Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are nonprofit associations founded by citizens, which function independently of the government. NGOs, also known as civil societies, are organized on “community, national, or international levels” to help developing nations in their humanitarian, health care, educational, social, environmental and social issues. These citizen-run groups perform various services and humanitarian functions by advocating citizen concerns to governments, overlooking policies and encouraging political participation by providing information to the public.
History of Non-Governmental Organizations
Non-governmental organizations started emerging during the 18th century. The Anti-Slavery Society, formed in 1839, is the first international NGO. This organization had a profound impact on society, and it stimulated the founding of many other NGOs since opening its doors. Of note, many civil societies began to form as a result of wars. For example, the Red Cross formed after the Franco-Italian war in the 1860s, Save the Children began after World War I and Oxfam and CARE started after World War II. The term non-governmental organization emerged after the Second World War when the United Nations wanted to differentiate between “intergovernmental specialized agencies and private organizations.”
NGOs engage in many different forms throughout communities in the sense that they are a “complex mishmash of alliances and rivalries.” Some have a charitable status, while others focus on business or environment-related issues. Other non-governmental organizations have religious, political, or other interests concerning a particular issue.
An operational non-governmental organization is a group of citizens that focus on designing and implementing development projects and advocacy. NGOs promote and defend particular causes, and operational NGOs fall into two categories: relief and development-oriented organizations. They are classified on whether or not they “stress service delivery or participation.”
An example of an operational NGO is the International Medicine Corps (IMC) in Afghanistan. The IMC installed a vaccination campaign against measles. They trained about 170 Afghani’s how to vaccinate children between the ages of 6 and 12, and conducted a two-week-long “vaccination campaign.” These efforts assisted 95 percent of children in the capital of Kabul.
Advocacy non-governmental organizations use lobbying, press work and activist events. This is in order to raise awareness, acceptance and knowledge on the specific cause they are promoting or defending. An example of an advocacy NGO is America’s Development Foundation (ADF). This NGO provides advocacy training and technical assistance in efforts to “increase citizen participation in democratic processes.”
Non-Governmental Organization Funding
Since non-governmental organizations are nonprofit organizations, they rely on membership dues, private donations, the sales of goods and services and grants. These funds cover funding projects, operations, salaries and other overhead costs. NGOs have very large budgets that reach millions, even billions, of dollars because of heavy dependence on government funding.
Another chunk of NGO funding belongs to the individual, private donors. A few of these donors are affluent individuals, such as Ted Turner who donated $1 billion to the United Nations. Most nonprofits, however, depend on multiple small donations from people to raise money.
Overall, non-governmental organizations function to build support for a certain cause whether it is economic, political or social. In addition, NGOs tend to bring people together, especially advocacy NGOs.
– Isabella Gonzalez Montilla
On September 15, the Philippines was struck by a massive typhoon. Winds were blowing at 210 km/h, gusting up to 285 km/h. The most recent death toll was 81 with dozens still missing. The World Meteorological Organization has named the storm the “strongest tropical cyclone the world has faced this year.” As with most other natural disasters, Typhoon Mangkhut in the Philippines hit the poorest populations the hardest.
Deadly landslides occurred as a result of overflowing rivers. One of the most disastrous was in Itogen, a remote northern mining town. Emergency workers used shovels and their bare hands to recover the bodies of forty people from the debris. Of the victims, almost all are impoverished gold miners and their family members. Officers in the area told people to find safe shelter prior to the typhoon, but many stayed behind to work the tunnels where they perished.
In Naga, Cebu, landslides wiped out 30 homes in two rural villages, killing 18 people while 64 others are still missing. At least seven of the villagers were rescued after sending text messages calling for help. Too many farmers did not leave quickly enough because they were trying to harvest their crops before the storm or landslides destroyed them.
Authorities say that the typhoon was particularly damaging in the central northern mountainous Cordillera region (CAR), which is composed of the provinces of Abra, Apayao, Benguet, Ifugao, Kalinga, Mountain Province and the cities of Baguio and Tabuk. Populations that live in these mountains are heavily indigenous and predominantly poor, with 17.1 percent of the population living below the poverty line. Most farmers who live there grow rice, and their margin of income is very thin at best.
