Global Civil Society-Role of International NGOs Essay

Global Civil Society-Role of International NGOs


We live in a globalized world, where decisions are made taking every society’s account into perspective, this notion is a mere theoretical phrase. What is really happening is the exploitation of weaker nations at the hands of the powerful ones. The concept of a civil structure emerged as a need for the human race to preserve the integrity of mankind. The concept of civil society demands that a society be formed where democracy rather than monarchy is the rule and no body is subjugated. The weak are helped by the influential and justice is prevailed.

        “Talking about civil society LSE in one of their articles have defined civil society as a concept located strategically at the cross section of important strands of intellectual developments in the social sciences”. [1] A society engrained with the principles of integrity and justice can be regarded as a civic society. The entire fabric of the human civilization has been weaved around the concept of the provision of an advanced cultural society which entails the right to live with dignity and to die with honor of every human being. The concept of NGO’s or non Government Organization has erupted as a consequence of the urge to make this world a better place to live in. Governments no matter how influential or powerful , have certain political objectives and these objectives and goals need to be looked after at all costs , These problems in the non unanimous treatment has lead to the formation of NGO’S .

            An NGO has been defined[2] as, “An organization working for the upliftment of society without political motives.” The term NGO was used for the first time in 1945 through the charter of the United Nations organization for the organizations having a consultative role and not being part of a Government setup. It was the rampant Globalization that gave rise to the creation of NGOs

Before beginning our discussion it is imperative that the need for the establishment of an NGO and a brief account of their workings be outlined. Any NGO working in different parts of the world has certain objectives which are generally referred to as the charter of the NGO; it forms the very basis of existence of an NGO. To be able to clearly define what is the ultimate aim of an organization, is what makes the job of running an organization a whole lot easer.

          In his Book “Global civil society, Lester has written,”A Global associational revolution is underway around the world; a massive upsurge of organized private voluntary activity is underway in virtually every corner of the globe”.  NGOs around the world are catering to different purposes , some are looking after peace initiatives while others like Green peace have made it their mandate to create environment awareness and help improve the environment , Amnesty international is looking after human rights while the Red Crescent is looking after providing relief to people stuck up in emergency situations . [3]

          No matter which part of the world they cater for or what ever their charter, the ultimate aim of the NGOs is to make this earth a better place to live in. Most of the NGOs work on a national basis, catering to the issues that affect at home e.g. the senior citizens foundation and the health care forum, which are working for the betterment of national problems like old age indemnity and drug abuse. According to an estimate there are around 4 million NGOs working around the US.  The main focus of most of these organizations is the betterment of living standards and to help the nation in hours of crises.

          The NGOs following a world based approach or which are more so globalize like Red Cross or the amnesty international have coordinated their activities to liaison with the activities of the world community. The management of an NGO requires a dedicated service for the people, as the establishment of an NGO is not that much of a task as regards to the Herculean task of getting an NGO on its feet and contributing towards human development.        After the establishment of a charter the next question which encompasses the establishment of an NGO is adequate staffing. The staff which is present generally consists of a group of volunteers who are willing to work for the charter of the NGO and are well conversant with the working environment. A lot of problems are encountered when the NGOs under take work in the parts of the world unknown to its members or workers. For this problem local people are to be inducted who have a good know how of the topographical area and can help along with the regular team. . The problems of funding its various projects have always been a point of concern for the different NGOs. The funding is usually generated though charities world wide.

          Being able to generate funds is on what depends the life line of a particular NGO. For this purpose various issues need to be kept in mind such as the group of people who are willing to contribute. The charter which defines a clear goal oriented specificity of an NGO needs to attract potential fund raisers to the NGO. An NGO with adequate funding can only then help out in achieving its objectives.


The concept of accountability of an NGO is gaining world wide acceptance. People often have their reservations against the projects in which the money that they are giving out will be spent by an NGO. The Governments of Various countries are trying to formulate policies according to which every NGO must be listed and full report of the projects be made to the accountability committee. Not withstanding the issue of accountability often occupies the panel of discussions in the various forums of the NGOs as well. It is only when the committee agrees to a certain area that development needs to be undertaken that a fund or grant is allotted and a workable plan is made. This needs to be within the allotted budget and needs to take into account the various dimensions of a project e.g. the relief work taken by the red crescent society in the recent events of tsunami , earthquake in Pakistan , war in Lebanon etc needs thorough research into the administrative matters .

