Human Resource Development (HRM-627)
NON GOVERNMENTAL ORGANIZATIONS (NGOS)
A non-governmental organization (NGO) is a private institution that is independent of the government
although many NGOs, particular in the global South, are funded by Northern governments. Anheier places 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 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 organisation 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-
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. Others argue that NGOs are often imperialist in nature and that the fulfil 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
· INGO stands for international NGO, such as Doctors Without Borders / Médecins Sans Frontières;
· BINGO is short for business-oriented 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 organisations, 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
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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
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.
NGOs vary in their methods. Some act primarily as lobbyists, while others conduct programs and activities
primarily. 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.
Public relations: 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. At times NGOs seek to mobilize public support.
Consulting: Many international NGOs have a consultative status with United Nations agencies relevant to
their area of work. As an example, the Third World Network has a consultative status with the UN Conference
on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) and the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). While in
1946, only 41 NGOs had consultative status with the ECOSOC, by 2003 this number had risen to 3550.
Project management: There is an increasing awareness that management techniques are crucial to project
success in non-governmental organizations. 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
Two management trends are particularly relevant to NGOs: diversity management and participatory
management. Diversity management deals with different cultures in an organization. Intercultural problems are
prevalent in Northern NGOs which are engaged in developmental activities in the South. Personnel coming
from a rich country are faced with a completely different approach of doing things in the target country. A
participatory management style is said to be typical of NGOs. It is intricately tied to the concept of a learning
organization: all people within the organization are perceived as sources for knowledge and skills. To develop
the organization, individuals have to be able to contribute in the decision making process and they need to
Not all people working for non-governmental organizations are volunteers. Paid staff members typically receive
lower pay than in the commercial private sector. Employees are highly committed to the aims and principles of
the organization. The reasons people volunteer are not necessarily purely altruistic, and can provide immediate
benefits for themselves as well as those they serve, including skills, experience, and contacts.
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 have can 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.
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The NGO sector is an important 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.
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.. Funding
such large budgets demands significant fundraising efforts on the part of most NGOs. Major sources of NGO
funding include 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, some
NGOs depend heavily on governments for their funding. 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 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.
Monitoring and control
In a March 2000 report on United Nations Reform priorities, U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan wrote in
favor of international humanitarian intervention, arguing that the international community has a "right to
protect" 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 RPPDF (434) 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.
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.
NGO Monitor is a conservative pro-Israel site which aims to promote "critical debate and accountability of
human rights NGOs in the Arab-Israeli conflict." The organization has successfully conducted campaigns
against Oxfam and the Ford Foundation -- leading to formal apologies and changes in practice -- on the
grounds that these organizations are too anti-Israeli.
NGOWatch is a project of the American Enterprise Institute which monitors NGOs. The project is primarily a
negative analysis of NGOs which are considered to be on the progressive side of the political spectrum.
Indian NGOs is a portal of over 20,000 NGOs who work with the corporate sector in India. This portal offers
insights into how the corporate sector is using NGOs to benefit their program.
In recent years, many large corporations have beefed up 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.
NGOs are not legal entities under international law, as states are. An exception is the International Committee
of the Red Cross, which is considered a legal entity under international law because it is based on the Geneva
The Council of Europe in Strasbourg drafted the European Convention on the Recognition of the Legal
Personality of International Non-Governmental Organisations 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.
There is a growing movement within the "non"-profit and "non"-government sector to define itself in a more
constructive, accurate way. Instead of being defined by "non" words, organizations are suggesting new
terminology to describe the sector. The term "civil society organization" (CSO) has been used by a growing
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number of organizations, such as The Center for the Study of Global Governance. The term "citizen sector
organization" (CSO) has also been advocated to describe the sector -- as one of citizens, for citizens. This
labels and positions the sector as its own entity, without relying on language used for the government or
business sectors. However some have argued that this is not particularly helpful given that most NGOs are in
fact funded by governments and business.
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