For our briefing on Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs), we had the pleasure to meet Ms. Sol Oca from the Department of Public Information. She gave us a passionate and interactive speech on the relationship between the United Nations and NGOs.
After a warm greeting, Ms. Oca began her speech with an interesting question: how important are NGOs and civil society in our world? Before we could give her an answer, she tried to help us outline the some distinctive characteristics of NGOs: non-profit oriented, political neutrality, efficiency, accountability, and transparency. She then compared civil society and non-civil society and underlined the importance of civil society in the United Nations system, especially in organs and programs such as the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) or the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF). Many NGOs enjoy consultative status in the ECOSOC. Furthermore, NGOs are affiliated with the United Nations in many other fields. In particular, NGOs have contributed considerably to the implementation of the Millennium Development Goals.
According to Ms. Oca, the cooperation between the United Nations and NGOs was a win-win situation. She stressed that the United Nations needed partners when dealing with local and regional issues. Generally, NGOs are topic-oriented and specialize in particular issues. Mostly, they know the local culture and language better then UN staff or agencies. NGOs are able to push the agenda forward firmly because of their distinguished competence. On the other hand, by working with the United Nations, NGOs earn reputation and gain international influence.
However, it is not easy for an NGO to get accreditation with the United Nations. Any NGO which intends to affiliate with the United Nations has to hand in an introduction about itself, its main focus topic, its information sources, and documents on its budget. It further needs a recommendation letter from the regional information center of the United Nations. Within the United Nations, these documents will be reviewed and evaluated before the accreditation might be approved. In 2005, the United Nations has accredited only 24 new NGOs. However, there are still problematic NGOs which managed to be associated with the United Nations. For the disassociation, the legal office of the NGO department is responsible. According to the latest statistics, 44 NGOs were disassociated because of disrespecting the principles of the UN Charter, having become intransparent or inactive, or other relevant reasons.
During her briefing, Ms. Oca gave us the touching example about an inspiring 95-year-old lady who was a very active volunteer in civil society and had organized many public workshops before she passed away. She said that only because of these motivated people who were eager to make a change in the world, the world could be altered. She asked every one of us what we could do for the world and how we could make changes. We gave her various and ambitious replies. Some of us told her about their work in volunteer organizations, and some explained that they were already active in NGOs or political parties. Ms. Oca was very moved and satisfied with these exciting answers. She encouraged all of us to do more for our world.