pacific forest forum non-governmental organization
What is NGO as we understand it?
NGOs are independent social action, promotion, development and community organizations focusing on a broad range of development, environment, human rights, gender, labor, children and youth, indigenous issues. They embrace both those organizations with a social assistance approach and those seeking empowerment and social change. This category can be broken down between intermediately NGOs (providing cervices and support) and peoples organizations or social organizations which are membership based (associations of slum dwellers, trade unions, etc) and independent research and policy institutions.
NGOs share a common vision of a world which recognizes its essential interdependence while embracing human diversity in all its forms; where justice and equity for all peoples is the first priority, and in which principles of democracy and popular participation are universally upheld so that the creation of a peaceful, cooperative and sustainable future is secured.
NGOs oppose a system which places growth above all other goals, including human well-being, and which undermines national economic development and social security. NGOs see that this system creates incentives for capital to externalize its social and environmental costs. It over-exploits and destroys the natural environment and encourages the unsustainable use of resources. It turns social services into commodities out of reach of the poor, generates jobless growth, derogates the rights of workers and undermines trade union and other democratic rights.
Harmonization, coordination and cooperation in technical, economic, environmental, social and political spheres is essential in an increasingly integrated and interdependent world. Such cooperation is particularly important for NEA countries and form larger markets and achieve economies of scale in investment and production. NGOs must use all sources, together with their own independent research and experience, to develop effective input into national, regional and international cooperation in NEA areas. The role of NGOs continues to grow: for example, only Central America has 4000 NGOs receiving 350 million USD from all sources. Increasing international networks of NGOs are influencing the agendas of governments and multilateral institutions to reflect previously ignored development and environment concerns. There is growing recognition of the importance of empowerment, the democratization of the development process and the role played by NGOs in that. In fact, given the policy focus of democratization, the policies of international cooperation institutions have significant impact on NGOs policy capacity and effectiveness. NGOs offer opportunities to develop replicable models of application of knowledge. NGOs, as flexible instruments and innovators, are a source of alternative policy options based on micro-experience (e.g. micro enterprise with the informal sector, sustainable methods of agriculture, etc.). NGOs provide access to important constituencies for public education, mobilization and advocacy.
Expanded and on-going relationships with NGOs provide international cooperation institutions a window on important dynamics of the development process (and often more direct relationship with the beneficiaries of development programming) and could offer lessons useful for those institutions own planning and programming.