Wednesday, 21 December 2011


A non-governmental organization (NGO) is a legally constituted organization created by natural or legal persons that operates independently from any government. The term originated from the United Nations (UN), and is normally used to refer to organizations that do not form part of the government and are not conventional for-profit business. In the cases in which NGOs are funded totally or partially by governments, the NGO maintains its non-governmental status by excluding government representatives from membership in the organization. The term is usually applied only to organizations that pursue some wider social aim that has political aspects, but that are not overtly political organizations such as political parties. Unlike the term "intergovernmental organization", the term "non-governmental organization" has no generally agreed legal definition. In many jurisdictions, these types of organization are called "civil society organizations" or referred to by other names.
The number of internationally operating NGOs is estimated at 40,000.[1] National numbers are even higher: Russia has 277,000 NGOs;[2] India is estimated to have around 3.3 million NGOs in year 2009, which is one NGO for less than 400 Indians, and many times the number of primary schools and primary health centres in India.[3][4]



[edit] Definition of NGO

NGOs are difficult to define and classify due to the term’s inconsistent use. NGO, non-profit organizations within defined boundaries excludes NGOs that fall outside each specific boundary. Additionally, it is beneficial for NGO networks to create a classification that allows similar organizations to exchange information more easily. To attempt a classification of NGOs requires a framework, that includes the orientation and the organization's level of operation. An NGO's orientation refers to the type of activities an organization takes on. These activities might include environmental, development, or advocacy work. An NGO's level of operation indicates the scale at which an organization works on, like the difference in work between an international NGO and community or national NGO.[5]
One of the earliest mentions of the term "NGO" was in 1945, when the UN was created. The UN introduced the term "NGO" to distinguish between the participation of international private organizations and intergovernmental specialized agencies. According to the UN, all kinds of private organizations that are independent from government control can be recognized as "NGOs." "NGOs" cannot seek to diminish a nation's government in the shape of an opposing political party; NGOs also need to be non-criminal and non-profit. Professor Peter Willets, from the City University of London, argues the definition of NGOs can be interpreted differently by various organizations and depending on a situation’s context. He defines an NGO as “"an independent voluntary association of people acting together on a continuous basis for some common purpose other than achieving government office, making money or illegal activities." In this view, two main types of NGOs are recognized according to the activities they pursue: operational and campaigning NGO’s. Although Willets proposes the operational and campaigning NGOs as a tool to differentiate the main activities of these organizations, he also explains that they have more similarities than differences. Their activities are unrestricted; thus operational NGOs may need to campaign and campaigning NGOs may need to take on structural projects.[6]

[edit] NGO consultative status with ECOSOC

In order to be eligible for a consultative status, an NGO must have at least two years of existence, which requires to have been properly registered with the respective authorities and government. The organizations must have a democratic constitution, representative authority, established headquarters, accountability for transparent and democratic decision-making and be independent from government control.[7]

[edit] NPOs and NGOs

Common usage varies between countries - for example NGO is commonly used for domestic organizations in Australia that would be referred to as non-profit organizations in the United States. Such organizations that operate on the international level are fairly consistently referred to as "non-governmental organizations", in the United States and elsewhere.
There is a growing movement within the non-profit organization/non-government sector to define itself in a more constructive, accurate way. The "non-profit" designation is seen to be particularly dysfunctional for at least three reasons: 1) It says nothing about the purpose of the organization, only what it is not; 2) It focuses the mind on "profit" as being the opposite of the organization's purpose; 3) It implies that the organization has few financial resources and may run out of money before completing its mission. Instead of being defined by "non-" words, organizations are suggesting new terminology to describe the sector. The term "social benefit organization" (SBO) is being adopted by some organizations. This defines them in terms of their positive mission. The term "civil society organization" (CSO) has also been used by a growing number of organizations, such as the Center for the Study of Global Governance.[8] The term "citizen sector organization" (CSO) has also been advocated to describe the sector — as one of citizens, for citizens.[9] These labels, SBO and CSO, position the sector as its own entity, without relying on language used for the government or business sectors. However, some have argued that CSO is not particularly helpful, given that most NGOs are in fact funded by governments and/or profit-driven businesses and that some NGOs are clearly hostile to independently organized people's organizations.[10][11] The term "social benefit organization" seems to avoid that problem, since it does not assume any particular structure, but rather focuses on the organization's mission.

