s which are independent of government involvement are known as non-governmental organizations or NGOs or non-government organizations. NGOs are a subgroup of organizations founded by citizens, which include clubs and associations which provide services to its members and others. They are usually nonprofit organizations. Many NGOs are active in humanitarianism or the social sciences. Surveys indicate that NGOs have a high degree of public trust, which can make them a useful proxy for the concerns of society and stakeholders. However, NGOs can also be lobby groups for corporations, such as the World Economic Forum. According to NGO.org, " any non-profit, voluntary citizens' group which is organized on a local, national or international level ... Task-oriented and driven by people with a common interest, NGOs perform a variety of service and humanitarian functions, bring citizen concerns to Governments, advocate and monitor policies and encourage political participation through provision of information."
Russia had about 277,000 NGOs in 2008. India is estimated to have had about two million NGOs in 2009, many more than the number of the country's primary schools and health centers. The term "NGO" is used inconsistently; it is sometimes a synonym for a civil society organization, any association founded by citizens. NGOs are known in some countries as nonprofit organizations, and political parties and trade unions are sometimes considered NGOs. NGOs are classified by orientation and level of operation; orientation refers to the type of activities an NGO undertakes. Activities may include human rights, environmentalism, health, or development. An NGO's level of operation indicates the scale at which an organization works: local, regional, national, or international.
TypesNGOs may be classified by their orientation and level of operation.
- Charities: Often a top-down effort, with little participation or input from beneficiaries, they include NGOs directed at meeting the needs of disadvantaged people and groups.
- Service: Includes NGOs which provide healthcare and education.
- Participation: Self-help projects with local involvement in the form of money, tools, land, materials, or labor
- Empowerment: Aim to help poor people understand the social, political and economic factors affecting their lives, and to increase awareness of their power to control their lives. With maximum involvement by the beneficiaries, the NGOs are facilitators.
Level of operation
- Community-based organizations are popular initiatives which can raise the consciousness of the urban poor, helping them understand their right to services, and providing such services.
- City-wide organizations include chambers of commerce and industry, coalitions of business, ethnic or educational groups, and community organizations.
- State NGOs include state-level organizations, associations, and groups. Some state NGOs are guided by national and international NGOs.
- National NGOs include national organizations such as YMCAs and YWCAs, professional associations, and similar groups. Some have state or city branches, and assist local NGOs.
- International NGOs range from secular agencies, such as Save the Children, to religious groups. They may fund local NGOs, institutions and projects, and implement projects.
- BINGO: Business-friendly international NGO or Big international NGO
- SBO: Social benefit organization, a goal-oriented designation
- TANGO: Technical assistance NGO
- GONGO: Government-organized non-governmental organization
- DONGO: Donor-organized NGO
- INGO: International NGO
- Quango: Quasi-autonomous NGO, set up and funded by the government. Prevalent in the UK, the Republic of Ireland, and the Commonwealth.
- National NGO: An NGO which exists in only one country; they are rare.
- CSO: Civil society organization
- ENGO: Environmental NGO, such as Greenpeace and the WWF.
- NNGO: Northern NGO
- PANGO: Party NGO, addressing political matters
- SNGO: Southern NGO
- SCO: Social change organization
- TNGO: Transnational NGO; coined during the 1970s due to the increase of environmental and economic issues in the global community. TNGOs exist in two countries.
- GSO: Grassroots Support Organization
- MANGO: Market advocacy NGO
- NGDO: Non-governmental development organization
- PVDO: Private voluntary development organization; The United States Agency for International Development refers to NGOs as "private voluntary organizations".
ActivitiesThe World Bank classifies NGO activity as operational and advocacy. NGOs act as implementers, catalysts, and partners. They mobilize resources to provide goods and services to people who have been affected by a natural disaster; they drive change, and partner with other organizations to tackle problems and address human needs.