The need for urgent supply of relief goods to a particular group of people needs to be well organized. it is because people in a life and death situation face the harsh reality of death . Death from starvation, death from elements, death from disease. In order to provide relief to the community in need one needs to have a thorough disaster management plan. The disaster plan needs to consist of the acronym POSDCORB[4] , which involves, planning, organization, staffing, directing, coordinating, rehabilitation and budgeting. The planning phase is indeed one which is of crucial importance, it involves finding out the problem, tackling statistical analysis and then moving on to solve the problem or rather to make an approachable plan. The proper organization involves delegating responsibilities, administration is no longer an authoritarian role rather one of constant coordination. Assigning the right task to the right person is what can make the difference between good and bad governance. Talking about staffing, this term in its very own standing involves the adequate staff upkeep of an organization, staff involved is to be dedicated and honest to the task at hand, because it isn’t merely a job rather it’s a vocation. The phase of coordinating and directing comes under the sphere of administration and is the core around which the machinery or physical structure of an NGO revolves around. Rehabilitation of the population is important for sustainability of efforts, without adequate rehabilitation the community would end up in the same phase that it started on and Budgeting indeed plays the cardinal role. Without proper funding or budgeting of an organization the efforts or the vigor of the participating member’s amounts to nil, after all it’s the money that keeps the mare go. In case of an NGO where all of the finances are to be self generated this can make the difference between success and failure of a particular NGO.

          Keeping these points in mind an NGO involved in relief work needs to evaluate it’s efficacy in providing relief to the local population of the disaster struck areas. In their article on holding NGOs accountable the Oxford intellegiencia[5] has remarked that though a structuring is available the provision of relief goods poses problems when they are encountered with local regulations. The various problems encountered in the recent tsunami relief effort speaks volumes of the  fact that a need to regularize the relief efforts needs that local factors need to be taken into account to , such as the tsunami relief efforts had to comply with the local legislations of the countries and this resulted in abuses to occur .

         People have time and again referred to the funding of the projects by the NGO and regarded them with an eye of suspicion. In an article by Jim Bendell [6] he has referred and enquired about the various fundings that an NGO receives, he questions the manner in which NGOs consider them at ease of distributing the various aids and without taking into account the real deal. This clause has already been explained that committees have been formed which take into account the total budget.

         Looking from a global perspective, NGOs have come a long way since their inception. They no longer are just confined to their local areas of operations but have been transformed into world wide relief points. Governments of various countries try to help out their population in the best possible manner but it is only through the aid and efforts of the international organizations that they have been able to combat the situation out on the fore front. During the food crises in Somalia , Ethiopia , Uganda and other African countries , where civil war was rampant and no Government structure what so ever was available it were the organizations like Amnesty International and Red Cross[7] which provided relief to the local population through the provision of food items and housing facilities . Food centers were set up which provided for the local population. The warlords were hell bent in claiming their share out of the land and it was these NGOs who rose to the occasion and provided relief to the millions suffering.

          The work of an NGO not only encompasses immediate relief but the rehabilitation of the local populace as well. Thousands of people are employed through the NGOs and a lot of the NGOs are providing or imparting vocational training to the local populace. The projects initiated by Shell[8] petroleum company in various regions of the globe  is helping millions earn a decent livelihood through the training being imparted and the funds that are being allocated to the development of their areas . Though strictly speaking shell is not an NGO , but a part of a multidimensional workforce , but they have prove that with a will to improve the world condition the world can be made a better and healthier place to live in . The initiatives taken by the Green Peace are a class in themselves. Taking the issue of global warming to the headquarters of United Nations is what can be mentioned in a no small part to the society itself. Quoting the various references about the effects of Global warming Green Peace has helped in creating awareness regarding the different environmental issues that are affecting us.

          The concept of a green car or an environmentally safe vehicle was proposed and then the various car manufacturing companies have taken up the task and the invent of environmentally friendly vehicles can be attributed to the positive role that the society has played in creating an international awareness regarding the issue. The role played by the various NGOs in shaping the world that we live in has been enormous or if we say that the impact of these NGOs has been enormous.

          In the book “Debating NGO accountability”[9] the author has reflected of the ways that the NGOs around the world have helped the respective Governments, “NGOs have helped hold Government and intergovernmental bodies to account. The problem is as higher expectations of NGO accountability are acted upon; this might backfire by tying the hands of NGOs and reducing the accountability business and Government. ” If we talk about the role of NGOs on a global basis they have truly reformed this planet. This world situation is now under two systems of domination either it is the imperial rule or the democratic rule.

