A non-governmental organisation is, as the name suggests, an organisation that is not controlled by governmental or statutory authorities. NGOs can be organisations, charities, associations, clubs, institutions and other types of group, made up of people with a common interest and often pursuing a political intention. This broad definition would include human rights organisations, sports clubs and business-sector or employers’ organisations.
However, the general public understanding of an NGO (and the common usage of the term in the media) is usually restricted to organisations promoting human rights, development work and environmental protection. Public acceptance for this type of organisation is significant, since they are committed to morally credible goals. Another reason for their recognition is their non-profit nature, working to support and benefit people and the environment. Examples include medica mondiale, Amnesty International and Greenpeace.
By carrying out public relations and public awareness work, NGOs draw attention to the issues they exist for and try to inform and educate the broader public and important players (including state actors) about these issues. As an example, in Afghanistan, medica mondiale works to improve human rights by running training courses for police officers and lawyers on the issue of violence against women. Public awareness of NGO issues can in turn benefit the organisations’ political influence by means of advocacy work and lobbying.
In order to finance their work, non-governmental organisations are dependent on donations and voluntary work. NGOs also receive some funding from governments for individual projects or for parts of their core operations.