Since its foundation, UNESCO has given great importance to partnership with civil society organizations, in particular NGOs.

UNESCO may establish official partnerships with international, regional, national or local non-governmental organizations (NGOs).

Any organization may qualify as a non-governmental organization which may become a partner of UNESCO provided that it has not been established by intergovernmental agreement, or by a government and that its purposes, functions, structure and operation are non-governmental, democratic and non-profit-making in character.

The international or regional NGO must form, through its regular active membership (consisting of institutions and/or individuals), a community linked by a desire to pursue, in a significant number of countries or regions, the objectives for which it was established.

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.

Two categories of partnership may be established with NGOs according to the structure and aims of such organizations, the nature of their cooperation with UNESCO and the scale of the contribution they are able to make to it. One is aimed at achieving a flexible and dynamic partnership in the definition and implementation of UNESCO’s programmes (Consultative status), and the other involves close and sustained cooperation in defining and implementing the Organization’s programme (Associate status).