Role of NGOs in National Development and Security

Last Updated: 22 Mar 2023
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The term NGO has now become a popular in academic, policy and international cycles. The letters N. G. O is an abbreviation, which stands for Non-Governmental Organization, literally speaking because they are not formed by the government, not controlled by Government bureaucracy and they do not participate in decision or policy making of Government(s).

Some Historical Perspectives

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For a better understanding of the present topic, one needs to have an insight into the history or evolution of NGOs. Community based organization’s evolution dates back decades ago. Some of the then existing voluntary organizations were very small, inexperienced and generally localized and some exist with different names, such as societies and clubs committees which are mostly friends, relations, professional groups, etc. Generally, they lack some relevant organizational capacities, funding and networking. Some of the oldest voluntary organizations established were the Anti-Slave Trade Society established in the year 1840.

Another old and still surviving NGO established for humanitarian services was the International Committee for the Red Cross and the Red Crescent, an organization that out dates even the United Nations. It was established in the year 1863. It has played a major role in offering humanitarian services in major wars and conflicts. NGOs globally are developed from the need to coordinate some specifically defined activities and objectives. Beginning from 19th century, Mosques, Churches, Professional, Scientific and Cultural groups formed all kinds of associations that execute the work of NGOs.

In the 20th century, specialized bodies started to spring up in such areas like sports, businesses and communications. This paper would now try to fully define the meaning of NGO and also go further to answer some questions on how, why and the need for NGOs, before finally addressing the roles they play in the national development and security which is the topic this paper is designed to address. What is an NGO? Let me begin by asking us this question. What does the term NGO stands for or what is the meaning of an NGO?

Even though there is no generally or universally restricted definition of NGO, however let us bring in some definitions by some institutions and international bodies in order to explain more the meaning or the message behind the term NGO. To enable us capture the idea behind the NGOs, four of these definitions would suffice; i. The British Library, for example agrees that NGOs has to do with voluntary participation by average citizen in the affairs of his environment or communities. This is so because there is no imposed membership, control by Government or State.

They are now often called Private Voluntary Organizations (PVO). ii. The World Bank, defines NGOs as private organizations that pursue basic social services, or undertake community development services. They in whole or in part depend on charitable donations and offer voluntary services. iii. The United Nations, the present name N. G. O was first coined by the U. N in the year 1945. This was mainly to distinguish them from States and Governments. iv. The International Community generally adopts another name for NGO’s, which is “Civil Society Organizations”.

This is generally because they are being formed by the citizen for the good of society and are generally not for profit. NGOs are known to be legitimately engaged in activities that touch on the lives of their communities. These include economic, social, humanitarian, security and philanthropy. They are nevertheless broad in names and activities depending on their objectives, focus and mode of operation. These include associations, societies, forums, foundations, networks, charities, organizations, trusts, centers, clubs, committees, etc.

Why Are NGOs Established? Let us try to address the question or give answers to the reasons on why NGOs are established by communities. The belief that not all areas, activities, fields, needs and services of the communities are perfectly and completely offered or addressed by Governments however highly advanced or principled. This makes the establishment of NGOs absolutely necessary, complimentary and very encouraging in the history and developmental need of any nation. It is generally agreed that human capital is another form of economic capital.

Therefore, the vast resources and capacities accumulated by the voluntary, non-profit organizations could not be disregarded. The zeal to serve ones community and offer services to the poor and the needy or participate in developmental activities or other humanitarian and relief services are some of the motivating factors that give rise to the establishment of NGOs. Recently, the activities of NGOs are on the rise, they are at the forefront in the fight for good governance, accountability and transparency by public office holders. So many factors and challenges have caused like minded eople to unite and forge common front on some issues of the day ranging from the quest for offering social services to the people, to offering relief, humanitarian and emergency services.