[edit] History

International non-governmental organizations have a history dating back to at least 1839.[12] It has been estimated that by 1914, there were 1083 NGOs.[13] International NGOs were important in the anti-slavery movement and the movement for women's suffrage, and reached a peak at the time of the World Disarmament Conference.[14] However, the phrase "non-governmental organization" only came into popular use with the establishment of the United Nations Organization in 1945 with provisions in Article 71 of Chapter 10 of the United Nations Charter[15] for a consultative role for organizations which are neither governments nor member states—see Consultative Status. The definition of "international NGO" (INGO) is first given in resolution 288 (X) of ECOSOC on February 27, 1950: it is defined as "any international organization that is not founded by an international treaty". The vital role of NGOs and other "major groups" in sustainable development was recognized in Chapter 27[16] of Agenda 21, leading to intense arrangements for a consultative relationship between the United Nations and non-governmental organizations.[17]
Rapid development of the non-governmental sector occurred in western countries as a result of the processes of restructuring of the welfare state. Further globalization of that process occurred after the fall of the communist system and was an important part of the Washington consensus.[10]
Globalization during the 20th century gave rise to the importance of NGOs. Many problems could not be solved within a nation. International treaties and international organizations such as the World Trade Organization were centred mainly on the interests of capitalist enterprises. In an attempt to counterbalance this trend, NGOs have developed to emphasize humanitarian issues, developmental aid and sustainable development. A prominent example of this is the World Social Forum, which is a rival convention to the World Economic Forum held annually in January in Davos, Switzerland. The fifth World Social Forum in Porto Alegre, Brazil, in January 2005 was attended by representatives from more than 1,000 NGOs.[citation needed] Some have argued that in forums like these, NGOs take the place of what should belong to popular movements of the poor. Others argue that NGOs are often imperialist[18] in nature, that they sometimes operate in a racialized manner in third world countries, and that they fulfill a similar function to that of the clergy during the high colonial era. The philosopher Peter Hallward argues that they are an aristocratic form of politics.[19] Whatever the case, NGO transnational networking is now extensive.[20] ;;;;

[edit] Types of NGOs

NGO type can be understood by orientation and level of co-operation.
NGO type by orientation
  • Charitable orientation;
  • Service orientation;
  • Participatory
  • Empowering orientation;
NGO type by level of co-operation
  • Community- Based Organization;
  • City Wide Organization;
  • National NGOs;
  • International NGOs;
Apart from "NGO", often alternative terms are used as for example: independent sector, volunteer sector, civil society, grassroots organizations, transnational social movement organizations, private voluntary organizations, self-help organizations and non-state actors (NSA's).
Non-governmental organizations are a heterogeneous group. A long list of acronyms has developed around the term "NGO".
These include:
  • BINGO, short for Business-friendly International NGO or Big International NGO;
  • National NGO: A non-governmental organization that exists only in one country. This term is usually rare due to the globalization of Non-governmental organizations, which causes an NGO to exist in more than one country.[6]
  • CSO, short for civil society organization;
  • DONGO: Donor Organized NGO;
  • ENGO: short for environmental NGO, such as Greenpeace and WWF
  • NNGO, short for Northern non governmental organization.
  • IDCIs, short for international development cooperation institutions.
  • SNGOs, short for Southern nongovernmental organizations
  • SCOS, also known as social change organizations
  • GONGOs are government-operated NGOs, which may have been set up by governments to look like NGOs in order to qualify for outside aid or promote the interests of the government in question;
  • INGO stands for international NGO; Oxfam, INSPAD,[21] Institute of Peace and Development "A European Think Tank For Peace Initiatives";
  • QUANGOs are quasi-autonomous non-governmental organizations, such as the International Organization for Standardization (ISO). (The ISO is actually not purely an NGO, since its membership is by nation, and each nation is represented by what the ISO Council determines to be the 'most broadly representative' standardization body of a nation. That body might itself be a nongovernmental organization; for example, the United States is represented in ISO by the American National Standards Institute, which is independent of the federal government. However, other countries can be represented by national governmental agencies; this is the trend in Europe.)
  • TANGO: short for technical assistance NGO;
  • TNGO: short for transnational NGO; The term emerged during the 1970s due to the increase of environmental and economic issues in the global community. TNGO includes non-governmental organizations that are not confined to only one country, but exist in two or more countries.
  • GSO: Grassroots Support Organization
  • MANGO: short for market advocacy NGO
  • NGDO: non-governmental development organization
USAID refers to NGOs as private voluntary organisations. However many scholars have argued that this definition is highly problematic as many NGOs are in fact state and corporate funded and managed projects with professional staff.[citation needed]
NGOs exist for a variety of reasons, usually to further the political or social goals of their members or funders. Examples include improving the state of the natural environment, encouraging the observance of human rights, improving the welfare of the disadvantaged, or representing a corporate agenda. However, there are a huge number of such organizations and their goals cover a broad range of political and philosophical positions. This can also easily be applied to private schools and athletic organizations.

