( IBRAHIM TUDU)
Chairman, Zamfara State Coaltion of NGOs, Nigeria
The term NGO has now become a popular in academic, policy and international cycles. The letters N.G.O is an abbreviation, which stands for Non-Governmental Organization, literally speaking because they are not formed by the government, not controlled by Government bureaucracy and they do not participate in decision or policy making of Government(s).
SOME HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVES
For a better understanding of the present topic, one needs to have an insight into the history or evolution of NGOs. Community based organization’s evolution dates back decades ago. Some of the then existing voluntary organizations were very small, inexperienced and generally localized and some exist with different names, such as societies and clubs committees which are mostly friends, relations, professional groups, etc. Generally, they lack some relevant organizational capacities, funding and networking.
Some of the oldest voluntary organizations established were the Anti-Slave Trade Society established in the year 1840. Another old and still surviving NGO established for humanitarian services was the International Committee for the Red Cross and the Red Crescent, an organization that out dates even the United Nations. It was established in the year 1863. It has played a major role in offering humanitarian services in major wars and conflicts.
NGOs globally are developed from the need to coordinate some specifically defined activities and objectives. Beginning from 19th century, Mosques, Churches, Professional, Scientific and Cultural groups formed all kinds of associations that execute the work of NGOs. In the 20th century, specialized bodies started to spring up in such areas like sports, businesses and communications.
This paper would now try to fully define the meaning of NGO and also go further to answer some questions on how, why and the need for NGOs, before finally addressing the roles they play in the national development and security which is the topic this paper is designed to address.
What is an NGO?
Let me begin by asking us this question. What does the term NGO stands for or what is the meaning of an NGO?
Even though there is no generally or universally restricted definition of NGO, however let us bring in some definitions by some institutions and international bodies in order to explain more the meaning or the message behind the term NGO. To enable us capture the idea behind the NGOs, four of these definitions would suffice;
i. The British Library, for example agrees that NGOs has to do with voluntary participation by average citizen in the affairs of his environment or communities. This is so because there is no imposed membership, control by Government or State. They are now often called Private Voluntary Organizations (PVO).
ii. The World Bank, defines NGOs as private organizations that pursue basic social services, or undertake community development services. They in whole or in part depend on charitable donations and offer voluntary services.
iii. The United Nations, the present name N.G.O was first coined by the U.N in the year 1945. This was mainly to distinguish them from States and Governments.
iv. The International Community generally adopts another name for NGO’s, which is “Civil Society Organizations”. This is generally because they are being formed by the citizen for the good of society and are generally not for profit.
NGOs are known to be legitimately engaged in activities that touch on the lives of their communities. These include economic, social, humanitarian, security and philanthropy. They are nevertheless broad in names and activities depending on their objectives, focus and mode of operation. These include associations, societies, forums, foundations, networks, charities,...