The Story Retold Visiting the Role and Mission of Non-Governmental Organizations in the Decision Making and Policy Formulation Process

The Story Retold Visiting the Role and Mission of Non-Governmental Organizations in the Decision Making and Policy Formulation Process

Maria Matiatou (The American College of Greece, Greece)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-1207-4.ch045


The mission of the present study is to establish a robust and reliable reference framework on the ecosystem of Non-Governmental Organizations and the Third Sector for literature review in scholarly contributions and publications. Two goals are set: first, to re-establish the importance of Nongovernmental Organizations as integral key players on the arena of social welfare in an era that is largely defined by globalized economies, debt-ridden states, limited resources, increased competition for donations and volunteers, and enhanced needs related to poverty and acceptable standards of living. Second, to position NGOs on the sphere of political influence where they negotiate agendas, form coalitions with local and international partners, mobilize constituencies for policy change, and ultimately engage in all stages of the policy process. Finally, the absence of a concrete evaluation system is pointed out: an accountability framework is fundamental to the assessment of NGO performance and impact on their intended beneficiaries.
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2. Literature Review, A Historical Perspective

International NGOs go as back as the early 19th century, the anti-slavery movement and the Geneva Disarmament Conference in 1932. Through the Article 71 of Chapter 10 of the United Nations Charter, NGOs were officially recognized and appointed as participating organizations with a distinctive consultative role that differentiates them from governments or member states. The term INGO was first defined in resolution 288 of ECOSOC in February 1950 as “any international organization that is not founded by an international treaty”.

The fall of communist regimes in Eastern Europe, coupled with the rise of globalization in the 20th century and the disruption in the delicate balance between the welfare state and the classical liberalist model of the western countries –in total favor of the latter—amply demonstrated the gap between the minimized standards of living provided by free economies and the actual needs of the weaker strata within populations. NGOs were assigned the vital role of counterbalancing this trend, emphasizing humanitarian issues and sustainable development, struggling to keep societal interests into sharp focus. The World Social Forum, a rival convention to the World Economic Forum held annually in Davos, is a striking example of an alternative move to compensate for the unilateral attribution of primacy to capitalist interests (Hallward, 2008).

In the late 1970s and early 1980s conservative governments in Britain, America, and other countries, reduced the roles of government in direct service provision in alignment with the privatization of public sector. By funding NGOs, governments were able to avoid service provision and direct, regulate and overlook their strategy and performance. Governments obtained a “social approval” through their collaboration with NGOs, promotion and use of volunteerism, and contributed significantly in their growth through channeled funding over the last two decades (Kim, 2010) (see Figure 1).

Figure 1.

The influence of non-governmental organizations in the UN system (Adapted from: “The Conscience of the World”, London: Hurst and Washington: Brookings Institution, 1996)


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