NGOs vary by method; some are primarily advocacy groups, and others conduct programs and activities. Oxfam, concerned with poverty alleviation, may provide needy people with the equipment and skills to obtain food and drinking water; the Forum for Fact-finding Documentation and Advocacy helps provide legal assistance to victims of human-rights abuses. The Afghanistan Information Management Services provide specialized technical products and services to support development activities implemented on the ground by other organizations. Management techniques are crucial to project success.
OperationalOperational NGOs seek to "achieve small-scale change directly through projects", mobilizing financial resources, materials, and volunteers to create local programs. They hold large-scale fundraising events and may apply to governments and organizations for grants or contracts to raise money for projects. Operational NGOs often have a hierarchical structure; their headquarters are staffed by professionals who plan projects, create budgets, keep accounts, and report to and communicate with operational fieldworkers on projects. They are most often associated with the delivery of services or environmental issues, emergency relief, and public welfare. Operational NGOs may be subdivided into relief or development organizations, service-delivery or participatory, religious or secular, and public or private. Although operational NGOs may be community-based, many are national or international. The defining activity of an operational NGO is the implementation of projects.
CampaigningCampaigning NGOs seek to "achieve large-scale change promoted indirectly through the influence of the political system." They require an active, efficient group of professional members who can keep supporters informed and motivated. Campaigning NGOs must plan and host demonstrations and events which will attract media, their defining activity. Campaigning NGOs often deal with issues related to human rights, women's rights, and children's rights, and their primary purpose is to defend a specific cause.
CombinedNGOs may conduct both activities. Operational NGOs will use campaigning techniques if they face issues in the field which could be remedied by policy change, and campaigning NGOs often have programs which assist individual victims for whom they are trying to advocacate.
Public relationsNon-governmental organizations need healthy public relations to meet their goals, and use sophisticated public-relations campaigns to raise funds and deal with governments. Interest groups may be politically important, influencing social and political outcomes. A code of ethics was established in 2002 by the World Association of Non-Governmental Organizations..
StaffingSome NGOs rely on paid staff; others are based on volunteers. Although many NGOs use international staff in developing countries, others rely on local employees or volunteers. Foreign staff may satisfy a donor who wants to see the supported project managed by a person from an industrialized country. The expertise of these employees may be counterbalanced by several factors: the cost of foreigners is typically higher, they have no grassroots connections in the country, and local expertise may be undervalued. By the end of 1995, Concern Worldwide employed 174 foreigners and just over 5,000 local staff in Haiti and ten developing countries in Africa and Asia.
FundingNGOs are usually funded by donations, but some avoid formal funding and are run by volunteers. NGOs may have charitable status, or may be tax-exempt in recognition of their social purposes. Others may be fronts for political, religious, or other interests. Since the end of World War II, NGOs have had an increased role in international development, particularly in the fields of humanitarian assistance and poverty alleviation.
Funding sources include membership dues, the sale of goods and services, grants from international institutions or national governments, and private donations. Although the term "non-governmental organization" implies independence from governments, many NGOs depend on government funding; one-fourth of Oxfam's US$162 million 1998 income was donated by the British government and the EU, and World Vision United States collected $55 million worth of goods in 1998 from the American government. Several EU grants provide funds accessible to NGOs.
Government funding of NGOs is controversial, since "the whole point of humanitarian intervention was precise 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." Some NGOs, such as Greenpeace, do not accept funding from governments or intergovernmental organizations. The 1999 budget of the American Association of Retired Persons was over $540 million.
Overheadis the amount of money spent on running an NGO, rather than on projects. It includes office expenses, salaries, and banking and bookkeeping costs. An NGO's percentage of its overall budget spent on overhead is often used to judge it; less than four percent is considered good. According to the World Association of Non-Governmental Organizations, more than 86 percent should be spent on programs. The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria has guidelines of five to seven percent overhead to receive funding; the World Bank typically allows 37 percent. A high percentage of overhead relative to total expenditures can make it more difficult to generate funds. High overhead costs may generate public criticism.
