOC Council. During its Session, the Committee may ask questions to the NGO. Such questions are immediately sent to the NGO by the Secretariat and should be replied by the NGO as fast as possible in order to help the Committee make a decision and avoid getting deferred to future sessions.

The Committee only recommends
The Committee recommendations are published in a report and submitted to the next ECOSOC meeting for final approval. Official notification is sent to all reviewed NGOs, informing them about the Committee's recommendation.

The Committee may decide to defer an application review until the next session, pending clarifications and answers to questions asked to the NGO.

ECOSOC final decision
When the Council finally approves the Committee recommendation to grant consultative status to an NGO, official notification is sent by the Secretariat. NGOs granted General or Special consultative status must submit to the Committee on Non-Governmental Organizations, every fourth year, a brief report of their activities, in particular regarding their contribution to the work of the United Nations (Quadrennial Report).

For further information please contact the Coordinator UN NGO IRENE Western Europe.