WHO's relations with nongovernmental and civil society organizations
The first World Health Assembly adopted Principles to govern relations between WHO and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) in furtherance of Article 71 of the WHO Constitution, which provides for arrangements to be made for "… consultation and co-operation with non-governmental international organizations and, with the consent of the Government concerned with national organizations, governmental or non-governmental." For the purposes of the policy, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) includes such organizational forms as civil society organizations, associations of professions, industries, patients, foundations, service providers.
The current Principles set out the overarching framework enabling informal relations to flourish between NGOs and all levels of WHO, from the offices of the WHO representatives at the country level, to regional offices, and the headquarters in Geneva. They form the majority of WHO/NGO relations and are pursued freely without the need for central reporting.
The Principles also set out the terms for the admission of international NGOs into official relations with WHO, that is, formal relations.
At WHO headquarters the Partnerships unit is responsible for, inter alia, the oversight of WHO NGOs relations, as well as the administration of formal relations. It does not normally work directly with NGOs, however, it may assist NGOs in their first contacts with interested WHO technical offices. Counterparts at each WHO regional office serve in the same capacity, in particular for regional and national NGOs.