NGOs are defined as “private organizations which conduct and pursue activities to relieve sufferings, promote the interests of poor, provide basic social services or undertake community development”. In wider usage, the term NGO can be applied to any non profiting organization which is independent from the government. NGOs are typically value based organizations which depend, in whole or in part, on charitable donations and voluntary service. Although theNGO sector has become increasingly professional over the last two decades, principles of altruism and voluntarism remain key defining characters.
NGOs range in their size and scope from large charities as CARE, OXFAM, World Vision of global fame to regional, national and community based self help groups. They include research centres, religious institutions and professional associations. Based on their functioning NGOs can be divided in two distinct categories. Operational NGOs. Such organizations work for the betterment of humanity through practical application of their resources and abilities. They under take welfare measures, development projects and assists the governments and its agencies in crises management.
Advocacy NGOs. This type of NGOs are more focused and deals with a specific purpose with a view to defend and promote a particular cause. Commonly dealt issues are health, education and poverty. At times a no of advocacy NGOs may unite under a single operational NGOwhile advocating their particular cause. Physical application usually is not within the domain of such types. Operational NGOs find their roots in masses on contrary to the other type. Their role in disaster management is of paramount importance. These can further be classified as under.
Community Based Organizations. These are normally membership organizations made up of a group of individuals who have joined together to further their own interests. Normally based on communal system such organizations are weak in resources and funds with prime dependence on charity and donations. However, having grass root foundations, if linked with the two types being described below, communal organizations can be very effective. National Organizations. Well financed and sufficiently equipped such organizations have national objectives.
They primarily focus within the boundaries of a particular country, although at times may have international links. Edhi foundation and Insar Burni trust are the glaring examples. International Organizations. Normally based in developed countries such organizations operate around the world particularly the developing countries. They have a wider scope and are linked to world fame bodies as UNO and world bank. At times they play an intermediary role between these organizations, governments and small scaled NGOs. Role in October 8th Disaster.
The country saw more than 160 local, regional and international NGOs responding to the disaster. They brought specialized capabilities and resources with varying means to apply them. The major contributions can be listed as under. Augmentation and occasional replacement of local and regional administration. Provision of mass casualty evacuation and related relief. Assistance in restoration of basic life support systems and public services. Coordinating and prioritizing the efforts of independent volunteers. Communication and sharing of information among government agencies, various private entities and the public.
Specialized tasks of medication, engineering services, transportation and shelter provision. The support was massive and above expectation. However, the absence of a coordinated effort and the resultant incorrect application was the sore part. An in depth analysis of their working and contributions to determine their positives and negatives is therefore a must. The recent experience reveals their under mentioned strengths and weaknesses. POSITIVES Strong Grass Root Links. Gaining their strength from the masses these organizations are well linked in their areas of influence.
Moreover, their selfless approach and unpaid working, help them gain the sympathies of people. Innovative and Adaptable. In most cases NGOs do not have a set agenda to operate. Their basic aim being to serve humanity they are capable to undertake varying nature of tasks. Sincerity of Purpose. At occasions NGOs are blamed to have secondary objectives of self propagation. In certain cases it might be true, however, the basic purpose to serve humanity remains in built to any NGO. Expertise. NGOs are usually well trained and have requisite expertise to apply their resources.
They have the specialized man power and technical know how to implement their objectives. Cost Effective. Charity and donations forms the base of their finances. This very system, make these outfits highly productive with almost negligible input. NEGATIVES Limited Institutional Capacity. In most cases the scope of NGOs particularly at national level and below does not match their organizational abilities. Their intended tasks are usually not within their own capabilities and they normally need outside assistance from the government and local establishment. Resource and Financial Constraint.
Small scaled NGOs normally do not have sufficient funds and resources to manage their affairs. Absence of a regular source of income and mere dependence on donors and charity are their vulnerabilities. Isolated Working. NGOs are very weak in inter communication and coordinated working, either with the government or with their fellow organizations. They have their own agenda and work with a particular mind set. In large scale disasters duplication and wastage of efforts are therefore a common doing. Limited Field Sustainability. Dealing with disasters at occasions require prolonged field employment.
