What are the main objectives of NGOs

Non-governmental organizations (NGOs)

A non-governmental organization (NGO) is a not-for-profit organization that can operate locally, nationally or internationally. Aimed at a specific goal, NGOs try, among other things, to perform humanitarian tasks, raise citizens' concerns to governments and observe the political landscape. Their work can be described as "lobbying for citizens". Well-known NGOs are, for example, Amnesty International and Caritas.

Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are not bound by the government. Your main goal is not to get rich. Profits generated are used to finance programs. NGOs provide analysis and expertise and help to monitor and implement international agreements. The most important tasks of NGOs are human rights, environment or health, development aid and social development. Well-known NGOs are Amnesty International, Greenpeace, Caritas and Oxfam. Their functions can be summarized as: control, criticism, indictment and condemnation of the political processes and their carriers, representation of public interests.

The manifestations of NGOs are diverse: non-governmental organizations can be grassroots groups or initiatives, non-profit organizations or professional companies with moral standards, trade unions, associations or religious communities. They inform citizens, create publicity (e.g. for human rights violations), lobby and organize actions (e.g. Greenpeace occupies oil rigs, hinders whalers at work). They act as public interest representatives and participate in the work of the United Nations (UN) and its specialized agencies.

Non-governmental organizations and the UN

The contacts of the NGOs to United Nations agencies depend on their goals, locations and possibilities. Contact between NGOs and the UN Press and Information Department is one of the common forms of cooperation: more than 1,500 NGOs that have information programs on UN topics are associated there. NGOs also have an advisory role to the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). You are creating a link between the United Nations and citizens around the world. The UN helps these NGOs to gain access to information about the areas of work of the United Nations - and thus to give the population a better understanding of the tasks and goals of the world organization.

For association with the UN Press and Information Department, organizations that support the ideals of the UN Charter, have a proven interest in UN issues and are able to reach a broad or specialized audience - such as educators, representatives of the Media, policy makers and business - reach out. They must also have the commitment and the means to effectively disseminate information programs on UN activities by publishing news, announcements and brochures, organizing conferences, seminars and round tables, and working with the various media. UNESCO provides limited financial support to NGOs in the form of subsidies, contracts, funds and grants.

NGOs at local to international level

Local or national NGOs can be local tenants' associations or environmental groups. The Association for Development Policy of German Non-Governmental Organizations (VENRO), for example, is a voluntary association of around 100 German NGOs that are active in development policy and humanitarian aid. One example of an international union is Agenda 21 - the program of action for the 21st century, which was adopted in 1992 in Rio de Janeiro (Brazil) by more than 170 countries. With its 40 chapters, Agenda 21 addresses policy areas for environmentally compatible, sustainable development and gives governments detailed mandates to counteract a further deterioration in the environmental situation.

International NGOs usually have greater financial resources and greater popularity, which is why they can more easily contribute to (international) standard-setting through their campaign work. Their greater international media presence also helps them to denounce problems such as human rights violations or environmental sins. Even when it comes to direct influence at international conferences and bodies, international NGOs have so far been superior to regional and national NGOs.


With regard to the management of international NGOs, one differentiates:

1. Ethnocentric NGOs: Important decisions are mainly made at the headquarters of the organization

2. Polycentric NGOs: Decisions are made independently by the individual secretariats of the respective host states

The trend today is towards decentralization, as it has been recognized that local NGOs can often react faster and have more precise information.


The first NGOs in the modern sense include the British and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society (1823), the World Alliance of YMCA \ 's (1855), the International Worker \' s Association (1864) and the International Law Association ( 1873) counted. After the First World War, important NGOs of the peace movement and, in the economic and social field, the International Federation of Trade Unions (1919) and the International Chamber of Commerce (1920) were founded. The term "NGO" has only been used since it was introduced in the UN Charter of 1945.


  • Legitimation: NGO representatives are not legitimized by a public election. They only represent certain interests. It is not known to what extent the public supports them.
  • Internal structure: Many NGOs do not follow democratic approaches in their internal structure. There are hierarchical structures to be found, the decision-making power often lies with only a few members.