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Non-governmental organization

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Non-governmental organization

Valdis Dombrovskis, then Prime Minister of Latvia, meeting an NGO representative

A non-governmental organization (NGO) is the term commonly used for an organization that is neither a part of a government nor a conventional for-profit business. Usually set up by ordinary citizens, NGOs may be funded by governments, foundations, businesses, or private persons. Some avoid formal funding altogether and are run primarily by volunteers. NGOs are highly diverse groups of organizations engaged in a wide range of activities, and take different forms in different parts of the world. Some may have charitable status, while others may be registered for tax exemption based on recognition of social purposes. Others may be fronts for political, religious or other interest groups. The number of NGOs in the United States is estimated at 1.5 million.[1] Russia has 277,000 NGOs.[2] India is estimated to have had around 2 million NGOs in 2009, just over one NGO per 600 Indians, and many times the number of primary schools and primary health centres in India.[3][4]

NGOs are difficult to define, and the term 'NGO' is rarely used consistently. As a result, there are many different classifications in use. The most common focus is on 'orientation' and 'level of operation'. An NGO's orientation refers to the type of activities it takes on. These activities might include human rights, environmental, or development work. An NGO's level of operation indicates the scale at which an organization works, such as local, regional, national or international.[5]

The term "non-governmental organization" was first coined in 1945, when the United Nations (UN) was created.[6] The UN, itself an inter-governmental organization, made it possible for certain approved specialized international non-state agencies—i.e., non-governmental organizations—to be awarded observer status at its assemblies and some of its meetings. Later the term became used more widely. Today, according to the UN, any kind of private organization that is independent from government control can be termed an "NGO", provided it is not-for-profit, non-criminal and not simply an opposition political party.

One characteristic these diverse organizations share is that their non-profit status means they are not hindered by short-term financial objectives. Accordingly, they are able to devote themselves to issues which occur across longer time horizons, such as climate change, malaria prevention or a global ban on landmines. Public surveys reveal that NGOs often enjoy a high degree of public trust, which can make them a useful - but not always sufficient - proxy for the concerns of society and stakeholders.[7]


  • Types 1
    • By orientation 1.1
    • By level of operation 1.2
    • Track II diplomacy 1.3
  • Activities 2
    • Operational 2.1
    • Campaigning 2.2
    • Both operational and campaigning 2.3
    • Public relations 2.4
    • Project management 2.5
  • Corporate structure 3
    • Staffing 3.1
    • Funding 3.2
    • Overhead costs 3.3
    • Monitoring and control 3.4
  • History 4
  • Legal status 5
  • Critiques 6
    • Challenges to legitimacy 6.1
  • See also 7
  • References 8
  • Further reading 9
  • External links 10


NGO/GRO (governmental related organisations) types can be understood by their orientation and level of operation.

By orientation

  • Charitable orientation often involves a top-down paternalistic effort with little participation by the "beneficiaries". It includes NGOs with activities directed toward meeting the needs of the poor.
  • Service orientation includes NGOs with activities such as the provision of health, family planning or education services in which the programme is designed by the NGO and people are expected to participate in its implementation and in receiving the service.
  • Participatory orientation is characterized by self-help projects where local people are involved particularly in the implementation of a project by contributing cash, tools, land, materials, labour etc. In the classical community development project, participation begins with the need definition and continues into the planning and implementation stages.
  • Empowering orientation aims to help poor people develop a clearer understanding of the social, political and economic factors affecting their lives, and to strengthen their awareness of their own potential power to control their lives. There is maximum involvement of the beneficiaries with NGOs acting as facilitators.[8]

By level of operation

  • Community-based organizations (CBOs) arise out of people's own initiatives. They can be responsible for raising the consciousness of the urban poor, helping them to understand their rights in accessing needed services, and providing such services.
  • City-wide organizations include organizations such as chambers of commerce and industry, coalitions of business, ethnic or educational groups, and associations of community organizations.
  • National NGOs include national organizations such as the YMCAs/YWCAs, professional associations, Samriddhi Foundation etc. Some have state and city branches and assist local NGOs.
  • International NGOs range from secular agencies such as OXFAM, CARE, Ford Foundation, and Rockefeller Foundation to religiously motivated groups. They can be responsible for funding local NGOs, institutions and projects and implementing projects.[8]

Apart from "NGO", there are many alternative or overlapping terms in use, including: non-state actors (NSAs).

