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Revista Venezolana de Análisis de Coyuntura

versión impresa ISSN 1315-3617

Análisis de Coyuntura v.13 n.2 Caracas dic. 2007


Evolution on the Term Non Governmental Organization (NGO)

María Olivo U.
Doctorado en Ciencias Sociales, Faces-UCV, Caracas, Venezuela,


One of the terms used to describe many Non Profit Organizations is Non Governmental Organization (NGO). Perhaps on account of the recent emergence of the field of Non Governmental Organizations, a multitude of generic terms are used to describe heterogeneous organizations. This imprecise usage often impedes the understanding of what the term NGOs means, and how it should be applied.The term "NGOs" is habitually used by multilateral entities, bilateral entities, private organizations and in all countries around de world. We can ask ourselves: What does the term Non Governmental Organizations mean? How was this term derived? How has this term, NGOs been developed?

While the use of generic terms can be valid under certain circumstances, their use can also entail serious problems when used in certain fields of study or research. It is impossible to analyze a phenomenon or to establish a research methodology and reach reasonable conclusions if the factors that the terminology implies are not clearly defined, in terms of both their internal structure and their effects.

In this essay I will examine the origin, development and meaning of the term Non Governmental Organization from XIX Century to 1990 decade and whether it is accurately used in the different fields in which it is commonly applied today.

First, the origin of the term NGOs will be analyzed. Second, the use of this term in the world and, finally its various usage of meaning according to different organizations or countries.

Keywords: Non governmental organization, Non profit organization, confusion.

Historical Background

Official United States and European documents between 1900 and 1945 were used to investigate the first appearance of the term Non governmental organization.

This term was found for the first time in a United States official document in 1942 Pamphlet No. 3 in the series, Education and National Defense published by the Federal Security Agency of United States Office of Education, under the title, “Non-government Sources of Information on National Defense”. Pamphlet No. 2 of the same series surveyed Government sources of information. According to the investigation, these documents appear to represent the first time that official U.S. publications make the terminological distinction between governmental and non-governmental organizations although no technical definition of the latter was included in the discussion.

In the Foreword of the pamphlet No. 3, John W. Studebaker writes:

It has been prepared as a guide to current materials available from non-government, non profit agencies relating to the total defense program (U.S. Office education, 1942).

It is also interesting to note that in 1942 a distinction between non-government and non profit agencies was developed.

The United Nations was the first institution to establish an official used of the term Non-governmental Organizations. The United Nations (UN) was created in 1945 with the basic objective of keeping peace and promoting good relations between nations[1].

With the objective of achieving its aims more easily, the UN subsequently saw the need to establish lines of communication with organizations which are not part of governments through the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), one of the six principal operational divisions of the United Nations-. This need was expressed in the Article 71 of the United Nations Charter and Statute of the International Court of Justice, Signed June 26, 1945:

The Economic and Social Council may make suitable arrangements for consultation with non-governmental organizations which are concerned with matters within its competente (United Nations, 1996).

One year earlier, on October 7 of 1944, in Dumbarton Oaks, was the site of the conversations conducted by representatives of the United States, China, Great Britain, and the Soviet Union, that resulted in Dumbarton Oaks Proposals. These proposals were the bases of the Charter of the United Nations.

In the Chapter XI called “Arrangement for International Economic and Social Cooperation”, Section C “Functions and Powers of the Economic and Social Council” of the Dumbarton Oaks proposals, read as follow:

“To receive and consider reports from the economic, social and other organizations or agencies brought into-relationship with the Organization, and to coordinate their activities through consultation with, and recommendations to, such organizations or agencies” (United Nations, 1944).

This proposal was later incorporated into Article 71 of the Charter of United Nations, as noted above, except that it consolidated: “economic, social and other organizations” into the term non-governmental organizations. According to this, it is clear that they understood as NGOs all kind the organizations, profit and non profit, initially.

The relation between the Article 71 of the Charter of the United Nation and the Section C of the Chapter XI the Dumbarton Oaks proposals (1944) constituted the essential root of this study, because:

1)     The term non governmental organizations is officially used for first time.

