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Non-Governmental Organizations and International Development


The operations of non-governmental organizations in the modern world have been challenged greatly. These challenges address the roles that NGOs play in international development, international politics and the role played by NGOs to facilitate globalization. The major concern for the purpose of the NGOs are to address the problems that face the modern world today, key among them being poverty, natural disasters and conflicts. Researches that have been conducted to address these issues have helped NGOs to handle these issues and develop proper strategies that would successfully help minimize the trends of the rising global problems.

Thesis statement

Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have portrayed a new scenario of politics in the modern world. According to Jordan (23) “NGOs have come to mobilize, articulate and represent people’s interests or concerns at different levels of decision-making: locally, nationally and internationally”. There is a strong relationship that exist among the transnational non-governmental organizations networks. The dynamism in these relationships contributes heavily to the advocacy of the non-governmental organizations, particularly to their functions that guide development aspirations and also in their role to embrace the responsibilities they have on other factors in the networks. These organizations, positively contribute to the process of contemporary international development regimes, international politics, and processes of globalization. Particularly, non governmental organizations provide humanitarian aid to people who are encountered by political unrest, such people lack the basic human needs and their security concerns are at risk. The purpose of this paper is to find the roles and the challenges that NGOs come across in the process of development.


Roles of NGOs in globalization

Globalization is the process by which nations cooperate irrespective of their economic positions with the major objective being to develop the world. Non- governmental organizations have been viewed as key players to facilitate this process. Globalization offers a vast field of opportunities around the world for all nations thereby reducing the margin that exist between the poor and the rich nations of the world. There is need to create security concern for the poor nations of the world by ensuring that there is enough support to these nations during the times of problems (Tarrow, p. 24). Non-governmental organizations have major interest in poor nations with their main aim to ensure that these nations grow in a manner that their major problems are minimized. Duffield (3) identified that “NGO work as an attempt to control the ‘uninsured population’ and rightfully condones Western intrusion in Third World development”. An example of such NGOs is BRAC, this organization does not literary work to give material support to the poor people thus being recognized as an aid organization but also work to empower people so as they can be self- supportive now and for the future. BRAC does not literary give fish to men but rather teach people how to catch fish. The main objective of this organization is therefore to free people from the attitude of wanting aid, and rather teach people to be self dependent (Tarrow, p. 24).

Today, international organizations have undergone several reforms both in their operations and their objective. This is certainly true because these organizations originally belonged to nations and therefore worked within and for their nations; currently they have extended their mode of operations across the borders through forming connections with the bigger world. BRAC is exactly doing this on its own and without any assistance from the government agencies. Most of the international NGOs are able to work this way, by limiting the amount of funding that they get from external sources and therefore seek for self or internal funding mechanisms. This self funding mechanism is a fundamental requirement of the process of sustainable development. It states that there is need to shift the use of power to exploit other people for the sake of personal gains to employment of this power to ensure that there is self development for all the nations (Sikkink, p. 44). For these international non-governmental organizations to be self supportive, they provide incentives to their staff by educating them and provide support to projects rather than giving out monetary benefits to these projects (Sikkink, p. 45).

Many non-governmental organizations have limited resources during their inception stages and only have few people to listen to them. These organizations therefore start their operations at the grassroots levels by assisting people to improve their lives through initiative and offering funds. Through this approach, NGOs are able to work with the locals who are actually the major groups of people who are targeted to experience growth. It is true that there is no single plan that grows into a large scale idea without a substantial amount of research and efforts from the small scale sector. This has been supported by the Hilhorst’s observations on discourse which states that “when people, governments, or non-state actors communicate with one another over time, that communication can create common understanding of roles and behaviors”.

Development works are often influenced by numerous actors who come from different background and have different levels of knowledge and experiences. For instance, a project that was implemented in Philippines empower women by promoting literacy is a typical example. Duffield (p. 87) argued that “discourse is digested every day, and is the acceptance or rejection of discourse that can shape, and even shift, the social order of communities. In this example, an NGO organized to promote literacy among women had the effect of categorizing themselves as bringers of development.” Non governmental organizations are formed for practical and idealistic purposes. Some NGOs develop from political movements which later adopt the activities of non governmental organizations after acquiring enough funds. The works of these non governmental organizations have continually gained recognition from the government agencies. As a result of this, government agencies delegate some responsibility to these organizations which have proved their potentiality to deliver quality services to the people of a nation or a state. The effectiveness of NGOs in development works is attributed to their close linkages with the community which makes them to easily work with such communities. For example in 1973, the United States the congress through government leaders agreed to provide more foreign aid to private organizations and particularly those that had ties with the local people. Duffield (p. 88) added that “NGOs are perceived as ‘impartial’ or ‘neutral’ actors because they are not directly affiliated with governments or their agendas, thus “one cannot perceive NGOs as entities”, but rather must “take into account the notion of multiple realities”.