Governmental related organizations / non-governmental organizations are a heterogeneous group. As a result, a long list of additional acronyms has developed, including:

  • BINGO: 'Business-friendly international NGO' or 'Big international NGO'
  • TANGO: 'Technical assistance NGO'
  • TSO: 'Third-sector organization'
  • GONGO: 'Government-operated NGOs' (set up by governments to look like NGOs in order to qualify for outside aid or promote the interests of government)
  • DONGO: 'Donor organized NGO'
  • INGO: 'International NGO'
  • 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.)
  • National NGO: A non-governmental organization that exists only in one country. This term is rare due to the globalization of non-governmental organizations, which causes an NGO to exist in more than one country.[9]
  • ENGO: 'Environmental NGO,' such as Greenpeace and WWF
  • NNGO: 'Northern NGO'
  • PANGO: 'Party NGO,' set up by parties and disguised as NGOs to serve their political matters.
  • SNGO: 'Southern NGO'
  • SCO: 'Social change organization'
  • TNGO: '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: 'Market advocacy NGO'
  • NGDO: 'Non-governmental development organization'

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- or corporate-funded and -managed projects and have professional staff.

GRO/NGOs exist for a variety of reasons, usually to further the political or social goals of their members or founders. 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.

Latif Development Organization (LDO) is a civil society organization base in Kashmore of Sindh province of Pakistan working for empowering the neglected segments of society such as poorer of the poor, women, peasant and laborers and youth of the area through mobilization, trainings, awareness and service delivery of the basic needs by their active participation. (LDO firmly believe in participatory development at grass root area to engage them the rural communities and other groups in the mainstreaming society and development process. (LDO was formed in 01_05_2005 by groups of committed and dedicated social activists of the Kashmore with a feeling of the miserable situation of the rural communities and deprivation of women specifically in rural areas and there was a lacking of active local and indigenous organization in District to work for the backward people of far-flung areas for making a significant difference in the lives of the poor communities and making their lives more prosperous and improved. The Situation of the rural areas of the Kashmore District was so bad and pitiable, people had inadequate social services such as unavailability of health outlets, low literacy ratio, women were excluded form the process of development due to cultural and tribal social and gender barrier are the resulting increasing poverty in rural areas. As, the Kashmore district is the bordering district of Sindh with the Baluchistan province. The fabric of Kashmore district is composed of tribal culture and the due to nearer to Baluchistan the Baloachi culture and tradition is fully influenced over the population. The gender based violence Honor killing Karo Kari incidents were on peak, the local educated people were afraid of to raise voice against this merciless so-called socially adopted custom because of the local tribal chives were involved in boosting it for get economy in terms of share from the fine got from the both parties who has killed a women or man in the name of honor killing and who is effected. In this hard situation of social disturbance in the lives of the local people specially women and poor communities some young people started to deem and decided to reduce the vulnerabilities and miseries of the local communities and empower the rural women for their role in decision making at home and societal level, as a role of catalyst in the area. It started its initial work with a temporary body consisted on 7 members and then 50 other members joined the organization. Lack of opportunities to become organizing and awareness of the rights are the key elements which hampered them to become developed and empowered socially and economically. This was the factor behind to establish the LDO as local community development intuition in the district.

LDO firmly believes in participatory community development approach in its all development programs and projects. It formed with the aims at to empower the marginalized and underprivileged segments of society through long term development programs and community mobilization, training and advocacy program to able them one step forwards for getting their rights and engaging rural communities on social development process for self-reliance and prosperity of the poorer people which are much suffered by increasing poverty, tribal influences and gender barrier in the area. LDO using the Rights Based Approach –RBA in its all programs and has got a give recognition in District Kashmore as a strong and leading community development and indigenous organization with expertise and potential to deliver socials services, training and advocacy programs efficiently.

