“The opening words of the United Nations Charter are: `We, the Peoples of the United Nations.’ This is the clearest possible statement that the United Nations does not belong to States alone. […] We live in an era in which international affairs are no longer dominated by States as the sole actors. The participants include non-governmental organizations, national parliaments, private companies, the mass media, universities, intellectuals, artists, and every woman and every man who considers him or herself to be part of the great human family.”
Secretary-General Kofi Annan
Messina, Italy, April 1997
What is an NGO?
A non-governmental organization (NGO) is any non-profit, voluntary citizens’ group which is organized on a local, national or international level. Task-oriented and driven by people with a common interest, NGOs perform a variety of services and humanitarian functions, bring citizens’ concerns to Governments, monitor policies and encourage political participation at the community level. They provide analysis and expertise, serve as early warning mechanisms and help monitor and implement international agreements. Some are organized around specific issues, such as human rights, the environment or health. Their relationship with offices and agencies of the United Nations System differs depending on their location and mandates.
Over 1,300 NGOs with strong information programmes on issues of concern to the United Nations are associated with the Department of Public Information (DPI), giving the United Nations valuable links to people around the world. DPI helps those NGOs gain access to and disseminate information about the range of issues in which the United Nations is involved, to enable the public to understand better the aims and objectives of the Organization.
How do NGOs and DPI cooperate?
The Department of Public Information and NGOs cooperate regularly. NGOs associated with DPI disseminate information about the UN to their membership, thereby building knowledge of and support for the Organization at the grassroots level. This dissemination includes, publicizing UN activities around the world on such issues as peace and security, economic and social development, human rights, humanitarian affairs and international law. Additionally, promote UN observances and international years established by the General Assembly to focus world attention on important issues facing humanity.
The NGO Relations Section within the Department of Public Information at the United Nations is the link with approximately 1,300 Non-governmental Organizations (NGOs) who are partners and members in association with the Department of Public Information and support the UN efforts to disseminate information on the priority issues on its agenda, including sustainable development, creating a safer and more secure world, the importance of prevention, helping countries in transition, empowering women and young people, and addressing poverty, among others.
The Section is also responsible for:
- Facilitating the exchange of information and developing partnerships with civil society.
- Reaching out to civil society partners around the world and enhancing their interaction with, and understanding of, the work of the UN.
- Providing information to representatives of civil society about the UN, its agencies, funds and programmes and identifying opportunities for NGO support for the Organization at the international, regional, national and community levels.
- Organizing, in cooperation with the NGO/DPI Executive Committee, the host country, and other partners from the UN system, the Annual UN DPI/NGO Conference-the yearly premier NGO event which attracts some 1,500 NGO representatives from approximately 70 countries.
- 33 weekly NGO Briefings;
- Two one-day-long DPI/NGO Communications Workshops;
- A two-day Orientation Programme for new NGO representatives;
- A one-day Orientation Programme for Youth Representatives
- The maintenance of two websites.