This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
, of widely differing sizes, aims or missions, and defies definition because of this diversity. It is a term used rather loosely to refer to any organisation that is not a direct division of a national government [Weisgrau 1997].
NGOs vary in numerous ways including their:
(1) Composition, (2) Size, (3) Mission or purpose, (4) Sources of funding,
(5) History, (6) Whether or not they focus on a particular arena such as agriculture or craft production, (7) Whether they provide innovative models in “technology, research methods, or institutional arrangements” which can potentially be scaled up, and (8) Their manner of day-to-day functioning, including decision-making.
There is not always a clear dividing line between types of NGOs, and some do more than one thing well. Furthermore, there is no question that a man or woman who has become literate, or who has managed to develop a small business or to become free from a local moneylender, is empowered.
The net effect of activities of an NGO might be to strengthen the status quo, indeed some traditional NGOs have seen this as their main function, i e, making some improvements while at the same time not altering power relations. Sometimes an NGO that was only concerned with economic issues, suddenly finds its members talking about social action. Or some NGOs that were only focusing on advocacy find themselves having to help members get microcredit loans. One example of the latter is providing free or subsidised food for victims of political oppression or war, or helping people (either through microcredit or micro-enterprise development) to steady their sources of income.
NGOs also provide a source of employment for numerous people including: (1) Middle class, educated men and women who often though not always have a sense of dedication; (2) Some retired people who have a great deal of energy and expertise to offer; (3) Some of the slightly better educated villagers, especially some from the lower castes; as well as people from a number of other categories
SIZE • Organisation size: NGOs can be as small as a single village, as large as CARE or OXFAM England; (2) Number of countries and people involved in the organisation: Most tend to be countrybased, but not all. Sometimes they involve one 'developed country' and numerous developing countries;
(3)Geographical scope: if rural, number of villages (in the case of south Asia, number of Panchayats, districts, (3) states; if urban, number and spread of urban centres or cities as well as number of diverse neighbourhoods
(1)To what degree is the organisation hierarchical? If hierarchical, how is it organised and how much autonomy do different people or cells within the organisation have? (Is it bottom up, top down, or some combination? To what extent does the organisation give power to those at the top, i.e, how hierarchical is it, etc? How paternalistic/materialistic is the NGO in relation to its supposed beneficiary? What is the class background of those higher in the organisation compared to the beneficiaries? What kind of an attempt is being made to bring in beneficiaries in important positions within the organisation?
2) To what extent does the NGO's membership consist of non-local people? How many are highly educated or from the outside and how much power do they have? (3) If the organisation is not very hierarchical, or the hierarchy rotates, then how do they get things done? What is the focal point for decision-making? How are decisions made and who brings up the topics to be discussed? (4) How centralised is the organisation, or is each branch more-or-less independent? (5) How much decision-making power do minorities or women have?
(1) Administrative processes: Are the people involved paid or unpaid or a mixture of both? In the latter case, is there tension between the paid and the unpaid people in the organisation? (2) Functional processes: Who makes decisions, under which circumstances, who decides if funding is needed and how to go about obtaining it, etc?
(3) Goals or 'purpose': all inclusive; health; employment generation and/or income generation and/or marketing of produce; loan programmes; agricultural programmes; child care; providing sustenance for people in distress (abused women, orphan children, etc); training (skills training, conscientization, in organisational and accounting skills and training for roles in local government); advocacy.
(1) How did the NGO come into existence? For example: did the NGO start as a co-operative, formed by the members themselves to help sell products they all make or provide for things they all need? If so, has it ventured into other activities? (2) Did the NGO come into being as a grass roots movement, or was it started by outsiders (often well-intentioned dedicated educated people)? (3) What about NGOs like SEWA-Ahmedabad, that came out of the labour union movement and still works as a quasilabour union, yet at the same time provides credit and banking services to the 'unbankable'?
Source of Funding Some small NGOs work only with volunteers, use participant donated space and equipment and do not need (or sometimes want) any funding for their activities. However, most NGOs, whether in a developed or developing country, need to raise funds for their very existence (to pay full-time staff, for rent, etc), and for projects or activities. Some try to manage with very limited funding, but most require some degree of outside funding. The classification thus distinguishes between: NGOs receiving foreign funds from the developed world, including bilateral funds, international agencies, NGOs in the developed world such as OXFAM, or various church groups, marketing organisations such as Pueblo to People; or from individuals, foundations, special funds, etc;
(2) NGOs only or also receiving partial funding from their respective national governments;
(3) In the case of south Asia, NGOs receiving funds from state governments or even local district governments;
(4) NGOs using only or primarily funds raised
through group members' donations or small monthly fees, etc; (5) Varied combinations of the above 4.
