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non-governmental organization(s)

Encyclopaedic Dictionary of International Law
John P. GrantJohn P. Grant, J. Craig BarkerJ. Craig Barker

non-governmental organization(s) 

While there is no clear and unambiguous definition of non-governmental organizations (Schermers and Blokker, International Institutional Law (4th rev. ed.), 38), the same authors state that is it not ‘usually difficult to distinguish between (public) international organizations and international non-governmental organizations (ngo's). The notion “non-governmental” refers to the function of these organizations: they are not endowed with governmental tasks. Ngo's are not created by treaty; nor are they established under international law. Apart from these characteristics, ngo's have little in common. … They vary from large and influential organizations such as Amnesty International, the International Chamber of Commerce, the International Committee of the Red Cross and the Roman Catholic Church to smaller organizations like the Commonwealth Legal Education Association, the International Diabetes Federation, the International Federation of Bodybuilders, the International Skeletal Society and the United Elvis Presley Society. … Many ngo's have obtained some sort of official recognition by the United Nations …, by other intergovernmental organizations … or in treaties concluded between states.’ Art. 71 of the U.N. Charter empowers ECOSOC to ‘make suitable arrangements for consultation with non-governmental organizations which are concerned with matters within its competence’. Such arrangements have been made with a large number of NGOs under ECOSOC Res. 1996/31 of 25 July 1996, whereby NGOs are ranked in three categories according to their contribution to the work of the United Nations and are granted consultation rights commensurate with that contribution: the first group, ‘organizations in general consultative status’, are involved in most of the activities of ECOSOC; the second group, ‘organizations in special consultative status’, have a special interest in some of the activities of ECOSC; and those on the Roster have little interest in the activities of ECOSOC, yet are of sufficient importance to be involved in the work of the United Nations. NGOs play an increasingly important role in international law and politics, particularly in areas such as human rights and environmental law (see environmental law, international), and are the main component of civil society. NGOs derive their legitimacy and credibility from the justice of their cause and the methods by which they promote that cause; they certainly have no democratic mandate. Cf. organizations, international. See also human rights defenders. See generally Weiss and Gordenker, NGOs, The UN, and Global Governance (1996); Mendelson and Glenn, The Power and Limits of NGOs (2002); Ahmed and Potter, NGOs in International Politics (2006).