Why are there so many NGOs?
Put simply, NGOs are active groups of citizens, moved by the injustice of global poverty and exclusion, and driven “to do something” to end poverty.
NGOs are acutely conscious that the provision of aid alone is not enough to address the inequalities and human rights violations that affect the world’s poor. Aid is necessary in certain circumstances where poverty, war, disasters or economic breakdown create particular and urgent needs. NGOs though, are broadly about change, not charity, and they work in solidarity with people and communities in developing countries to effect that change.
Dóchas is the Irish Association of Non-Governmental Development Organisations, an umbrella group for a diverse range of organisations: large and small, young and old, secular or faith-based. And they bring different priorities and approaches to Development. However, they share one vital characteristic: their commitment to tackle poverty and inequality in the world.
For this reason, they created the Dóchas network in 1974, as a means to help strengthen Ireland’s efforts to eradicate the injustice that is world poverty. Through Dóchas, Irish Development NGOs come together to share and exchange their experiences, and to use those experiences to come up with more effective ways to end all forms of poverty and injustice.
Different NGO roles
- Some focus on enhancing children’s lives and opportunities, or tackling hunger, for example, while others pay particular attention to health, education or human rights
- Some draw their inspiration from their religious beliefs, others are secular in outlook
- Some have a clear geographical focus, others tend to work wherever the need arises
- Some prefer to work with and through local partners rather than placing workers on the ground themselves
- Some respond to emergencies, or work to build health and education systems, others specialise in building the capacity of local citizens’ groups
- Some identify their strength in running projects, others define their role as mobilising people for lobby campaigns
- Some decide to focus on one particular issue to bring specialist knowledge to bear, others prefer a more general approach, bringing changes across a broad range of key issues. This includes tackling international policies and systems that can serve to keep the poor in poverty
- Some NGOs and missionary groups provide services to poor people, others assert that poverty is a violation of human rights, and see their role as protecting and promoting those rights.
No one NGO, or organisation of any kind, can hope to support all of the world’s poor people, communities and countries work towards better and safer lives. The diversity of approach and focus outlined above is a key strength of the Irish NGO sector.
Through Dóchas, NGOs are seeking new and effective ways to maximise their impact, by making use of the power and ideas of all those who can make a difference – governments, companies, media and NGOs. Now more than ever it is clear that only by working together in a coordinated way can we begin to make poverty history.
Greater coordination and coherence does not mean giving up our diversity. In fact, we believe that our strength lies in our diversity of approach and our ability to respond flexibly to the changing needs of the people we serve. Yet, we are committed to the core professional standards that we share, and we understand the potential for bringing together the energies and expertise of others. We know that we have a responsibility to keep searching for new ways to improve the impact and sustainability of our work.
It is for all these reasons that we, the Irish Development NGOs, work together through Dóchas.
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- How to recognise an effective NGO
- NGO mergers – make sense, don’t they?
- Might it be time to stop talking about NGO Administration Costs? (April 2012)
- Why NOT to use overheads ratios as a way to compare NGOs (March 2010)
- In defence of NGO overhead costs
- Aid myths busted (May 2012)
Entry filed under: Development Effectiveness, NGOs, Overseas aid. Tags: Civil Society Organisations, CSOs, donors, Effectiveness, global poverty, Government, Impact, Irish Aid, Irish NGOs, MDGs, NGOs, Partnership, Smart Aid.