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These articles offer a snapshot of how NGOs and civil society are being portrayed and profiled in the press around the world.

The NGO Phenomenon
The Baltimore Sun - 9 January 2005
Michael Hill

This article draws on the past work of NGOs, from the inception of CARE packages to the symbiotic relationship between the UN and NGOs, to demonstrate that their roles have evolved to not only include that of disaster relief, but also civic participation and governance. (read)

Social Partnership - NGOs and the Media
The Barbados Advocate - 10 January 2005
Basil Springer

If aid from donor countries is to reach its intended recipients in developing countries, this author suggests that funds must be channeled through social partnerships. For these partnerships to be successful, a multi-stakeholder strategy needs to be promoted, with the inclusion of NGOs who go beyond their traditional operational and advocacy agendas. (read)

The Development of Civil Society in Nepal - 10 January 2005
Pradipna Raj Panta

Nepalese civic participation has an illustrious history dating back thousands of years, but its impact remains weak. Confrontational and disruptive activities between civil society and other stakeholders, including governments and the private sector, are thwarting its effectiveness. The author suggests the building of stronger multi-stakeholder coalition as a remedy. (read)

NGOs Gain Confidence of the Public
International Herald Tribune - 24 January 2005
Eric Pfanner

A study, by Edelman Public Relations, is suggesting that confidence in government and corporations is falling, while trust in NGOs is growing. Scandal, impropriety and corruption are forcing people to ask the question 'whom can I trust?' More and more are turning to NGOs for the answer. (read)

NGOs Rally Behind UN Plan to Slash World Poverty - 19 January 2005
Jim Lobe

Read how NGOs are uniting to support the UN Millennium Development Goals -endorsed by 191 countries - and calling on governments to account for their commitments to halve the number of people living with hunger, achieving universal primary education for all, reducing infant mortality and reversing the spread of infectious diseases. (read)

Wary of Aid
Newsweek - 24 January
Rana Foroohar

NGOs involved in humanitarian crisis, like the recent tsunami, are not just running into challenges related to the enormous task of reconstruction. Their work is increasingly being monitored and stymied by local and national governments affected by these disasters. Read how these governments are growing weary of aid agencies servicing political agendas. (read)


This section draws on the scholarly/academic discourse on the significance of NGOs and civil society in both international and national political landscapes.

Ten Emerging Principles of Governance of Non-Profit Corporations and Guides to a Safe Harbor
The International Journal for Non-Profit Law -- 2004
Thomas Silk

Corporate scandals in the US, such as the Enron crisis, led to the passing of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, which calls for best practice codes of governance and transparency for businesses. As the non-profit sector is beginning to deal with its own allegations of impropriety, it is facing greater public scrutiny. The following analysis identifies ten emerging principles of governance for non-profit organizations. (read)

Arab NGOs: Roles and Challenges?
Arab NGO Network for Development -- 2004
Ziad Abdel Samad

The growth of civil society organizations in the Arab world is promising, but antagonism towards them from their own national governments is impeding their activities. This article explores the challenges faced by Arab civil society organizations in their quest to be recognized as legitimate partners for social change and progress towards sustainable development. (read)

Trade Union Internationalism and a Global Civil Society in the Making
Excerpt from Global Civil Society 2004-2005 (Chapter 8)
Peter Waterman and Jill Timms

International trade unions' participation at two very different events, one at the Fourth World Social Forum and the other at the meeting by the Internacional Labour Organisation's (ILO), suggests that there are different approaches undertaken by the union movement to respond to globalization. Are these strategies competing or complementary? This chapter of the book "Global Civil Society 2004/5" explores this question and draws its reflections on past and present trends of union internationalism. (read) (4.7Mb PDF file)

African Social Forum 2004: From Space to Action
Committee for the Abolition of Third World Debt (CADTM) - December 2004
Amanda Alexander and Mandisa Mbali

Gatherings, like the African Social Forum, have created spaces where civil society actors can debate the socio-economic issues of the day, but are these debates becoming too insular? Read how these authors see a need for Social Forums to be more outward looking and engaged with the agendas of the International Financial Institutions (IFIs) to avoid becoming irrelevant abstractions. (read)

Should Private Agencies Withdraw from Development Cooperation
Swiss Coalition of Development Organizations - December 2004
Peter Niggli

Relations between private and government development agencies have come under pressure in several industrialized countries. Obvious forms of cooperation and government co-funding of private agencies are being questioned as development work takes on more political aspirations. This article reviews the role of private agencies, development agencies and civil society as both advocates and 'implementers' of development policy.

