Consultative status and accreditation
ECOSOC consultative status and other partnership arrangements
Having "consultative status" means that an NGO has obtained the right to take part in a process of consultation with a certain international organisation. "Consultation" is different from "participation": States have a right to "participation" (either as voting members or as observers), while NGOs can obtain a right to "consultation". Taking part in a process of consultation allows NGO representatives to express their views on issues discussed in conferences and meetings or to place items on their agenda, but without giving them a right to vote, nor other privileges that states enjoy. This means for instance that the time for NGO oral statements may be shorter, or space for NGO written statements may be smaller than it is for states or international organisations. Nevertheless, "consultative status" allows NGOs to have their say in a meeting.
There are different arrangements for consultative status with different organisations; obtaining consultative status for a NGO with one organisation does not automatically assure consultative status with a different institution. Consultative status must be requested with each organisation separately.
The new brochure can be found here.
- UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC): ECOSOC grants 3 different statuses for NGOs: General and Special consultative status, as well as inclusion on the so-called "Roster". These statuses allow NGOs to participate in meetings of ECOSOC and its subsidiary organs.
For more information on ECOSOC consultative status see the website of the NGO Branch in New York and the one of UNOG
For questions regarding ECOSOC consultative status contact the NGO Liaison Office of the UNOG (see also NGO liaison offices for more details)
- International Labour Organisation (ILO): The ILO grants 3 different statuses for NGOs: (1) General Consultative Status for NGOs working on a wide range of issues relevant to ILO, (2) Regional Consultative Status for NGOs working on a wide range of issues relevant to ILO in a particular region, and (3) inclusion on the Special List of Non-Governmental International Organizations for NGOs which share ILO's principles but do not work on employer-worker topics. In addition, NGOs may benefit from punctual invitations to certain meetings.
For more information see the website of the ILO and their information note for NGOs.
- United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD): UNCTAD grants "observer status" to NGOs with special competences in relevant issues, which allows NGOs to have their voice heard through written and oral statements within the Conference, the Trade and Development Board and its subsidiary bodies.
For more information on the observer status consult the website of UNCTAD
For information about other ways of cooperation with UNCTAD, see this section of the UNCTAD website
- World Meteorological Organisation (WMO): "consultative status" and other forms of cooperation
- Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO): FAO grants a formal status to NGOs that may take three forms, depending on the importance of the NGO's activities in relation to the activities of FAO: (1) consultative status, (2) specialised consultative status, and (3) liaison status. This formal status creates a partnership relation between the NGO and the FAO and allows for the NGO's participation in FAO Governing Bodies and Technical Committees as an observer. FAO also works with various civil society organisations in the field, without any formal status being required.
For more information on the FAO's cooperation with civil society, see the FAO website.
For more information on this topic, also see the Guide on International Organisations.
The UN Department of Public Information (DPI) offers a partnership agreement called "association". NGOs associated with DPI disseminate information on issues on the UN’s agenda and the work of the Organisation. They should thereby reinforce the knowledge about the UN and contribute to a better understanding of the work and aims of the organisation. Association with DPI requires NGOs to have effective information programmes in place and to have the ability to disseminate information about the work of the United Nations.
For further information about DPI association, please consult the DPI website. There you may also find information on the procedure to follow to obtain DPI association.
The Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) is one of the principal organs of the UN. ECOSOC operates under the authority of the UN General Assembly and is composed of 54 members elected by the General Assembly. Its aim is to coordinate the economic and social work within the UN and its specialised agencies and institutions.
NGOs can participate in meetings of ECOSOC and its subsidiary organs after having obtained consultative status with ECOSOC. This consultative status also gives access to other UN conferences, such as sessions of the Human Rights Council.
There are three types of consultative status: General, Special and Roster. In practice, differences between these three types are small and all three give access to the same conferences.
For more information on ECOSOC consultative status see the website of the UN NGO Branch in New York and of the UN Office in Geneva.
For questions regarding ECOSOC consultative status contact the NGO Liaison Office of the UNOG. They will also be able to help you with your application.