RELATIONSHIP WITH THE STATE
The relationship between NGOs and the state have been hotly debated at the United Nations before, during and after the six major international conferences of the past 10 years: The Rio Conference on the Environment, the Population Conference in Cairo, the Social Summit in Copenhagen, the Women's Conference in Beijing, the Habitat Conference in Turkey and the World Food Summit in Rome. At all of these, NGOs had a striking presence and ran parallel or prior forum presenting other than official perspectives and pushing governments as much as they could to take changed stances. In the five-year follow-upsto these conferences, NGOs again have had the opportunity to organise at the United Nations to protest and to discuss their disappointments with their own as well as other countries' progress
Farrington et al make an important point about the relationship between NGOs and the state, namely, that "NGOs in different countries have had constraints placed upon their activities by the political climate created by government regimes...[They go on to identify] NGOs working in environments of political repression... NGOs working with relatively non-antagonistic but bureaucratic government agencies under stable but non-democratic conditions...and NGOs working under conditions of relative democracy [here they include India, Nepal and Bangladesh]" [Farrington et al 1995]. In the case of India where there is considerable power in the hands of each state, the state government's policies also must be taken into account. NGOs may be classified in terms of whether they are:
Working with local governments, and if so is it through a process of collaboration or one of co-optation? An example of a controversial collaboration was that between Myrada (based in Bangalore) and the Karnataka state watershed management project. (It should be noted that a federation of voluntary organisations for rural development in Karnataka, FEVORD-K, has developed links with government primarily because they have seen a government open to their influence on policy matters).
Farrington et al list four conditions which have to be met if NGO-GO interaction is to have any success. It is useful to list these here [Farrington et al 1995:79-83]: (1) Overall relations between NGOS and the state would have to be at least neutral or if possible favourable. (2) The need to share similar visions for the future of the poor, which in the case of rural areas includes the GO personnel overcoming their urban biases. (3) The degree to which the two have different views or models of development. "For instance, GOs may see as desirable: the buying-out of small farmers by and large [and all that implies, whereas many NGOs]...may be aiming at the establishment of a self-supporting class of small farmers" (p 11). (4) And finally they note the wider diversity of philosophies, objectives and modes of operation of NGOs in contrast to GOs, and the fact that they are not required to work together. In the case of NGOs that function as advocacy groups most of these conditions are violated.
In terms of purpose, another way in which NGOs have tended to differ from GOs has been in terms of solutions to problems. Most sustainable agriculture projects have been financed and developed in the NGO sector. NGO networks: NGO networks both internationally, nationally, and on the state and district level are extremely important if NGOs are to have a significant impact. As noted just above, it was the network of groups from diverse parts of Bankura district (some 4-8 hours apart by jungle roads), that has managed to empower the local women and to influence the local government.
NGOS AND PUBLIC POLICY
1) At present there is a growing demand being made by NGOs at the UN and in some countries at least, that they be given a larger role in the formulation of national policy including fiscal policy so that the citizenry of a country have some role in what is happening to it and in formulating policies, programme, and projects. Some of the new monitoring organisations set up after the Rio Conference such as WEDO, which is based in New York but has members all over the globe, and Women's Eyes on the World Bank, which is based in Washington (some of the members at the Bread for the World, a US-based worldwide NGO), have been working hard along with others to connect women's concerns about national policy to places and people who are in the process of making it. How large a role these NGOS can have in the future is hard to project, but already on a small scale they have begun to play a significant role in influencing decisions which affect the lives of their members.
Indeed, what is emerging is the recognition that the policy of the past 40 years of organisations like the World Bank relating exclusive to governments is no longer appropriate, and even where NGOs have negative relations with their governments, they must be recognised as legitimate national and international actors. Whether or not NGOs' will become eligible for World Bank loans, or even if this would be a good thing from the NGOs point of view, remains to be seen.
There are many conclusions that can be drawn from the current status of NGOs in south Asia and elsewhere. It is useful to summarise both some of the negatives connected with NGOs as well as the positives. 1 They are often small and have small budgets compared to governments and to the number of people needing help. 2 The micro-finance and micro-enterprise projects now so much in vogue do help people but tend to stabilise them at a very low socio-economic level. They may also be tenuous in that if an enterprise becomes really productive or selling well, then there is a tendency for outside business people with many resources to come in and take over.
3 Because of their poverty and need to pay their staff, they often have to compromise on what they consider to be the 'right approach' and do what funders want or what there is money available for. 4 There is a strong tendency for non-advocacy NGOs to go along with status quo. 5 They often lack access to and any voice in the mass media.
What continue to be some of the positive function of NGOs?
1 To educate people about laws, entitlements, etc; 2 To advocate for changes in society or in structured inequality; 3 To monitor governments both local and national so that the elites and multinationals are partly controlled; 4 While providing credit and helping individual members improve themselves financially, to also empower women and the poor to stand up for themselves, to help create an alternative model of development;
5 Making use of participatory research and participatory decision-making, to try out experiments that the government bureaucracy is not capable of doing but might be interested in spreading if it is proven to be successful; 6 To start processes that can spread from village to village without help of NGOs but just through empowered people
This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
We've moved you to where you read on your other device.
Get the full title to continue reading from where you left off, or restart the preview.