2)     Through this relations, it is possible to know the initial meaning of the term NGOs: economic, social, agencies and other organizations are Non Governmental organizations to the United Nations. Consequently, the NGOs can be profit and non profit organizations in their original meaning.

The majority of committee members who worked on the Article 71 of the Charter of United Nations and the president of the first board directors of the Economic and Social Council were came from the United States (United Nations: 19445. This authorship, combined with the U.S. references to non-governmental organizations from 1942, suggest that the term Non Governmental Organization originated from in United States (US).

Evolution of the Term Non Governmental Organizations

This section will trace the development of the term NGOs since its creation in the United Nations in 1945. One way to test whether something is in the society of a country or region, is the usage of the term in publications and in the names of organizations. Specifically, the term NGOs will be studied as it occurs in:

-       The usage of the term in official documents

-       Publications that use NGOs in their titles

-       Organizations that call themselves NGOs

This analysis is by geographic region, within which the chronology of usage is documented. The geographic regions are North America, Europe, Latin America, Africa and Asia.

North America: United States

The following is a chronology of the appearance of the term non governmental in official documents of the United States since 1945


Public Documents


“Nongovernmental activities of present and former personnel, including retired officers”, (U. S. Public Documents 1951).


“Nongovernmental Organizations and Metropolitan Affairs, staff study”, (Join Committee pint 86 Congress 1st session. Monthly Catalog, April 1959, No. 771).


“Nongovernment hospitals study to evaluate feasibility of extending minimum wage under fair labor standard”, (Public Documents, 1995).


“Contract Administration procedure (MILSCAP). USA and Canada nave to code for Non governmental Organizations”, Army Department Supply Bulletin, June 1971 (1581), p. 4.


“Nongovernment frequent list 09517, land transportation services: motor carrier, auto emergency, railroad, taxicab”, Monthly Catalog, Oct. 1972. Provide U:S import statistics (U. S. Public Information; 1972).


“Payroll for the Nations 290,993 Nongovermental Health Service establishment with paid Employees”, Economic Censuses. U.S. Department of Commerce. Bureau of the Census (U. S. Government Publications; 1977).


“El Salvador. Role of Nongovermental Organizations in Postwar Reconstruction” United States General Accounting Office (GAO),
November 1992.

In other official documents, it has been found that the term governmental sector is used to denote the public sector, for example see the Monthly Catalog in 1954. This document uses the terms private sector and personal sector to refer to what is not part of the government[2].

Multilateral and bilateral entities like the Organization of American States, the Interamerican Bank for Development and the Interamerican Foundation began in the sixties to use the term “Non-governmental Organization” to refer to non profit organizations, grassroots movements, and other types of associations.

Internally in the Unites States the term Non Profit Organization is used more frequently than Non Governmental Organization. This latter term was not found in the list of U.S. Organizations.

However, as we can see in Appendix A, there are many publications in the United States where the term NGO appears. The majority of these publications have to do with public and private aid from the United States to foreign countries. Another cause of this phenomenon could be the intimate relationship and the important role played by the United States within multilateral and bilaterals organizations.


In September of 1954, Recommendation 70 of the Council of Europe in the Consultative Assembly, Sixth Ordinary Session 13th, 24th, referred to a “request for Consultative status from international non-governmental organizations” (Council of Europe, 1954).

In 1986 the European Convention, Europe recognized the Legal Personality of International Non-Governmental Organization:

…as early as in 1951, the importance of the NGOs, each in it , particular field, and of their other contributions to the activities of the Organization”. Explanatory Report on the Recognition of Legal Personality of International Non-Governmental Organisation, 1986.

At the same time, the European Union began to use the term NGO in the sixties:

From the very earliest days of the first Community institutions –but especially since the inception of the of the Liaison Committee of NGOs to the European Union in 1976-The EU’s recognized partners NGOs in European Union Members States have been working to gain recognition for an enforceable right to human development for all (Goncalves, 1995).

