Establishing a UNA

The World Federation of United Nations Associations (WFUNA) is a global nonprofit organization representing and coordinating a membership of over 100 national United Nations Associations.

Establishing a United Nations Association (UNA) should be a comprehensive and thoughtful process which often takes several months to years to complete properly. A UNA must be legally constituted with the appropriate offices of its national government and meet other eligibility requirements before it can apply for membership with WFUNA. There can only be one UNA member of WFUNA in a UN member state. Details of the process are outlined below in the Frequently Asked Questions.

UNAs should ideally be composed of a diversity of sectors, with Board members representing civil society, academia, former diplomats, the private sector, the media, youth and women’s organizations,etc. The wider the constituency of the UNA, the more opportunities it has to reach different parts of society and inform and involve them with the work of the United Nations.

The WFUNA Secretariat is available to support the establishment of new UNAs with guidance and advice. Contact us--we can help answer your questions and get you started.


If there is no UNA in a member state of the United Nations, one may be established by a group of people interested in working towards supporting the aims and mission of the United Nations and who endorse the objectives of WFUNA. Most UNAs tend to be established by civil society leaders or social activists, academics working/ researching in the field of International Relations, Political Science or related topics; former UN staff members or diplomats who worked with the UN; or even Model UN or youth groups.

There are no predetermined expectations in the WFUNA Constitution as to the qualifications of the founding leadership/ Preparatory Committee of a UNA. However, the founding members should have:

  • Strong working knowledge of the United Nations system and its priority issues
  • Time and commitment to invest in developing and running a strong UNA, including creating and implementing programs
  • The willingness to raise funds for running the organization
  • The networks necessary to involve a variety of constituencies in the work of the UNA, such as government officials/ parliamentarians, business leaders, civil society activists, media representatives, students and academics
  • Ability to communicate in English or French, to facilitate regular communication with other UNAs and WFUNA
  • Effective communications skills to promote the work of the UNA nationally

It is often useful if the founding leadership/ Preparatory Committee of a UNA is diverse, offering a variety of skills sets and areas of expertise as well as representing different backgrounds, cultural and religious groups, ages, as well as gender balance.

At the international level, the WFUNA Secretariat’s offices in New York and Geneva provide information and support to individuals and groups interested in establishing a UNA. Please email your questions to info@wfuna.org.

Regionally, it is a good idea to reach out to well-established UNAs in neighboring countries who can share their experiences and best-practices. Check the list of existing UNAs for contact information.

At the national level, traditionally the establishment of a UNA begins with the formation of a Preparatory Committee of interested parties. Such a committee would meet to consider the best ways of establishing an Association. Please see Question #1 for information about the members of such a Committee.

Often the UN agencies, Information Centers and other offices on the ground are helpful to UNAs in establishment. They can provide materials (such as UN documents and reports), include the new UNA in their activities and on their distribution lists, and provide feedback on planned projects and events. In the long run, it is important to have a good working relationship with the UN in your country, and to update them regularly on the work of the UNA, because these agencies and offices often become natural partners for UNAs in implementing projects and campaigns and provide a local connection to the UN.

Other civil society organizations in the country could serve as a source of information and support, especially with aspects of the process such as government registration. Additionally, they can be viable partners for future programs and projects.

Although there is no such Constitutional requirement, a UNA is usually headquartered in the country's capital city. This strategically places a UNA within easy reach of government offices, the diplomatic community and others. Chapters should subsequently be established throughout the country so as to make the UNA broad-based and national.

The only governing document a UNA needs to have is a Constitution/ By Laws (see sample here>>). This document sets out the purpose of the UNA, sets guidelines for collaboration with WFUNA, creates a membership and a leadership structure…etc.

In addition, a UNA‘s formal application for membership to WFUNA needs to include the following

  1. Copy of the UNA's Constitution/ By-Laws (the main governing document)
  2. Constitution provided by WFUNA
  3. Certification from the appropriate legal authorities confirming that the UNA has been established legally
  4. A declaration signed by both the President and the Secretary-General of the UNA, stating that it will cooperate with WFUNA and pay its annual dues to WFUNA – use sample provided by WFUNA
  5. Advance payment for the year of admission of one half of one year's dues (email info@wfuna.org for an estimate of the annual dues)
  6. Annual plan of activities, projected budget, and possible sources of funding
  7. CV of President, Secretary-General and all founding officers
  8. Completed application form 

Request an application>>

No. According to Article 2 (b) of WFUNA’s Constitution, no more than one UNA from any Member State of the United Nations shall be admitted as a Member of WFUNA.

