n. A legally constituted non-commercial organization created by natural or legal persons with no participation or representation of any government. Abbreviated NGO.
A non-governmental organization (NGO) is a not-for-profit organization that is independent from states and international governmental organisations. They are usually funded by donations but some avoid formal funding altogether and are run primarily by volunteers. NGOs are highly diverse groups of organizations engaged in a wide range of activities, and take different forms in different parts of the world. Some may have charitable status, while others may be registered for tax exemption based on recognition of social purposes. Others may be fronts for political, religious, or other interests.
The number of NGOs in the United States is estimated at 1.5 million. Russia has 277,000 NGOs. India is estimated to have had around 2 million NGOs in 2009, just over one NGO per 600 Indians, and many times the number of primary schools and primary health centres in India.
NGOs are difficult to define, and the term 'NGO' is not always used consistently. In some countries the term NGO is applied to an organization that in another country would be called an NPO (nonprofit organization), and vice-versa. There are many different classifications of NGO in use. The most common focus is on "orientation" and "level of operation". An NGO's orientation refers to the type of activities it takes on. These activities might include human rights, environmental, improving health, or development work. An NGO's level of operation indicates the scale at which an organization works, such as local, regional, national, or international.
The term "non-governmental organization" was first coined in 1945, when the United Nations (UN) was created. The UN, itself an inter-governmental organization, made it possible for certain approved specialized international non-state agencies — i.e., non-governmental organizations — to be awarded observer status at its assemblies and some of its meetings. Later the term became used more widely. Today, according to the UN, any kind of private organization that is independent from government control can be termed an "NGO", provided it is not-for-profit, nonprevention, and not simply an opposition political party.
One characteristic these diverse organizations share is that their non-profit status means they are not hindered by short-term financial objectives. Accordingly, they are able to devote themselves to issues which occur across longer time horizons, such as climate change, malaria prevention, or a global ban on landmines. Public surveys reveal that NGOs often enjoy a high degree of public trust, which can make them a useful – but not always sufficient – proxy for the concerns of society and stakeholders.