Since its inception, UNESCO has recognized that non-governmental organizations and foundations which have concerns close to its own play an important role in international cooperation in the service of peoples.
For more than a half-century, UNESCO has set up a valuable network of cooperative relations with a number of organizations in its fields of competence, thereby enabling it to work with civil society in achieving its objectives and to disseminate its democratic and ethical ideals.
Currently UNESCO is enjoying official partnerships with 370 international NGOs and more than 20 foundations and similar institutions which are working in the fields of competence of the Organization. In addition to this formal framework, the Organization has been carrying out a range of activities hand in hand with NGOs, not only at international and regional levels, but also at national level.
The new Directives concerning UNESCO’s partnership with non-governmental organizations, adopted by the General Conference in November 2011, offer a simplified framework of partnership allowing a greater involvement of NGOs in the development and implementation of UNESCO’s programmes, and thus represent a new step towards the reinforcement of our links with civil society.
What types of partnerships can be established?
Two categories of partnership may be established with NGOs: consultative partnership and associate partnership.
Consultative partnership is designed to enable UNESCO to establish and maintain flexible and dynamic partnerships with any organization of civil society that is active in UNESCO’s fields of competence at whatever level, and to benefit from its expertise, the representativeness of its networks for the dissemination of information and, if appropriate, its operational capacities in the field. Moreover, this category of partnership should make it possible to facilitate the emergence of organizations which are representative of civil society, and their interaction at the international level, in those parts of the world where they are weak or isolated.
Associate partnership involves close and sustained cooperation in defining and implementing the Organization’s programmes. This partnership is established for a renewable period of eight years and is open to those international organizations having maintained a continuous and effective partnership (consultative status) with UNESCO for at least two years.
What are the conditions to fulfil to establish a partnership?
The non-governmental organization shall fulfil the following conditions:
1. it shall be engaged in activities in one or more specific fields of UNESCO’s competence, and it shall be able and willing to make an effective contribution to framing UNESCO’s objectives and/or to implementing its programmes, in conformity with the principles proclaimed in UNESCO’s Constitution;
2. it shall be effectively engaged in activities in a spirit of cooperation, tolerance and solidarity, in the interests of humankind and with respect for cultural identities;
3. it shall have a recognized legal status;
4. it shall have an established headquarters and be governed by democratically adopted statutes stipulating, in particular, that its general policy is determined by a conference, assembly or other representative body that functions democratically; those statutes shall also stipulate that it shall have a permanent, representative and regularly renewed governing body, representatives who are duly elected by the main body of the organization, and basic resources deriving chiefly from members’ contributions, its activities and gifts or bequests, that enable it to function;
5. it shall have been in existence and have been carrying out activities for at least two years at the time it requests the establishment of a partnership.
In addition to fulfilling the conditions defined above for the consultation partnership, the non-governmental organization shall also:
1. being a non-governmental international or regional organization;
2. have proven competence in an important field of education, natural sciences, social and human sciences, culture, or communication and information, and have a record of regular major contributions to framing UNESCO’s objectives and implementing its programmes;
3. have maintained a continuous and effective partnership (consultative status) for at least two years.
What is the procedure to establish a partnership?
Requests for consultative partnership may be submitted at any time by NGOs to the Director-General, together with the following documents concerning the NGO:
1. the statutes;
2. theinstrument of legal recognition;
3. the list of members by country and, where appropriate, by category, as provided in the statutes;
4. the latest activity report covering a period of at least two years, including a detailed financial report on the previous financial year;
5. a brief description of the projects that the organization hopes to implement with UNESCO, and a brief description of activities already implemented in cooperation with UNESCO.
The Director-General decides upon the establishment of a consultative partnership between UNESCO and the NGOs and report thereon to the Executive Board once a year.
Any international or regional partner organization with consultative status for at least two years may submit a request for admission to associate status, no later than 30 November of each year, for decision by the Executive Board at its first session of the following year. The request must include:
1. the list of the NGO’s individual and/or institutional members;
2. its most recent activity report;
3. a summary of cooperation with UNESCO in the previous two years. The summary must attest to regular, specific and productive cooperation between UNESCO and the NGO on the basis of several joint projects that have demonstrated the importance to UNESCO of maintaining a close partnership with the NGO in order to implement its programmes.
The Executive Board decides on the admission of NGO partners to associate status with UNESCO and on the renewal of the partnership, on the recommendation of the Director-General. Requests rejected by the Executive Board may not be resubmitted to it until at least four years have elapsed after its decision.
Can my organization get funding from UNESCO?Relations between UNESCO and NGOs are essentially intellectual and moral. However, although UNESCO is not a financing agency, cooperation with UNESCO can also have financial aspects in the form of activity-financing contracts.
Foundations and similar institutions can also be admitted to official relations with UNESCO
Currently, UNESCO is maintaining official relations with more than 20 foundations and similar institutions, which are financially self-reliant, according to the Directives concerning relations between UNESCO and foundations and similar institutions.
Such organizations, which are also part of the non-governmental community, should nevertheless meet special criteria: as non-profit international organizations, pursuing objectives in conformity with the ideals of UNESCO, they should have the means to contribute to the implementation of its programme.
Any foundation or institution which satisfies these criteria may maintain official relations with UNESCO, provided that it has already engaged in cooperative activities with the Organization and that consultation on the part of UNESCO with national authorities where such an institution has its Headquarters, has taken place.
Apart from individual relations, UNESCO also promotes collective cooperation with NGOs through different mechanisms:
- The NGO International Conference, which takes place every two years and comprises all NGOs maintaining official relations with UNESCO.
- Theme-specific collective consultations, organized regularly in accordance with UNESCO programme implementation needs, sometimes in parallel with international conferences held under its auspices.
- The NGO-UNESCO Liaison Committee, elected by the NGO International Conference, is responsible for permanent coordination and continuity of this collective cooperation. It is based at UNESCO Headquarters in Paris.