Series ONG.1 - Relations with Non-Governmental Organizations

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Relations with Non-Governmental Organizations


  • 1946-2002 (Creation)

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39.39 linear metres of textual records

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(2006-02-02 - 2011-01-25)

Administrative history

Article XI, paragraph 4 of UNESCO’s Constitution establishes the basis for co-operation between the Organization and the non-governmental sector. UNESCO’s relations with non-governmental international organizations are further governed by Directives issued by the General Conference. The first Provisional Directives were approved at the first General Conference. Following an examination by the Executive Board, revised Directives were approved at the Second General Conference in 1947. Beyond minor revisions, the Directives were revised significantly in 1960 by the General Conference at its 11th Session, in 1966 at its 14th Session, in 1995 at its 28th Session, and in 2011 at the 36th Session. The Directives establish the requirements and process for admission into official relations with UNESCO. They indicate the different categories of relations according to the nature of the co-operation, as well as the advantages for and obligations of the non-governmental organization (NGO). The Directives also describe the mechanisms for collaboration and financial contributions, as well as the review, renewal and termination of relations.

As per the Directives, the admission of an NGO and assignment of a category of relations is made through a decision by the Executive Board. The 1947 Directives indicated three types of relationship: Consultative Arrangements, Advisory Committees, and Formal Agreements. The policy on financial contributions to NGOs was considered separately by the General Conference up until it was incorporated into the 1960 Revised Directives. The 1960 Directives also called for a Conference of International Non-Governmental Organizations (category A and B – see below) to be held every two years in conjunction with the General Conference. These conferences were held to examine any problems arising out of co-operation with UNESCO and to facilitate co-operation between organizations having common interests. The conferences could also establish a Standing Committee to represent the NGOs as needed between meetings. The possibility of holding regional conferences of NGOs was also added. From 1960 to 1995, the relations were divided into three categories: A - consultative and associate relations; B – information and consultative relations; and C – mutual information relationships. Originally the Director-General accepted or rejected NGOs for category C relations, while the Executive Board admitted organizations to category A or B relations, needing first a proposal of the Director-General for admitting an Organization to category A – the closest working relationship. The 1966 change to the Directives allowed the Executive Board to consider a category A relationship without a proposal first from the Director-General. The 1995 revision of the Directives broke the relations down into Associate relations, Consultative relations and Operational relations. The 2011 revision simplified the classification, breaking the relations down into Associate or Consultative relations. Whereas the Director-General may admit NGOs to Consultative relations, the Executive Board decides on admitting them to Associate relations. The Standing Committee of the International Conference was also renamed the NGO-UNESCO Liaison Committee and its duties were clarified in the revised Directives.

At the level of UNESCO’s governing bodies, an Executive Board Committee on Relationships with Non-Governmental and Semi-Governmental International Organizations was first set up to examine and report on any matter concerning the relations of UNESCO with non-governmental international organizations in 1947. This Committee existed only until 1948 when it was replaced by a more general Committee on External Relations (later the Programme and External Relations Committee). However, in order to avoid increasingly lengthy discussions in the plenary of the Executive Board, a Committee on International Non-Governmental Organizations was created again in 1966 with responsibility for examining new requests for admission as well as changes of status of relations (UNESCO, 2014). According to the Directives, the Executive Board makes a report every six years to the General Conference on the contributions made by NGOs to UNESCO’s activities. With the 2011 revision of the Directives, the name of the Executive Board body was changed to the Committee on Non-Governmental Partners.

In the Secretariat, UNESCO has had a centralized unit since 1946 to administer these relations and to provide the secretariat for the NGO conferences – see temporal relationships indicated below. For the most part, this unit has been placed under the Sector responsible for external relations. The responsibilities of the unit include liaising with the NGOs, preparing for the NGO Conferences, assuring coordination between UNESCO units and the NGOs, and centralizing and disseminating data on cooperation with NGOs. The unit further supports the Committee on Non-Governmental Partners of the Executive Board by preparing recommendations on requests for admission/reclassification and providing information for its sexennial report to the General Conference (Daniels, 2006). UNESCO Programme Sectors are responsible for the execution of any programme activities undertaken in collaboration with the NGOs.


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Scope and content

Series consists of files on Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) with whom UNESCO maintains or maintained official relations. It reflects the process of admission to categories of official relations as well as the ongoing activities undertaken in observance of the obligations of such categories. The files contain information on the NGO itself, but not necessarily on projects undertaken jointly with UNESCO. Files are arranged chronologically reflecting different transfers over time, and then roughly alphabetically by the French name of the NGO.

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Further accruals expected.

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For complementary records in the Central Registry Collection, see the following:
-files beginning with root code X07.23 on the policy of relations with NGOs and the Conference of International Non-Governmental Organizations (category A and B)
-project or programme activity files with auxiliary code “A 8 NGO” or “A 8” followed by the acronym of the NGO (ie. 577.4 A 8 ICSU - Environment - Relations with ICSU)

See Legal Instruments Collection Series B for specific agreements with NGOs.

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