Nongovernmental Organizations

Anna Holzscheiter

in Childhood Studies

ISBN: 9780199791231
Published online March 2012 | | DOI:
Nongovernmental Organizations


Nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) are now considered to be the linchpin of grassroots, local, national, and transnational civil society engagement and organization. Their role and importance continue to grow, and academic engagement with NGOs and the specific power they hold is more vibrant than ever. Although NGOs, the various advocacy networks they form, and contentious issues around which they group are certainly not a new phenomenon, their exponential growth since about the 1980s is remarkable, particularly in terms of their increasing internationalization and the ways in which they have become prominent players alongside nation-states in international standard-setting. In this regard, the role of NGOs in the drafting of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC)—the core international treaty enshrining an international notion of childhood and defining the human rights of children—is one of the earliest and most successful examples of NGO involvement in international standard-setting. In the field of child protection and child advocacy, the bulk of research, however, is still concerned with NGOs’ role beyond the political realm, i.e., the core functions that they occupy in society, their role in monitoring implementation of child protection standards and human rights legislation for children, and in contesting policies. NGOs are seen here as crucial actors providing basic services for children and adolescents, working for civic education, and advocating for the rights of children and their visibility in public policy. Recently, academic research on NGOs, which were previously taken to be the “conscience of the world” (see Willets 1996, cited under General Overviews), has experienced a second wave of research that sheds a more critical light on the representativity, legitimacy, and often considerable power that NGOs hold on all levels of societal and political organization. Much of the academic engagement with NGOs has revolved around definitional issues—seeking to define what is “nongovernmental” and trying to make an analytical differentiation between different types of nongovernmental or nonstate actors.

Article.  11135 words. 

Subjects: Development Studies

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