Africa's Debt Crisis needs a Fair and Transparent Arbitration Court
Afrodad -- 2004

Who should be responsible for the reckless indebtedness of countries: debtors or creditors? Examining the case of certain African countries, the author suggests that the creation of an independent arbitration court is a fair and transparent way of identifying where the responsibility lies. (read)

A Challenge to Conservationists
World Watch Magazine - December 2004
Mac Chapin

This is a critical look at the rich and powerful "Big Three" environmental groups -- World Wildlife Fund, Conservation International and the Nature Conservancy. Author Mac Chapin, an anthropologist who has worked with indigenous people for 35 years, accuses the three groups of allying themselves with forces that are destroying the world's remaining ecosystems and ignoring the native peoples whose cause these environmentalists once championed. (read)

From Anti-Natalist to Ultra-Conservative: Restricting Reproductive Choice in Peru
Reproductive Health Matters Journal - December 2004
Anna-Britt Coe

This article examines Peru's population policy since the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development and assesses the extent to which its policies and programmes have affected reproductive health and rights. Based on trends identified by the Center for Health and Gender Equality (CHANGE), progress in the area of reproductive health in Peru has been hindered by two periods of anti-choice policies and interventions. (read)

Rising Up in Response: Women's Rights Activism in Conflict
Urgent Action Fund - February 2005
Jane Barry

Researchers have found information about women’s activism in conflict situations to be difficult to obtain. Yet Urgent Action Fund -- an international human rights organization -- regularly hears from women living in and responding to every stage of conflict. UAF believes it is important that this information be analyzed and used to help women’s human rights activists better understand the issues women in conflict face, the power and skills they bring to bear, and how UAF’s rapid response grants program can better support their work. (read)

Volume 2:
Volume 2 - September - November 2005 - Issue 5
Volume 2 - July - August 2005 - Issue 4
Volume 2 - May - June 2005 - Issue 3
Volume 2 - March - April 2005 - Issue 2
Volume 2 - January - February 2005 - Issue 1

Volume 1:
Volume 1 - October - November 2004 - Issue 5
Volume 1 - August - September 2004 - Issue 4
Volume 1 - June - July 2004 - Issue 3
Volume 1 - April - May 2004 - Issue 2
Volume 1 - February - March 2004 - Issue 1

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Statements and positions from NGOs and civil society are featured here to demonstrate how these actors relate to the UN system and use multilateral fora to advance the issues they champion. Also featured is documentation on civil society and NGOs emanating from the multilateral system.

Declaration of the Mauritius Civil Society Forum
January 2005

From 10-14 January, over 300 NGOs converged in Mauritius for the ten year review of the Barbados Programme of Action (BPoA) for Small Island and Developing States (SIDS). Civil society participants expressed solidarity with tsunami victims and called for the cancellation of all debts for the affected countries. Participants also presented a list of 'actions' for both governments and civil society actors to be taken to address some of the more problematic issues affecting Small Islands and Developing States. (read)

NGOs and the Commission on Social Development

Over 150 NGOs gathered in New York to take part in the ten year review of the commitments made at the World Conference on Social Development in 1995. Focusing on the issues of employment, social integration and poverty eradication, NGOs emphasized the need for greater political will by Member States to see their commitments through. NGOs also stressed that without proper strategies to curb unemployment and ensure the integration of poor people into decision making processes, the UN and its Member States would fall short of achieving the Millennium Development Goals. Below are the NGO Declaration and NGO statements released during the 43rd Session of the Commission on Social Development.
(NGO Declaration for the Commission on Social Development )

NGO Statements:
Africa , Education , Employment , Gender , Health , HIV/AIDS , Poverty, Social Integration , Structural Adjustment , Youth Statement

2005 Geneva Declaration on Trade & Environment
(NGO Position Paper)

EcoLomics international - 1 January 2005

Marking the 10th year anniversary of the World Trade Organization's (WTO) entry into force, NGOs released a statement outlining their concern vis-à-vis the weak linkages being drawn between trade and environment in the WTO's work. Read NGO recommendations on how environment related issues can be given greater priority in discussions and negotiations processes at the WTO. (read)

Human Rights Organizations Respond to the Report of the Panel on Threats, Challenges and Change.
Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International
December 2004

Two of the leading NGOs in the field of human rights, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, welcomed many of the recommendations made in the report released by the High-level Panel on Threats, Challenges and Change - appointed by the Secretary-General Kofi Annan. Read how these two organizations view the strengths and weaknesses of some the Panel's suggestions for reforms.
(Amnesty International Statement)
(Human Rights Watch Statement)

