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date: 05 December 2020

Abstract and Keywords

What is the relationship between the United Nations and civil society? Has the relationship changed over time? This chapter demonstrates how both the UN and civil society benefit from sustained interaction. It investigates civil society’s role in the UN’s struggle to gain legitimacy, assert its authority, and carry out its missions. Similarly, it explores how civil society actors engage the UN as they work to garner credibility, support, and governing authority. It argues that the limitations of statism—the overriding power of states in world affairs—inspire the UN to work with civil society and encourage both the UN and civil society to make claims to be representatives of the world’s peoples. It starts by defining civil society and then describes the cooperative and conflictual interactions between the UN and civil society. The chapter concludes by analyzing these interactions in the context of questions of legitimacy, accountability, and good governance.

Keywords: NGOs, civil society, legitimacy, accountability, good governance, representation

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