The term NGO often designates national non profit organizations in European countries, as shown:


Non governmental organizations


Confederation of non-governmental organizations (Congood)


Coordinamento delle organizzazioni nongovernative pre la cooperazione internazionale allo sviluppo (Cocis)


Reseau des ongs europeennes seir l’ agriculture et le development (Rongead)


Coordinadora de ONG para el desarrollo

Also common in Europe are books, journals, and, journal articles with the term NGO in the tittle, as can be seen in the table of Appendix A.

Study of the documentary evidence makes it clear that the beginning of the usage of the term NGO in Europe is closely linked to its official use by organs of the United Nations. The first paragraph of the Explanatory Report of the Council of Europe of 1986 which the above statement refers to, states: Since 1945 the number of international non-governmental organizations (NGOs) has increased considerably (Council of Europe, 1989).

This is not surprising, given the close relationship that exists between the United Nations and the Council of Europe since their creation.

Latin America

It is difficult discuss the use of the term NGO in Latin America in a generic way, because the development of it use has varied significantly in different countries, as happen in the other continents too.

The origin of the usage of the term NGO in Latin American countries was derived from their relation of the multilateral and bilateral organizations. But the causes of this interaction are due to different reasons. For example initially:

-       Bolivia’s poverty caught the attention of multilateral organizations

-       In Chile, the relationship of Augusto Pinochet and some multilateral organizations, and the need to: Give people participation in social spaces in place of political participation (Cunnil, 1995).

-       In El Salvador, international aid organizations interceded to alleviate the political and economic crisis.

In the decade of the sixties the term NGO was first used to denote non profit organizations in some Latin American countries e.g., Chile, Bolivia and El Salvador. In the 70’s this trends continued more strongly:

During the seventies non-governmental organizations were seen as institutional spaces where different social groups could find an outlet for political participation (Arellano/Petras, 1994).

It is no coincidence that those countries which first applied the term "non-governmental organization" to Non Governmental Organizations are those which have maintained closer ties to multilateral or bilateral entities through development projects and as the beneficiaries of aid from these associations.

On other hand not all Latin American countries use the term NGOs, for example, in Venezuela, Argentina, Mexico among others, the term NGOs was not commonly used, the term Non Profit Organizations being preferred. The cause of this, is the lack dependence in these countries on aid programs by multilateral and bilateral agencies.


The information collected demonstrates that the origin of the use NGO in Africa is similar to other developing nations in their interactions with multilateral and bilateral organizations. As in the rest of the world, the development of NGOs in African countries has taken place through a variety of processes.

However, the appearance of the term NGOs has been later than in the countries of Latin America and Asia:

Since the mid –1980s, the development world has stressed the rapid evolution of the two issues relevant to this study , namely the importance which donors and developments are assigning to the role of NGOs (Booth, 1992).

The other distinguishing elements in the history of development of NGOs in Africa are:

1)     The relation of some European countries with the independence of African countries:

The growth of African service NGOs has been strongly shaped by colonialism, post colonial politics of development and the funding priorities and practices of Northerm development agencies (Fowler, 1992).

2)  The initial and principal influence in the development of NGOs in Africa was not from the United Nations, but predominately from the Council of Europe, the European Community, OXFAM of Britain, NOVIB of Holland and other in the mid 1970’s. In the 1980’s the influence of the United Nations in Africa came principally through the work of the World Bank and UNICEF.

Some of the large African NGO organizations are:

-    Inter-NGO Council of Central African Republic (GIONGCA)

-    Kenya Energy Non Governmental Organization Association (KENGO)

-    Council des Organismes Non Gouvernamentaux en Activite au Togo (CONGAT)


The rise of NGOs began earlier in some countries of Asia as a consequences of the programs offered by the United Nations to provide relief on the aftermath of World War II.

Steadily during the period 1950 to 1980, and with greatly escalating momentum during the 1980’s, inter-governmental organizations (notably the World Bank), and a fortiori governments, have increasingly recognized NGOs potential for contributin to national development” (…) Inter-governmental agencies promoted NGOs development activities through the FAO’s (Fonseka, 1995).

The Philppines is one of the first countries in the world to witness the development of NGOs in the 1950’s due to the consequences of the World War II mentioned above and the post war role of the United Nations. Malaysia, India, Bangladesh and Thailand are example of countries that followed the Philippines experience.

