|NGO Guidelines for Good Policy and Practice (Commonwealth Foundation)|
|Part I: NGOs: what they are and what they do|
|1. The rationale and purpose of this report|
This explosion of NGOs has been happening in the context of a world which has, over the past few decades, been characterised by rapid, complex and often unpredictable political, institutional, environmental, demographic, social and economic changes, which show no sign of ending. The changes include periodic world-wide recessions, increasing national debt levels, the appearance of new diseases and the reappearance of old ones, general environmental degradation and natural disasters, climatic changes, the disappearance of the "Iron Curtain", and a succession of armed conflicts.
The past decade in particular has seen dramatic changes at a global level which have had a fundamental impact on societies everywhere.
Perhaps the most important of these changes has been that towards regionalised and globalised economies. Policies of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund often have more impact on economies than those of national governments. As they commit themselves to regional economic blocs or regional or world trade agreements, governments experience similar effects. At the same time the growth of transnational corporations has also increased the effects of external influences on national policies.
All these trends to globalised economics have meant that, in general, governments have found that their abilities to influence what happens at national levels have, over the course of time, been eroded - sometimes slowly and at other times with dramatic suddenness.
Much the same has happened in other fields: many environmental changes are global in nature, and even those which are local can have impacts which are felt far away by people across the other side of the globe. The telecommunications and information revolutions are global, too. News and its associated images are beamed instantly across the world, through satellite dishes and optic fibres. Cultural influences come via the same routes and cannot always be controlled. And where new technology creates opportunities and advantage for those with access to it, it can at the same time further disadvantage those who lack such access. The "information superhighway" is a current illustration: no access, no superhighway, no advantage.
In general, three observations can be made about all the above and other ways in which the "global village" is coming about: the more globalisation occurs, the more national governments lose control over national affairs, whether or not they want it or like it; globalisation is also challenging the concept of cultural sovereignty. Cultural values are undergoing rapid change as a global lifestyle threatens to undermine local and national traditions and cultures. In addition, global trends towards individualism are occurring and replacing the collectivism which has been the cultural norm in many societies; globalisation is tending to increase the gulf between rich and poor, advantaged and disadvantaged.