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Globalization and the Role of NGOs
by Saberi Roy
2008-10-02 08:40:27
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NGOs or non-governmental organizations are characterized by their focus on long term goals addressing social issues that have direct impact on greater public benefits. NGOs are typically non profit organizations as well and tend to move beyond the philosophy of profit making to promote the philosophy of serving humanity. The areas of concern for NGOs are varied and range from protection of human rights, eradication of poverty, to research in policies and sustainable development. Although many researchers, analysts and critics are hopeful about the status and contribution of NGOs in all development related issues, some are critical and skeptical of the role of NGOs in international development, human rights advocacy or eradication of poverty.

In a globalized world, the role of NGOs could be actually very important yet it should be evaluated along different dimensions highlighting the strengths and weaknesses of such organizations.

NGOs have the fundamental advantage of being global organizations where boundaries are not important. The very fact that NGOs focus their goals on the greater public good suggest that ethnic or religious boundaries are transcended and this inherent global character of NGOs joined by a common vision of serving all humanity add to their strengths. So the philosophy of NGOs is a very strong point and gives all NGOs a certain amount of inherent credibility. Other advantages include the possibility of being seen as politically neutral tools or forces that facilitate social change. NGOs are thus perceived as politically and socially independent, autonomous units not influenced by political motives.

Being perceived as global in character and objectives, NGOs tend to fit well in a globalized world where large multinational corporations also promote the philosophy of globalization and patronize NGOs and related social causes as mandatory aspects of corporate social responsibility. With the large scale global financial transactions, the philanthropic dimensions of corporations and individuals are seen as essential aspects of social success and responsibility. If influential individuals and renowned businessmen do not support social causes for the greater public good, they may not attain a certain level of respectability, so giving, just as consuming is part of our global culture and is an increasingly important aspect of globalization as well, whether at an individual or at a corporate level. The idea is, if you are making your millions, you have to give away your millions as well, in order to be seen as a socially responsible individual. This is how, NGOs are hugely influential and tend to have an advantageous position as all such ‘extra’ funds of companies and individuals are usually directed towards NGOs. Yet with millions of NGOs in the developed and developing nations, only few have been successful in making any difference.

Along with a culture of giving that globalization seems to be promoting, the new globalized world has opened advanced routes of communication and technologies that have changed the way by which NGOs promote their achievements. With the aid of advanced communication methods NGOs could play a significant role in promoting greater social causes. With social tools such as websites and networking, NGOs can increase their visibility and with the right directions attract donors, sponsors and patrons to help them grow to worldwide influential organizations. The new media and communication channels such as the internet could be used to full potential to not just highlight the social role of NGOs, the present projects and future goals but also to highlight social issues and increase awareness among people who are not directly affected by issues like hunger, poverty or human rights abuse. So getting more and more people involved is an important part of international development and NGOs can mediate between people who need help and people ready to help using advanced communication channels. So NGOs play the central role of mediators between the rich and the poor, between the developing and developed nations, or between the decision makers and the victims of abuse and neglect.

However, two most important points that drive the success of NGOs are – accountability or credibility and clear objectives or project goals. The projects NGOs focus on are very important because the projects give identity to NGOs. So we know World Vision have child sponsorship programs to give children a future and ActionAid International helps to fight global poverty. It is imperative that even the smallest of NGOs provide detailed reports on their projects and objectives in order to strengthen their donor network and improve their own credibility. In fact a transparent balance sheet increases accountability of NGOs and such accountability or ‘credibility’ plays a huge role in the success of NGOs.

So the success of an NGO depends on 1. a complete and detailed report of all the past, present and future projects – their achievements and objectives and this should be ideally illustrated on their websites (if they have any); and 2. a complete and detailed report of all their financial acquisitions including donations, sponsorships, funds and grants obtained as also the expenses and this should be provided in a mandatory annual report.

The transparency both in terms of work and in terms of funds obtained should be maintained at all levels although many smaller NGOs in developing nations do not always provide such reports of either the projects completed or the funds obtained in a systematic manner. This lack of transparency and a clear report is a major deterrent for the growth of smaller NGOs across the developing world. There are several instances of misused or misdirected financial aid which do not finally reach the people in need. So credibility among NGOs will have to reach at the grass roots level with even the smallest of NGOs encouraged to provide detailed reports on all their funds and activities. It is usually seen that although all major worldwide NGOs provide annual reports and project reports, the smaller NGOs in developing nations of Africa or Asia do not always provide a complete picture of their acquisitions and expenses. This creates a major gap in perception and the increasing confusion about the activities of NGOs could be detrimental to the development of particular regions as smaller NGOs are sometimes very effective in aid distribution as they tackle region specific issues and such organizations are absolutely necessary during emergencies and natural disasters.

The major direction of globalization seems to be a rising philanthropic trend, yet with corporations and influential individuals directing their money towards NGOs there remains a gap between the credibility of NGOs and the need for such accountability so funds are either misdirected or unevenly distributed. This has resulted in some organizations accumulating huge amounts of donations and some organizations completely neglected as even if they have goals and objectives, they may lack transparency or are located in developing nations with no websites or press releases and thus have little or no international exposure.

It is important that donors and sponsors and corporate bodies reach out to the smaller or less significant NGOs which in turn should make efforts to provide detailed reports of their finances and expenses, their projects and objectives. Major international bodies like the United Nations or World Association of Non Governmental Organizations should take measures to increase credibility among the smaller NGOs especially in developing nations and also to direct funds to those areas or projects where they are most needed.     

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Shnitzell2010-06-14 11:22:05
This is Shit! Very unhelpful...

mrinal kumar dutta2011-10-06 17:25:02
given your paper as reference in my dissertation.

thank you very much.

ggrg2012-03-23 18:29:52

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