According to an article in First Point: “Poverty has forced many to live on or near volcanoes, steep mountains and storm-vulnerable coasts, often leading to disasters.” So, it is the poorest populations that bear the brunt of the destruction.
The flash flooding that has resulted from Typhoon Mangkhut in the Philippines has been disastrous for rural farmers. Mangkhut swamped farm fields in the north, where much of the agriculture is located. Unfortunately, the typhoon came a month after severe monsoon rains that had already made these provinces vulnerable to disaster. Agriculture Secretary Manny Piñol predicts a total of 1.5 million farmers and over 100,000 fishing communities will be impacted by the typhoon.
The flooding was so bad that rice fields in Iguig could be mistaken for the town’s river. Oxfam’s April Bulanadi said of the disaster: “While I was able to see some farmers desperately harvesting crops the day before the storm hit, it was clear many were not able to do so. This is heartbreaking because it was supposed to be harvest season next month. This will have devastating impacts on small farmers, many of whom are still recovering from Typhoon Haima in 2016.” Some farmers lost their lives in the floods, but those who left in time will still lose their income due to lost and damaged crops.
The Aftermath of the Typhoon
The only current solution is to support the recovery of the victims of Typhoon Mangkhut. Clean water and materials needed to build shelters for those who have lost their homes are being sent by organizations such as Oxfam. Getting through to the villages has been problematic since the airport was also hit by the typhoon.
Maria Rosario Felizco, Oxfam Philippines Country Director, said that “we must also anticipate that the survivors of Typhoon Mangkhut, especially small fishers and farmers who have lost their source of income, will need support far beyond the first few days of this response.” However, aid is not the only thing that the country needs. Changes also need to be made in order to prevent disasters like this from completely destroying the livelihoods of poor farmers.
Typhoon Mangkhut in the Philippines was tragic. For those living in poverty, the storm directly posed a threat to their lives, work and homes all at once. The typhoon was particularly detrimental to the country’s poorest citizens because of their location and the devastating loss they must now endure due to destroyed crops.
With advances in modern technology, there has been a rise in the use of 3D printing by companies and individuals. The nonprofit and humanitarian sectors have begun using the technology in order to better achieve their goals. Oxfam is one of the nonprofit humanitarian organizations that has been trialing 3D printing to help with its disaster relief measures.
How Oxfam uses 3D printing is not a new concept; many other organizations have attempted to use the technology or are latching onto the idea of creating aid items in the area instead of having to ship them.
According to the Oxfam U.K. website, in 2014, Oxfam teamed with a design company called iMakr and asked its supporters with engineering and design expertise to help. The goal is to ultimately use 3D printing to print materials at the disaster site instead of having to ship everything there.
They want to use 3D printing to print their WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) kits. Not only would the kits save time, they would also save money in the long run for the organization, allowing for that money to be used elsewhere by Oxfam to conduct its mission.
Oxfam did a test run with 3D printing after the earthquake in Nepal. They used it for small parts that people may need, such as parts for water pipes. They worked with FieldReady, a nonprofit that specializes in using 3D printing and new technologies in its work.
FieldReady was using 3D printing to print medical tools and supplies in Nepal after the earthquake, showing that 3D printing can be expanded from just kits. It can also be used to make tools and instruments that are fully functional in everyday life. 3D printing by Oxfam was also trialed in Sri Lanka to help support a dam.
There is still a long way to go to see how Oxfam uses 3D printing in the future and it will be interesting to see if they will continue to lead the way with innovations in technology. While 3D printing is relatively new, other organizations can follow Oxfam’s model and try to use them and mold them to their missions in order to become more efficient and effective.
– Emilia Beuger
In 2015, more than 65 million people were displaced because of persecution, war and human rights violations. Nations around the world agreed to accept refugees, but the backlash has been swift amidst fears of terrorism. In light of this backlash, many organizations and individuals have tried to lend a voice to the refugee crisis.