So also the issue of globalization, environment and anti war issues has united communities. Between 1945 to 1995, the number of NGOs has increased astronomically. Currently, even in the absence of accurate data of the number of NGOs worldwide, one can safely say that their proliferation is directly associated with the coming of new technology, communication and the Internet. On the average, a new NGOs is created somewhere in the world every day.

Generally, it is our opinion that the number of CBO and NGOs in a particular locality, state or nation providing non-profit services in a very healthy development which should not be over looked by any state or government. More recently, there has been growing interest in the activities of NGOs not only in Nigeria but worldwide. How Does NGOs Operate? Worldwide, the activities and contribution of NGOs to societies through their participation and providing inexpensive, value driven and usually completely free services to communities has been acknowledged and is increasingly coming to the lime light.

Even though, NGOs operate in different capacities and with numerous objectives, motivation and focus. Generally they work as pressure groups, watchdogs and developmental organizations. The United Nations for example has found it very necessary to deal with NGOs. In fact, the term NGO as earlier explained was coined by the U. N. after the WW II. Since then it has extended the ways and principles of it engagement with the NGOs by expanding and improving the way it works with them.

The British and American Governments have also created a variety of regional assemblies and grouping to try to bring more people and communities into ctive participation in democratization and other major campaigns. The International Community uses numerous names to describe NGOs. These names include: Non- partisan organizations, not-for-profit, Watchdogs, Pressure Groups, Voluntary Sector, Complimentary Institutions, Stakeholders, Non State Actors, Bridge Builders, Development Partners, Grassroots Organizations, Community Based Organizations, Private Voluntary Organizations, Peoples Organization, Value Driven Organizations, Third Sector of the Economy, etc.

The world of NGOs has continued to widen and assume more dimension and relevance today. LEGAL STATUS OF NGOs The right to establish, create or form an NGO is a fundamental human right that belong to the individuals or group of people and are not bestowed on the States or Governments. These rights are derived from the fundamental rights of an individual, group or community to free speech and association that exist in almost all civilized constitutions.

However, even though NGOs have right to exist and operate as informal organizations, a crucial part of the enabling environment for NGOs requires them to incorporate and acquire formal or legal personality or status this would in turn protect the principles of such NGOs from personal liability for the affairs of the organization, such as contracts, debts or legal action. In Nigeria, for example, Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) is the body charged with the power to register NGOs that desire to operate in Nigeria. CAC derives its powers from the Companies and Allied Matters Decree No.

I part C, which took effect from 2nd January 1990. So also States and Local Governments have departments of Social and Community Development and that of Youth and Sports Ministries overseeing the registration of NGOs. AN IDEAL NGO It is expected that every organization should meet some certain requirements in order to engage in legitimate activities as opposed to criminal and illegitimate groups. An ideal NGO is expected to among other things abide by the following:

  • To be registered with relevant authorities at the Local, State or National levels depending on the level of operation. To have a well articulated constitution or articles of association or charter.
  • To have an executive body, and an open and simple criteria for membership or volunteers.
  • To have an office, correspondence addresses like; post office box, telephone, email, fax, etc.
  • To have clear and well-defined mission, vision or aims and objectives.
  • To engage in programmes and activities that helped the community.
  • To have a clean, transparent and verifiable sources of funds for their activities.
  • To have a leadership, organogram and well established channel of communication.
  • To have very good rappour with their community, other organizations and relevant authorities.

Categories Of NGOs

Even though their activities are sometimes similar and aimed at development, NGOs differ in so many ways and aspects. They can be safely categorized into various groupings. They can be CBOs, FBOs, and they can also be INGOs. The World Bank for example classified NGOs into 3 main groups, they are: - a. Community Based organizations (CBO); these are NGOs that are based or directly in touch with the Local communities and usually set up by the communities themselves, e. g.

