NGOs are defined as “private organizations which conduct and pursue activities to relieve sufferings, promote the interests of poor, provide basic social services or undertake community development”.
In wider usage, the term NGO can be applied to any non profiting organization which is independent from the government. NGOs are typically value based organizations which depend, in whole or in part, on charitable donations and voluntary service. Although theNGO sector has become increasingly professional over the last two decades, principles of altruism and voluntarism remain key defining characters. NGOs range in their size and scope from large charities as CARE, OXFAM, World Vision of global fame to regional, national and community based self help groups. They include research centres, religious institutions and professional associations. Based on their functioning NGOs can be divided in two distinct categories.
Operational NGOs. Such organizations work for the betterment of humanity through practical application of their resources and abilities. They under take welfare measures, development projects and assists the governments and its agencies in crises management.
Advocacy NGOs. This type of NGOs are more focused and deals with a specific purpose with a view to defend and promote a particular cause. Commonly dealt issues are health, education and poverty. At times a no of advocacy NGOs may unite under a single operational NGOwhile advocating their particular cause. Physical application usually is not within the domain of such types.
Operational NGOs find their roots in masses on contrary to the other type. Their role in disaster management is of paramount importance. These can further be classified as under.
Community Based Organizations. These are normally membership organizations made up of a group of individuals who have joined together to further their own interests. Normally based on communal system such organizations are weak in resources and funds with prime dependence on charity and donations. However, having grass root foundations, if linked with the two types being described below, communal organizations can be very effective.
National Organizations. Well financed and sufficiently equipped such organizations have national objectives. They primarily focus within the boundaries of a particular country, although at times may have international links. Edhi foundation and Insar Burni trust are the glaring examples.
International Organizations. Normally based in developed countries such organizations operate around the world particularly the developing countries. They have a wider scope and are linked to world fame bodies as UNO and world bank. At times they play an intermediary role between these organizations, governments and small scaled NGOs.
Role in October 8th Disaster. The country saw more than 160 local, regional and international NGOs responding to the disaster. They brought specialized capabilities and resources with varying means to apply them. The major contributions can be listed as under.
Augmentation and occasional replacement of local and regional administration.
Provision of mass casualty evacuation and related relief.
Assistance in restoration of basic life support systems and public services.
Coordinating and prioritizing the efforts of independent volunteers.
Communication and sharing of information among government agencies, various private entities and the public.
Specialized tasks of medication, engineering services, transportation and shelter provision.
The support was massive and above expectation. However, the absence of a coordinated effort and the resultant incorrect application was the sore part. An in depth analysis of their working and contributions to determine their positives and negatives is therefore a must. The recent experience reveals their under mentioned strengths and weaknesses.
Strong Grass Root Links. Gaining their strength from the masses these organizations are well linked in their areas of influence. Moreover, their selfless approach and unpaid working, help them gain the sympathies of people.
Innovative and Adaptable. In most cases NGOs do not have a set agenda to operate. Their basic aim being to serve humanity they are capable to undertake varying nature of tasks.
Sincerity of Purpose. At occasions NGOs are blamed to have secondary objectives of self propagation. In certain cases it might be true, however, the basic purpose to serve humanity remains in built to any NGO.
Expertise. NGOs are usually well trained and have requisite expertise to apply their resources. They have the specialized man power and technical know how to implement their objectives.
Cost Effective. Charity and donations forms the base of their finances. This very system, make these outfits highly productive with almost negligible input.
Limited Institutional Capacity. In most cases the scope of NGOs particularly at national level and below does not match their organizational abilities. Their intended tasks are usually not within their own capabilities and they normally need outside assistance from the government and local establishment.
Resource and Financial Constraint. Small scaled NGOs normally do not have sufficient funds and resources to manage their affairs. Absence of a regular source of income and mere dependence on donors and charity are their vulnerabilities.
Isolated Working. NGOs are very weak in inter communication and coordinated working, either with the government or with their fellow organizations. They have their own agenda and work with a particular mind set. In large scale disasters duplication and wastage of efforts are therefore a common doing.
Limited Field Sustainability. Dealing with disasters at occasions require prolonged field employment. The associated staff of NGOs are normally not permanent. They are linked to some other jobs for their regular incomes. Long term employment of NGOs for field work is therefore a problem.
Compatible Understanding. Their direction and way of working is self assessed. They usually lack understanding of the broader social and economic context. The problem arises when they have to operate in coordination with the government and its agencies. Their limited focus and inability to view the overall framework not only limits their own out put but is also a drag on others.
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