The last two decades have been a time of dramatic growth in the member of of NGOs in Asia. Many authors have commented on this phenomenon:

Despite NGOs unprecedented growth and increased presence at national and international levels, certain limitations and basics questions had begun to nag Asian NGOs toward the end of the 1980s (Bhat, 1980).

Some of the prominent Asian NGOs include:


Non Governmental Organization


Japan NGO Centre for International Co-operation

Group of Asian countries

Asian NGO Coalition for Agrarian Reform and Rural Development (ANGOC)


National NGO Council of Sri-Lanka

See the table in Appendix A for the trend in the number of publications with the term NGOs in their title in Asian countries. It is interesting that some publications before 1987 are from China.

Asian countries that were heavily influenced by European colony, India for example, followed a process similar to that of African countries with respect to the evolution of the term NGOs. The main influence cam from the European organizations.

Conceptualization of the term non governmental organization

In this section, various conceptualizations of the NGOs, will be studied. From history of the term NGOs, it is possible to identify three evolutionary stages in its meaning: the initial idea of the United Nations, the concept assumed by the Council of Europe and European Community, and the various definitions which arose in Latin American and other countries.

United Nations

The search for the history of the meaning the term of "non-governmental organization" must begin in the documents of the Social and Economic Council of the UN, from which these organizations emerged.

After Article 71 of the Charter of United Nations, in the resolution 3 (II) of 21 June, 1946 the United Nations decided to create the Committee of Non-governmental Organizations through ECOSOC. The mission of this NGO committee is clear: to collaborate for purposes of consultation.

In 1950, 1968, 1985 and 1996, ECOSOC adds criteria on the types of relations between NGOs and the UN. Resolutions 1296 (XLIV) of 23 May 1968and 1996/31, the last of the 49th plenary meeting on 25 July 1996, are of particular importance (See Appendix B: general resolutions) as they ratify the consultative status of NGOs while at the same time expanding this role so that non-governmental organizations are more closely involved in the UN's operations.

There are now extensive bibliographies about the consultative role of NGOs in the UN, as for example: Non-Governmental Organizations at the United Nations. Identity, Role and Function by Chiang Pei-heng (1981), and NGOs, the UN, and Global Governance” edited by Thomas G. Weiss and Leon Gordenker (1996).

Special attention in this research was paid to the ECOSOC resolution 1996/31 mentioned (Appendix B), which contains the latest general regulations on the selection of non-governmental organizations and their links to UN agencies.

In the material consulted no reference to the type of legal constitution or objectives of the NGOs was found other than to clarify the ideal function of the NGOs in order to establish ties to the UN. These requirements of the ECOSOC can be summarized in three essential characteristics:

-       The organization's objectives should help achieve the objectives of the UN.

-       The organization should not be a government agency.

-       Its administrative and accounting operations should make clear accountability.

One of the clauses (See appendix B –ECOSOC Resolutions 1996/31) referring to the income of Non Governmental Organizations states: “The basic resources of the organization shall be derived in the main part from contributions of the national affiliates or other components or from individual members…” This could be interpreted to refer to Non Governmental Organizations, but the paragraph ends: “Where, however, the above criterion is not fulfilled and an organization is financed from other sources, it must explain to the satisfaction of the Committee its reasons for not meeting the requirements laid down in this paragraph”.

This indicates that any type of organization, profit and non profit, can be admitted as long as its objectives serve to support the interests of the UN and all other requirements are fulfilled.

Also studied were the specifications for specialized UN agencies which have stronger ties to non-governmental organizations. Among the agencies studied was UNICEF (United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund) which works with a large of NGOs and which is governed by the general principles established by ECOSOC. At the same time, UNICEF has its own set of rules pertaining to the selection of NGOs with which it establishes ties[3] (UNICEF, 1990).

The great variety of organizations embraced by UNICEF is significant; they range from commercial organizations to service groups. The following quotations illustrate this:

Many international non-governmental organizations; including professional, developmental, service, religious, business, and union NGOs, have become partners of UNICEF” (UNICEF, 1991).