A sole focus on overhead, however, can be counterproductive. Research published by the Urban Institute and Stanford University's Center for Social Innovation have shown that rating agencies create incentives for NGOs to lower overhead costs, which may reduce organizational effectiveness by starving organizations of infrastructure to deliver services. An alternative rating system would provide, in addition to financial data, a qualitative evaluation of an organization’s transparency and governance:
- An assessment of program effectiveness
- Evaluation of feedback mechanisms for donors and beneficiaries
- Allowing a rated organization to respond to an evaluation by a rating agency
Monitoring and control
Large corporations have increased their corporate social responsibility departments to preempt NGO campaigns against corporate practices. Collaboration between corporations and NGOs risks co-option of the weaker partner, typically the NGO.
In December 2007, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs S. Ward Casscells established an International Health Division of Force Health Protection & Readiness. Part of International Health's mission is to communicate with NGOs about areas of mutual interest. Department of Defense Directive 3000.05, in 2005, required the US Defense Department to regard stability-enhancing activities as equally important as combat. In compliance with international law, the department has developed a capacity to improve essential services in areas of conflict where customary lead agencies like the State Department and USAID have difficulty operating. International Health cultivates collaborative, arm's-length relationships with NGOs, recognizing their independence, expertise, and honest-broker status.
HistoryInternational non-governmental organizations date back to at least the late 18th century, and there were an estimated 1,083 NGOs by 1914. International NGOs were important to the anti-slavery and women's suffrage movements, and peaked at the time of the 1932–1934 World Disarmament Conference. The term became popular with the 1945 founding of the United Nations in 1945; Article 71, Chapter X of its charter stipulated consultative status for organizations which are neither governments nor member states. An international NGO was first defined in resolution 288 of the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC
Legal statusAlthough NGOs are subject to national laws and practices, four main groups may be found worldwide:
- Unincorporated and voluntary association
- Trusts, charities, and foundations
- Not-for-profit companies
- Entities formed under special NGO or nonprofit laws
Influence on world affairsService-delivery NGOs provide public goods and services which governments of developing countries are unable to provide due to a lack of resources. They may be contractors or collaborate with government agencies to reduce the cost of public goods. Capacity-building NGOs affect "culture, structure, projects and daily operations". Advocacy and public-education NGOs aim to modify behavior and ideas through communication, crafting messages to promote social, political, or environmental changes. Movement NGOs mobilize the public and coordinate large-scale collective activities to advance an activist agenda.
Since the end of the Cold War, more NGOs in developed countries have pursued international outreach; involved in local and national social resistance, they have influenced domestic policy change in the developing world. Specialized NGOs have forged partnerships, built networks, and found policy niches.
Track II diplomacyis transnational coordination by non-official members of the government, including epistemic communities and former policymakers or analysts. It aims to help policymakers and policy analysts reach a common solution through unofficial discussions. Unlike official diplomacy, conducted by government officials, diplomats, and elected leaders, Track II diplomacy involves experts, scientists, professors and other figures who are not part of government affairs.
World NGO Day, observed annually on 27 February, was recognised on 17 April 2010 by 12 countries of the IX Baltic Sea NGO Forum at the eighth Summit of the Baltic Sea States in Vilnius, Lithuania. It was internationally recognised on 28 February 2014 in Helsinki, Finland by United Nations Development Programme administrator and former Prime Minister of New Zealand Helen Clark.
Criticismn author and academic Issa G. Shivji has criticised NGOs 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 writes that despite the good intentions of NGO leaders and activists, he is critical of the "objective effects of actions, regardless of their intentions". According to Shivji, the rise of NGOs is part of a neoliberal paradigm and not motivated purely by altruism; NGOs want to change the world without understanding it, continuing an imperial relationship.
