The 2012 Regular Session of the Committee on Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) was held from 30 January-8 February 2012 at UN Headquarters in New York. During the session, the Committee considered 190 new NGO applications requesting consultative status with the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), examined 153 applications that were deferred from previous sessions and considered 375 quadrennial reports of NGOs with ECOSOC status. By the end of the session, a total of 158 NGOs were recommended for consultative status; while decisions were postponed for another 183 applications. In addition, the Committee closed a total of 20 applications. The Committee will meet again on 17 February in order to adopt the report of the session, which will be sent to ECOSOC, so that the recommendations can be approved in July 2012.
NGOs have been contributing to the work of the United Nations since its creation in 1945, especially in terms of: information dissemination, awareness raising, development education, policy advocacy, joint operational projects, participation in intergovernmental processes and in the contribution of services and technical expertise.
Article 71 of the UN Charter opened the door for consultations with NGOs around the UN agenda. It 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.” ECOSOC remains the only main UN body with a formal framework for NGO participation.
Consultative Status with ECOSOC
Having ECOSOC consultative status provides NGOs with the opportunity to access conferences and other international events organized by the Council, its subsidiary bodies, various UN human rights mechanisms, as well as special events organized by the President of the General Assembly. It allows them to make written and oral statements, organize side-events, and network among NGOs or Member States representatives. However, to what extent NGOs can participate, is related to the type of status they receive.
In total, there are three types of consultative states: 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. Roster statusis generally given to those organizations that apply for consultative status but do not fit in any of the other categories. These NGOs tend to have a rather narrow and/or technical focus. NGOs on the “roster” can “occasionally and usefully contribute to the work of the Council or its subsidiary bodies.”
Requirements to obtain consultative status with ECOSOC include:
- The activities of the NGO must be relevant to the work of ECOSOC;
- The NGO must have been in existence and officially registered for at least 2 years;
- The NGO must have a democratic adopted constitution, as well as democratic and transparent decision-making processes;
- The NGO must have an established headquarters, as well as an Executive Director;
- The NGO must have the authority to speak on behalf of its members;
- The NGO must have a representative structure;
- The NGO must have adequate accountability mechanisms; and the ngo’s basic resources must mainly be derived from contributions of national affiliates or other components individual members.
Information on the Committee on NGOs
The Committee on NGOs is a standing committee of ECOSOC, which meets twice a year – in January (regular session) and in May (resumed session) – in order to draft resolutions and decisions that need to be approved by the Economic and Social Council.
The Committee consists of 19 members that are elected on the basis of equitable geographical representation, including five members from African States; four members from Asian States; two members from Eastern European States; four members from Latin American and Caribbean States; and four members from Western European and other States.
Among its main tasks, the Committee’s main tasks considers NGO applications for consultative status, as well as requests for reclassification; considers quadrennial reports submitted by NGOs with general or special consultative status; implements the provisions of Council resolution 1996/31 and monitors the consultative relationship; and deals with any other issues it is requested to consider.
Since its establishment in 1946, the Committee has provided 3.536 organizations with general consultative, special consultative or roster status, based on criteria such as their mandate, governance or financial situation. NGOs that wish to be considered for ECOSOC consultative status in 2013 will need to apply before 31 May 2012.
Click here to access the brochure on ECOSOC status.
To access the official document of the 2012 Regular Session of the Committee on NGOs, click here.
For more information on the Committee, click here.