IOM's collaboration with NGOs is defined in Article 1(2) of its constitution, according to which the Organization "shall cooperate closely with international organizations, governmental and non-governmental, concerned with migration, refugees and human resources in order, inter alia, to facilitate the co-ordination of international activities in these fields. Such cooperation shall be carried out in the mutual respect of the competencies of the organizations concerned."

Over 60 NGOs currently hold Observer status with the Organization. IOM is actively encouraging NGO participation at its Council and the International Dialogue on Migration and hopes that the trend towards increased NGO participation in migration policy dialogue will continue. Also at Headquarters level, IOM convenes regular annual consultations and briefings for a wider NGO audience. Most of the programmatic cooperation between NGOs and IOM, however, takes place at field level.

Cooperation between IOM and NGOs occurs in various contexts and reflects the diverse relationships between the two actors. NGOs might be collaborators with IOM, service providers or project implementers, donors, beneficiaries of IOM technical cooperation, grant recipients, or service recipients. IOM and NGOs may act as equal partners, or complement each other’s activities.

IOM and NGOs collaborate on a broad variety of migration management issues globally:

  1. Counter-Trafficking:  NGOs and IOM cooperate in awareness-raising among potential migrants and capacity-building for governmental institutions in counter-trafficking. NGOs also play a crucial role in IOM programmes which assist victims of trafficking by providing shelter and protection services, counselling and medical support, as well as assistance in return and reintegration
  2. Assisted Voluntary Returns:  IOM is working with NGOs in each of the three stages of assisted voluntary returns: pre-departure, transportation and post-arrival. IOM coordinates with NGOs to provide information dissemination, counselling, medical assistance, transport assistance and reintegration. NGOs also facilitate return assistance for migrants in an irregular situation and other migrants, such as unsuccessful asylum seekers, trafficked migrants, and qualified nationals.
  3. Human Rights of Migrants:  NGOs and IOM work together in organizing or carrying out workshops, seminars and information dissemination campaigns specifically directed at increasing awareness of the human rights of migrants. IOM and NGOs also conduct research and collect information to identify and address abuses.
  4. Emergency and Post-Conflict:  In emergency and post-conflict situations, IOM works with NGOs in various activities, e.g., organizing the safe and orderly evacuation or return of displaced populations, providing emergency shelter and relief, ensuring that protection concerns are identified and addressed, conducting censuses and surveys and organizing the return and reintegration of internally displaced persons, as well as of former combatants and their dependants.
  5. Movement Management:  NGOs assist IOM in various components of temporary and permanent resettlement or return programmes of migrants to their countries of origin, e.g., cultural orientation, tracing and family reunification, sponsorship, transit assistance, and post-movement follow-up services.
  6. Labour Migration: NGOs are important partners in promoting regular labour migration, within the framework of combating irregular migration, fostering the economic and social development of countries of origin, transit and destination and ensuring respect for the rights and integrity of labour migrants.
  7. Mass Information:  NGOs play a significant role in researching, designing and implementing public information campaigns to raise awareness of various migration issues through mass media.
  8. Migration Health:  IOM’s Medical Health team works closely with NGOs in managing health assessments for prospective migrants and refugees in view of their resettlement or return, addressing a broad spectrum of health issues.
  9. Technical Cooperation on Migration (TCM):  Technical cooperation projects can provide NGOs with technical and material support to enhance civil society's role and contribution in the migration sector, including their efforts in research, the provision of direct services to migrants, and advocacy on behalf of migrants. NGOs are frequently partners as well in IOM technical cooperation activities benefiting governments.