The structures of NGOs vary considerably. They can be global hierarchies, with either a relatively strong central authority or a more loose federal arrangement. Alternatively, they may be based in a single country and operate transnationally. With the improvement in communications, more locally-based groups, referred to as grass-roots organizations or community based organizations, have become active at the national or even the global level. Increasingly this occurs through the formation of coalitions. There are international umbrella NGOs, providing an institutional structure for different NGOs that do not share a common identity. There are also looser issue-based networks and ad hoc caucuses, lobbying at UN conferences. In environmental politics, this occurs in the unique form of the nine "Major Groups", listed in .
As a result of this expansion, focus has shifted to the shortcomings and problems faced by NGOs themselves, and to find ways and means to overcome them.
By contrast to other NGOs, HRNGOs have been far more reserved when it comes to discussing accountability and they have not proposed specific regulatory standards. Some have involved themselves in sector-wide accountability initiatives, including the HAP. Country-based generic NGO codes of conduct have also been endorsed by some HRNGOs, especially in countries whose governments have imposed harsh and unwarranted restrictions on NGOs. Generic country codes do not, however, address the specific responsibilities of NGOs engaged in human rights work. Some HRNGOs have signed the 2006 International Non-Governmental Organizations Accountability Charter (INGO Charter). The INGO Charter was drafted by and for a wide range of NGOs, including those that work on development, environmental protection, humanitarian response, and "other public goods." Many of the INGO Charter's principles are relevant to HRNGOs, but the Charter is not tailored to human rights work.
There is often confusion about the role of NGOs in democratic political processes. Denial of their democratic legitimacy arises when democracy is simply reduced to the right to take part in governmental decision-making. Clearly, on this limited basis, NGOs cannot claim a greater legitimacy than elected governments. Many NGOs themselves do not have democratic procedures within their own organizations and many only represent a small number of people. Even the minority of NGOs that elect their leaders, have conferences to decide their policies and have millions of members, still have no basis to claim a right to take decisions on behalf of society as a whole. These arguments were obscured in the 1970s and 1980s when many NGOs significantly expanded their membership and their activities. In this period, more governments were authoritarian than democratic. Under regimes that are communist, feudal, fascist, military dictatorships or corrupt oligarchies it might be reasonable to claim NGOs are more representative of society as a whole, but such regimes have become the exception in a world of democracies from the 1990s onwards.
a. Respect for the people at the heart of the NGO's mission
However, a wider view of democracy totally legitimizes the role of NGOs. Democracy is not just the holding of elections every four or five years. It is also the continuous process of debate, in which the legislature, the political parties, the media and society as a whole put questions on the political agenda, formulate alternative policy proposals and criticize the policy of the government. On this basis, any NGO has a right to participate, however large or small and however representative or unrepresentative of a particular sector of society it may be. Indeed, in both domestic and global politics, policy-making could not be democratic without the active participation of NGOs. Nevertheless, their legitimate role in sustaining an independent civil society does not give them any right to supplant the role of governments.
Questions for HRNGOs on key stakeholders include the following:
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Ngo Lee (2007) Your Reading Task: equitably divide the readings listed above so that each of you becomes an expert on the reading(s) you were assigned.
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Questions for HRNGOs on universality include the following:
In discussion of politics within countries, a distinction is often made between interest groups and pressure groups, but it is taken for granted that both types of private groups have an impact upon government policy-making. The term, interest group, is biased towards consideration of groups such as companies or trade unions. Use of the term is unsatisfactory, as it tends to imply that such groups are only concerned with economic policy, that they only act to safeguard their own economic position and that only groups with substantial economic resources can have an impact on politics. None of these propositions is valid. Major economic actors are also concerned with values beyond the accumulation of wealth. At the minimum, they also pursue security and status. At the maximum, they have a wider responsibility towards health and safety, social welfare and environmental values. The term, pressure group, invokes a wider range of groups. Its use is intended to cover those, such as environmentalists and human rights groups, who are pursuing goals that do not directly benefit themselves. It emphasizes the processes by which groups mobilize support to promote their political values. The contrast between interest groups and pressure groups can be used to suggest a contrast between objective goals and subjective goals and hence privilege the pursuit of economic returns over environmental values and other abstract values.
Role of NGOs in Protecting Human Rights | LinkedInSome human rights defenders have argued that it is best to avoid public discussion of their responsibilities altogether. They point to legal, administrative, and other forms of harassment used against HRNGOs around the world. It is argued that HRNGOs run specific risks in the course of their work that other types of NGOs do not face. In theory, international human rights law limits the scope of governments to interfere with, and regulate the affairs of NGOs. In practice, however, there is a large gap between the legal protections and the daily experience of most HRNGOs. The fear is that public discussion of accountability may provide excuses for governments to impose harsher regulations that silence critical HRNGO voices and restrict fundamental freedoms.
25/11/2014 · Essay on the Role of NGOs in Protecting Human Rights Several nongovernmental organizations around the world have dedicated their efforts to …On the other hand, there are growing calls from within the human rights community, for HRNGOs to examine their responsibilities more closely. Some have argued that the increased power of HRNGOs in the field of standard setting raises important questions about responsibilities. Others have called for more representative behavior on the part of large Western-based international HRNGOs that, it is argued, dominate the global agenda at the expense of NGOs from the South. Research has further highlighted that the methodologies of human rights work may have unintended negative consequences that undermine, rather than protect, the human dignity of the survivors of human rights violations and that this needs to be further examined. Finally, in some countries it has been argued that NGO advocates are not political activists but rather in the "business of human rights," which serves to advance the personal interests of the advocates themselves.
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