Dangerous Liaison: A Briefing Document Submitted by Global Witness to the UN Security Council
Global Witness -- December 2004

In its report, Global Witness welcomes the UN Security Council's decision to maintain sanctions on Liberian timber and diamonds, but stresses that more remain to be done to ensure that Liberia's natural resources no longer fuel conflict. The main recommendations of the report include more regular monitoring to ensure that extracting industries have reformed and an expansion of the UN mission to Liberia. (read)

2005 Porto Alegre World Social Forum Manifesto
January 2005
In a bold break with the concept of the WSF as horizontal, open space, a group of personalities draft a programme and urge participants to approve it. The first signatories to the Manifesto include Aminata Traoré, Adolfo Pérez Esquivel, Eduardo Galeano, José Saramago, François Houtart, Boaventura de Sousa Santos, Armand Mattelart, Roberto Savio, Riccardo Petrella, Ignacio Ramonet, Bernard Cassen, Samir Amin, Atilio Boron, Samuel Ruiz Garcia, Tariq Ali, Frei Betto, Emir Sader, Walden Bello, Immanuel Wallerstein.
(french version) - (spanish version) - (english version)

Appeal for September 10th 2005
Invitation to endorse the Global Day of Mobilisation For a New World Order Against Poverty, War and Unilateralism that will take place on September 10th 2005, at the eve of the UN Head of States meeting in New York of September 14-16 2005. (read)


Advocacy is a feature often associated with NGOs and civil society, but many also have the capacity to produce compelling and valuable research, which underpins their advocacy work. This section carries examples of recent civil society and NGO research.

Gender, Minorities and Indigenous Peoples
Minority Rights Group International - December 2004
Fareda Banda and Christine Chinkin

This report describes how the prohibition of discrimination in international human rights law has placed people within a single category, identified through such characteristics as race, sex, religion or ethnicity, and has failed until recently to take account of the reality that people have multiple, interlocking identities that shape their lives. (read)

IANSA's 2004 Review - The Year in Small Arms
International Action Network on Small Arms - December 2004

The proliferation of small arms continues largely unchecked despite the intensive efforts of NGOs, UN agencies and progressive governments. IANSA's review examines awareness campaigns taking root at the international, regional and national levels to mitigate the transfer, trade and misuse of small arms. (read)

HIV Positive Lives in Latin America and the Caribbean
World Vision International - 2004

In an attempt to unveil the human face of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, World Vision has released the testimonials of 28 individuals from 14 countries of Latin America and the Caribbean, which are living with HIV/AIDS and have suffered discrimination linked to injurious misconceptions that perpetuate fear. (read) (2.7Mb PDF file)

A Call for International Democracy
World Federalist Movement - January 2005

The challenges of the 21st century are profoundly interconnected: threats to peace, security and justice are, integrated, and interdependent -- a threat to one country is a threat to all. Read how this report is urging the international community to recognize the vital need for strengthening global cooperation among nation-states, international organizations and civil society. (read)

Smoke - The Killer in the Kitchen: Indoor Air Pollution in Developing Countries
The Intermediate Technology Development Group (ITDG) - December 2004
Hugh Warwick and Alison Doig

Malnutrition, unsafe sex, unsafe water, sanitation and hygiene have garnered awareness and mobilization in developing countries as they are issues affecting the livelihoods of citizens, but little has been done to mitigate the impact of smoke from cook stoves, which is turning out to be a silent killer. This report reveals how smoke from solid fuel is amongst the greatest contributors to death and disease in Least Developed Countries (LDCs). (read)

Beyond the Headlines: "Top Ten" Most Underreported Humanitarian Stories from 2004
Medecins Sans Frontieres - 19 January 2005

According to Médecins Sans Frontières' (MSF) annual listing of underreported humanitarian stories, chronic conflicts in Chechnya, Colombia, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Northern Uganda are cited as the most ignored by media. The list also highlights soaring Tuberculosis deaths and unrelenting crises in other international hotspots as underreported issues. (read)

Financing Development Practice - How can we start to make the difference that makes a difference?
by John Wilson and Dan Taylor - January 2005

Written by two experienced development workers who have worked on both sides of the donor funding fence, this thoughtful paper questions the nature of funding received by development organisations. They argue that there needs to be a fundamental change in the relationship between donors and recipients, because the current nature of such relationships is dysfunctional. The paper includes an analysis of some of the various agencies involved in funding development, and concludes by looking at the way forward, proposing what needs to change in order to establish good development practice. (read)

Beijing Betrayed
Women's Environment and Development Organization (WEDO) -- March 2005