One of the organizations on the forefront of global poverty is Oxfam. For over 70 years, Oxfam has been working to create awareness about global poverty. They focus on issues that contribute to poverty including discrimination and unequal access to resources. Oxfam provides clean water, food and aid to individuals suffering from poverty around the world. In response to the refugee crisis, Oxfam created a new project called “I Hear You“.
The “I Hear You” project aims to put a voice to the refugee crisis by recruiting celebrity voices to share personal refugee stories. Each celebrity reads a real-life story. The celebrities include Margot Robbie, John Cho, Gael García Bernal, Anna Camp, Minnie Driver and Al Madrigal.
By sharing the personal narratives, Oxfam hopes to create awareness and connect people to the stories. By going beyond the numbers and the statistics, Oxfam is trying to illustrate the humanity of the people impacted most by violence and persecution around the world. Social science often touts the concept of proximity; humans have a tendency to understand and bond with those that they are closest to in their lives. By sharing these personal stories, Oxfam has the ability to create a closer proximity to the refugees, and this could foster understanding.
The video series recently debuted on the Vanity Fair website; the videos are brief but powerful. John Cho tells the story of a teacher trying desperately to deliver lessons to his students even as they live in a refugee camp. Margot Robbie’s story is about a 17-year-old girl who dreams of bettering herself through education even as she has packed up everything she owns to flee a war zone. These celebrities are shining a light on the crisis, and each story is personal. Oxfam recognizes the possibility that activism can stem from those relatable stories.
After watching the videos, viewers can reach out to Oxfam on their website or by text to see what actions they can take for refugees living in poverty and displacement around the world. In addition to collecting donations for refugees, Oxfam also appeals to those hearing the stories to pledge compassion and kindness to refugees that are relocating.
– Jennifer Graham
NME, the British music and entertainment publication, reports that all proceeds from the Glastonbury live album, Stand As One, will go toward Oxfam International’s Refugee Crisis Appeal initiative.
Oxfam International is an alliance made up of 18 organizations that began its mission in 1995. According to their website, Oxfam “works to find practical, innovative ways for people to lift themselves out of poverty and thrive.”
Oxfam works globally to fix a number of issues like inequality, fair distribution of natural resources, women’s rights and the growth of sustainable food in developing countries.
The Refugee Crisis Appeal is an emergency campaign to raise money for countries that are overwhelmed by refugees, such as Jordan, Syria, Italy and Greece.
The Oxfam website states that they have already provided 45,000 people with water on the border of Syria and Jordan by constructing a water tank, served 100,000 meals on the Greek island Lesbos and given legal counsel to many refugees in Italy.
Oxfam decided to dedicate the album to the late Jo Cox, a member of Parliament and Labor Party politician. Cox spent 10 years working at Oxfam and was a longtime advocate for refugees across the globe.
“Given Jo’s tireless work to help refugees both at Oxfam and beyond it felt appropriate to dedicate the album to her,” Oxfam’s Chief Executive Mark Goldring said in a press release.
Goldring stated later in the interview that Glastonbury’s live album will be, “bringing the weight of the music world in support of people in desperate need.”
Thousands of people will crowd 900 acres of farmland to see artist like Coldplay, Muse, Sigur Ros, Chvrches, The 1975 and Wolf Alice.
There will be incredible music, beautiful art displays and fields filled with passionate fans, but this year refugees will be represented on one of the largest stages in the world.
– Liam Travers
Photo: Radio X
In late September 2015, Oxfam U.K. released a report highlighting the need for living wages in order for people to escape from poverty. The report utilizes information obtained through research in Morocco, Vietnam, Myanmar, Kenya and Malawi.
Employment is a critical tool to help people earn an income, but, as Oxfam finds, employment is not the cure when so many businesses pay below a living wage level and/or force people to work overtime, as was the case with many of those surveyed for this research.
Consequently, many suffer from in-work poverty.
Furthermore, the report takes note of the burden of unpaid care work for those supporting families. These additional hours (approximately six per day for women and one per day for men) place stress on workers.