CODEC, CDF, PAMUHE in Zamfara State. b. State NGOs (SNGO) & National NGOs (NNGO); these organizations as the name implies operate as State or at national level in their countries of origin e. g. GLONIJ, FOMWAN, PEDO in Zamfara State etc c. International (INGOs); there are typically in developed countries and they usually carryout their activities in more than one country e. g. CARE, OXFAM, etc. Some of the other categories also include; d. BINGO; Business Oriented International NGOs. e. RINGO; Religious International NGOs. f. FBNGO; Faith Based NGOs. g. ENGO; Environmental NGOs. . GONGO; Government Operated NGOs. i. QUANGO; Quasi –autonomous NGOs. Further sub-divisions are also possible; Active NGOs; these are the ones that strive to address the root causes of societal problems they stage programmes that even attract the media. They are either advocacy, service or development oriented. In active NGOs; These are the less functional ones that have less or no funding whatsoever but attend conferences, seminars and workshops. Brief Case NGOs; These are usually one-man show often described as “Portfolio Type” or a collection of “Family Business Groups”.

Umbrella Organizations for NGOs exist with names like; Networks; These are groups of NGOs from different areas, states or regions that comes from different backgrounds but working in the same field but not necessary the same focus and mission. e. g Cisnan Coalitions; these are umbrella organizations that consist of different NGOs working in different fields of human endevour. They are of differing focus, objectives and missions but they are united for the betterment of their causes and social welfare. e. g Zacons Who fund NGOs? There are a number of funding sources or bodies working with different NGOs.

They may be categorizes in the following; 1. Self- Funding; Registration fees, Dues, Levies, Donations, Investments Returns, etc. 2. Local, State or Federal Governments; Naca, Zamsaca, etc 3. Foreign Governments; Like the U. S (USAID), U. K (DFID), E. U, etc. 4. UN Agencies; UNDP, UNICEF, WHO, UNIFEM, etc 5. International NGOs; Global Fund, Oxfam, AAIN, etc 6. Philanthropies/Foundations; Ford Foundation, Rock feller Foundation, Carnegie Foundation, Heinrich Foundation, Melinda Gates Foundation, Packard Foundation, Macarthur Foundation, etc.

The Role Of NGOs In National Development

After casting a picture of what NGOs are by showing how they operate and why they are established, we can now safely delve into their contributions national development. NGOs as non state actors, have played and are stilling playing very important and major role in initiating and supporting various Local, National and International developmental activities. To make sense out of this, one may digress a little to show how NGOs are also playing their role internationally. For example concerted campaigns, enormous pressure and actions by States together with NGOs led to the establishment of the International Court of Justice.

Globally, NGOs have impacted direct and meaningful involvement in shaping the international agenda at the United Nations and regional levels through remarkable negotiations. NGOs are found in international and regional committees. They also contributed in the MDG and NEEDs programme. They are also engaged as partners in United Nations Agencies such as the UNEP, UNFAO, UNDP, UNCTAP and UNCHR. But since this is outside the scope of this paper there is no need to go further. NOW WHAT IS THE MEANING OF NATIONAL DEVELOPMENT?

To understand the contribution of NGOs to National Development especially in Nigeria, we need to acquaint ourselves with the meaning of the term National Development. Development of any nation is defined by the advanced learners Dictionary as that nation’s process of changing and evolving pattern of becoming larger, stronger, more successful or more advanced. ‘The Roles of Civil Society and Citizen organizations (in national development) are becoming better understood around the world,” says Martin Sime, Chief Executive Officer the Scottish Council of Voluntary Organizations. N

GOs has been over the past decade ahead of government on many key issues of our times,” said Mr. Naidoo an Executive social worker. Another separate testimony by Mr. Mario “Whether we take the issue of land mines, environment, HIV/AIDS, global poverty agenda, gender equity, civil society’s impact is quite significant and remarkable in terms of facing difficult challenges of our time and putting forth solutions that are more bold, more courageous and more innovative than many who are constrained by their political office” says Mario Lubetkin, Director General of the Inter Press Service (IPS).

