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Growing Importance of NGOs in the International Arena



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Compendium of Civil Society Rights Documents (January 2010)

In January 2010, CIVICUS launched a compendium of civil society rights documents with an aim to strengthen and defend the rights of civic associations and citizen participation worldwide. As a first attempt to consolidate international standards and commitments relevant to civil society, the compendium highlights commitments made by the UN as well as governments - both nationally, regionally, internationally - to protect the rights of citizens and civil society organizations to actively participate in the shaping of policies and practices of government institutions. (CIVICUS)


Civil Society Actors in International Law and World Politics: Definition, Conceptual Framework, Problems (January 2008)

This paper argues that NGOs powerfully shape global politics. Since the fall of the Soviet Union, NGOs have increased in activity because governments inadequately deal with global problems like human rights violations and climate change. As entities distinct from governments, NGOs can mobilize and expand support for causes across borders. The author cites the Coalition for an International Criminal Court as a powerful example of how a global NGO network has reshaped international law. (International Journal of Civil Society Law)

Making NGO's More Effective and Responsive in a Globalized World (March 28, 2008)

This article describes how NGOs in the developing world can help the poor to benefit from economic globalization. In countries like South Africa, NGOs work with communities to negotiate optimal labor contracts, increase access to credit and prevent corrupt middle-men from stealing profits in business transactions. Donor countries increasingly channel development aid through nonprofits, rather than through government budgets. This gives NGOs capacity to dispense services that governments usually provide. (African Path)


Who Else Will Do the Work? (July 16, 2006)

According to this Worldpress piece, NGOs can play a key role in providing services that "should fall under the mandate of governments." The author suggests that some Eastern European governments respond too slowly, or not at all, to the needs of poor and underrepresented communities. As the article concludes, even small NGOs can band together to address problems such as unemployment and female illiteracy in poor neighborhoods.

The Power Shift and the NGO Credibility Crisis (January 2006)

Over the past half century, NGOs have increased four-fold and become astute at mobilizing support. In the midst of transnational threats, like global warming, and a wave of democratization, international and domestic institutions rely critically on NGO input. Yet there is a dearth of mechanisms to scrutinize NGOs themselves. This paper argues for a set of "industry-wide standards" to enhance NGO credibility. (International Journal of Not-for-Profit Law)


'We the Peoples,' Not the States (September 2005)

The UN system was founded on state sovereignty and protection from foreign intervention. From human rights to the provision of peace, sovereign states provide most social services. Whether weak or strong, some states either cannot or do not perform these functions. In their place, NGOs represent "popular sovereignty" by conveying the will of "we the peoples," as set out in the UN Charter. (Le Monde diplomatique)

'New Superpower' Seeks 'Better World' (June 3, 2005)

This Inter Press Service article cites NGO achievements in banning land mines, challenging corporations, and monitoring international institutions, echoing UN Secretary General Kofi Annan's description of civil society as "the world's new superpower." Hundreds of NGOs convene in Montreal to discuss their plans of action to continue the "campaign for a better global society."

The NGO Phenomenon (January 9, 2005)

Though the media commonly picture NGOs as disaster relief organizations, NGOs in fact represent a "worldwide phenomenon" and create "a positive effect on their societies" by participating in areas that governments overlook. This Baltimore Sun article relates a cursory history of NGOs, from the inception of CARE packages to the "symbiotic relationship" between the UN and NGOs.


The Role of NGOs and Civil Society in Global Environmental Governance (August 27, 2002)

This chapter of Global Environmental Governance: Options and Opportunities identifies the role civil society might play in five key areas of global environmental governance and presents case studies of successful NGOs. It also calls for a "more formalized institutional structure for engagement" for civil society at the UN.

Kyoto Protocol Ratification Marks Victory For NGOs (June 24, 2002)

NGOs and citizens played a crucial role in the ratification negotiations of the Kyoto Protocol due to their ability to gather and spread useful information to both the public and governments. (Nikkei Weekly)

Nongovernmental Organizations Show Their Growing Power (March 22, 2002)

The role of NGOs in providing foreign aid has increased since the early 1990's. While NGOs are respected for their ability to carry out development projects, they should not foster dependency or perpetuate their influence. (New York Times)


A Situation Analysis of NGO Governance and Leadership in Eastern, Southern, Central and Western Africa (November 2001)

This report presents research conducted after the 1st Conference on NGO Partnerships for Reproductive Health. The paper concentrates on the quickly growing group of reproductive health NGOs in sub-Saharan Africa and the importance of good governance in providing effective services. (Center for African Family Studies)


Civil Society as Global Actor: Promise and Pitfalls (May 2000)

This essay by Walden Bello, Director of Focus on the Global South, examines different roles civil society organizations can play - and should not play on an international level.


Activist Groups Gain Influence in Global Body (December 1, 1999)

An article from the Chicago Tribune about the important role of NGO's in the post-Cold War world as a "potent voice in the framing of this new global government."

A Force Now in the World, Citizens Flex Social Muscle (July 10, 1999)

New York Times article examines NGOs as leading forces of social change at both domestic and global levels. Views civil society as having the "entrepreneurial qualities of business. The profit, in this case, is primarily social progress."


Scaling Up: Thinking Through the Issues (1994)

Peter Uvin and David Miller are developing new terminology in this theoretical paper to address the impact of NGO "scaling - up". The term "scaling-up" refers to "the growth in size, number and activities of organized participatory initiatives." (The World Hunger Program)

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