There could be a few different options:

  1. There was previously a UNA that was a member of WFUNA, which has since ceased functioning and was disaffiliated by WFUNA. In this case it may still be legally registered with the government, without having any presence or activities or membership in WFUNA.
  2. It is possible that there is more than one UNA in the process of being established simultaneously, but neither has yet applied for membership in WFUNA. In these cases we recommend that the two groups work together and apply for membership as a unified UNA.
  3. Technically, there can be an organization called a UNA or a similar name that is legally registered with the government but is not a member, and was never a member, of WFUNA. Such an entity does not receive the benefits of WFUNA membership, cannot participate in WFUNA projects, meetings and initiatives, and is not part of the international network of UNAs linked together by WFUNA. In this case, another UNA can be established and can apply for membership with WFUNA, as long as all the required government registration is completed.

No. Article 2(a) of the WFUNA Constitution states that UNAs need to be legally established in “States Members of the United Nations” to be eligible for admission as Members UNAs of WFUNA.

First, it needs to be confirmed that the old UNA is no longer functioning. If the UNA is not listed on the WFUNA website, it means that it is not currently a member of WFUNA. However, it may be the case that even though the UNA is no longer a member of WFUNA, according to the government there is still a UNA listed, or there is a UNA in the process of becoming a member of WFUNA. If a UNA is registered with the government, but not listed on the WFUNA website, contact the Secretariat (info@wfuna.org) for clarification.

If this is the case, you should contact the leadership of the old UNA to find out if they are still doing work, or if they are interested in helping you start a new UNA. You can usually find contact information for the old UNA in the original registration papers that you can get from the government. They may want to become part of the new UNA and can provide their experiences and insights to help you.

Finally, if the old UNA has been confirmed to be no longer functioning with both WFUNA and the government, you may begin the process to establish a new UNA. Since you have to register the new UNA as a Non-government organization in your country, you may need to provide proof to your local authorities of the old UNA no longer functioning in order to take over the name. 

The simple answer is yes, a UNA can be established by youth. There is no age restriction for the founders of a UNA, however, even if a UNA is established by youth, the Association should accept members of all ages, and have projects and programs that are geared towards general constituencies, and not only youth. 

Examples of existing UNAs that were founded by young people (usually University students) are UNA-Croatia and UNA-South Africa.

All UNAs are encouraged to engage youth as a constituency, so even if the UNA is not founded by youth, it can have a youth section or program. However, a UNA youth program or section cannot be started independently, without the authorization and involvement of a UNA.

A UNA does not have to have a youth constituency, program or section it is merely recommended, since the purpose of all UNAs is to engage people of all ages and from a diversity of backgrounds, with the United Nations. 

The Officers of a UNA generally are the President, Vice President(s) and Secretary-General. They often work on a voluntary basis. The number of staff members working under their direction is dependent upon available resources.

Some UNAs are entirely run by volunteers, however, for the sustainability and impact of the UNA it is preferable that there is some core staff to take care of the day-to-day correspondence, office management, liaising with WFUNA and financial accounting. If possible, UNAs should fundraise to support at least a core operating staff of 1-3 persons, including the Secretary-General or Executive Director (depending on his/her engagement with the UNA).

As projects are added on and more funding becomes available, additional staff can be hired for on a full-time, part-time or consultancy basis.

In general, UNAs range in staff size from all volunteers or only one or two core staff, to some UNAs that have multiple departments and staff numbering 25+.

It is not a Constitutional requirement for a UNA to have a physical office, but it is highly preferred in order to provide structure, legitimacy and sustainability. A UNA must have reliable contact information, including the name of the Secretary-General or President, a physical mailing address (whether an office or temporary space), phone number and email address. This contact information must be provided to WFUNA and updated whenever there is a change.

In some cases, UNAs have office space provided to them by the local UN Information Center, UN House, or UN Agency Headquartered in their country. 

