Non-Governmental Organization

 

 

A non-governmental organization (NGO) is a legally constituted organization created by private persons or organizations with no participation or representation of any government. In the cases in which NGOs are funded totally or partially by governments, the NGO maintains its non-governmental status insofar as it excludes government representatives from membership in the organization.

Helmut Anheier et al, in the work Global Civil Society, place the number of internationally operating NGOs at 40,000. National numbers are even higher: Russia has 400,000 NGOs. India is estimated to have between 1 and 2 million NGOs.

 

International non-governmental organizations have a history dating back to at least the mid-nineteenth century. They 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. 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 for a consultative role for organizations which are neither governments nor member states.

 

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 of Agenda 21, leading to intense arrangements for a consultative relationship between the United Nations and non-governmental organizations.

 

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 perceived as being too centered on the interests of capitalist enterprises. Some argued that 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. Some have argued that in forums like this NGOs take the place that should belong to popular movements of the poor. Others argue that NGOs are often imperialist in nature and that they fulfill a similar function to that of the clergy during the high colonial era.

 

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 (NSAs).

 

Nongovernmental organizations are a heterogeneous group. A long list of acronyms has developed around the term 'NGO'. These include:

 

  • INGO stands for international NGO;

  • BINGO is short for business-oriented international NGO, or big international NGO;

  • ENGO, short for environmental NGO, such as Global 2000;

  • 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;

  • 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;

There are also numerous classifications of NGOs. The typology the World Bank uses divides them into Operational and Advocacy:

 

The primary purpose of an operational NGO is the design and implementation of development-related projects. One frequently used categorization is the division into 'relief-oriented' or '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 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.

USAID refers to NGOs as private voluntary organizations. 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.

 

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.

 

This article is licensed under the e GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Non-governmental organization".

 

 

 

Popular IR Theorists

Popular Dictionary Terms