Even though NGOs as oppose to Governments, are well outside decision-making machinery of Governments, they have proved as dependable partners in the formulation of policies and programmes whenever consulted by Governments. Let us now list some areas of contribution by NGOs.

  1. NGOs have contributed immensely in monitoring and exposing bad governance, corruption, child trafficking, etc.
  2. They have also served as think tanks and resource base for training, capacity, research and advocacy, project planning and execution.
  3. Many NGOs have gained the trust of people and Governments, so the Governments machinery has begun to engage and dialogue with them thereby tapping their expertise and skills. NGOs are now no longer considered adversaries but partners in progress.
  4. NGOs have had significant progress in raising public awareness on almost any issue that arose. This they do through increased campaigns, sensitization, information collection and data analysis.
  5. They have forged ties and engaged in fruitful partnership and networking among themselves. This has boosted cooperation, unity and more developmental services they render to the people. They have played significant role in shaping the debate for sustainable development. They execute concrete projects and advocate for the formal participation of women in division making.
  6. NGOs are contributing immensely in the attainment of environmental justice through protection of social, economic and environmental rights.
  7. They have contributed in MDG, NEEDs, Micro credit scheme and poverty alleviation. NGOs in Zamfara State that are affiliated and members of the coalition have contributed to the development of Zamfara States in many ways and at different levels.

Currently, NGOs have employed a number of youth both male and female as full time development staff and some on office routine. They can also boost of the largest collection of humanitarian volunteers from communities, civil services and the business sector. NGOs in the state have executed a lot of projects totaling more than 30 millions naira in the past 3 years alone. More then 60 projects in the area of education, health and good governance were executed in Zamfara State. NGOs have exalted themselves in areas of exchange of ideas and information. They have engaged in a number of capacity building workshops and other International Forums.

NGOs have attended and represented Zamfara State in a number of seminars, workshops and conferences. In the past few years NGOs in Zamfara can boost of accomplishing the following as their own contribution to state and national development;

  1. Enhancing Girls Basic Education in Communities LGAs in Zamfara State.
  2. Peer Education, Kasaurara II Project in 12 Northern States.
  3. Self help Community Development Projects,
  4. Construction of Culverts and Drainages,
  5. Participation in Environmental Sanitation Programme.
  6. Quiz competition on Radio and T. V among Youth in the State.
  7. Sensitization and Awareness on the Annual Hajj exercise.
  8. Sensitization workshops on Reproductive Health issues.
  9. Organizing of Leadership training courses.
  10. Construction of Community Primary School in Tudun Wada,
  11. Renovation of Boreholes.
  12. Quarterly Training of Trainers Programme on HIV/AIDS.
  13. Publication of Books and Journals for Adult and Children
  14. Monitoring of Census and Election.
  15. Youth and Women Skills training in Zamfara
  16. Provision of Care and Support for PLHVA
  17. Provision of Emergency and First Aid services.
  18. Research Projects on Child Begging and offering solution
  19. Sensitization workshop on HIV to opinion leaders.
  20. Public Enlightenment of Women on current issues
  21. Provision of Public Pumps at U/Zabarma, Gusau
  22. Organization of Inter-Secondary Schools Debate
  23. Participation in Tree Planting Campaign.
  24. Staging of Conflict mitigation workshops
  25. Provision of HIV Resource Centre.
  26. Sensitization on Affirmative Action for Women
  27. Provision of Micro Credit to Women
  28. Budget Tracking Workshops
  29. Launching of VCT centers and Hotlines in the State In Zamfara State NGOs can be found in different communities set up to work at Local, State and National Levels.

This is in recognition of the role they can play in giving useful advises, constructive criticism and sound policy decisions.

