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An American Perspective on the Roles and Functions of NGOs

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  1. An American Perspective on the Roles and Functions of NGOs Allison Moore American Bar Association

  2. NGOs/NPOs What do we mean by these terms?

  3. Questions for Consideration 1. Should every cause (e.g., environmental protection, women’s rights, labor rights) have an NGO? 2. How do you regulate an NGO to make it a “good” NGO? Or, what should government do to promote NGOs? 3. Imagine all the very best environmental NGO leaders became the leaders in government and business. Then would we still need environmental NGOs?

  4. WHY DOES THE U.S. NEED SO MANY NGOS? NGOs play different roles and use different methods to achieve goals Information politics – e.g. Move-on.org, League of Conservation Voters Accountability to the requirements of law – e.g., Environmental Defense, Natural Resources Defense Council, NAACP Legal Defense Fund, Women’s Legal Defense Fund Research and Public Education – e.g., Worldwatch Institute (Lester Brown) Organize volunteers and activities – e.g., WWF, Nature Conservancy, numerous local groups

  5. WHY DOES THE U.S. NEED SO MANY NGOS? NGOs have different views of politics and the influence of money View of Government/Political Parties ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ Basically Trust Government Basically Distrust Government Orientation to Social Problem Solving ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Government Regulation Free Market View of Effect of Source of Funding on NGO Mission ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Business/ Private Foundations Members Government

  6. WHY DOES THE U.S. NEED SO MANY NGOS? NGOs have different fundamental values * People-centered (e.g., Worldwatch Institute) * Animal rights (e.g., WWF) * Ecosystem-centered (e.g., WRI, Friends of Chicago River) Based on different values, they might advocate different solutions to the same problem

  7. Questions for Consideration 1. Should every cause (e.g., environmental protection, women’s rights, labor rights) have an NGO? 2. How do you regulate an NGO to make it a “good” NGO? Or, what should government do to promote NGOs? 3. Imagine all the very best environmental NGO leaders became the leaders in government and business. Then would we still need environmental NGOs?

  8. WHY NGOS NEED SPACE FROM REGULATION Paradox: To be an effective NGO, it might need independence from government regulation. Activities and Mission of NGO naturally change over time (e.g., ABA) Credibility of research and analysis depends on independence (Worldwatch Institute, League of Conservation Voters) Ability to raise questions about and challenge status quo requires independence (NRDC suits against government)

  9. WHY NGOS NEED SPACE FROM REGULATION Who will protect the public from “bad” NGOs? Internal mechanisms of responsibility, transparency, and accountability - Independent Board of Directors and other governance structures - Open financial records Oversight by Funders Media supervision Government supervision of financial honesty, as completely separate from evaluation of value of NGOs’ activities

  10. WHAT SHOULD GOVERNMENT DO? Government can make it easier for NGOs to raise money Tax breaks for nonprofit, charitable activities Tax breaks for contributions to nonprofit, charitable, activities - examples of fund-raising events and sales; membership drives; business consultancy Direct government support - tricky – Rust v. Sullivan (abortion counseling by private clinics) LSC v. Velasquez (raising challenges to laws/regulations in general, not to application of laws in particular case)

  11. Questions for Consideration 1. Should every cause (e.g., environmental protection, women’s rights, labor rights) have an NGO? 2. How do you regulate an NGO to make it a “good” NGO? Or, what should government do to promote NGOs? 3. Imagine all the very best environmental NGO leaders became the leaders in government and business. Then would we still need environmental NGOs?

  12. WHY ARE NGOS DIFFERENT FROM GOVERNMENT? Government Leaders, Business Leaders, and NGO Leaders are each responsible for and accountable to different groups Even if government/business had the “greenest” leaders, they still have to meet other responsibilities when they are in that position NGOs can focus on one goal or the interests of one group purely

  13. WHY ARE NGOS DIFFERENT FROM GOVERNMENT? Imagine the Kyoto Protocol if only Government and Business Leaders participated in writing it…

  14. Why I Work for an NGO • NGO career path, sacrifices • mission; advocacy • people I admire most • waiting for better political leaders