The funding for the core budget and programming of UNAs usually comes from a variety of sources:

  1. Membership dues – most UNAs charge their individual (and if applicable, organizational) members a nominal fee on a monthly or annual basis in exchange for services provided by the UNA
  2. Governments – some UNAs receive funding from the annual budget of their government, usually the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the government Development Agency or similar entities
  3. Foundations – most UNAs write fundraising proposals for each of their projects, which they submit for consideration to national or international foundations
  4. Corporations – some UNAs partner with companies for the purpose of running specific events or projects. It is important to take into consideration the Corporate Social Responsibility plan of any company approached for sponsorship – it is a good idea to consider companies that are members of the UN Global Compact
  5. Fundraising events – events such as dinners, galas, lunches and auctions can be organized to raise funds for core operating costs or special projects of the UNA
  6. Individuals – some UNAs enjoy the support of local philanthropists, or send an annual public mail-out soliciting funds from the general population
  7. In-kind donations – many UNAs have resources such as office space and equipment, computers and meeting spaces provided to them by local businesses, UN offices in the country or other partners
  8. Sales of merchandise – some UNAs have developed a line of products (i.e. caps, pens, t-shirts) featuring their logo that they sell and then invest the profits in their operating costs or projects

Depending on the domestic laws of the country in which a UNA is established, there may be restrictions on some of these fundraising strategies and sources. Check your UNAs government registration documents! 

No, WFUNA is never a funding source for UNAs.

WFUNA sometimes collaborates with UNAs in the context of joint projects, and through these projects might do shared fundraising, or provide the partner UNA with training or funding/ resources for capacity-building. 

WFUNA holds some trainings and events where it may provide sponsorship for members of developing country UNAs in good standing to participate.

UNAs have to pay annual membership dues to WFUNA.

 

UNAs are national civil society organizations that provide a link between the citizens of the world and the United Nations by seeking to ensure that the UN is relevant to the lives of the peoples it exists to serve. UNAs have different programs and a variety of constituencies, such as individual members, member organizations, and partner schools and universities.

Each UNA develops their own activities based on the objectives outlined in their Constitution, the goals and priorities of the United Nations and WFUNA (as determined by the Constitution and the Plenary Assemblies), the assessed needs/ interests of the communities they serve, and their own areas of interest and expertise. The most important factor is that all activities of the UNA promote and or/further the principles, goals and priorities of the United Nations.

Generally UNAs have a combination of educational, public information and advocacy activities. In addition to general UN related work, most UNAs run projects and events in one or more of the UN’s main priority areas of peace and security, human rights and sustainable development. They may partner with WFUNA, other UNAs, other NGOs, academia, government, and/or companies to implement these programs.

Model United Nations is a core educational activity for most UN Associations. These range in size from classroom Model UN’s (about 15-35 participants) to large-scale international Model UN conferences (as many as 2,000 participants). They can be implemented at any educational level. Generally, most UNAs partner with local high schools or Universities to run national or regional Model UN conferences with about 100-350 participants.  

Other education and public information activities include organizing public celebrations for United Nations International Days, such as the International Day of Peace (21 September), United Nations Day (24 October) and Human Rights Day (10 December). Many UNAs organize regular public lectures and seminars on UN related topics, involving multiple experts and stakeholders from both the public and private sectors.

UNAs often work with local politicians, parliamentarians or national government leaders. Some have lobbying activities, such as informing their government about UN priorities, and encouraging the government to ratify, adhere to, or endorse UN decisions, goals or agreements.

Some UNAs implement local or national development projects, such as assisting a community in becoming more environmentally sustainable, providing resources for local schools such as books or lunches, providing access to safe drinking water, or training women to be small business entrepreneurs. These development projects can take many shapes and sizes and are often carried out in collaboration with partners.

Some UNAs focus on research which they compile into publications that are made available to government and UN agencies, schools and Universities, other NGOs, and interested individuals. UNAs generally have comprehensive websites, often in their national language as well as English or French. It is recommended that at least every UNA have a basic website with contact information, an overview of the work of the UNA, links to the UN and WFUNA, and membership information. Many UNAs have additional resources such as online newsletters or print magazines.

UNAs often interact and collaborate with local and national media; some even have their own weekly or by-weekly television or radio shows in which they invite experts to discuss UN issues.

Fundraising tends to be an important activity for many UNAs, including writing grant proposals, organizing fundraising events and drives, and submitting fundraising applications.

These are just a few examples, UNAs develop a variety of innovative projects and events that suit the individual needs of the communities that they serve, and that are within their mandate of supporting the United Nations. Find information about the activities of individual UNAs  or browse our UNAs websites.

The most important function of a UNA is to engage the people of a UN Member State with the work of the United Nations. UNAs achieve this objective by disseminating information in cooperation with the UN Information Centers; by advocating support for the UN with their governments, political parties and interest groups; by ensuring accurate media coverage of the UN and its programs; by joining with other UNAs to extend the impact of their programs to the regional and global levels; and by collaborating with other national voluntary organizations on projects related to the work of the UN.