Track II diplomacy

Track II dialogue, or Track II diplomacy, is a transnational coordination that involves non-official members of the government including epistemic communities as well as former policy-makers or analysts. Track II diplomacy aims to get policymakers and policy analysts to come to a common solution through discussions by unofficial figures of the government. Unlike the Track I diplomacy where government officials, diplomats and elected leaders gather to talk about certain issues, Track II diplomacy consists of experts, scientists, professors and other figures that are not involved in government affairs. The members of Track II diplomacy usually have more freedom to exchange ideas and come up with compromise on their own.


There are also numerous classifications of NGOs. The typology the World Bank uses divides them into Operational and Advocacy:[10]

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.

NGOs were intended to fill a gap in government services, but in countries like India and China, NGOs are slowly gaining a position in decision making. In the interest of sustainability, most donors require that NGOs demonstrate a relationship with governments.[11] State Governments themselves are vulnerable because they lack economic resources, and potentially 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.[12] In India, for instance, NGOs 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.


Operational NGOs seek to "achieve small-scale change directly through projects."[9] They mobilize financial resources, materials, and volunteers to create localized programs. They hold large-scale

  • "What is a Non-Governmental Organization?". City University, London. 
  • "Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO)". 

External links

  • Susan Cotts Watkins, Ann Swidler, and Thomas Hannan. 2012. "Outsourcing Social Transformation: Development NGOs as Organizations." Annual Review of Sociology, Vol. 38, pp. 285–315, PDF
  • Davies, T. 2014. NGOs: A New History of Transnational Civil Society. New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780199387533.
  • Velusamy M. Non Governmental Organisation, Dominant Publishers & Distribution Ltd, New Delhi
  • Mark Butler, with Thulani Ndlazi, David Ntseng, Graham Philpott, and Nomusa Sokhela. NGO Practice and the Possibility of Freedom Church Land Programme, Pietermaritzburg, South Africa 2007
  • Olivier Berthoud, NGOs: Somewhere between Compassion, Profitability and Solidarity, PDF Envio, Managua, 2001
  • Terje Tvedt, 19982/2003: Angels of Mercy or Development Diplomats. NGOs & Foreign Aid, Oxford: James Currey
  • Steve W. Witt, ed. Changing Roles of NGOs in the Creation, Storage, and Dissemination of Information in Developing Countries (Saur, 2006). ISBN 3-598-22030-8
  • Cox, P. N. Shams, G. C. Jahn, P. Erickson and P. Hicks. 2002. Building collaboration between NGOs and agricultural research iNGOs – Die Gewerkschaften in Guinea während der Unruhen 2007] EPU Research Papers: Issue 03/07, Stadtschlaining 2007 (German)
  • Lyal S. Sunga, "Dilemmas facing INGOs in coalition-occupied Iraq", in Ethics in Action: The Ethical Challenges of International Human Rights Nongovernmental Organizations, edited by Daniel A. Bell and Jean-Marc Coicaud, Cambridge Univ. and United Nations Univ. Press, 2007.
  • Werker & Ahmed (2008): What do Non-Governmental Organizations do?
  • Steve Charnovitz, "Two Centuries of Participation: NGOs and International Governance," Michigan Journal of International Law, Vol. 18, Winter 1997, at 183-286.
  • Abahlali baseMjondolo Rethinking Public Participation from Below, 'Critical Dialogue', 2006
  • Akpan S. M (2010): Establishment of Non-Governmental Organizations (In Press).
  • Edward A. L. Turner (2010) Why Has the Number of International Non-Governmental Organizations Exploded since 1960?, Cliodynamics, 1, (1).
  • Eugene Fram & Vicki Brown, How Using the Corporate Model Makes a Nonprofit Board More Effective & Efficient - Third Edition (2011), Amazon Books, Create Space Books.

The de facto reference resource for information and statistics on International NGOs (INGOs) and other transnational organisational forms is the Union of International Associations.

  • David Lewis and Nazneen Kanji (2009): Non-Governmental Organizations and Development. New York: Routledge.
  • Issa G. Shivji (2007): Silence in NGO Discourse: The Role and Future of NGOs in Africa. Nairobi: Fahamu.
  • Jens Steffek and Kristina Hahn (2010): Evaluating Transnational NGOs: Legitimacy, Accountability, Representation. New York: Palgrave, Macmillan.

