Cooperation with UNESCO: Becoming an official partner 
By Sabina Colombo, Chief, Desk for Intergovernmental and Non-Governmental Organizations at the Sector for External Relations and Public Information of UNESCO
“The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization may make suitable arrangements for consultation and cooperation with non-governmental international organizations concerned with matters within its competence, and may invite them to undertake specific tasks.” (UNESCO’s Constitution)
NGOs. 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 also 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 is 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.
Combining expertise and resources with NGOs allows UNESCO to:
+ create strategic alliances for advancing UNESCO’s programme priorities and values;
+ enhance efficiency and effectiveness of the implementation of its programmes and activities;
+ strengthen visibility and impact of its action and presence, globally, regionally and at country level;
+ reinforce the understanding, ratification, implementation and monitoring of UNESCO’s normative frameworks;
+ enhance its capacity to reach all segments of societies which should be beneficiaries of its action;
+ multiply the effects of UNESCO’s actions.
The current statutory framework for cooperation with NGOs is defined in the Directives concerning UNESCO’s partnership with non-governmental organizations, adopted by the General Conference in 2011, which offer a simplified framework for engaging, managing and maintaining partnership with NGOs.
In addition to the bilateral modalities of cooperation in one or more of UNESCO’s fields of competence, the official partnership framed by the Directives implies different mechanisms allowing exchanges among NGOs and coordinated actions:
+ the International Conference of NGOs brings together all NGOs in official partnership every two years;
+ the NGO-UNESCO Liaison Committee is elected by the International Conference of NGOs; it represents the interests of all the NGOs partners with regard to UNESCO and coordinates the organization of several activities, particularly international forums of NGOs around UNESCO priorities;
+ the UNESCO Executive Board’s Committee on Non-Governmental Partners where all NGOs in official partnership are invited to participate.
Several modalities are also in place to ensure an appropriate visibility of this cooperation and a permanent communication with NGOs:
+ a database of NGOs publicly available;
+ the possibility for an NGO to indicate its relation with UNESCO by using a standard sentence: “in official partnership with UNESCO”;
+ the possibility for the NGO to use the name, acronym and logo of UNESCO on a temporary basis in connection with a patronage from UNESCO for specific events or for the implementation of projects in cooperation with, or with the support of, UNESCO;
+ a regular monthly communication targeted specifically for NGOs, aiming at sharing information on major activities and events of the Organization;
+ a web space specifically devoted to NGOs activities, publications and any other relevant information.
Any international, regional, national or local NGO may become an official partner, whenever its purposes, functions, structure and operation are non-governmental, democratic and non-profit-making in character. The NGO shall fulfil the following conditions:
+ it shall be engaged in activities in one or more specific fields of UNESCO’s competence;
+ it shall have a recognized legal status, an established headquarters and be governed by democratically adopted statutes;
+ it shall have been in existence and have been carrying out activities for at least two years.
Official partnership under the framework of the Directives is the privileged way of cooperation with UNESCO. However, it is more than just an accreditation; it consists in a mutual engagement for cooperation. The potential for synergy and the extent of the activities already implemented jointly by the NGO and UNESCO are important elements for the admission of an NGO to official partnership: official partnership is thus reserved for those organizations working regularly together with UNESCO in its fields of competence.
Currently, UNESCO is enjoying official partnerships with 376 NGOs and 25 foundations and similar institutions. In addition to this formal framework however, the Organization is also carrying out a range of activities, at international, regional and local levels, on an ad hoc basis in cooperation with numerous NGOs which do not enjoy official partnership.
For more information, please see UNESCO and NGO-UNESCO Liaison Committee