Collaboration with UN national representatives, as well as with all UN agencies, funds and programs present in the country is essential. Individuals wishing to establish a UNA should enter in contact with, and involve as much as possible, the UN national representative since the initial phases of the process as these can be helpful in guiding the UNA to develop a program of work that fits with the objectives of the UN. These agencies and offices often become natural partners for UNAs in implementing projects and campaigns and provide a local connection to the UN. They can provide feedback on projects and activities to the UNAs. They can also provide materials and assistance. In the long run, it is important to have a good working relationship with the UN in your country and to update them regularly on the work of the UNA.

 

UNAs from different countries often partner to participate in UN and civil society campaigns, to run joint programs and activities such as Model United Nations Conferences, and to formulate joint statements on issues of common interest at UN meetings. Regional networks, coordinated by WFUNA and UNA regional coordinators, facilitate the building of partnerships and foster collaboration at the regional level.

UNAs from different regions of the world work in partnership to run programs, campaigns and activities on specific issues of common interest. For example, there are several partnerships to run projects between European, African and Asia-Pacific UNAs. 

WFUNA’s main communication gateway is the website: www.wfuna.org. A monthly newsletter, UN Connections, is sent to all members. The newsletter provides information about the UN, WFUNA, UNAs, as well as other civil society organizations’ projects, activities and events. WFUNA also sends regular e-mail updates and communications to all UNAs.

UNAs communicate directly with each other and with WFUNA via email, through skype, or in-person during regular meeting and projects organized by the UNA, a regional network, or WFUNA.

WFUNA and / or the regional coordinators regularly organize meetings and events at the regional level. These gatherings allow UNA representatives to meet, share knowledge and information, and exchange contacts.

UNAs host meetings and events, such as Model UN conference or seminars on various UN topics, where they invite other UNAs to attend.

UNAs often gather at major UN organized meetings, such as the annual DPI/NGO conference or the Global Model UN conference. Whenever possible, WFUNA arranges an informal meeting for UNA representatives attending such UN events.

Every three years, a delegation from each UNA is invited to attend the WFUNA Plenary Assembly, which is the highest decision making body of the organization. In addition to setting policy and programmatic priorities for the coming years, and electing the Officers of WFUNA, the Plenary provides an opportunity for UNAs to network with each other, explore possibilities for partnerships, and share experiences.

Some of the benefits of WFUNA membership include:

  1. With offices within the United Nations buildings in Geneva and New York, WFUNA facilitates interaction with the United Nations system at all levels. WFUNA holds ECOSOC Category 1 consultative status. This means that WFUNA can participate actively in UN meetings and provide substantive contribution to decisions taken by the UN on all fields closely involved with the economic and social life of the peoples and regional areas its membership represent. In practice, WFUNA membership allows UNA representatives to take part in certain UN meetings and conferences.
  2. WFUNA sends regular information and updates about the work of the United Nations to its members through pathways such as the website, the online newsletter, the yahoo group, targeted and group emails, and mail-outs.
  3. WFUNA enjoys privileged relationships with most UN agencies, funds and programmes and helps national UNAs create a link with these UN bodies.
  4. WFUNA assists national UNAs with connecting with local UN officials to strengthen their relationship with the UN, and develop partnerships for organizing events and projects, as well as providing possible access to expertise, potential speakers for events, and UN publications and resources.
  5. WFUNA facilitates interaction amongst UNAs by liaising UNAs with similar interests and projects, and by facilitating meetings and opportunities to exchange contacts, information and best practices.
  6. WFUNA organizes capacity-building events and projects as part of its membership services as well as in the context of its thematic projects. Participating UNAs may be the beneficiaries of such training and capacity-building. In addition, the Secretariat often provides advice and assistance to UNAs when they are initiating new projects such as Model UN.
  7. WFUNA runs projects relating to the three pillars of the UN (sustainable development, human rights and peace and security) and invites UNAs to become partners and/or participate.
  8. WFUNA promotes the upcoming events and recent achievements of UNAs through its website, publications, public statements and other communications initiatives.
  9. National UNAs are invited to send a delegation to WFUNA’s Plenary Assembly every three years, and other WFUNA organized conferences and events. 

The establishment of chapters or branches operating in locations other than the headquarters differs from country to country depending on constitutional requirements specific to each UNAs. Chapters have the same objectives and mission as expressed in the constitution of the UNA, work in close contact with the chief executive officers of the UNA, and are expected to report on their activities periodically.