Further reading

  1. ^ "Fact Sheet: Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) in the United States «". January 12, 2012. Retrieved 2013-12-24. 
  2. ^ "Hobbled NGOs wary of Medvedev". Chicago Tribune. May 7, 2008. 
  3. ^ "India: More NGOs, than schools and health centres". July 7, 2010. Retrieved 2011-10-07. 
  4. ^ "First official estimate: An NGO for every 400 people in India". The Indian Express. July 7, 2010. 
  5. ^ Vakil, Anna (December 1997). "Confronting the classification problem: Toward a taxonomy of NGOs". World Development 25 (12): 2057–2070.  
  6. ^ Davies, Thomas (2014). NGOs: A New History of Transnational Civil Society. New York: Oxford University Press. p. 3.  
  7. ^ "The rise and role of NGOs in sustainable development". Retrieved 2013-12-24. 
  8. ^ a b Lawry, Lynn (2009). Guide to Nongovernmental Organizations for the Military (PDF). pp. 29–30. 
  9. ^ a b c d e f g Willetts, Peter. "What is a Non-Governmental Organization?". UNESCO Encyclopaedia of Life Support Systems. City University London. Retrieved 18 July 2012. 
  10. ^ a b World Bank Criteria defining NGO
  11. ^ Jennifer Hsu, Reza Hasmath (2014). "The Local Corporatist State and NGO Relations in China". Journal of Contemporary China 23 (87). 
  12. ^ Hasmath, R. and Hsu, J. (Forthcoming) "Isomorphic Pressures, Epistemic Communities and State-NGO Collaboration in China", The China Quarterly.
  13. ^ 100, Mukasa, Sarah. Are expatriate staff necessary in international development NGOs? A case study of an international NGO in Uganda. Publication of the Centre for Civil Society at London School of Economics. 2002, p. 11–13.
  14. ^ "Poll shows power of AIPAC drops slightly". Jewish News Weekly of Northern California. 1999-12-19. Retrieved 2007-06-25. 
  15. ^ a b Pawel Zaleski Global Non-governmental Administrative System: Geosociology of the Third Sector, [in:] Gawin, Dariusz & Glinski, Piotr [ed.]: "Civil Society in the Making", IFiS Publishers, Warszawa 2006
  16. ^ David Rieff (June 10, 2010). "NG-Uh-O - The trouble with humanitarianism". The New Republic. 
  17. ^ Sarah Jane Gilbert (2008-09-08). "Harvard Business School, HBS Cases: The Value of Environmental Activists". Retrieved 2011-12-20. 
  18. ^ "Greenpeace Annual Report 2008" (PDF). 2008. Retrieved 2013-12-24. 
  19. ^ a b c "Defining certain terms in a budget". Funds for NGOs. 2011-09-18. Retrieved 2013-12-24. 
  20. ^ "Code of Ethics & Conduct for NGOs". Retrieved 11 April 2012. 
  21. ^ "National NGOs Serving as PRs Excluded from the Global Fund's Policy on Percentage-Based Overhead Costs". 2012. 
  22. ^ Kuby, Christopher Gibbs ; Claudia Fumo ; Thomas (1999). Nongovernmental organizations in World Bank supported projects : a review (2nd ed.). Washington, D.C.: World Bank. p. 21.  
  23. ^ Crowther, edited by Güler Aras, David (2010). NGOs and social responsibility (1st ed. ed.). Bingley, UK: Emerald. p. 121.  
  24. ^ Kassahun, Samson (2004). Social capital for synergistic partnership : development of poor localities in urban Ethiopia (1. Aufl. ed.). Göttingen: Cuvillier. p. 153.  
  25. ^ Schmitz, Hans Peter and George E. Mitchell 2010. Navigating Effectiveness, Humanitarian&Development NGOs Domain Blog, The Hauser Center for Nonprofit Organizations, Harvard University (March 9)