[edit] Environmental NGOs

Environmental NGOs work on cases related to the environment. An example of an ENGO is Greenpeace. (see: List of Environmental NGOs) Just like other TNGOs networks, transnational environmental networks might acquire a variety of benefits in sharing information with other organizations, campaigning towards an issue, and exchanging contact information. Since Transnational environmental NGOs advocate for different issues like public goods, such as pollution in the air, deforestation of areas and water issues, it is more difficult for them to give their campaigns a human face than TNGOs campaigning directly for human rights issues.
Some of the earliest forms of transnational environmental NGOs started to appear after the Second World War with the creation of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN). After the UN was formed in 1945, more environmental NGO started to emerge in order to address more specific environmental issues. In 1946, the UN Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) was created with the purpose of advocating and representing scientific issues and collaboration among environmental NGOs. In 1969, the Scientific Committee on Problems of the Environment (SCOPE) was funded to increase and improve collaboration among environmentalists. This collaboration was later reinforced and stimulated with the creation of UNESCO's Man and the Biosphere Program in 1971. In 1972, the UN Conference on the Human Environment in Stockholm, tried to address the issues on Sweden’s plead for international intervention on trans-boundary pollution from other European industrialized nations.
Transnational environmental NGOs have taken on diverse issues around the globe, but one of the best-known cases involving the work of environmental NGO’s can be traced back to Brazil during the 1980s. The United States got involved with deforestation concerns due to the allegations of environmentalists dictating deforestation to be a global concern, and after 1977 the U.S. Foreign Assistance Act added an Environmental and Natural Resources section.
During the early 1980s the Brazilian government created the Polonoreste developing program, which the World Bank agreed to finance. The Polonoreste program aimed to urbanized areas of the Amazon, which were already occupied by local indigenous groups. Rapid deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon called the attention and intervention of UNESCO, who utilized its Program on Man and the Biosphere to advocate against the Polonoreste program, on the grounds of violating the rights of the indigenous groups living in the Amazon. In the case of deforestation of the Brazilian Amazon, the environment NGOs were able to put pressure on the World Bank to cancel the loans for the Polonoreste program. Due to the leverage that the U.S. has over the bank, in 1985 the World Bank suspended the financial aid to the Polonoreste Program. The work of environmental NGOs in the Brazilian case was successful because there was a point of leverage that made the targeted actor vulnerable to international pressure.[22]
Even though environmental NGOs (ENGOs) might have common goals relating to issues on the environment, its exploitation, and how to protect it, these organizations are very diverse and lack a central form of international hegemony. There is, however, a clear distinction between the interests and goals among those ENGOs located in industrialized countries—often referred to as the states of the north—and ENGOs from nations located in developing countries—referred to as states of the south (or southern states). On one hand, Northern states are mainly concerned with issues deriving from poverty, the increasing populations in developing countries, and economic development in the north. On the other hand, southern states blame the developed nations for over consumption and pollution resulting from industrialization. NGOs from the poorer nations blame the industrialized world for sustained inequalities in the international economic system, and criticize these industrialized nations for establishment of companies which become primary polluters in the southern states.
There is also a distinction among groups that take on particular and specific socioeconomic issues related to the environment. The Women’s Environment and Development Organization was created in 1990 with the purpose to advocate for gender inclusion in work related to the Earth Summit. Other groups might focus on issues that include racial minorities and individuals from lower income backgrounds.[23]

