Since its inception, UNESCO has recognized that non-governmental organizations and foundations which have concerns close to its own play an important role in international cooperation in the service of peoples.
For more than a half-century, UNESCO has set up a valuable network of cooperative relations with a number of organizations in its fields of competence, thereby enabling it to work with civil society in achieving its objectives and to disseminate its democratic and ethical ideals.
Currently, UNESCO is enjoying official partnerships with 401 international NGOs and 24 foundations and similar institutions which are working in the fields of competence of the Organization. In addition to this formal framework, the Organization has been carrying out a range of activities hand in hand with NGOs, not only at international and regional levels, but also at national level.
Two categories of partnership may be established with NGOs: Consultative Partnership and Associate Partnership.
Consultative partnership is designed to enable UNESCO to establish and maintain flexible and dynamic partnerships with any organization of civil society that is active in UNESCO’s fields of competence at whatever level, and to benefit from its expertise, the representativeness of its networks for the dissemination of information and, if appropriate, its operational capacities in the field. Moreover, this category of partnership should make it possible to facilitate the emergence of organizations which are representative of civil society, and their interaction at the international level, in those parts of the world where they are weak or isolated.
Associate partnership involves close and sustained cooperation in defining and implementing the Organization’s programmes. This partnership is established for a renewable period of eight years and is open to those international organizations having maintained a continuous and effective partnership (consultative status) with UNESCO for at least two years.