  26. ^ Lowell, Stephanie, Brian Trelstad, and Bill Meehan. 2005. The Ratings Game. Evaluating the three groups that rate the Charities. Stanford Social Innovation Review: 39-45.
  27. ^ "Background Information on the Responsibility to Protect — Outreach Programme on the Rwanda Genocide and the United Nations". Retrieved 2013-12-24. 
  28. ^ "International Coalition for the Responsibility to Protect (ICRtoP)". Retrieved 2013-12-24. 
  29. ^ Engler, Fenton, Yves, Anthony (2005). Canada in Haiti: Waging War on the Poor Majority. Vancouver, Winnipeg: RED Publishing. p. 120.  
  30. ^ Dorothea Baur, Hans Peter Schmitz (2012). "Corporations and NGOs: When Accountability Leads to Co-optation". Journal of Business Ethics 106 (1): 9–21.  
  31. ^
  32. ^ "Department of Defense Directive 3000.05" (PDF). United States Department of Defense. September 16, 2009. Retrieved 2013-12-24. 
  33. ^ Davies, Thomas (2014). NGOs: A New History of Transnational Civil Society. New York: Oxford University Press. p. 23.   Steve Charnovitz, "Two Centuries of Participation: NGOs and International Governance, Michigan Journal of International Law, Winter 1997.
  34. ^ Oliver P. Richmond; Henry F. Carey, eds. (2005). Subcontracting Peace - The Challenges of NGO Peacebuilding. Ashgate. p. 21. 
  35. ^ Davies, Thomas Richard (2007). The Possibilities of Transnational Activism: the Campaign for Disarmament between the Two World Wars.  
  36. ^ Charter of the United Nations: Chapter X
  37. ^ United Nations Conference on Environment and Development. "Agenda 21 - Chapter 27: Strengthening the Role of Non-governmental Organizations: Partners for Sustainable Development, Earth Summit, 1992". Retrieved 2011-12-20. 
  38. ^ "1996/31. Consultative relationship between the United Nations and non-governmental organizations". Retrieved 2011-12-20. 
  39. ^ Boli, J. and Thomas, G. M. (1997) World Culture in the World Polity: A century of International Non-Governmental Organization. American Sociological Review. pp. 177
  40. ^ Bartlett, Lauren (2005). "NGO Update". Human Rights Brief 12 (3): 44–45. 
  41. ^ Stone, Diane (2004). "Transfer Agents and Global Networks in the 'Transnationalisation' of Policy". Journal of European Public Policy.austiniskewl 11 (3): 545–66. 
  42. ^ Grant B. Stillman (2007). Global Standard NGOs: The Essential Elements of Good Practice. Geneva: Lulu: Grant B. Stillman. pp. 13–14. 
  43. ^ Shivji, Issa G. (2007). Silence in NGO discourse: the role and future of NGOs in Africa. Oxford, UK: Fahamu. p. 84.  
  44. ^ Pfeiffer, J. 2003. International NGOs and primary health care in Mozambique: the need for a new model of collaboration. Social Science & Medicine 56 (4):725.
  45. ^ Pfeiffer, J. 2003. International NGOs and primary health care in Mozambique: the need for a new model of collaboration. Social Science & Medicine 56 (4):725-738.
  46. ^ J. Pfeiffer. (2003). International NGOs and primary health care in Mozambique: the need for a new model of collaboration. Social Science & Medicine 56 (2003) 725-738
  47. ^ Jessica T. Mathews (January–February 1997). "Power Shift".  
  48. ^ Bond, M. (2000) The Backlash against NGOs. Prospect (magazine).
  49. ^ Mother Teresa: A Communist View at the Wayback Machine (archived July 24, 2008), Vijay Prashad, Australian Marxist Review, No. 40 August 1998