[edit] Activities

There are also numerous classifications of NGOs. The typology the World Bank uses divides them into Operational and Advocacy:[24]
Operational NGOs Operational NGOs seek to "achieve small scale change directly through projects."[25] " They mobilize financial resources, materials and volunteers to create localized programs in the field. They hold large scale fundraising events, apply to governments and organizations for grants and contracts in order to raise money for projects. They often operate in a hierarchical structure; with a main headquarters staffed by professionals who plan projects, create budgets, keep accounts, report, and communicate with operational fieldworkers who work directly on projects[25] Operational NGOs deal with a wide range of issues, but are most often associated with the delivery of services and welfare, emergency relief and environmental issues. Operational NGOs can be further categorized, one frequently used categorization is the division into relief-oriented versus development-oriented organizations; they can also be classified according to whether they stress service delivery or participation; or whether they are religious or secular; and whether they are more public or private-oriented. Operational NGOs can be community-based, national or international. The defining activity of operational NGOs is implementing projects.[25]
Campaigning NGOs Campaigning NGOs seek to "achieve large scale change promoted indirectly through influence of the political system."[25] Campaigning NGOs need an efficient and effective group of professional members who are able to keep supporters informed, and motivated. They must plan and host demonstrations and events that will keep their cause in the media. They must maintain a large informed network of supporters who can be mobilized for events to garner media attention and influence policy changes. The defining activity of campaigning NGOs is holding demonstrations.[25] Campaigning NGOs often deal with issues relating to human rights, women's rights, children's rights. The primary purpose of an Advocacy NGO is to defend or promote a specific cause. As opposed to operational project management, these organizations typically try to raise awareness, acceptance and knowledge by lobbying, press work and activist events.
Operational and Campaigning NGOs It is not uncommon for NGOs to make use of both activities. Many times, operational NGOs will use campaigning techniques if they continually face the same issues in the field that could be remedied through policy changes. At the same time, Campaigning NGOs, like human rights organizations often have programs that assist the individual victims they are trying to help through their advocacy work.[25]
Concerns about NGOs
NGOs were intended to fill a gap in government services, but in countries like India, NGOs are gaining a powerful stronghold in decision making. In the interest of sustainability, most donors require that NGOs demonstrate a relationship with governments. State Governments themselves are vulnerable because they lack strategic planning and vision. They are therefore sometimes tightly bound by a nexus of NGOs, political bodies, commercial organizations and major donors/funders, making decisions that have short term outputs but no long term affect. NGOs in India are under regulated, political, and recipients of large government and international donor funds. NGOs often take up responsibilities outside their skill ambit. Governments have no access to the number of projects or amount of funding received by these NGOs. There is a pressing need to regulate this group while not curtailing their unique role as a supplement to government services.

[edit] Methods

NGOs vary in their methods. Some act primarily as lobbyists, while others primarily conduct programs and activities. For instance, an NGO such as Oxfam, concerned with poverty alleviation, might provide needy people with the equipment and skills to find food and clean drinking water, whereas an NGO like the FFDA helps through investigation and documentation of human rights violations and provides legal assistance to victims of human rights abuses. Others, such as Afghanistan Information Management Services, provide specialized technical products and services to support development activities implemented on the ground by other organizations.

[edit] Public relations

Non-governmental organisations need healthy relationships with the public to meet their goals. Foundations and charities use sophisticated public relations campaigns to raise funds and employ standard lobbying techniques with governments. Interest groups may be of political importance because of their ability to influence social and political outcomes. A code of ethics was established in 2002 by The World Association of Non Governmental NGOs.

[edit] Project management

There is an increasing awareness that management techniques are crucial to project success in non-governmental organizations.[26] Generally, non-governmental organizations that are private have either a community or environmental focus. They address varieties of issues such as religion, emergency aid, or humanitarian affairs. They mobilize public support and voluntary contributions for aid; they often have strong links with community groups in developing countries, and they often work in areas where government-to-government aid is not possible. NGOs are accepted as a part of the international relations landscape, and while they influence national and multilateral policy-making, increasingly they are more directly involved in local action.