In the 1990s, UNICEF seeks to interact with a wide variety of NGOs, such as youth associations, service and leadership groups, humanitarian aid organizations and other private, volunteer organizations including human rights groups, religious associations, children's defense groups, comercial and professional organizations among others (UNICEF, 1990).

A reference to Non Governmental Organizations was found in a bulletin of the Department of Public Information dating from 1995 in which one of the stipulations is that agencies desiring to establish ties with the DPI "operate solely on a not-for-profit basis".

The following quote from Boutros-Ghali, Secretary General of the United Nations in October, 1995, once again illustrates the wide variety of organizations considered to be NGOs by the UN:

…Peace in the largest sense cannot be accomplished by the United Nations system or by Governments alone. Non-governmental organizations, academic institutions, parliamentarians, business and professional communities, the media and the public at large must all be involved (United Nations, 1995).

This reference is confusing because it first mentions the NGOs and then adds other types of organizations when, legally, the UN's Charter establish only two types of recognized organizations, governmental and non-governmental mentioned before.

No clearly expressed definition of what the UN defines as an NGO was found in the bibliography which was consulted. This lack of terminological precision has generated confusion as pointed out in chapter 2 of the “Review of Financial Resources Allocated by the United Nations System to Activities by Non-Governmental Organizations”:

This situation has resulted in three serious problems from the point of view of accountability and responsibility. It is impossible to identify the numbers and types of NGOs receiving funds from the United Nations system… (United Nations, 1994).

Since the activities of the UN are essentially humantarian and social, directed to the integral development of nations, it follows that most of its non-governmental, consulting organizations would work in the same field as Non Profit Organizations. Yet this reality has not kept other types of organizations from working for the UN in an advisory capacity. The latter include other types of organizations such as corporations, educational or health centers, and development banks, which, although existing for profit, offer services to society and can therefore offer to solutions or facilitate UN programs.

However, in the recent years a trend to identify NGOs as non-profit organizations is appearing in some of the principal branches of United Nations. An example is UNICEF and .the Department of Public Information of the UN:

-       Chapter 3 of a report issued by the Joint Inspection Unit in Geneva in 1996 titled "Review of Financial Resources Allocated by the United Nations System to Activities by Non-Governmental Organizations," analyzes the NGOs linked to different agencies of the UN and lists the conditions for selection and assignment of resources to each UN agency. Appendix C shows a table with a summary of the principal criteria for selection applied by each of the UN agencies. As the table illustrates, UNICEF stipulates that the agencies be non-profit, a requirement which first appears in UNICEF in 1996.

-       A reference to Non Governmental Organizations was found in a bulletin of the Department of Public Information dating from 1995 in which one of the stipulations is that agencies desiring to establish ties with the DPI “operate solely on a not-for-profit basis” (U.S. Government, 1995).

Council of Europe

In confering a legal personality on NGOs, the Council of Europe emphasizes the non-profit characteristic of International Non Governmental Organizations in Strasbourg, 24/IV/1986, Article 1:

This Convention shall apply to associations, foundations and other private institutions (Hereinafer referred to as NGOs and the first condition is: Have a non-profit making aim of international utility (Council of Europe, 1986).

The non profit concept of the NGOs developed by the Europeans countries has been applied by them to the African countries. This clear definition of NGO as non profits has avoided variety interpretations of this term in African countries.

Latin America

No single concept of the term NGO applies to Latin American countries, because each country has developed distinct interpretations. For example, the Bolivian Government has delimited the official definition of NGOs thus:

The NGOs are defined in Bolivia as private non profit organizations (Arellano et al., 1994).

This criterion is not required in many others Latin American countries however.

Various Latin American researchers have questioned the term NGO on account of its ambiguity. They have also drawn distinctions, and proposed classifications. Appendix D presents the classification created by Felix Bombarolo, Luis Pérez Coscio, and Alfredo Stein in their book The Role of Non-Governmental Organizations in the Development of Latin America, (1992) edited by the “Programa de Fortalecimiento Institucionales y Capacitación de Organizaciones No Gubernamentales” (FICONG). As can be seen in the table, they distinguish between for-profit NGOs and non-profit NGOs.