  50. ^ Rethinking Public Participation from belowAbahlali baseMjondolo, 'Critical Dialogue', 2006
  51. ^ See his Damming the Flood (Verso, London, 2007.)
  52. ^ Peter Hallward responds to BBC Radio 4 program on Haiti, Tanbou, 11/01/2011
  53. ^ Building unity in diversity: Social movement activism in the Western Cape Anti-Eviction Campaign, Sophie Oldfield & Kristian Stokke, 2004
  54. ^ Ashraf Cassiem: South African Resistance Against Evictions, Marlon Crump, Poor Magazine, 2009
  55. ^ Are NGOs enemies of SA's rural folk?, Youlendree Appasamy, Grocott's Mail, July 2013
  56. ^ ‘NGO’: The Guise of Innocence, by Jenny O'Connor, New Left Project, 2012
  57. ^  
  58. ^ Bond, Michael. "The Backlash against NGOs." Prospect, April 2000, pp.321. Print
  59. ^ Bond, Michael. "The Backlash against NGOs." Prospect, April 2000, pp. 323. Print
  60. ^ Bond, Michael. "The Backlash against NGOs." Prospect, April 200, pp. 323. Print
  61. ^ Weber, N. and Christopherson, T. (2002) The influence of non-givernmental organisations on the creation of Natura 2000 during the European policy process. Forest policy and Economics. 4(1), pp. 1-12.
  62. ^ a b c Edwards, M. and Hulme, D. (2002) NGO Performance and Accountability: Introduction and Overview. "In: Edwards, M. and Hulme, D., ed. 2002." The Earthscan Reader on NGO Management. UK: Earthscan Publications Ltd. Chapter 11.
  63. ^ Neera Chandhoke. (2005) "How Global Is Global Civil Society?" Journal of World-Systems Research, 11, 2, 2005, pp.326-327.
  64. ^ Hasmath, R. and Hsu, J. (2008) "NGOs in China: Issues of Good Governance and Accountability", Asia Pacific Journal of Public Administration 30(1): 1-11.
  65. ^ Edwards, M. and Hulme, D. (2002) Beyond the Magic Bullet? Lessons and Conclusions. "In: Edwards, M. and Hulme, D., ed. 2002." The Earthscan Reader on NGO Management. UK: Earthscan Publications Ltd. Chapter 12.
  66. ^ a b Edwards, M. and Hulme, D. (1996) Too Close for comfort? The impact of official aid on Non-Governmental Organisations. "World Development." 24(6), pp. 961-973.
  67. ^ Ebrahim, A. (2003) Accountability in practice: Mechanisms for NGOs. "World Development." 31(5), pp.813-829.
  68. ^ Brought to You by Wall Street, CORY MORNINGSTAR, CounterPunch, 2013.05.17
  69. ^ The Climate Wealth Opportunists, CORY MORNINGSTAR, CounterPunch, 2014.03.14
  70. ^ NGOs & CSR, Joel Binda, AntiCSR, 2014
  71. ^ a b Lindenberg, M. and Bryant, C. (2001) Going Global: Transforming Relief and Development NGOs. Bloomfield: Kumarian Press.
  72. ^ Jenkins, R. (2001) Corporate Codes of Conduct: Self-Regulation in a Global Economy. "Technology, Business and Society Programme Paper Number 2." United Nations Research Institute for Social Development.
  73. ^ Pfeiffer, J. 2003. International NGOs and primary health care in Mozambique: the need for a new model of collaboration. Social Science & Medicine 56(4):725-738.
  74. ^ a b How NGOs Failed Afghanistan, Patrick Cockburn, CounterPunch, 2014.03.25
  75. ^ Avina, J. (1993) The Evolutionary Life Cycles if Non-Governmental Development Organisations. "Public Administration and Development." 13(5), pp. 453-474.
  76. ^ Anheier, H. and Themudo, N. (2002) Organisational forms of global civil society: Implications of going global. In: Anheier, H. Glasius, M. Kaldor, M, ed 2002.


