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Non-Governmental Organizations Influence Policy Around the World

This is the VOA Special English Development Report.

The sixteenth international AIDS conference opened on Sunday in Toronto, Canada. More than twenty-four thousand delegates from one hundred thirty-two countries are attending the six-day conference. They include scientists, health care providers, activists, political and business leaders and people living with the disease. Many people attending the AIDS conference represent private non-governmental organizations, or NGOs.

Political scientists often describe NGOs as “pressure groups” because of their effect on world issues. They have little official power over international decision-making. However, NGOs often influence international policy.

A broad definition of NGO is any non-profit group that is independent of government. Most of these private organizations have one or more goals. For example, some support community development, provide social services and help poor people. Others support human rights and social justice. Still others work to protect the environment. NGOs support many issues and operate around the world. Some of the most well-known include Oxfam, Amnesty International and Greenpeace.

James Paul heads the Global Policy Forum. It is an NGO in New York City that studies policy-making at the United Nations. He says that some NGOs represent industries or businesses, the interests of governments, or even criminal groups. He says it would be a mistake to believe that all NGOs are neutral.

The World Bank has divided NGOs into three main groups. The first is community-based organizations that serve populations in a small geographical area. The second is national NGOs, which operate in individual developing countries. International NGOs are the third kind. These organizations usually have their headquarters in industrialized countries. They carry out operations in more than one developing nation.

Information about the total number of non-governmental organizations is incomplete. However, experts estimate that tens of thousands of NGOs are active around the world. Large international NGOs may have operating budgets of tens of millions of dollars. However, most NGOs are much smaller.

And that’s the VOA Special English Development Report, written by Jill Moss. You can read transcripts of our reports and listen online at I’m Steve Ember.