Usually, it is the General Assembly of the UNA that decide to establish chapters or branches of the Association to fulfill the Association’s objectives in a particular city or region of the country. The assessment of membership dues as well as the allocation of dues payment between the national headquarters and the chapters, are usually established by the General Assembly. The General Assembly usually establishes minimum standards that the chapter should meet and may revoke its recognition of a chapter if it fails to adhere to such minimum standards.

Oftentimes, the Executive Committee establishes a Committee to deal with all matters relating to chapters, branches or regional divisions that are already established. The membership of the Executive Committee should reflect the diversity of the national chapters that compose the UNA. 

Individuals or a group of individuals seeking to establish a UNA should enter in contact with WFUNA for advice and assistance as soon as they decide to set up a United Nations Association. They can do so by writing to info@wfuna.org.

When a UNA has been legally established, it can apply for WFUNA membership. WFUNA’s Executive Committee decides whether a UNA fulfills all criteria to become a member of WFUNA.

A UNA‘s formal application for membership to WFUNA needs to include the following

  1. Copy of the UNA's Constitution / By-Laws (the main governing document) – use the sample Constitution provided by WFUNA
  2. Certification from the appropriate legal authorities confirming that the UNA has been established legally
  3. A declaration signed by both the President and the Secretary-General of the UNA, stating that the UNA (e.g. its Chief Executive Officers) will cooperate with WFUNA and pay its annual dues to WFUNA regularly – use the sample provided by WFUNA
  4. Advance payment for the year of admission of one half of one year's dues (email info@wfuna.org for an estimate of the annual dues)
  5. Annual plan of activities, projected budget, and possible sources of funding
  6. CV of President, Secretary-General and all founding officers
  7. Completed application form

To request an application package please complete this form

The application must be e-mailed to info@wfuna.org .  When the application is complete, the Secretariat submits it to the Executive Committee. WFUNA’s Ex Co meets twice a year and is responsible, among other things, to review applications for membership and recommend new UNAs for WFUNA membership to the Plenary Assembly. Formal acceptance to WFUNA is sealed at the Plenary Assembly, which meets every three years, but recommendation by the Ex Co is sufficient for a UNA to consider itself part of the Federation and receive the benefits of WFUNA membership. A UNA recommended by the Ex Co is expected to respect all obligations that bound UNAs to WFUNA, including timely payment of membership dues. 

 

The governance structure of a UNA is defined in its By-Laws. Please read sample By-Laws here>>

A UNA is typically governed primarily by a General Assembly where the entire membership is represented and which meets at least once every three years, and in the interim (between General Assemblies) by an Executive Committee which meets regularly. The Officers of the UNA usually include the President, Vice President(s) and Secretary-General. 

The President of a UNA is usually an active civil society leader with a strong familiarity with, and working knowledge of the United Nations. The President can come from any number of backgrounds, including civil society, academia, the United Nations, Foreign Service, government or the private sector. The President should have experience with representational activities such as public speaking, addressing the media, and liaising with government, civil society and United Nations leaders in the country. The President should have extensive networks that it can activate to support the UNA, including fundraising. The President should have the capacity and willingness to raise funds for the UNA.

The Secretary-General of a UNA is, ideally, someone with extensive professional experience in NGO administration, fundraising, communication, and the management of programs. Fundraising, communications and project implementation are a great part of the work of the Secretary-General who is also responsible for the overall administration of the organisation, including its finances. 

There are many cultural differences within UNAs which impact the division of the roles and responsibilities between the President and the Secretary-General. The descriptions below are one formulation of these roles and responsibilities, but certainly not the only option.

President: The President is the senior elected officer of the Association who fulfils all of the duties of chair. The President presides over meetings of the General Assembly and the Executive Committee. The President is usually the public face/ spokesperson of the UNA, which involves interacting with the media and speaking at events. This public role may be shared with the Secretary-General. The position of the President is usually a volunteer, unpaid position.

Secretary-General: The Secretary-General is the Chief Executive Officer of the UNA, who is usually appointed by the Executive Committee. The Secretary-General is able to employ and discharge employees of the UNA, and supervises the day to day operations and administration of the organization. The Secretary-General is responsible for the administrative and financial well-being of the organization, including the implementation of staff regulations and procedures, overseeing financial accounting, fundraising, and managing membership services and programs. The position of Secretary-General can be a volunteer position; however, it is ideally a paid, full-time position.

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