Since, according to Oxfam, most of the workers in in-work poverty are women, creating living wages would produce positive benefits for families and children.
The report also highlights income inequality, citing a January 2015 report that 1 percent of the world’s population holds 99 percent of the world’s wealth. Income inequality is even more drastic at the very top; 85 people hold half of the world’s wealth.
Oxfam conducted longitudinal studies with both qualitative and quantitative data in five countries. Across countries, it was clear that a living wage would improve people’s health, well-being and worker productivity.
In Morocco, female strawberry pickers’ working conditions were studied. It was found that women did not earn living wages, and because many lacked identity documents, they had no way to assert their right to living wages.
In Malawi, tea pluckers who worked for companies involved in the Ethical Tea Partnership were studied. While they often made more than the minimum wage and received in-kind benefits for their labor, raising workers’ wages to a living wage would drastically improve workers’ abilities to feed their families.
In Kenya, agricultural workers were studied. While workers make the minimum wage, there is a large gap between the minimum wage and a living wage. For the typical unskilled agricultural worker who works nine hours a day, six days a week, this small increase in wages would accumulate into substantial improvements toward his or her livelihood.
Oxfam’s focus in Vietnam was on the companies that were part of Unilever’s supply chain. While Unilever headquarters assumed that employees were being paid living wages, they were not. Presently, Unilever is taking action to increase transparency and accountability in its supply chain.
In Myanmar, garment workers were studied; 90 percent of respondents were women. For many women, working overtime was the only way to make ends meet. Currently, Oxfam is working with corporations and the Myanmar government to develop a living wage for garment workers.
Overall, there is a great need to increase accountability in global supply chains, ensure living wages for all workers and raise awareness of labor rights for workers in developing nations.
The living wages for most of these countries were around $3 to $4 per worker per day, barely above the poverty line. However, the difference in livelihood for those making a living wage versus those who don’t is substantial.
Hopefully, as Oxfam suggests, corporation accountability for global supply chains will increase, as will government involvement to implement and regulate policies supporting labor rights. For consumers, this report is another reminder of globalization and how our purchases affect those a world away.
– Priscilla McCelvey
The tangible gift of a book gives the intangible gift of learning. When one gives The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn or To Kill a Mockingbird, a young person learns about race relations in the United States. Or maybe a child’s imagination can expand through classics such as The Chronicles of Narnia. What if you could give that gift to a loved one and at the same time help the education of someone in poverty?
It’s possible through the Auckland, New Zealand based company, Good Books. Just by shopping for books on their website, one can directly help the world’s poor through an automatic donation to Oxfam New Zealand, a partner of the general Oxfam family.
This is possible through a business plan by Good Books, which includes several partners that can donate their time or services to make the operation have zero operating costs.
For example, all the workers directly associated with Good Books are unpaid. The organization’s book distributor, Paperback Shop UK, handles the actual moving of the merchandise and supplies the website and management services. Also, the organization is able to build the company’s brand through media support and customers spreading the word.
But this specific labor is for a great cause since all retail profits are sent to Oxfam, an organization that works on many fronts trying to end global poverty.
Oxfam’s work is varied; the Oxfam America website specifically says the following about their work which is indicative of the organization’s work as a whole:
“No one should go hungry.”
“We all have the right to clean water.”
“All people deserve to live safely.”
“Women and girls are crucial to reducing poverty.”
“We all deserve the opportunity to earn a decent living.”
“People have a right to participate in decisions that affect their lives.”
“We must help poor communities cope with climate change.”
“Poverty is not inevitable.”
“People have the power to end poverty.”
While the purchase/donation cannot be earmarked through the Good Books’ website, purchasing the books matches well with the statements, “women and girls are crucial to reducing poverty,” and “we all deserve the opportunity to earn a decent living.” Both of those ideas hinge on education for the masses to move people out of poverty.
Oxfam New Zealand says that “every extra year a girl spends in school could reduce child mortality by ten percent.” So, much of their good work is built around education initiatives to help the community.
Oxfam and their partners have helped rebuild schools in Pakistan, get clean water for students in Nairobi, teach about women’s rights in Guatemala, and even giving goats to families in Ethiopia where the selling of offspring and goods provides money to send daughters of poor families to school.
