Forms of International Summits and Conferences

  1. An official U.N. summit is typically an official meeting of governments convened by the United Nations to address a vital social and economic issue affecting all countries, for example sustainable development, the status of women, or racism. At a summit, governments seek to arrive at a consensus on core norms and standards that are then codified in a conference document and serve as recommendations for action at the country or international level. Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) need to get “accredited” to attend and even then they can only do so as observers unless governments invite them into delegations beforehand. But from the corridors, NGOs can make an enormous impact.
  2. An NGO forum is a meeting of non-governmental organizations that may run alongside an official summit — often nearby, and concurrent with the summit proceedings. Its purpose is usually to help the participating organizations share ideas, consolidate their points of agreement, and find ways to inject their message into a global discussion that includes governments and the private sector.
  3. An international civil society meeting is also an NGO gathering, but it tends to focus specifically on advancing a social movement or solving a complex problem. It is usually a main event in itself, not a side conference to a summit or other government negotiation. Some, such as the World Social Forum or the International AIDS Conference, are annual or biennial events.
  4. Meetings of multilateral institutions like the World Bank or the World Trade Organization are usually not open to official participation by NGOs, but the latter may be able to participate as observers. These meetings are regular events, occurring annually or sometimes even more often.

Takeaways are critical, bite-sized resources either excerpted from our guides or written by Candid Learning for Funders using the guide's research data or themes post-publication. Attribution is given if the takeaway is a quotation.

This takeaway was derived from World Summits and Conferences.