Appearing in the 1990 Directory of NGOs of the Interamerican Foundation are the different terms used in Latin American countries to designate Non Governmental Organizations. What follows is an example of the distinctions made in some countries:

-       Brazil: differentiates between for profit NGOs and non-profit NGOs.

-       Chile: informs in its description that, "lists of NGOs are also distributed which assist in specific geographical areas, ethnic groups and types of projects, as well as a list of intermediaries who work with the Chilean government and rural NGOs.

-       Colombia: refers specifically to Non-Profit Entities of Social Benefit.

-       El Salvador: lists 732 institutions, among which are mentioned 42 Communal Development Associations (ADESCO), 517 associations, 6 councils, 14 committees, 20 corporations, 92 foundations and 40 charitable institutions.

The application of the terms NGO to Non Governmental Organizations has frequently been attributed to Latin America and developing nations: “NGO (non-governmental organization) is the term used to depict these organizations in the developing world,…” (Salamon and Anheier, 1996). This attribution is unjustified because, as pointed out earlier, the multilateral and bilateral entities began using the term NGO after the UN first did. Secondly, one cannot make generalizations about the use of the term by developing nations when, in Latin America, for example, different terms are applied to Non Governmental Organizations: some are simply called non-profit, others, social development organizations, and so forth. Thirdly, "NGO" has become a standard term in many European countries, documented earlier.


The analysis undertaken reveals the following:

1)     The term "NGO" first appears in the UN, and is subsequently used by Council of Europe and other multilateral and bilateral organizations. In the late 1960s some countries which had stronger ties to these organizations began to call Non Governmental Organizations as well as comunal and social movements non-profit organizations. In the last twenty years the use of the term NGO has become commonplace in many countries of every continent.

2)     The term "NGO" is completely valid to the UN which created it to describe many kinds of organizations which were not governmental in nature and fulfilled the UN's objective of fostering peace and international development  Therefore, NGOs, as they were initially conceived by the UN, completely fulfill their role for this institution and require no further definition.

3)     Non Governmental Organizations issuing from the civil society are "non-governmental," but they are only part of what the term "non-governmental" covers. Properly speaking, "non-governmental" includes all of civil society not created by government: economic, non-profit, community groups, cooperatives, and other similar organizations.

4)     It is also unclear whether all entities deemed Non Governmental Organizations are non-governmental when, even though they operate independently and as Non Governmental Organizations, they are promoted and backed by state or municipal institutions.

5)     The prevalence of the term "non-governmental organization," and the wide variety of organizations which it encompasses creates confusion, and hampers the undertaking of any socio-political, economic, or administrative study of this term. The term "non-governmental organization" suffers from a lack of precision as do "third sector," "independent sector," "civic organization," and other terms in different areas which, being generic, are difficult to apply to concrete organization.


-       In the interest of obtaining greater terminological clarity, the UN and the entities which use this nomenclature should establish a general definition.

-       It is necessary to establish a general taxonomy of these organizations which would permit the creation of strategies and appropriate rules of operation and control in both countries and international and regio-
nal agencies.

-       The need for a taxonomy in the field of academic research pertaining to Non Governmental Organizations is fundamental because it is very difficult to arrive at trustworthy conclusion with current terms and concepts which are imprecise.




Example of methodology of variables applied for identification
the characteristics of the organizations


First goal


Activities or field

Legal framew.



























Private labor union
















































Social school
























Boys Scout
























Red Cross
















































Grassroots org.
























Foundations fam.


























First goal






Service to others


Non Profit Organizations




Benefit to the members


Mutual Benefits






Without legal framework






Field or activities




Group of individuals












Enterprises or more than one org.




Own activities




Intermediaries (giving)


Commercial Activities


International groups o government












Fuente: Elaboración personal con múltiples referencias como: Carnegie Endowment For International Peace, 1945; Casebook, 1988: Council of Europe, 1986; FLACSO, 1996; Fonseka, 1995; Fowler, 1992; Lador-Lederer, 1962; Njuky, 1992; OECD, 1994; Pei-Heng, 1981; Sachs, 1997; Smith-Wright; TOCINO, 1988; además de títulos de revistas de todo el mundo a partir de 1945.