By buying books from Good Books, consumers can use their purchasing power to help all the areas listed above. Specifically though, one can use their money to directly aid the fight against poverty while also reading a book that can change the mental attitudes for those in developed countries. Awareness and change concerning poverty can be worked on in two very distinct ways through the purchase of books.
– Megan Ivy
Legislation in Ugandan parliament threatens to undermine the work and transparency of the country’s aid organizations. The bill, described by opponents as “draconian,” will put the power of aid organizations in the hands of the government. It will add restrictions and control measures that will essentially put NGOs under work for the government rather than an apolitical frame. Particularly in areas such as government accountability and humanitarian rights, NGOs are under threat of total government control.
The bill, as outlined, would limit the growth of NGOs in Uganda, which have “led to subversive methods of work and activities, which in turn undermine accountability and transparency.” According to junior minister James Baba, the bill has been made to ensure NGOs do not introduce immoral Western practices into the country. “Some of these organizations are involved in our politics and championing morals that are against our culture, which is totally unacceptable. They have to operate in the respective areas we licensed them for easy supervision and monitoring.”
Others, such as Rama Omonya, a policy coordinator at Oxfam in Uganda, say the resolution will strictly limit the work NGOs will be able to do. It will give power to the internal affairs minister and national NGO board to supervise, inspect, restrict and dissolve all NGOs functioning in the country. Furthermore, NGOs could only work in areas where they have been approved by district NGO governing boards and with whom they have signed a memorandum of understanding. In the event of an emergency such as a landslide, NGOs would have to seek the approval of the district undergoing turmoil before working there, wasting valuable time and supplies and leaving many people suffering while waiting for the help and resources of aid organizations. If an NGO does not renew its permit, it can be fined or punished for up to eight years. Officials would have the right to search NGO office at any time and dissolve or suspend its work for actions they deem inappropriate or anti-government.
The subjective nature of this new bill would put NGOs at risk and under the strict control of the government. Humanitarian organizations and watchdog civil service organizations in particular need freedom and independence from government supervision in order to report crises and send aid to the communities that need it. According to Omonya, these organizations are vital to the welfare of many living in Uganda and should be given expanded, not restricted powers.
Beyond delivering aid and human service, NGOs in Uganda also provide education, healthcare and human rights reporting. Under the guise of the government, its power and aid potential would be severely curtailed. The accountability and transparency the government claims it would be enforcing would indeed be lessened, restricting the well-being and humanitarian conditions of people in need of aid in Uganda.
– Jenny Wheeler
Although the fight to end global poverty is still an uphill battle, there are a lot of people who are making a difference. From celebrities to CEOs, a variety of influential leaders have created organizations to bring more awareness to poverty around the globe. While some of these organizations work together to create a larger impact, it is the founders who have made it possible in coming closer to create better living conditions for people around the globe.
Bill and Melinda Gates are both influential leaders in the movement to end world poverty. The Gates Foundation tackles issues from global health to global development, focusing on creating the best living conditions in the most efficient ways possible. Bill Gates has recently partnered with engineer Peter Janicki, where they have developed a machine that turns human feces into clean water and electricity. “The machine’s purpose is to help the 783 million people living without clean water and the nearly 2.5 billion who don’t have adequate sanitation,” according to NPR’s Linda Poon. With Bill Gates’ technological knowledge, developments in better hygiene will further help people in poor countries.
Ten years ago, Bono’s organization ONE utilized the status of famous celebrities to raise awareness about the developing world. Its focus is in Africa, but the organization is passionate about ending poverty and preventable disease around the globe. The most popular accomplishment the organization has achieved is the (RED) campaign. By partnering with multibillion-dollar corporations they have “generated more than $300 million for The Global Fund to support HIV/AIDS grants.”
In May 2013, Mark Goldring was appointed chief executive of Oxfam International. The organization focuses on six key issues to help the developing world. Equality, sustainability and giving voices to the voiceless are some of the topics the organization has tackled. The organization works around the world with 17 congregations to maximize its progress. “Oxfam is determined to change [the] world by mobilizing the power of people against poverty,” according to the organization’s website.
