By Katerina Papadea,
Non-governmental organizations, which in their early days were less organized social movements, play an important and decisive role in the field of foreign policy, which mainly concerns wars, struggles for power, and all efforts by the respective countries to maximize their national interest. The importance of NGOs’ role lies precisely in the fact that they aim to awake the citizens so that they can optimize their social position, while not questioning the foundations of the social system, and in promoting international understanding, cooperation, and common interests through global actions.
Initially, the emergence of NGOs came to challenge the classical theory of international relations, where states and governments are subjects to international law and international relations. In today’s internationalized society, governments operate globally, but not in addition to NGOs, which has significantly reduced the status of the former as the sole subject of international relations and at the same time given NGOs a more global character. This globalized role includes a simultaneous, cross-border and transnational action, which appears to be more effective than those national institutions, which are often ineffective in addressing basic issues. (Example: Human rights protection, civil warfare, etc.). What makes NGOs important, however, is their non-politicized role, their independence from governments and other public authorities, and their not-for-profit nature, as they aim to promote the public international interest, with no profit. More specifically, the general and political-free objectives of NGOs can be distinguished, but are not limited, to:
- the environment; the main goal would be the protection of flora and fauna, while simultaneously elevating humanity towards the goal of saving our planet (Example: Green Peace, WWF)
- charity-based goals; where the action of NGOs is directed to the protection of the poor, by providing housing, clothing, and food, and the collection of emergency aid in case of natural disasters (Example: Save the children)
- humanitarian work; which generally includes the protection of the human entity from any kind of insults and intervention (example: torture, ill-treatment, etc.) and in particular the provision of assistance to women who have been raped or otherwise abused, and to children who either have been left orphaned or deprived of the care of their natural parents (example: human rights watch, SOS children’s villages)
- and the economy; which aims, at the vigilance of the citizens, to resist and justify taxes, through the participation of NGOs in the meetings of international economic organizations and in the formulation of international economic policies.
It becomes clear, therefore, that NGOs play a variety of roles in global politics, taking a variety of actions, including disseminating information and policymaking. In terms of providing information, NGOs play an important role in addressing political issues which need to be addressed in global politics. In practice, NGOs also strengthen the knowledge-based sector in global policy-making by distributing and managing information material through conferences and other activities. But in addition to providing information, NGOs are directly involved in and influencing the global policy-making process through advocacy and pressure. Advocacy refers to NGOs, which act publicly, in supporting their cause, while pressure is an informal way of influencing decision-makers.
In summary, NGOs, and their presence, mainly at the international level, have grown rapidly and are now important international elements affecting all stages of the political process. As mentioned above, the action of NGOs, which includes various channels of influence and various activities to promote international understanding and cooperation, plays a key role, as NGOs create and ensure the presence of a welfare state, which political parties often overlook or even act in violation of it.
The role of non-governmental organizations in international economic law. Available here.
International NGOs play various roles. Available here.