Resolution 1996/31 49th plenary meeting 25 July 1996

1996/31. Consultative relationship between the United Nations and non-governmental organizations.

The Economic and Social Council,

Recalling Article 71 of the Charter of the United Nations,

Recalling also its resolution 1993/80 of 30 July 1993, in which it requested a general review of arrangements for consultation with non-governmental organizations, with a view to updating, if necessary,

Council resolution 1296 (XLIV) of 23 May 1968, as well as introducing coherence in the rules governing the participation of non-governmental organizations in international conferences convened by the Unites Nations, and also an examination of ways and means of improving practical arrangements for the work of the Committee on Non-Governmental Organizations and the Non-Governmental Organizations

Section of the Secretariat,

Recalling further its decision 1995/304 of 26 July 1995,

Confirming the need to take into account the full diversity of the non-governmental organizations at the national, regional and international levels,

Acknowledging the breadth of non-governmental organizations' expertise and the capacity of non-governmental organizations to support the work of the United Nations,

Taking into account the changes in the non-governmental sector, including the emergence of a large number of national and regional organizations,

Calling upon the governing bodies of the relevant organizations, bodies and specialized agencies of the United Nations system to examine the principles and practices relating to their consultations with non-governmental organizations and to take action, as appropriate, to promote coherence in the light of the provisions of the present resolution,

Approves the following update of the arrangements set out in its resolution 1296 (XLIV) of 23 May 1968:

Arrangements for Consultation with Non-Governmental Organizations (Incomplete)

Part I

Principles to be applied in the establishment of consultative relations

The following principles shall be applied in establishing consultative relations with non-governmental organizations:

1. The organization shall be concerned with matters falling within the competence of the Economic and Social Council and its subsidiary bodies.

2. The aims and purposes of the organization shall be in conformity with the spirit, purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations


5. Consultative relationships may be established with international, regional, subregional and national organizations, in conformity with the Charter of the United Nations and the principles and criteria established under the present resolution. The Committee, in considering applications for consultative status, should ensure, to the extent possible, participation of non-governmental organizations from all regions, and particularly from developing countries, in order to help achieve a just, balanced, effective and genuine involvement of non-governmental organizations from all regions and areas of the world. The Committee shall also pay particular attention to non-governmental organizations that have special expertise or experience upon which the Council may wish to draw.


7. Greater involvement of non-governmental organizations from countries with economies in transition should be encouraged.

8. Regional, subregional and national organizations, including those affiliated to an international organization already in status, may be admitted provided that they can demonstrate that their programme of work is of direct relevance to the aims and purposes of the United Nations and, in the case of national organizations, after consultation with the Member State concerned. The views expressed by the Member State, if any, shall be communicated to the non-governmental organization concerned, which shall have the opportunity to respond to those views through the Committee on Non-Governmental Organizations


10. The organization shall have an established headquarters, with an executive officer. It shall have a democratically adopted constitution, a copy of which shall be deposited with the Secretary-General of the United Nations, and which shall provide for the determination of policy by a conference, congress or other representative body, and for an executive organ responsible to the policy-making body.


12. The organization shall have a representative structure and possess appropriate mechanisms of accountability to its members, who shall exercise effective control over its policies and actions through the exercise of voting rights or other appropriate democratic and transparent decision-making processes. Any such organization that is not established by a governmental entity or intergovernmental agreement shall be considered a non-governmental organization for the purpose of these arrangements, including organizations that accept members designated by governmental authorities, provided that such membership does not interfere with the free expression of views of the organization.


13. The basic resources of the organization shall be derived in the main part from contributions of the national affiliates or other components or from individual members. Where voluntary contributions have been received, their amounts and donors shall be faithfully revealed to the Council Committee on Non-Governmental Organizations. Where, however, the above criterion is not fulfilled and an organization is financed from other sources, it must explain to the satisfaction of the Committee its reasons for not meeting the requirements laid down in this paragraph. Any financial contribution or other support, direct or indirect, from a Government to the organization shall be openly declared to the Committee through the Secretary-General and fully recorded in the financial and other records of the organization and shall be devoted to purposes in accordance with the aims of the United Nations.