What Are The Roles Played By NGOs In National Security

Again let us address the term and notion of security and national security before indicating the role the NGOs play in ensuring national Security. In a summary National Security as defined by Wikipedia, the internet encyclopedia refers to the public policy of ensuring the survival and integrity of the nation state through the use of economic, social and military power and the exercise of diplomacy in both peace and war time.

The strategy used or employed by the states to protect national security is numerous. They include the use of diplomacy to rally allies and isolate threats; marshalling economic power to facilitate or compel cooperation of the enemy. Others measures include the use of intelligence and network of agents to depend, defeat or avoid threats and espionage and protect classified information. However, national security does entirely and solely depend on the military power or population of a nation but the social well being of the people of a nation.

The components that make up national security include the following: - i. Food security ii. Economic security iii. Political security iv. Social security As indicated above, the notion of national security does not only mean the enforcement of laws and security operations. National security is a collective and relative name. It does not only means enforcement of fear or restoration of Security, but the elimination of all sources of insecurity, which must include the provision of all of the above components.

The NGOs helped in no small measure in the maintenance of each of the three mentioned security components. Let us try and list them in this order; i. Food Security: NGO’s most visible role and contribution is in the fight against hunger, unemployment and poverty. They perform so well in these areas by demanding for good policies by governments on the issues of tackling poverty. They help in getting food to the hungry and the needy through humanitarian services, philanthropy, charity and endowments. “A hungry man they say is indeed an angry man and conversely a source of insecurity”. ii. Economic Security:

Through the pursuance of good economic policies by governments the NGOs press for economic reforms and better economic measure to ensure a secure economy that buttress businesses and other economic activities. NGOs are in the forefront in the fight for accountability, transparency and equity by public and private office holders. iii. Political Security: In the public and leadership arena, NGOs are in the forefront in the fight for good governance, democracy and human development. NGOs engage leaders and public office holders by ensuring public based legislation, participation and equal opportunities are provided. v. Social Security: This is one of the most and very important components of national security. Ensuring social cohesion, integration, participation, efficient and adequate distribution of social services and amenities. NGOs also help in the fight for equal opportunities and employment that are integral to their activities not only nationally but also globally. On the health sector the NGOs has reacted to HIV/AIDs, Malaria and Tuberculosis with unprecedented attention and dispatch it deserves.

NGOs In War And Peace

As generally believed, peace is not only the absence of war but a state of maximum security free from all forms of fear. Conversely, there is no security without peace. NGOs offer their services in peacetime and also offer humanitarian services in events of emergencies such as epidemics, earthquakes and other natural or man made disasters. NGOs contribute in no small measure in times of peace and security. This becomes evidently clear in the sense that NGOs themselves help in bridging gaps, resolution of conflicts and public enlightenment on contentious issues.

Even though there some NGOs whose formation and activities draws some security concerns, one may hasten to say that those NGOs only strive as a result of inadequate security and failure of governments to provide checks and balances which fuels their existence and increase their activities. These “NGOs” may include extreme pressure groups, armed freedom fighters, criminal gangs, rebels, cultist, syndicates, cartels, ethnic and racial movements, nationalist fighters, etc. Therefore these organizations should be carefully separated from developmental and progressive NGOs.

Even though the above voluntary and community organizations may be initially established or formed by a law abiding community and legally, but later their activities may draw some special concerns, fears and security threats. Generally a good NGO should contribute and argument the effort of their communities, localities, states and nation in their chosen areas of operations.

NGOs In Law Enforcement And Security

There are numerous NGOs that are found in uniform or out of uniform that help security services in the maintenance of law and order. They participate in confronting emergencies by providing assistants and First Aid support. . g. Red Cross, Red Crescent, Man ‘O’ War Bay, Civil Defense, Volunteer Forces, Scouts, Girls Guide, Boys Brigades, etc. CONCLUSION: One painful fact still remains that security networks and by extension their Governments have not yet recognized and appreciated the huge reserve of knowledge, capacity and resources resident within the voluntary sector that can contribute to their policies and programmes towards National development. On their part, some NGOs underestimated their relevance and the role they can play in National Development and Security through engaging Governments at all levels on all issues.