These are only a few of the people taking a stand against world poverty. Organizations like The Hunger Project, UNICEF and Care are bringing the world closer to a poverty-free world. As more developments and strategies are created, these organizations will be able to generate awareness in ending global poverty.
– Kimberly Quitzon
Many people think that they can’t help others if they don’t have money to donate, yet there are many other ways to give back to those in need. Most organizations would be grateful for a pair of helping hands if you have a little time to spare this holiday season. At a time when many people are caught up in the commercial aspect of the holidays, giving back to others can be a very fulfilling and rewarding experience. Here are five international organizations where you can volunteer this holiday season.
1. Stop Hunger Now
Stop Hunger Now is an international relief organization that provides food packages with over 23 essential nutrients to those in need. The organization has helped provide food and aid to people in 65 different countries. Stop Hunger has over 25 meal packaging locations across the U.S. where anyone is welcome to go and volunteer. You can also arrange a meal packaging drive in your local community where Stop Hunger Now will travel to you. The group makes meal packaging a fun activity and encourages teamwork between volunteers to raise production goals.
2. Heifer International
Hiefer has helped bring over 20.1 million families out of hunger and poverty through the use of animals, water purification, women’s empowerment and sustainable farming. The organization’s unique donation system allows donors to fund life-saving projects as well as partial and complete animal donations (mainly cows, goats, sheep, llamas and bees). These animals can help provide a community with valuable resources so they can learn to feed themselves.
In addition, Hiefer offers a multitude of volunteering experiences that range from simply getting the word out about the cause to working on one of Heifer’s animal farms. For those who want to stay local, volunteers can conduct fundraising campaigns like the Read to Feed drive, which promotes a love of reading in children as well as community service. Volunteers can also help advocate Heifer International at local and national events or even travel to one of Heifer’s U.S. farms where they can chose from a variety of volunteer programs lasting from several hours to five days long. You can even sign up to stay and work on the farm for several months if you aren’t quite ready to leave.
3. Oxfam International
Oxfam has established development programs in over 90 countries which work to improve human rights, food security, healthcare and education. The organization allows volunteers to work towards global human rights and poverty-elimination at the local level. Volunteers have the opportunity to join the organization’s Action Corps, a group of trained grassroots advocates that work together locally to gain support for life-saving policies, defend human rights and help communities across the world to overcome hunger and climate change. Action Corps members primarily work as advocates at local events, as event organizers and as leaders. Oxfam’s volunteer program has received great feedback, helping many to develop valuable leadership skills and standout in the job market.
If you aren’t looking to make the commitment to the Action Corps program, Oxfam also looks for volunteers to represent the group at concerts and festivals as well as local events such as farmers markets.
4. Habitat for Humanity
Habitat for Humanity strives to provide safe, affordable housing for low-income families throughout the world. The organization prides itself on an open door policy which brings people together from all walks of life. Habitat has local branches throughout all 50 states, making it easy and convenient for volunteers. Individuals can volunteer at their local branch or even participate in an international Global Village volunteer trip. Volunteers work as a team to build and repair houses for those in need and they can devote as little as one day since there are no time requirements to help out. Volunteering at Habitat helps individuals build skills, meet other like-minded people, while providing a rewarding experience to those involved.
5. Mercy Corps
Similar to Heifer International, Mercy Corps offers many charitable gift ideas that go to those living in poverty. This includes donations of livestock, clean water systems, solar power, vaccinations and education for women and children. Mercy Corps’ gift site makes it easy and fun to give rewarding and charitable gifts- a unique idea for this holiday season!
Mercy Corps Action Center volunteers are able to use their people skills by speaking at events and managing information tables for the organization. In addition, the organization’s MicroMentor system connects business mentors, volunteers and entrepreneurs.
Volunteering at one of these organizations is a great way to give back this holiday season. Though, don’t forget that these groups need help throughout the rest of the year as well.
– Meagan Douches