NGOs in consultative status with ECOSOC can participate not only in meetings of ECOSOC and its subsidiary organs, but also in meetings of other UN bodies, for instance in the fields of human rights and small arms/light weapons. ECOSOC consultative status more precisely allows your NGO to accredit its representatives for these different meetings. Your organisation can then physically access the UN premises and the relevant meeting rooms, which allows you to interact with diplomats, UN staff, NGOs and other conference participants. This may be very useful for your lobbying and advocacy activities as well as for your networking efforts. Subjects of the rules and regulations of a conference, you may also deliver written and/or oral statements, as well as organise side events to the conference.
A NGO must fulfil certain conditions to obtain ECOSOC status. First of all, the NGO must have been in existence for at least two years and its existence must be officially registered with the appropriate government authorities. It is also necessary to have official headquarters, a democratically adopted constitution, a representative authorised to speak in the name of the NGO and a transparent accountancy mechanism. Finally, the NGO's activities must be relevant to the work of ECOSOC.
For further information, please consult the website of the NGO Branch in New York or contact the NGO Liaison Unit of the UN Office in Geneva.
NGOs wishing to apply for ECOSOC consultative status need to follow the following procedure: first the NGO must register in the database of the NGO Branch in New York. Once this registration will have been accepted (you will be notified by Email), you may proceed with the online application by submitting the following documents:
- online questionnaire and summary duly filled-in;
- the NGO's charter, constitution or statutes (including potential amendments);
- certificate of registration with national authorities, or if registration is not required by law in the country of the NGO, other proof of existence;
- most recent activity report;
- most recent financial statement;
- optional: publications, articles or statements published;
- optional: organisational chart.
The application can only be submitted in either English or French. For reference purposes, the application form can be downloaded in other languages, such as Spanish, Arabic, Chinese or Russian.
Your request will be examined by the NGO Branch in New York and once it is considered complete, it will be examined with regard to its substance by the NGO Committee. You will be informed by a letter and may send to representatives to the session during which your request is scheduled on the agenda of the Committee, yet it is not compulsory for you to assist to this meeting.
The NGO Committee is an intergovernmental body composed of 19 state representatives. It will examine your request in the light of conditions set out in ECOSOC resolution 1996/31. It may ask questions regarding your application, and if it does so, you should get back with your answers as quickly as possible (you will be informed by the Secretariat of the Committee if there are questions).
Once the NGO Committee will have decided on whether to grant consultative status to your organisation, you will be notified. The decision of the Committee will then be forwarded to the ECOSOC in a report. ECOSOC is composed of 54 member states who will decide as a final instance. You will be informed of the final decision.
Applications handed-in before 1st of June will be taken up by the Committee on NGOs during the next year. This means that applications sent in before 1st of June 2010 will be examined in 2011. The Committee on NGOs meets usually twice a year, in January and May or June, for a session in two parts: the regular session in January, and the resumed session in May/June.
It may though happen that when examining a specific application, the Committee on NGOs asks for more information to be provided. In this case, the Committee will postpone the decision until its next session in order for the NGO to be able to provide the additional information. Since this may happen several times, the whole procedure from handing in the application until getting a decision may in practice take between 1 to 3 years.
For all administrative questions (how to fill in the application form, which supporting documents to provide etc.), please contact the NGO Branch in New York or the NGO Liaison Unit of the UN in Geneva.
If the problems your application encounters are of a political nature, you will have to start lobbying member states that have a say in the decision:
- Committee on NGOs (19 member states): If the Committee on NGOs has deferred the consideration of your application in order to obtain clarifications from you, you may wish to consider assisting to the session of the Committee during which your application will be discussed for the second time. This will allow you to provide answers immediately and thus to avoid your application being postponed to yet another session. You may also wish to contact - or even better meet - member states' New York missions in advance of the session of the Committee in order to gain their support.