Challenges that NGOs in international development

Nongovernmental organizations operate with major objective being to provide humanitarian aid to those people who are in need and also to enhance development in places that require major improvement. As a result of this, funding is a fundamental requirement for the operations of these non-governmental organizations. These organizations therefore require donors to help them run their operations. Majority of the non-governmental organizations fail to acquire such funds because they are non-profit making organizations and therefore their activities remain limited.

The role of managing non-governmental organizations has for a long time been considered as a responsibility of volunteers. By volunteering, most people tend to think that NGOs management is a reserve for those who are professionally trained to do so, but it is actually the opposite. Any one can run an NGO provided one has the simple basics of corporate management and proper book keeping methods. In fact volunteers play a crucial role in the management of non-governmental organizations (Duffield, p. 87). Since it is the volunteers who spend most of the time with the local people they are in a better position to understand the developmental needs of the people. However for volunteers to take the roles of managers a lot of preparation has to take place. In other words there are a lot of things that must be put into consideration when assuming the responsibility of running NGOs. NGO management is a complex process that must be well approached for the results to be of essence. In order to manage an NGO amicably one should introduce qualified members of the management team on board and by doing so, this will enrich the factions of the organization.

Recent scholars have widened the research of transnational relationships, once they are limited to a political economy, to involve crucial international politics. This is an upcoming trend, but majority of them come directly from the philosophy of globalization or any other similar procedure to the transnational social-movements and also to a global modern civil society (Held & McGrew 10). According to (Held & McGrew, p. 12), “scholars have to this extent failed to distinguish amongst movements, non-governmental organizations, and also the trans-national networks in addition to adequately specifying their relations with nations and the major international organizations.”

Particularly, few methods are suggested to link local actors to the transnational ones and to nations and international organizations. Mass-based trans-national social movements are usually difficult to put up, are hard to maintain, and have different dealings to countries and majority of the international institutions than majority of international NGOs or networks of activists. Held & McGrew (p. 15) argued that “These latter ways can be encouraged by nations and the international governance institutions and also by the growth of a cosmopolitan group of transnational political activists”.

Roles of NGOs in international politics

Many scholars argue that, for sound development to be achieved there is need to protect the lives and support the disadvantaged members of the society. The aims of development are considered to be of high significance however, there are some aspects of power and the will to take control of the resources of the world (Finnemore, p. 76).

There are some close linkages that exist between poverty and terrorism although this concept has not been proven. This is certainly true because, the links that exist between poverty, alienation, exclusion contribute heavily to the affected people to migrate to outside nations in order to seek for basic needs (Finnemore, p. 36).. This situation offers an opportunity to terrorist organizations to make use of the poor nations so as to provide support for their evil activities. The failure of the developing nations to provide basic need to their citizens is interpreted by international non-governmental organizations that such nations are also not able to provide enough security to their populations. Duffield (p. 13) when supporting the need for security stated that “westerners fear the instability of an uninsured population and, in their self-interest, seek to insure these people through development efforts”.

Colonialist states are called upon to come up with rationalization and a strategy to take control of states which exhibited strong liberation-movements. In support of this idea, Held & McGrew (p. 13) argued that “this need for a new technology of governance developed hand-in-hand with the expansion of NGOs in international development under humanitarian auspices”. An example of this scenario is when there was a crisis in Europe; Oxfam opted to continue with the expansion of its mission to serve the people in crisis instead of terminating its mission and assuming that the mission had been accomplished. A constant state of emergency was necessary for Oxfam to expand the way it did. According to Held & McGrew (p. 15) “Once the champions of ‘grass-roots solidarity within the liminal space between official ‘top down’ development and donor complicity, some agencies now fear that they have become accomplices of Western foreign policy”.