[edit] Staffing

Not all people working for non-governmental organizations are volunteers.
There is some dispute as to whether expatriates should be sent to developing countries. Frequently this type of personnel is employed to satisfy a donor who wants to see the supported project managed by someone from an industrialized country. However, the expertise these employees or volunteers may be counterbalanced by a number of factors: the cost of foreigners is typically higher, they have no grassroot connections in the country they are sent to, and local expertise is often undervalued.[24]
The NGO sector is an important employer in terms of numbers.[citation needed] For example, by the end of 1995, CONCERN worldwide, an international Northern NGO working against poverty, employed 174 expatriates and just over 5,000 national staff working in ten developing countries in Africa and Asia, and in Haiti.

[edit] Funding

Large NGOs may have annual budgets in the hundreds of millions or billions of dollars. For instance, the budget of the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) was over US$540 million in 1999.[27] Funding such large budgets demands significant fundraising efforts on the part of most NGOs. Major sources of NGO funding are membership dues, the sale of goods and services, grants from international institutions or national governments, and private donations. Several EU-grants provide funds accessible to NGOs.
Even though the term "non-governmental organization" implies independence from governments, most NGOs depend heavily on governments for their funding.[10] A quarter of the US$162 million income in 1998 of the famine-relief organization Oxfam was donated by the British government and the EU. The Christian relief and development organization World Vision United States collected US$55 million worth of goods in 1998 from the American government. Nobel Prize winner Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) (known in the USA as Doctors Without Borders) gets 46% of its income from government sources.[28]
Government funding of NGOs is controversial, since, according to David Rieff, writing in The New Republic, "the whole point of humanitarian intervention was precisely that NGOs and civil society had both a right and an obligation to respond with acts of aid and solidarity to people in need or being subjected to repression or want by the forces that controlled them, whatever the governments concerned might think about the matter."[29] Some NGOs, such as Greenpeace do not accept funding from governments or intergovernmental organizations.[30][31]

[edit] Monitoring and control

In a March 2000 report on United Nations Reform priorities, former U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan wrote in favor of international humanitarian intervention, arguing that the international community has a "right to protect"[32] citizens of the world against ethnic cleansing, genocide, and crimes against humanity. On the heels of the report, the Canadian government launched the Responsibility to Protect R2P[33] project, outlining the issue of humanitarian intervention. While the R2P doctrine has wide applications, among the more controversial has been the Canadian government's use of R2P to justify its intervention and support of the coup in Haiti.[34] Years after R2P, the World Federalist Movement, an organization which supports "the creation of democratic global structures accountable to the citizens of the world and call for the division of international authority among separate agencies", has launched Responsibility to Protect - Engaging Civil Society (R2PCS). A collaboration between the WFM and the Canadian government, this project aims to bring NGOs into lockstep with the principles outlined under the original R2P project.
The governments of the countries an NGO works or is registered in may require reporting or other monitoring and oversight. Funders generally require reporting and assessment, such information is not necessarily publicly available. There may also be associations and watchdog organizations that research and publish details on the actions of NGOs working in particular geographic or program areas.[citation needed]
In recent years, many large corporations have increased their corporate social responsibility departments in an attempt to preempt NGO campaigns against certain corporate practices. As the logic goes, if corporations work with NGOs, NGOs will not work against corporations.
In December 2007, The United States Department of Defense Assistant Secretary of Defense (Health Affairs) S. Ward Casscells established an International Health Division under Force Health Protection & Readiness.[35] Part of International Health's mission is to communicate with NGOs in areas of mutual interest. Department of Defense Directive 3000.05,[36] in 2005, requires DoD to regard stability-enhancing activities as a mission of importance equal to combat. In compliance with international law, DoD has necessarily built a capacity to improve essential services in areas of conflict such as Iraq, where the customary lead agencies (State Department and USAID) find it difficult to operate. Unlike the "co-option" strategy described for corporations, the OASD(HA) recognizes the neutrality of health as an essential service. International Health cultivates collaborative relationships with NGOs, albeit at arms-length, recognizing their traditional independence, expertise and honest broker status. While the goals of DoD and NGOs may seem incongruent, the DoD's emphasis on stability and security to reduce and prevent conflict suggests, on careful analysis, important mutual interests.