- ECOSOC (54 member states): In most cases, ECOSOC follows the recommendations of the Committee on NGOs, yet there have been instances in which the ECOSOC decided to grant consultative status where the Committee on NGOs had refused to do so. If your NGO turns out to be a controversial case, you may take advantage of the fact that the ECOSOC has a larger number of members, which may change majorities. You should therefore contact and meet with diplomatic missions of member states in order to gain additional support. Be aware that ECOSOC sessions alternate from Geneva one year to New York every other year. Do therefore contact diplomatic missions in the city where the session is going to take place. Consider also contacting embassies of ECOSOC member states in your country.
The Committee on NGOs is an intergovernmental organ composed of 19 States who depend from and report to ECOSOC. This Committee is charged with examining requests for ECOSOC status and NGO quadrennial reports, and more generally deals with all other questions related to the consultative relations NGOs have with ECOSOC. The mandate of the Committee is found in ECOSOC resolution 1996/31 and the Committee follows the ECOSOC rules of procedure.
The Committee on NGOs meets twice a year. The first is refered to as "ordinary session" and is held in January, and the second "resumed session" and generally takes place in May or June. All decisions taken by the NGO Committee must be confirmed by ECOSOC which meets immediately after the second session of the Committee, generally in July. ECOSOC often follows the Committee's decision, but not always.
The Secretariat of the NGO Committee is guaranteed by the NGO Branch of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs in New York.They are also in charge of the website where more information is available, such as a list of the members or reports of the sessions.
All NGOs holding general or special consultative status with ECOSOC (yet not those on the roster) are required to regularily report to the UN Committee on NGOs about their contribution to the work of the UN. NGOs do so throught a quadriennial report which needs to be submitted every four years. Detailed instructions on how to write and submit your quadriennial report are available on the website of the NGO Branch in New York.
It is important to note that the Committee on NGOs will suspend the consultative status of NGOs that do not comply with this reporting obligation. Do therefore check on the abovementioned website when your next report is due. You may also wish to refer to the online database, where you need to log into the account of your organisation. Under "consultative status" and "quadriennial reports", it will be indicated if a report is due.
The UN Security Council offers more informal means of engagement through the Arria Formula, which allows the Council to receive contributions from NGOs during informal meetings. More on the Arria Formula here.
The General Assembly also offers NGOs the ability to interact through informal hearings with the General Assembly. These informal hearings normally take place before high level meetings. NGOs are also able to work informally in some main General Assembly committees and subsidiary bodies, although never in plenary sessions. Click here for more information on NGO interaction with the General Assembly.
The Council of Europe on the other hand, offers participatory status to INGOs. This participatory status allows INGOS to take part in various projects conducted by the organisation, contribute to the work of intergovernmental committees, prepare written communications for the Secretary General, address seminars and meetings organised by the Council of Europe, among others. For more information on participatory status with the Council of Europe click here.
Accreditation to international conferences in Geneva
Accreditations are permissions which allow NGO representatives to participate actively in the UN's work. NGO representatives can get accreditations for conferences, special meetings or other events organised within the UN and its affiliated organisations and programmes. NGO representatives can also get a one year accreditation to attend to the whole of the UN's work in Geneva.
Yes, an NGO has to obtain a badge to gain access to UN buildings. ECOSOC status is often the condition to be able to request a badge, although this is not true for all conferences. Contact the Secretariat of the conference you wish to attend in order to learn if ECOSOC status is a condition for NGOs to attend.
Two types of accreditation exist:
- Temporary accreditations linked to a specific conference:
Useful if you wish to assist to this conference only. Are delivered by the secretariat of the conference and allow NGOs to send their representatives to this specific conference only.
- Ecosoc accreditations (annual or temporary, not linked to a specific conference):
Useful for permanent staff in Geneva and their temporary team members, such as interns. The number of annual badges per organisation is limited. Are delivered by the NGO Liaison Office of UNOG.
See also the relevant questions below on how to obtain either of these accreditations.
For temporary accreditations to a specific conference, you need to contact the secretariat of the conference your ONG wishes to participate in. For an accreditation request to a session of the Human Rights Council, for instance, you would have to contact the Secretariat of the Human Rights Council. More on this particular case ise available in the section "accreditation for sessions of the Human Rights Council".
There is no deadline to retrieve a badge, it can be done just before or even during a conference.