Non governmental organizations are very vital in providing aid during the times of crisis. When Kyrgyzstan became unstable as a result of political turmoil, NGOs in America and Russia responded urgently through increased funding to the interim government which really required financial support for continued existence (Finnemore, p. 34). These two countries had a joint vital role to play to save this country from falling. However, continued unrest in the southern part of that country result to Russia intending to withdraw from providing further support, this was even reported by the BBC news. Russia’s plan to withdraw from providing financial aid was that, the political unrest in Kyrgyzstan was an internal conflict and therefore Russia could not help solve this conflict. The crucial roles of the NGOs therefore made positive contribution to providing aid to the residents who did not have the basic human needs in addition to their life being faced with the risks of death (Finnemore, p. 76).

Currently, politicians of the western world argue that, security and development are interconnected by an enlightened self-interest. Duffield (p. 14) further stated that these politicians argue that “for those insecure humans living within ineffective states the reality of this virtuous cycle is, once again, an educative trusteeship that aims to change behavior and social organization according to a curriculum decided elsewhere”. Many scholars argue that development must not be implemented by protection as a better alternative. This is because; this philosophy would widen the division that exists among the world’s population; this therefore calls for the intervention of humanitarian aids which is the major work of the non-governmental organizations. NGOs are able to provide humanitarian assistance through their broad networks of corporations with other aid and development agencies (Finnemore, p. 79).

In the modern environment, NGOs are operating in a scenario that require a lot of funding which they have to struggle in order to acquire these funds and legitimization and they are therefore turning to the large government bodies for this support. Non governmental organizations are therefore forced to keenly focus at the motivation underlying their projects and therefore make a keen consideration of the political impacts of works that are associated with development. This cooperation calls for close linkage to exist between nongovernmental organizations and inter governmental organizations and other state organizations.

The growth of NGOs into the liminal level between 3rd World corruption and Western-complicity has greatly made contribution to the potential that non governmental organizations s now exert over the world’s population. Duffield (p. 80) noted that “since understand NGOs as agents of development and extensions of the liberal-industrial complex they are essentially a tool that consolidates power in the hands of more powerful states”. Currently, the integrity of territories is respected by the post-interventionary societies of the world; life sovereignty is now recognized internationally. The last quarter of the nineteenth century has witnessed two notable tendencies of development in majority of the advanced capitalist nations. Rationalization is an important element of democratic governance, this is because rationalization incorporates protection from the possible risks associated with growth and offers guarantee for social security.

Nongovernmental organizations have a very crucial role to play and they have direct impact on the process of development for majority of states especially those in the developing world. All nongovernmental organizations should ensure that there is a proper leadership programs in these organizations so as to ensure that their operations work towards the same goal of achieving substantial development. This paper has found out that many nongovernmental organizations are accountable the missions. Some nongovernmental organizations have not democratized the selection process of leaders among the nations and this issue is very sensitive to the development environment, many respondents suggest that the management of NGOs should be considered as a crucial theme.


This paper has done an in-depth analysis of the role and challenges that nongovernmental organizations encounter in the process of development. As mentioned in the discussion of this paper, NGOs start their operations at the grass root level and therefore work with the local people who are mostly targeted for the development process. Government agencies have realized the effectiveness of the activities of the NGOs and have therefore decided to assign some of the development responsibilities to these organizations. The effectiveness of these organizations in development activities was attributed to the fact that they work with the communities and therefore they can easily determine what the society needs through their close linkages. This paper has also found out the fundamental relationship that exists among the many nongovernment organizations, this relationship results from the common goal that the organizations have in their operations. Nongovernmental organizations are faced with major challenges in the course of their operations as mentioned in the paper. Key among the problems that NGOs face is the sources of funding to enable them meet their development needs and other aid oriented targets. This was found to be a major problem because these organizations are non-profit and that they majorly give aid to the people who are particularly in need. These organizations are therefore forced to depend on donor funding and from government agencies. Such challenges have caused many similar organizations to withdraw aid hence leaving people and countries in desperate situations.

Works cited

  1. Finnemore, Martha. Nationalism across Borders: Transnational Nationalist Advocacy in the European Union (Comparative European Politics), 6(1):61-80, 2008.
  2. Held, David & McGrew, Anthony. (The global transformations reader): an introduction to the globalization debate. Oxford: Blackwell publishers, 2006.
  3. Jordan, Lisa. (Political Responsibility in Transnational NGO Advocacy). Washington DC: Elsevier Science Ltd, 2000.
  4. Sikkink, Kathryn. Competition and Resource Partitioning in Three Social Movement Industries American, (Journal of Sociology) 113 (6):1568-1610, 2008.
  5. Tarrow, Sidney. (Transnational Politics): Contention and Institutions in International Politics New York: Cornell University, Ithaca, 2001.
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