In his study of NGO involvement in Mozambique, James Pfeiffer addresses their negative effects on the country's health. According to Pfeiffer, NGOs in Mozambique have "fragmented the local health system, undermined local control of health programs, and contributed to growing local social inequality". They can be uncoordinated, creating parallel projects which divert health-service workers from their normal duties to instead serve the NGOs. This undermines local primary-healthcare efforts, and removes the government's ability to maintain agency over its health sector. Pfeiffer suggested a collaborative model of the NGO and the DPS ; the NGO should be "formally held to standard and adherence within the host country", reduce "showcase" projects and unsustainable parallel programs.
In her 1997 Foreign Affairs article, Jessica Mathews wrote: "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". NGOs are unencumbered by policy trade-offs.
According to Vijay Prashad, since 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." NGOs have been accused of preserving imperialism, with a function similar to that of the clergy during the colonial era. Political philosopher Peter Hallward has called them an aristocratic form of politics, noting that ActionAid and Christian Aid "effectively condoned the coup" against an elected government in Haiti and are the "humanitarian face of imperialism". Movements in the Global South have refused to work with NGOs, concerned that doing so would compromise their autonomy. NGOs have been accused of weakening people by allowing their funders to prioritize stability over social justice.
They have been accused of being designed by, and used as extensions of, the foreign-policy instruments of some Western countries and groups of countries. Russian president Vladimir Putin made that accusation at the 43rd Munich Security Conference in 2007, saying that NGOs "are formally independent but they are purposefully financed and therefore under control".
According to Michael Bond, "Most large NGOs, such as Oxfam, the Red Cross, Cafod and ActionAid, are striving to make their aid provision more sustainable. But some, mostly in the US, are still exporting the ideologies of their backers."
NGOs have been accused of using misinformation in their campaigns out of self-interest. According to Doug Parr of Greenpeace, there had been "a tendency among our critics to say that science is the only decision-making tool... but political and commercial interests are using science as a cover for getting their way." Former policy-maker for the German branch of Friends of the Earth Jens Katjek said, "If NGOs want the best for the environment, they have to learn to compromise."
They have been questioned as "too much of a good thing". Eric Werker and Faisal Ahmed made three critiques of NGOs in developing nations. Too many NGOs in a nation reduces an NGO's influence, since it can easily be replaced by another NGO. Resource allocation and outsourcing to local organizations in international-development projects incurs expenses for an NGO, lessening the resources and money available to the intended beneficiaries. NGO missions tend to be paternalistic, as well as expensive.
Legitimacy, an important asset of an NGO, is its perception as an "independent voice". Neera Chandhoke wrote in a Journal of World-Systems Research article, "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."
An NGO's funding affects its legitimacy, and they have become increasingly dependent on a limited number of donors. Competition for funds has increased, in addition to the expectations of donors who may add conditions threatening an NGO's independence. Dependence on official aid may dilute "the willingness of NGOs to speak out on issues which are unpopular with governments", and changes in NGO funding sources have altered their function.
NGOs have been challenged as not representing the needs of the developing world, diminishing the "Southern voice" and preserving the North–South divide. The equality of relationships between northern and southern parts of an NGO, and between southern and northern NGOs working in partnership, has been questioned; the north may lead in advocacy and resource mobilization, and the south delivers services in the developing world. The needs of the developing world may not be addressed appropriately, as northern NGOs do not consult partnerships or assign unrepresentative priorities. NGOs have been accused of damaging the public sector in target countries, such as mismanagement resulting in the breakdown of public healthcare systems.
The scale and variety of activities in which NGOs participate have grown rapidly since 1980, and particularly since 1990. NGOs need to balance centralization and decentralization. Centralizing NGOs, particularly at the international level, can assign a common theme or set of goals. It may also be advantageous to decentralize an NGO, increasing its chances of responding flexibly and effectively to local issues by implementing projects which are modest in scale, easily monitored, produce immediate benefits, and where all involved know that corruption will be punished.