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So, you started a nonprofit hoping to make the world a better place, have built a large sphere of influence, and want to take things to the next level. One way to do this is to partner with the United Nations (“UN”) as a consulting nongovernmental organization (“consulting NGO”). The UN consults with nonprofits to help develop civil society worldwide.

Most consulting NGOs work with the UN’s Economic and Social Council (“ECOSOC”). The ECOSOC oversees social and economic development around the world, by having various conferences, and promoting the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (“UN SDGs”). These goals cover everything from clean water to gender equality, and will be in effect until approximately 2030. Unlike other UN councils, the ECOSOC has extensive experience with nonprofits like the International Association of Lions Clubs, The Center for Economic and Social Rights, and the Nigerian Environmental Society.

To become a consulting NGO, your nonprofit must meet specific qualifications. Most 501(c) charities, as determined by the IRS, will meet the basic structural requirements. Beyond that, your nonprofit must also have existed for two (2) years and have an established headquarters. These requirements ensure that your organization is serious about influencing society for the long haul.

In addition to the structural requirements, your nonprofit must also have specific characteristics. It must be an international, regional, sub-regional, or national organization whose programs are relevant to the UN SDGs. Most charitable purposes in the U.S. promote the UN SDGs; however, the nonprofit must demonstrate concrete contributions to at least one (1) of the UN SDGs.

Once your nonprofit has fulfilled all the requirements listed above, it must endure a lengthy application process, that ordinarily takes about one (1) year. There are three (3) consultant classifications for NGOs who pass the application process: A.) General, B.) Special, and C.) Roster. General consultant NGOs are large international nonprofits whose work covers multiple UN interest areas. Special consultant NGOs are smaller nonprofits who may cover one (1) or two (2) UN interest areas. Roster consultant NGOs consist of nonprofits with a technical focus.

Having now established a consulting NGO, your nonprofit can contribute to the international forum and achieve its dream of making a positive difference in the world. This includes, but is not limited to:

  • Entering UN premises;

  • Attending international conferences and events, and making written and oral statements at those events;

  • Providing expert analysis on issues;

  • Monitoring and implementing international agreements;

  • Raising public awareness of relevant issues; and

  • Advancing the UN’s goals and objectives.

Your consulting NGO will likely have the ability to change the course of international relations.

For more information, see the UN’s brochure on how to become a consulting NGO.

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