[edit] Legal status

The legal form of NGOs is diverse and depends upon homegrown variations in each country's laws and practices. However, four main family groups of NGOs can be found worldwide:[37]
NGOs are not subjects of international law, as states are. An exception is the International Committee of the Red Cross, which is subject to certain specific matters, mainly relating to the Geneva Convention.
The Council of Europe in Strasbourg drafted the European Convention on the Recognition of the Legal Personality of International Non-Governmental Organizations in 1986, which sets a common legal basis for the existence and work of NGOs in Europe. Article 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights protects the right to freedom of association, which is also a fundamental norm for NGOs.

[edit] Critiques

Stuart Becker provides the following summary of the primary critiques of NGOs:
There’s a debate that, NGOs take the place of what should belong to popular movements of the poor. Others argue that NGOs are often imperialist in nature, that they sometimes operate in a racist manner in Third World countries and that they fulfill a similar function to that of the clergy during the colonial era. Philosopher Peter Hallward argues that they are an aristocratic form of politics."[38]
Issa G. Shivji is one of Africa's leading experts on law and development issues as an author and academic. His critique on NGOs is found in two essays: "Silences in NGO discourse: The role and future of NGOs in Africa" and "Reflections on NGOs in Tanzania: What we are, what we are not and what we ought to be". Shivji argues that despite the good intentions of NGO leaders and activists, he is critical of the "objective effects of actions, regardless of their intentions".[39] Shivji argues also that the sudden rise of NGOs are part of a neoliberal paradigm rather than pure altruistic motivations. He is critical of the current manifestations of NGOs wanting to change the world without understanding it, and that the imperial relationship continues today with the rise of NGOs.

[edit] Challenges to Legitimacy

The issue of the legitimacy of NGOs raises a series of important questions. This is one of the most important assets possessed by an NGO, it is gained through a perception that they are an “independent voice”.[40][41] Accountability may be able to provide this and also be able to assist activities by providing focus and direction [42] As non-state actors with considerable influence over the governance in many areas, concerns have been expressed over the extent to which they represent the views of the public and the extent to which they allow the public to hold them to account.[43] The effectiveness of NGOs is a difficult thing to assess.
The origin of funding can have serious implications for the legitimacy of NGOs. In recent decades NGOs have increased their numbers and range of activities to a level where they have become increasingly dependent on a limited number of donors.[43] Consequently competition has increased for funding, as have the expectations of the donors themselves.[44] This runs the risk of donors adding conditions which can threaten the independence of NGOs, an over-dependence on official aid has the potential to dilute “the willingness of NGOs to speak out on issues which are unpopular with governments”.[41] In these situations NGOs are being held accountable by their donors, which can erode rather than enhance their legitimacy, a difficult challenge to overcome. Some commentators have also argued that the changes in where NGOs receive their funding has ultimately altered their functions.[41] It is however important to acknowledge official funding does not automatically mean illegitimacy.
NGOs have also been challenged on the grounds that they do not necessarily represent the needs of the developing world, through diminishing the so-called “Southern Voice”. Some postulate that the North-South division exists in the arena of NGOs.[45] They question the equality of the relationships between Northern and Southern parts of the same NGOs as well as the relationships between Southern and Northern NGOs working in partnerships. This suggests a division of labour may develop, with the North taking the lead in advocacy and resource mobilisation whilst the South engages in service delivery in the developing world.[45] The potential implications of this may mean that the needs of the developing world are not addressed appropriately as Northern NGOs do not properly consult or participate in partnerships. The real danger in this situation is that western views may take the front seat and assign unrepresentative priorities.[46]
The scale and variety of activities in which NGOs participate has grown rapidly since the 1980s, witnessing particular expansion in the 1990s.[47] This has presented NGOs with need to balance the pressures of centralisation and decentralisation. By centralising NGOs, particularly those that operate at an international level, they can assign a common theme or set of goals. Conversely it is also advantageous to decentralise as this increases the chances of an NGO behaving flexibly and effectively to localised issues.[48]

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