Partnership renewal with non-governmental organizations

© UNESCO

Paris, 16 May - Pursuant to its mandate, UNESCO has always maintained close relations with civil society organizations and non-governmental organizations (NGO). The Organization was one of the first UN agencies to recognize the importance of NGO participation in its activities and establish strong partnerships with many of them. It played a leading role in the creation of many NGOs in order to strengthen the role of civil society in the pursuit of its goals.

The result was a global network of NGOs associated with UNESCO and covering the full range of its mandate, so as to promote cooperation in the fields of education, science, culture, communication and information.

In order to adapt to rapidly changing multilateral action, as well as to the emergence of non-state actors, UNESCO has in recent years undergone an historic reform of its relations with NGOs.

This process has led to the implementation of new Directives concerning UNESCO’s partnership with NGOs adopted by the General Conference at its 36th session in 2011. These Directives provide a simplified partnership framework allowing for greater involvement of NGOs in the development and design of UNESCO programs.

Various measures and initiatives have been adopted in order to broaden the scope of these partnerships and enable NGOs to play a more active role in the implementation of UNESCO activities.

In particular, the first important change lies in a better geographic distribution and the development of partnerships with NGOs in regions that were not represented in the past. Among NGOs that have entered into a formal partnership in recent years, almost half already comes from regions that were underrepresented until now, notably with a better representation of Africa, Asia and the Pacific.  This is done to ensure greater geographic diversification in the network of NGOs. In the same spirit, the composition of the UNESCO-NGO Liaison Committee has been redesigned, with NGOs representing five different regions.  This redesign gives new impetus to the Committee’s activities that will from now on be refocused on the priorities of the Organization.

Network revitalization is also measured by more systematic involvement of NGOs in the development of a new medium-term strategy adopted in 2013, in awareness-raising campaigns and activities in the field.

More importantly, new consultation procedures and best practice sharing have been implemented, helping to strengthen dialogue and cooperation monitoring. As a result, the first international NGO forum bringing together nearly 300 NGOs was held at UNESCO in 2013.

These forums are organized around one single theme, thus anchoring the discussion in concrete projects and better aligning the expectations and initiatives of NGOs with UNESCO priorities.

In 2014 two decentralized forums will be organized in order to mobilize a greater number of local NGOs and local branches of international NGOs, and to further position UNESCO activities closer to country needs.

  • The second International NGO Forum will be held in Yamoussoukro, Côte d' Ivoire, from 30 to 31 July 2014 on the theme of access to water for all in Africa.
  • The third International NGO Forum will be held in Sofia and Sozopol, Bulgaria, from 27 September to 1 October 2014 on the theme of the role of youth in the protection of cultural heritage.

In other news, the UNESCO-NGO Liaison Committee brought together nearly 1,000 young people and 40 NGOs during an event organized on 6 March, 2014 on the themes of education, sport and cultural diversity.  The event aimed to promote emerging attitudes for the advancement of human rights around the world.

Together these initiatives and new ways of working have profoundly transformed the work of UNESCO and NGOs.  They constitute the central element of the reform helping to position the Organization closer to priorities in the field and enhance the effectiveness of UNESCO’s work in contact with civil society.

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