This report is the fifth in a series by the Women’s Environment and Development Organization (WEDO) assessing governments’ progress in implementing the commitments they made to the world’s women at the United Nations Fourth World Conference on Women that met in Beijing in 1995. It consists of reports from women in 150 countries representing every region of the world. Their realities often contrast sharply with the official reports of their governments. (read)

The views reflected in this publication are those of the authors and not those of the United Nations Non-Governmental Liaison Service or the UN system.
See UN Link --

Readers are encouraged to submit appropriate documentation for the consideration of UN-NGLS, by contacting NGLS’s New York Office (

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Information You Can Use: A Bi-monthly Service for the UN and Civil Society
Volume II, Issue 1, January-February 2005

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Civil Society Observer is a bi-monthly package of documentation of various kinds from all political persuasions to keep you
informed of developments related to NGOs and civil society. It is divided into four sections:

In the Press – snapshots of how NGOs and civil society are being portrayed by the media and news outlets around the world;
Trends and Debates –this features academic and scholarly discourse on the role and significance of NGOs and civil society in
the contemporary world;
CSOs and the Multilateral System – position papers, statements and other documents delivered by civil society and NGOs
at multilateral and international meetings and events. It also carries documentation relating to NGOs and civil society emanating
from the multilateral system.
CSO Research – featuring analysis and research originating from civil society and NGOs.

The views reflected in this publication are those of the authors and not those of the United Nations Non-Governmental Liaison Service or the UN system. See UN Link --


NGOs Run into Major Logistical Challenge
New Straits Times (Malaysia) - 9 January 2005
Abdul Razak Ahmad

The outpouring of support for the tsunami tragedy has unearthed the need for better coordination among NGOs. The Muslim Youth Movement of Malaysia and the Malaysian Red Crescent Society, who were among the first organizations to respond to the tsunami crisis, are calling for a proper evaluation of victim needs. (read)

Donations go to Victims: NGOs
The Age (Australia) - 14 January 2005

Growing public disquiet over the way funds for the tsunami disaster are invested has led some NGOs in Australia to reduce their administrative and fundraising costs. The heads of Care, Oxfam, the Red Cross and World Vision have come together to pledge that no more than 10% of total donations collected would go to administration and other overhead costs. (read)

Aid Groups to Tsunami Survivors: Get to Work
Reuters - 21 January 2005
Jeff Franks

As tsunami hit regions are expected to move from the emergency to the recovery phase, aid agencies are encouraging inhabitants of tsunami-devastated areas to begin earning a living rather than remain dependent on free distribution of goods and services. Work programmes, they argue, are being implemented for victims to regain control of their livelihoods. (read)

Rich Nations, Other Donors must Prevent "Poverty Crisis" in Tsunami-Hit Countries
OneWorld US - 18 January 2005
Jim Lobe

Are the unprecedented aid commitments by donor countries sufficient to restore the livelihood of the victims affected by the tsunami? This article argues that while the tsunami crisis spawned an admirable response by developed countries, more systematic reforms in the areas of trade and debt relief will be needed if these communities are to avoid falling into abject poverty. (read)

The Asian Tsunami: Three Weeks On
Oxfam International - 14 January 2005

In this report, Oxfam gives an overview of the current conditions of tsunami-hit areas and encourages a long-term strategy of assistance that focuses on poverty reduction. Recommendations for a sustained recovery of the affected countries include, among others: the cancellation of debt, reduction of trade barriers and cash-for-work-programmes. (read)

Backward Thinking Hinders Progress at UN World Disaster Conference
Tearfund (UK) -- 22 January

During the World Conference on Disaster Reduction, governments agreed on an early warning system for the Indian Ocean, but some feel the agreement falls short of concrete measures to prevent further disasters. In its statement, Tearfund, a UK faith-based aid organization, argues that a more elaborated action plan of implementation for a warning system is warranted. (read)

There's More to Disaster Mitigation Than a Warning System -- NGOs
Inter Press Service News Agency -- 19 January
Suvendrini Kakuchi

NGOs express concern that emphasis on an early warning system for disaster prevention will ignore rural based programmes. According to the NGOs, a community-centred approach to disaster mitigation that includes public education campaigns is urgently needed. (read)

NGLS Interview with World Vision International
February 2005

This NGLS interview of World Vision International (WVI) provides a first-hand account of an NGO engaged in the relief effort for victims of tsunami in the South Asia region. WVI shares its experience and insight into the importance of friendly relations with the governments of affected areas, challenges faced by NGOs in the field and UN-NGO coordination efforts. (read)