14. In considering the establishment of consultative relations with a non-governmental organization, the Council will take into account whether the field of activity of the organization is wholly or mainly within the field of a specialized agency, and whether or not it could be admitted when it has, or may have, a consultative arrangement with a specialized agency.


17. In recognizing the evolving relationship between the United Nations and non-governmental organizations, the Economic and Social Council, in consultation with the Committee on Non-Governmental Organizations, will consider reviewing the consultative arrangements as and when necessary to facilitate, in the most effective manner possible, the contributions of non-governmental organizations to the work of the United Nations.


Esquema de clasificación del Organizaciones No Gubernamentales.
Aproximación a la caracterización de las ONG objeto de estudio de esta investigación.





Sentido de
su trabajo




Carácter de
sus programas


Modelo impulsado














Con fines
de lucro













beneficio propio









Sin fines
de lucro




Trabajan con distintos grupos sociales









Buscan beneficio social




Asistenciales de beneficencia









Trabajan con sectores populares




Acríticas (Promueven modelos y valores establecidos)









De promoción y/o desarrollo













Críticas (promueven nuevos modelos de desarrollo)












Fuente: Bombarolo,1992.



Conditions for selection and Assignment of Resources
United Nations Agencies 1996

UN' Organization

Principals criteria for selecting NGOs

United Nations Center for Human Settlements (UNCHS)'s

The Governments have a role in the selection of the NGOs.

United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)

Track record in performing specific functions, such as project implementation, advocacy or watchdog functions, and in managing and accounting for donors funds.

United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)

The viability. Capacity and track record of the NGO partners.

United Nations Educational, Scientific and cultural Organization (UNESCO)

Purpose in agreement with UNESCO's field of competence and objectives; representation of various cultural regions; community links, recognized legal status; established headquarters; resources and democratic structure and period of on going activities.

United Nations Fund for Population Activities (UNFPA)

Names and qualifications of menbers of the governing bodies and senior executives; the constitution; the legal authority under which the organizations operates; list of national constituents, etc.

Office of the United nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)

Must be registered by the Government in the country; (..) must be certificate for its finances and it must keep a separate account. The only distinction drawn in regard to implementing partners is between governmental and nongovernmental organizations.

United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF)

Has to be a not-profit-making organizations and apolitical.

Food and Agriculture Organizations of the United Nations (FAO)

The relevance and competence", as well as " a good track record". Nevertheless, these, have to be translated into more specific terms.

World Food Programme (WFP)

Acceptance by the Government; sound specific programme for food distribution; adequate personnel and in country organizational structures; co-ordination with others; etc.

International Labour Organization (ILO)

There are no established criteria regarding the involvement of NGOs in development cooperation.

World Health Organization (WHO)

The institution has an organizational structure; a separate administrative and finance department, etc.

World Bank

Demonstrated expertise and strong track record in the relevant sector; knowledge of the geographical region, ties to the local community; participatory approaches; strong accounting and financial reporting procedures as well as past experience working is also taken into account.

Fuente: Elaboración propia. (United Nations, 1994; Mezzalama: 1996).


[1] The 11 February 1945 President Roosevelt, Prime Minister Churchill and Premier Joseph Stalin in Yalta conference declared their resolve to establish " a general international organization to maintain peace and security". Later, 24 June 1945, United Nations is created as its Charter.

In the process, the activities of blue-helmeted peace-keepers have emerged as the most visible role associated with the world organization. The UN, however, is much more than a peace-keeper and forum for conflict resolution. Often United Nations and its family of agencies are engaged in a vast array of work that touches every aspect of people's lives around the world.

[2] The Monthly Catalog of 1954 defines the personal sector of the economy as covers essentially the consuming public But, includes also non profit institution, private trust funds, and private pension, health, and welfare funds.

[3] “Even though UNICEF designates various official and unofficial roles for the NGOs with which it collaborates, one of the mechanisms which has significantly contributed to enforcing more stable ties between international NGOs and UNICEF is the role of consultative entity”.


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