See also

The scale and variety of activities in which NGOs participate has grown rapidly since the 1980s, witnessing particular expansion in the 1990s.[75] This has presented NGOs with a 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 may also be advantageous to decentralise as this can increase the chances of an NGO responding more flexibly and effectively to localised issues by implementing projects which are modest in scale, easily monitored, produce immediate benefits and where all involved know that corruption will be punished.[74][76]

The flood of NGOs has also been accused of damaging the public sector in multiple developing countries, e.g. accusations that NGO mismanagement has resulted in the breakdown of public health care systems. Instead of promoting equity and alleviating poverty, NGOs have been under scrutiny for contributing to socioeconomic inequality and disempowering services in the public sector of third world countries.[73][74]

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 divide exists in the arena of NGOs.[71] 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.[71] The potential implications of this may mean 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.[72]

Corporate funding has also brought criticism. Joel Binda writes that corporations seek to partner with NGOs as part of their Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) programs. This provides marketing and public relations benefits for businesses. These partnerships between corporations and NGOs allows corporations to claim some credit for the work of NGOs. Since NGOs receive funding from corporations, they may be reluctant to criticize corporations. In order to satisfy corporate donors and attract more funding, NGOs may tailor their activities to serve corporate interests. For example, by focusing on projects that look good to a corporation's consumers.[70]

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.[66] Consequently competition has increased for funding, as have the expectations of the donors themselves.[67] This runs the risk of donors adding conditions which can threaten the independence of NGOs; for example, 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”.[62] 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 NGO funding sources has ultimately altered their functions.[62][68][69]

Moreover, the legitimacy and the accountability of NGOs on the point of their true nature are also emerging as important issues.[64] Various perceptions and images on NGOs are provided, and usually implemented in an image as 'non-state actors' or 'influential representatives of civil society that advocate the citizen.' Accountability may be able to provide this and also be able to assist activities by providing focus and direction[65] 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.[66]

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”.[61][62] Their representation also emerges as an important question. Who bestows responsibilities to NGOs or INGOs and how do they gain the representation of citizens and civil society is still not scrutinized thoroughly. For instance, in the article, it is stated, "To put the point starkly: are the citizens of countries of the South and their needs represented in global civil society, or are citizens as well as their needs constructed by practices of representation? And when we realize that INGOs hardly ever come face to face with the people whose interests and problems they represent, or that they are not accountable to the people they represent, matters become even more troublesome."[63]

Challenges to legitimacy

NGOs have also been accused of using white lies or misinformed advise to enact their campaigns, i.e., accusations that NGOs have been ignorant about critical issues because, as chief scientist at [59] At the same time, NGOs can appear to not be cooperative with other groups, according to the previous policy-maker for the German branch of Friends of the Earth, Jens Katjek. "If NGOs want the best for the environment, he says, they have to learn to compromise."[60]

Another criticism of NGOs is that they are being designed and used as extensions of the normal foreign-policy instruments of certain Western countries and groups of countries.[56] Russian President Vladimir Putin made this accusation at the 43rd Munich Conference on Security Policy in 2007, concluding that these NGOs "are formally independent but they are purposefully financed and therefore under control."[57] Also, Michael Bond wrote "Most large NGOs, such as Oxfam, the Red Cross, Cafod and Action Aid, are striving to make their aid provision more sustainable. But some, mostly in the US, are still exporting the ideologies of their backers."[58]

Others argue that NGOs are often imperialist[50] 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.[51] He also points to the fact that NGOs like Action Aid and Christian Aid "effectively condoned the [2004 US backed] coup" against an elected government in Haiti and argues that they are the "humanitarian face of imperialism."[52] Popular movements in the global South such as the Western Cape Anti-Eviction Campaign in South Africa have sometimes refused to work with NGOs arguing that this will compromise their autonomy.[53][54] It has also been argued that NGOs often disempower people by allowing funders to push for stability over social justice.[55]

Vijay Prashad argues that from the 1970s "The World Bank, under Robert McNamara, championed the NGO as an alternative to the state, leaving intact global and regional relations of power and production."[49]

Jessica Mathews wrote in Foreign Affairs in 1997: "For all their strengths, NGOs are special interests. The best of them ... often suffer from tunnel vision, judging every public act by how it affects their particular interest".[47] Since NGOs have to worry about policy trade-offs, the overall impact of their cause might bring more harm to society.[48]

He notes further that NGO's can be uncoordinated, creating parallel projects among different organizations, that pull health service workers away from their routine duties in order to serve the interests of the NGO's. This ultimately undermines local primary health care efforts, and takes away the governments' ability to maintain agency over their own health sector.[45] J. Pfeiffer suggested a new model of collaboration between the NGO and the DPS (the Mozambique Provincial Health Directorate). He mentioned the NGO should be 'formally held to standard and adherence within the host country', for example reduce 'showcase' projects and parallel programs that proves to be unsustainable.[46]

James Pfeiffer, in his case study of NGO involvement in Mozambique, speaks to the negative effects that NGO's have had on areas of health within the country. He argues that over the last decade, NGO's in Mozambique have "fragmented the local health system, undermined local control of health programs, and contributed to growing local social inequality"[44]

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".[43] 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.


