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What Is the Function of an NGO?

By Justin Riche
Updated May 16, 2024
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A non-governmental organization (NGO) is generally established to engage in not for-profit activities. The function of an NGO may revolve around one or more humanitarian causes. Such causes typically have the central goal of advancing and supporting human welfare as well as other human activities. Depending on the particular focus of the NGO, it may collect donations, support the poor, promote education, encourage social responsibility, develop communities, and provide essential social services. Moreover, the function of an NGO may be grounded in other areas, such as protecting the environment and promoting animal welfare.

Many NGOs focus on humanitarian issues. These include counseling and rehabilitation of war victims and other violent situations, anti-human trafficking, and education. An NGO may be involved in the assistance and education of the poor regarding health issues, such as HIV/AIDS. It may also provide them with financial support or basic food requirements.

Over the last few decades, there has been a growing sense of awareness for environmental issues. Many experts believe them to threaten the sustainability of life on earth, in the long run. Included in these issues are global warming, deforestation, toxic waste and overfishing. The main function of an NGO concerned with these issues is to find a solution in order to curtail these threats.

Promoting peace is also a matter some NGOs focus on. This issue, in particular, is interlinked with environmental protection and the prevention of war. That is because war destroys the environment through the deployment of bombs and other destructive devices, in addition to the destruction of life. Thus, the function of an NGO may deal with a range of issues that are interrelated.

An issue such as animal welfare can be of concern to NGOs as well. Protecting wildlife and endangered species, for example, can be the main mission of a specific NGO. Also, the NGO could deal with issues pertaining to the abuse of domestic animals like dogs. Such an NGO will seek to find ways to thwart these kind of actions.

Furthermore, some NGOs are dedicated to other intangible issues, which may or may not support tangible products. These encompass the standardization of instruments that facilitate international trade. One example is the standardization of currency and country codes. Other NGOs may deal with the standardization of protocols that make the compatibility between different devices possible. For instance, due to standardization one may be able to create a network between different types of computers, in addition to connecting his or her cellphone to the computers and uploading all kinds of files between the different devices.

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Discussion Comments
By clintflint — On Nov 07, 2014

@MrsPramm - It always seems to be a greater tragedy than usual when members of an NGO are attacked precisely because they are attempting to just be people helping people, rather than people working for a government.

NGOs aren't often perfect though and whether or not they are affiliated with a government, they might be doing more harm than good.

By MrsPramm — On Nov 06, 2014

@Ana1234 - It is a bit awkward, but entirely necessary, because an NGO will often be welcome in places where a government sponsored agency would not be. Making it clear that an organization is not tied to a particular government can be vital in ensuring the safety of its workers and their ability to work unhindered, particularly in war-zones or on controversial subjects. This isn't just that they might be banned from a country if they are suspected spies or propagandists, it might also be that the country they were affiliated with would limit their ability to work.

An organization might want to change the laws in the country they are working in, by providing better prison care, for example, but their country of origin might not want to rock the boat that way in public relations. So it's much safer for the NGO to declare upfront that they are not affiliated with any particular government and follow only their own code.

By Ana1234 — On Nov 05, 2014

I always thought the name "Non-Governmental Organisation" was a very strange one. I volunteered in an aid agency for a while that happened to be funded by the government and it took me a while to even know what people were talking about when they mentioned NGOs. I would have thought the best name for them would involve something to do with aid, rather than the government. Corporations don't have to declare that they aren't government agencies, after all, as it's the default status.

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