What is an NGO?
NGO.org says that an NGO:
- is a non-profit, voluntary citizens' group;
- is organized on a local, national or international level;
- can perform a variety of service and humanitarian functions;
- is usually organized around specific issues such as human rights, environment or health.
A straightforward definition...but questions remain. The watchdog group Global Policy Forum asks some of these questions here.
Wikipedia also has a detailed article about NGOs: what they are, how they can be classified, what they do, and how they are organized, funded, and monitored. The legitimacy of some NGOs is also scrutinized.
Technically, at least, NGOs do not promote a government agenda. However, many NGOs are funded by government – for example, a lot of non-military government foreign aid is channelled through NGOs. The Greenwood Encyclopedia of International Relations diplomatically calls this situation “not entirely unproblematic” (1172), which might be one reason some NGOs (like Human Rights Watch) shun government funding.
NGO project worker in Rwanda 2010
CARE packages were originally donated by the US as
emergency food relief to people in Europe in 1945.
The food package pictured was shipped in 1962
- destination unknown.
Wikimedia Commons image by Daderot is released into the Public Domain
- Cultural Survival
A small American NGO dedicated to the defense of the human rights of indigenous peoples
- Food for the Hungry (FH)
International Christian relief and development organization
- Greenpeace (Canada)
Peace & environment NGO concerned with issues like deforestation, overfishing, genetic engineering, & nuclear power
- Human Rights Watch
Conduct research, raise awareness, advocate for basic human rights (e.g. freedom of religion; freedom of the press), and oppose violations of rights (e.g. capital punishment; discrimination based on sexual orientation)
- Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders)
“Doctors” was in the vanguard of the “without borders” NGOs, and has a reputation for providing medical assistance under conditions of great duress and difficulty. The vast majority of its funding is from private philanthropists, meaning the organization is independent of the institutional interests of governments
Supports development programs, disaster response and anti-poverty initiatives
- Save the Children
Provides relief and support for children in developing countries
- World Vision
Christian humanitarian aid, development, and advocacy
Reef Check: an NGO dedicated to the conservation of
reef ecosystems, here taking data on the
Great Barrier Reef
Wikimedia Commons image by Steveprutz
Other Resources on NGOs:
- WANGO: (World Association of Non-Governmental Organizations)
An umbrella organization that facilitates partnership, communication, and resource-sharing among NGOs.
Their directory of members (there are many thousands of them) is here.