The European Convention on Human Rights protects the right to freedom of association, which is also a fundamental norm for NGOs.

  • Unincorporated and voluntary association
  • foundations
  • Companies not just for profit
  • Entities formed or registered under special NGO or nonprofit laws

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:[42]

Legal status

Globalization during the 20th century gave rise to the importance of NGOs. Many problems could not be solved within a nation. 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.[40] In terms of environmental issues and sustainable development, the Earth Summit in Rio in 1992 was the first to show the power of international NGOs, when about 2,400 representatives of NGOs came to play a central role in deliberations. Some have argued that in forums like these, NGOs take the place of what should belong to popular movements of the poor. Whatever the case, NGO transnational networking is now extensive.[41]

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.[15]

[39] It has been observed that the number of INGO founded or dissolved matches the general "state of the world", rising in periods of growth and declining in periods of crisis.[38] International NGOs were important in the [34] It has been estimated that by 1914, there were 1083 NGOs.[33] International non-governmental organizations have a history dating back to at least the late eighteenth century.


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.[31] Part of International Health's mission is to communicate with NGOs in areas of mutual interest. Department of Defense Directive 3000.05,[32] 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.

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. Greater collaboration between corporations and NGOs creates inherent risks of co-optation for the weaker partner, typically the nonprofit involved.[30]

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.

In the 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"[27] 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[28] 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.[29] Years after R2P, the

Monitoring and control

While overhead costs can be a legitimate concern, a sole focus on them can be counterproductive.[25] Research published by the Urban Institute and the Center for Social Innovation at Stanford University have shown how rating agencies create incentives for nonprofits to lower and hide overhead costs, which may actually reduce organizational effectiveness by starving organizations of the infrastructure they need to effectively deliver services. A more meaningful rating system would provide, in addition to financial data, a qualitative evaluation of an organization’s transparency and governance: (1) an assessment of program effectiveness; (2) and an evaluation of feedback mechanisms designed for donors and beneficiaries; and (3) such a rating system would also allow rated organizations to respond to an evaluation done by a rating agency.[26] More generally, the popular discourse of nonprofit evaluation should move away from financial notions of organizational effectiveness and toward more substantive understandings of programmatic impact.

[24] High overhead costs may also generate criticism with some claiming the certain NGOs with high overhead are being run simply to benefit the people working for them.[23] A high percentage of overhead to total expenditures can make it more difficult to generate funds.[22] typically allows 37%.World Bank While the [21] has specific guidelines on how high overhead can be to receive funding based on how the money is to be spent with overhead often needing to be less than 5-7%.The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria [20]

Overhead costs

[18][17] Government funding of NGOs is controversial, since, according to David Rieff, writing in

Even though the term "non-governmental organization" implies World Vision United States collected US$55 million worth of goods in 1998 from the American government.

Whether the NGOs are small or large, various NGOs need budgets to operate. The amount of budget that they need would differ from NGOs to NGOs. Unlike small NGOs, 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.[14] 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.


The NGO sector is an essential employer in terms of numbers. 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.

Many NGOs are associated with the use of international staff working in 'developing' countries, but there are many NGOs in both North and South who rely on local employees or 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 of 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.[10]

Some NGOs are highly professionalized and rely mainly on paid staff. Others are based around voluntary labour and are less formalized. Not all people working for non-governmental organizations are volunteers.


Corporate structure

There is an increasing awareness that management techniques are crucial to project success in non-governmental organizations.[13] 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.

Project management

Non-governmental organizations 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 Organizations.

Public relations

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.[9]

Both operational and campaigning

Campaigning NGOs seek to "achieve large-scale change promoted indirectly through influence of the political system."[9] 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.[9] Campaigning NGOs often deal with this 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 event.



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