Nongovernmental Organizations NGOs

NONGOVERNMENTAL ORGANIZATIONS (NGOS), while a comparatively modern phenomenon, have existed in the form of charitable organizations or political associations since the 18th century. During the 18th and 19th centuries, many people formed specific, community-based organizations, designed to meet specific community needs, or to advance particular policies. The issues targeted by these groups were broad in scope and included women's rights, the status of the poor, local government reform issues, alcoholism, and, later, in the 18th century, trade union issues. Many of these groups converged to work together for a common goal. A good example is the anti-slavery movement, founded in England in the late 18th century, which galvanized the establishment of many groups, that worked together to develop the World Anti-Slavery Convention (1840). Other examples include the World Alliance of Young Men's Christian Associations (YMCAs), founded in 1855, and the International Committee for the Red Cross, founded in 1863.

The term was not officially coined until 1945, when the United Nation's Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) tried to differentiate its relationship with and participation rights for, intergovernmental specialized agencies and international private organizations. Ultimately, ECOSOC decided under Article 71,

Chapter 10, resolution 288 (X) of the UN Charter that an international NGO (INGO) was "any international organisation that is not founded by an international treaty." The UN also determined that NGOs should be given suitable arrangements to be consulted on key issues. According to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), NGOs also include "profit making organizations, foundations, educational institutions, churches and other religious groups and missions, medical organizations and hospitals, unions and professional organizations, cooperatives and cultural groups as well as voluntary agencies." Colloquial terminology that identifies different types of NGOs includes the terms INGO, International NGO; BINGO, Business NGO; RINGO, Religious NGO; QANGO, Quasi NGO, and ENGO, Environment NGO.

The status of NGOs was confirmed in the three conventions arising from the Rio Summit in 1992, which defined the nature of NGOs as "major groups" and as any organization that subscribes to the conventions' objectives. These major groups include indigenous people, groups representing women, youth, workers, and farmers, local governments, the scientific community, business and industry, grassroots and religious organizations, trade unions, and other NGOs (international, national and local). All three conventions call for active partnerships with NGOs to further implementation of the articles of the convention.

There are thousands of active NGOs operating at local to international scales. According to one estimate, some 25,000 organizations qualify as INGOs (with programs and affiliates in a number of countries), up from less than 400 a century ago. Amnesty International, for example, has more than a million members, affiliates or networks in over 90 countries and territories, and employs over 300 staff in its London office alone. The International Freedom of Expression eXchange (IFEX), which was founded in 1992, is a global network of more than 60 NGOs that promote and defend the right to freedon of expression. According to the 2002 UNDP Human Development Report, nearly one-fifth of the world's 37,000 NGOs were formed in the 1990s. A 1995 UN study on global governance reports that there are nearly 29,000 INGOs. This report also found that the United States has an estimated 2 million NGOs, Russia has

65,000 NGOs, and in countries such as Kenya, up to 240 NGOs come into existence every year.

NGOs have wide scope and appeal. RNGOs include the World Council of Churches, Caritas International, the World Jewish Congress, and the International Muslim Union, while examples of political NGOs include the Inter-parliamentary Union or the work of the Socialist International. Even in the cultural arena, NGOs play an active role, as the International Pen Club and the International Confederation of Authors and Composers highlight. Finally, the activities of Amnesty International in the human rights field as well as those of Greenpeace in the field of environmental protection are well known. Many NGOs such as the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and Friends of the Earth investigate issues that affect human and environmental welfare, and often the nexus between the two.

NGOs are constituted and operate in diverse ways. Structurally, an NGO can be a global hierarchical organization, single- or multi-issue based, grassroots, or a formally-accredited body. While there are many active international organizations such as the Red Cross, or CARE, most NGOs operate within a single country and frequently function only within a local setting. Some NGOs, such as legal assistance groups, are service-based. Many are essentially neighborhood groups established to promote local issues, such as community improvement, or street safety.

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