Handbook of Research on NGOs
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Handbook of Research on NGOs

Edited by Aynsley Kellow and Hannah Murphy-Gregory

This volume provides a critical overview of research on Non-governmental Organisations (NGOs). While it notes that the definition of NGOs is contested, and can include both business and national groups, it focuses primarily on international NGOs engaged with human rights, social and environmental concerns, and aid and development issues. With contributions by Peter Willetts, Tom Davies, Bob Reinalda and other leading scholars, it provides a series of critical essays on both general aspects of NGOs and significant issues of particular concern.
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Chapter 4: NGOs as insider participants: evolution of the role of NGOs at the United Nations

Peter Willetts


The arrangements for non-governmental organisations to have “consultative status” at the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) were developed from 1945 to 1950 and consolidated into a formal Statute. During the following 50 years, NGOs have gained greater status and their participation rights have expanded. However, with the exception of a few that have become Observers, NGOs still have no formal role in the General Assembly. Since 2005, US opposition to this has been bypassed by developing radical new practices, on an ad hoc basis, for “hearings” under the authority of the Assembly’s President. The hearings have also resulted in local NGOs (based in regions or even individual cities), research institutes, foundations and religious orders, which all used to be denied NGO accreditation, joining the NGO community at the UN. The number of NGOs has expanded to more than 4,500 and their political influence has greatly increased.

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