Criticisms of NGOs from some quarters that are either not direct recipient of their services or are ignorant of the role they are playing in national development also abound. They are being called all sorts of names that include; they are self appointed, undemocratic, answer to no constituency, encroaches on National and International laws, long arm of their sponsoring partners, resembles multinationals, chase disasters, proponents of western values, aggressive organizations, extremist, etc.

Whatever the criticism, it is evidently clear that nationally and Internationally, political and economic developments has risen with the rise and rise of NGOs, Civil Organizations has become a vital link and force for social change. They put people first before profit; they put food first before reserve or politicking. The bottom line is that, the work of NGOs which is the provision of socio-economic needs of the people as well as caring for their well being are also the key elements in any development and security effort of any nation.

The security of people must starts from meeting their human needs. This implies that social amenities such as shelter, education, health and other infrastructural materials and the elimination of economic inequality are part of security. All of the above cannot be secured unless and until we have good governance, democracy, peace, security and sustainable national development. Fortunately, these are exactly what the NGOs are fighting for and were known for globally. The Author of the paper holds HND in Printing Technology from Kaduna Polytechnic in 1989.

He worked in the private sector and was one time Managing Director Nasiha Professional Printers, Sokoto and Zamfara States. He was also the Press Manager, Mazan - Fara Printing Press, Gusau. He worked in the public sector and was the Chief Superintendent of Press, Survey Division, Ministry of Lands and Survey, Zamfara State. He also served NGOs in different capacities: Executive Member, Muslim Students Society, Kaduna Polytechnic Branch, Secretary General, Joint Youth Islamic Organizations, Zamfara State.

Currently he is the Secretary General, Global Network for Islamic Justice, Zamfara State, Executive Director, Partnership for Muslim Health, Zamfara State, Chairman, Coalition of Non-Governmental Organizations, Zamfara State, President, Association of Nigeria Authors, Zamfara State Chapter. He has attended so many seminars and conferences both at national and international levels. The Author is currently employed with the Zamfara State Zakat and Endowment Board, in the position of Director Zakat Collection.

Some Abbreviations And Acronyms Used

AAN-Action Aid Nigeria CSACEFA-Civil Society Action Coalition on Education for All. CISHNAN-Civil Society Network on HIV/AIDS. DFID-Department for International Development. SFH-Society for Family Health SACA-State Action Committee on Aids USAID-United State Agency for International Development CODEC-Community Development Centre NACA-National Action Committee on Aids CISCOPE-Civil Society Action Coalition on Poverty Eradication GLONIJ-Global Network For Islamic Justice

UNDP-United Nations Development Programme NEEDS-National Economic Empowerment Development Strategy IDASA-Institute of Democracy South Africa. ZASCON-Zamfara State Coalition of NGO’s AAIN-Action Aid International SEEDS-State Economic Empowerment Development Strategy TMG-Transition Monitoring Group PLWHA-People Living with HIV/AIDS CARE-Cooperative Assistant for Relief Everywhere.


  1. The rise and rise of NGOs – Peter Hall-Jones, Public Services International, May, 2006.
  2. NGOs the self appointed altruist – Sam Vakain, Ph. D – 2005
  3. The role of Egypt C. S. O in Development & Reform – USEF Panel Discussion Notes, 2004.
  4. Categorizing NGOs; – World Bank Criteria.
  5. Towards an enabling legal environment for CSO – Sixteenth Annual John Hopkins International Fellows in Philanthropy Conference, Nairobi, Kenya.
  6. NGOs – Wikipeadia; the free encyclopedia. C. S. O & Democratic oversight of the security sector – Macina Caparini, DCAF, International Security Forum Zurich, 2002.

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Role of NGOs in National Development and Security. (2017, Dec 29). Retrieved from

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