          This world is now stressed by the global events, developed countries can no longer be contended with the fact that their economies are striving, but rather they need to look out that the world is being equally just to all countries, otherwise a wide spread civil crises in one part of the world may very well upset the balance and as a result the economic setup of the developed world will be effected badly. The role of NGOs has always been that of a solace provider, of a force of accountability. These institutions help the world in addressing issues on a grass root level.

          Being able to comprehend the real problems is the need of the hour. Nobody knows the situation better than the people involved. Organizations like Amnesty International[10] have contributed in the upliftment of human rights group , their recent work in Syria, Congo , Zaire etc speaks volumes regarding t he struggle in upliftment of the human rights upheaval. Human rights violations in Iraq were also identified through the active involvement of Amnesty international. Being able to safeguard the human rights of the population at large that has resulted in the world to be at guard regarding human rights abuses. This role as compared to the consequences the organization faced in its execution was of far greater significance than that played by any Government organization alone, even the UN cannot claim of the advances that it has made in the various fields of upliftment of human race without the help provided by the contribution of these associations.

Even in the war factions these NGOs have helped in providing solace and peace .The crises in East Timor has been addressed by the Indonesian NGOs[11] which drafted a letter in order to prevent the human rights abuses talking place in the region. These examples and a lot more show the way in which NGOs have reshaped the world opinion and how policies are being formulated around the world taking into account the views and reservations described by the various NGOs.


No organization can claim to make an overnight change, rather sustained cooperation and work is required if any change is required to be brought about in this world. The sustainability of the projects initiated by the NGOs and the streamlining of their objectives is what the need of the hour is. The Governments around the world should help out and ease the process and ways in which the organizations are helping people around the world. It is high time that the Governments should realize that they alone cannot help their community; it is only through the sustained and ongoing efforts of the different NGOs that the people in the various countries are being helped to get rid of their miseries.

          Weather it is the wrath of tsunami or the problem of famine , the non Government organizations around the world have helped the people at risk and have created awareness which ultimately results in the world community to take notice of the various activities which needs to be promulgated in order to improve the lives of the community . The NGOs will continue to shape the events of the world and to help them and support them in their noble cause is the need of the hour. This might help in the fulfillment of the dream of a world which is tolerant of each others views and where issues are taken up with a renewed vigor to sort them out. This might help us in creating a better planet for our future generations.


American Red Cross,1082,0_319_,00.html  Accessed, May 8, 2007

Amnesty International Accessed, May 8, 2007

Thomas D Schnied , Larry R  Collins. Disaster Mangement And Preparedness. pg 140-180 (2005)

Environment and Society – Environment and Society Accessed, May 8, 2007

Lester M. Salamon, S. Wojciech Sokolowski. Global Civil Society (Aug 2004) , pg 2-4

Holding NGOs Accountable – NGOs – Global Policy Forum Accessed, May 8, 2007

Non-governmental organization – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia Accessed, May 8, 2007

What is civil society? Accessed, May 8, 2007

Jem Bendell. Debating NGO Accountability, pg 50-60, (2006)

East Timor NGOs Urge U.S. Congress to End Assistance to Indonesian Military and to Work for Justice and International Tribunal Accessed, May 8, 2007

[1]What is civil society? Accessed May 6, 2007

[2] Non-governmental organization – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia Accessed May 6, 2007

[3] Lester M. Salamon, S. Wojciech Sokolowski. Global Civil Society (Aug 2004) , pg 2-4

[4] Thomas D Schnied , Larry R  Collins. Disaster Mangement And Preparedness. pg 140-180 (2005)

[5] Holding NGOs Accountable – NGOs – Global Policy Forum Accessed May 7, 2007

[6] Jem Bendell. Debating NGO Accountability, pg 50-60, (2006)
[7] American Red Cross,1082,0_319_,00.html Accessed May 7, 2007
[8] Environment and Society – Environment and Society Accessed May 7, 2007

[9] Jem Bendell. Debating NGO Accountability, pg 50-60, (2006)

[10] Amenest Internationanl Accessed May 4, 2007

[11] East Timor NGOs Urge U.S. Congress to End Assistance to Indonesian Military and to Work for Justice and International Tribunal Accessed May 7, 2007