To get an annual accreditation, an NGO must fulfill certain conditions. First of all, it must have ECOSOC consultative status (see above). Every year, the NGO can then designate persons to represent it at the Offices of the United Nations. The maximum number of annual representatives in Geneva cannot exceed 7 persons: 5 annual representatives in Geneva, plus 2 representatives who are 1) the president or secretary general and 2) the chief administrative officer. These two have to be the same people for all UN offices (New York, Geneva, Vienna).
Temporary passes for a maximum duration of three months non-renewable can also be issued to additional representatives.
To obtain annual passes, you need to do the following:
- register the name(s) of your representative(s) in the new online system
- send a letter signed by your president/secretary general or chief administrative officer to the NGO liaison unit in Geneva
To obtain temporary passes, you need to do the following:
- register the name(s) of your representative(s) in the new online system
- send a letter signed by your Geneva main representative, president/secretary general or chief administrative officer to the NGO liaison unit in Geneva
For further information, please consult the "accreditation" section of UNOG.
Normally, the password has been sent to your headquarter's main Email address. If you do not know the password, you may request it here.
We have composed a detailed description with screenshots available here.
The new online system is available here. Under "user login" connect to the system with the login data of your organisation (see question above).
Once connected, click on "consultative status", then on "designations", finally on "Geneva".
If you have already entered staff into the database, persons who are currently holding a badge will be listed under "Geneva designations". Staff that you have entered earlier yet whose badge has expired will be listed under "Inactive designations".
To request a badge for a new person or to someone already listed under “inactive designations”, click on "new designation".
To request a badge for a new staff member, click on “new designation”. To request a badge for a person who is already listed (and thus has already held a badge at an earlier stage), click on the little icon corresponding to his or her name, in the column “designate”.
In the form now opened, select “designation” in the upper left box, click on the little arrow pointing to the right, and “designation” will now be displayed in the box on the right hand side.
Under “Duty station”, select “Geneva”, click to indicate whether you are requesting an annual or a temporary badge, and under “Representative type” select the one that corresponds. Then enter dates of validity of the badge and seize personal details of the staff member you wish to accredit.
Finish by clicking on “add”.
Do not forget that you still need to send a letter signed by your president or chief admin in order to obtain the badge for staff you have registered!
Since the introduction of the new online accreditation system there are two types of main representatives to UNOG: the main repesentative without signature rights and the main representative with right to sign. While the first does not hold any particular competencies, the second can
- sign temporary badge requests for additional representatives at UNOG
- receive relevant correspondance for activities in Geneva (provided that the main rep has previously entered his/her Email and postal addresses among his contact details into the new online accreditation system - if this is not the case, the correspondance will be sent to the main email address of the NGO's headquarters).
To designate a main rep (with or without rights to sign), you need to connect to the new online accreditation system and chose the corresponding option under "representative type".
Yes, a guest badge can be issued for a specific event organised which your NGO organises within the UN permises (such as for side events to a conference). It is, however, not possible to obtain guest badges for events that are not organised by your own organisation (such as a conference). In order to obtain a guest badge you would have to undertake the following steps:
- e-mail the NGO Unit at email@example.com to request guest access;
- the NGO Unit will then respond by e-mail with an Excel request form attached;
- this form is to be filled out and e-mailed back to the NGO Unit within the shortest delay possible;
- Your guests may then pick-up their badge at the Pregny Gate of the Palais des Nations (see last question).
Guest requests should be sent at least 48 hours in advance. For more information, please contact the NGO Unit.
Once you are in Geneva, go to the ‘Pregny Gate’ of the Palais des Nations / UN building (next to the ‘Appia’ stop of bus number 8). Take with you a valid identity document as well as a copy of your accreditation request (letter). The security personal will then issue a badge for the duration of the session or for the ongoing calendar year.
Conference badges can be picked up from 2 pm. of the working day preceding the first day of a session. Be aware that on the first day of a session, many people will be picking up their badges. You may thus have to calculate 30 to 90 minutes of queue time.
Annual badges can be picked up on any date of the year they are vaild for.
The office is open from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m., from Monday to Friday.