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UNRIC Library Backgrounder: Civil Society

pdf versionCivil society. Refers to the associations of citizens (outside their families, friends and businesses) entered into voluntarily to advance their interests, ideas and ideologies. The term does not include profit-making activity (the private sector) or governing (the public sector). Of particular relevance to the United Nations are mass organizations (such as organizations of peasants, women or retired people), trade unions, professional associations, social movements, indigenous people’s organizations, religious and spiritual organizations, academe and public benefit non-governmental organizations.

A/58/817, 11 June 2004: We the peoples: civil society, the United Nations and global governance;
Report of the Panel of Eminent Persons on United Nations–Civil Society Relations (Glossary, page 13)

UN Entities


Selected UN documents

  • A/HRC/RES/32/31: Civil society space: Resolution adopted by the Human Rights Council on 1 July 2016: http://undocs.org/A/HRC/RES/32/31
  • A/HRC/32/20 (11 April 2016): Practical recommendations for the creation and maintenance of a safe and enabling environment for civil society, based on good practices and lessons learned: Report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights: http://undocs.org/A/HRC/32/20
  • A/61/817 (18 April 2007): Declaration and Plan of Action of the International Civil Society Forum for Democracy on the Occasion of the Sixth International Conference of New or Restored Democracies: http://undocs.org/A/61/817
  • A/59/354 (13 September 2004): Report of the Secretary-General in response to the report of the Panel of Eminent Persons on United Nations-Civil Society Relations: http://undocs.org/A/59/354
  • A/58/817 (11 June 2004): We the peoples: civil society, the United Nations and global governance : report of the Panel of Eminent Persons on United Nations-Civil Society Relation (Cardoso Report): http://undocs.org/A/58/817 and http://undocs.org/A/58/817/Corr.1
  • A/57/118 (27 June 2002): Report of the Joint Inspection Unit on the involvement of civil society organizations other than non-governmental organizations and the private sector in technical cooperation activities: experiences and prospects of the United Nations system: http://undocs.org/A/57/118 and http://undocs.org/A/57/118/Add.1
  • UN documents on the topic “Civil Society” – click here


Selected Documents & Publications available online

January 2020
not an official document – for information only

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