Although the term, NGO or non-governmental organization means any organization that is not controlled or managed by a government, it has been increasingly used and understood to large and small agencies or groups that work towards some sort of development for a community. The term is mostly applied to such organizations working in developing and low-income countries while in the west, the word, ‘nonprofit’ is more popular. Even international nonprofits headquartered in the developed world are also referred to as INGOs because their field work is mostly confined in the Global South.
Historically speaking, Rotary International, previously referred to as Rotary is known to be one of the oldest NGOs, but such organizations came into the prominence only during the popular movements of the nineteenth century such as the anti-slavery movement and the movement for women’s suffrage. But NGOs emerged globally with the establishment of the United Nations during which time, independent organizations were also involved in the international consultation process. The Chapter 27 of the Agenda 21 of the United Nations recognizes the relevance of NGOs in contributed towards sustainable development. Following this, governments and other bilaterals and multilaterals began involving them in their programs. But it was finally the advent of the twenty-first century globalization that created a whole NGO movement across all countries, specifically working for poor and developing countries.
Now, NGOs have become as diverse as issues faced by the society. From human rights to livelihood development, from healthcare services to conflict resolution, from socio-economic research to policy advocacy, NGOs in general have expanded their scope to address problems and challenges, mostly of the poor and the vulnerable groups in the society. NGOs both at the grassroots and at the global-level have become critical mediums to reach out the millions and millions of marginalized communities around the world.
NGOs also face several challenges themselves. In developing countries, NGOs are mostly dependent upon foreign aid. Although there are government programmes, they do not provide the proper ground for them to evolve. Most NGOs at the grassroots-level lack skills in organizational management and resource mobilization, which limit their own capacity to sustain. Sustainability remains a vital issue for NGOs in developing countries.