The World Congress of NGOs is a unique forum where representatives of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) with diverse foci meet, examine issues of pressing global concern, share innovative ideas and practices, and build strategic partnerships. Together with leaders from the intergovernmental, governmental, and for-profit sectors, the participants map strategies to address the serious challenges facing both the third sector and the larger global community. Professional experts add practical trainings to help the NGOs become more effective in carrying out their vital missions.
The 2012 World Congress will take place from July 5 to 8 in Nairobi, Kenya. Convened by the World Association of Non-Governmental Organizations (WANGO), this present event comes on the foundation of international WANGO conferences held in Bangkok, Budapest, Santo Domingo, Toronto, and Washington, D.C., and an online World Congress held in 2010. Regional conferences have been held in such locales as Accra, Nairobi, Bangkok, and Montevideo.
Reflecting the unique challenges in our increasingly globalized world, the theme for the 2012 World Congress is The Role of NGOs in Times of Global Crises. Attendees will examine many of the serious perils confronting humanity at this time: the financial crisis, environmental impacts, peace and security issues, terrorism, humanitarian crises, human rights violations, scarcity of fresh water, and so forth.
NGOs (charities, nonprofits, civil society organizations) offer unique strengths for tackling the daunting challenges of our time. Their flexibility and grassroots connections aid them in quickly mobilizing resources to communities devastated by natural or man-made disasters. Their ability to work beyond borders and build transnational partnerships allow them to effectively tackle environmental problems, trafficking, and other concerns that extend beyond political boundaries. Their willingness to address threats that other groups may overlook or fear to tackle make them effective advocates in protecting human rights and confronting governmental and corporate corruption. And their often single-minded commitment and strong motivation gives them a civic power that other institutions may lack.
Notably, as institutions that do not place profit as their number one goal, NGOs also tend to be among the most trusted institutions in society, scoring higher on trust barometers than the governmental, corporate, and media realms. They generally are cost-effective and able to mount significant projects without large offices, staff, or funding.
NGOs have used these advantages to forge an effective middle ground between the state and the corporate world. They are now impacting policies and guiding agendas that once were nearly exclusively the arena of governments and corporations. In many cases, NGOs have proven to be more adept than government and business to respond to various needs. Such strengths place them in a key position to address present-day crises in the realms of financial institutions, water and food, refugees, governance, human rights and trafficking, poverty, environment and so forth.
Of course, NGOs also face many shortcomings, which this Congress will also address. A key, oft-cited weakness of the sector is lack of inter-NGO communication and coordination. Other challenges include limited institutional capacity and management expertise, frequent poor government-NGO cooperation, lack of understanding of the broader social and economic context, and funding difficulties. And this is not to forget the complication of having some NGOs that act unethically, thus weakening trust in the NGO sector.