The associated staff of NGOs are normally not permanent. They are linked to some other jobs for their regular incomes. Long term employment of NGOs for field work is therefore a problem. Compatible Understanding. Their direction and way of working is self assessed. They usually lack understanding of the broader social and economic context. The problem arises when they have to operate in coordination with the government and its agencies. Their limited focus and inability to view the overall framework not only limits their own out put but is also a drag on others
Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have played a major role in pushing for sustainable development at the international level. Campaigning groups have been key drivers of inter-governmental negotiations, ranging from the regulation of hazardous wastes to a global ban on land mines and the elimination of slavery. But NGOs are not only focusing their energies on governments and inter-governmental processes. With the retreat of the state from a number of public functions and regulatory activities, NGOs have begun to fix their sights on powerful corporations – many of which can rival entire nations in terms of their resources and influence.
Aided by advances in information and communications technology, NGOs have helped to focus attention on the social and environmental externalities of business activity. Multinational brands have been acutely susceptible to pressure from activists and from NGOs eager to challenge a company’s labour, environmental or human rights record. Even those businesses that do not specialize in highly visible branded goods are feeling the pressure, as campaigners develop techniques to target downstream customers and shareholders.
In response to such pressures, many businesses are abandoning their narrow Milton Friedmanite shareholder theory of value in favour of a broader, stakeholder approach which not only seeks increased share value, but cares about how this increased value is to be attained. Such a stakeholder approach takes into account the effects of business activity – not just on shareholders, but on customers, employees, communities and other interested groups. There are many visible manifestations of this shift. One has been the devotion of energy and resources by companies to environmental and social affairs.
Companies are taking responsibility for their externalities and reporting on the impact of their activities on a range of stakeholders. Nor are companies merely reporting; many are striving to design new management structures which integrate sustainable development concerns into the decision-making process. Much of the credit for creating these trends can be taken by NGOs. But how should the business world react to NGOs in the future? Should companies batten down the hatches and gird themselves against attacks from hostile critics?
Or should they hold out hope that NGOs can sometimes be helpful partners? For those businesses willing to engage with the NGO community, how can they do so? The term NGO may be a ubiquitous term, but it is used to describe a bewildering array of groups and organizations – from activist groups ‘reclaiming the streets’ to development organizations delivering aid and providing essential public services. Other NGOs are research-driven policy organizations, looking to engage with decision-makers. Still others see themselves as watchdogs, casting a critical eye over current events.
They hail from north and south and from all points in between – with the contrasting levels of resources which such differences often imply. Some are highly sophisticated, media-savvy organizations like Friends of the Earth and WWF; others are tiny, grassroots collectives, never destined to be household names. Although it is often assumed that NGOs are charities or enjoy non-profit status, some NGOs are profit-making organizations such as cooperatives or groups which lobby on behalf of profit-driven interests.
For example, the World Trade Organization’s definition of NGOs is broad enough to include industry lobby roups such as the Association of Swiss Bankers and the International Chamber of Commerce. Such a broad definition has its critics. It is more common to define NGOs as those organizations which pursue some sort of public interest or public good, rather than individual or commercial interests. Even then, the NGO community remains a diverse constellation. Some groups may pursue a single policy objective – for example access to AIDS drugs in developing countries or press freedom. Others will pursue more sweeping policy goals such as poverty eradication or human rights protection.
However, 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. Not all NGOs are amenable to collaboration with the private sector.
Some will prefer to remain at a distance, by monitoring, publicizing, and criticizing in cases where companies fail to take seriously their impacts upon the wider community. However, many are showing a willingness to devote some of their energy and resources to working alongside business, in order to address corporate social responsibility. To learn more about what these partnerships look like, go to ‘Opposites attract’ using the menu on the left. There, NGO-business relations expert Jem Bendell explores several NGO-business relationships and explains how the new wave of partnerships differs from old-style corporate philanthropy.