Sunday, June 10, 2018

Good Fun: The Varieties of NGOs

The current issue of the European Journal of International Relations features an article by Norbert Gotz concerning how the field of International Relations (IR) has largely neglected non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in relation to more standard IR fodder. As the field of International Relations has been quite state-centric in the past--inter-national--there has been some debate on how these organizations should be entered into the mainstream study of IR. As Gotz so aptly describes, IR is marked by "Westphalian nomeclature." The paper is quite a good read even if I don't really agree that it's mainly a matter of definition via negative language claims ("non-government") which require consideration. In particular, I am struck by this rather gratuitous passage on the proliferation of NGO forms as well as NGO catchphrases on pp. 232-33:

Best established of the sub-concepts is probably the INGO, the international non-governmental organization. The same phenomenon as projected by the GONGO [government organized NGO] has been insinuated by the interpretation of NGO as standing for ‘next government official’. Interestingly, there are multifarious subconcepts that question the non-governmental character of NGOs. Similar in content to the GONGO are the GINGO, the government-inspired NGO, and the GRINGO, the government regulated/run and initiated NGO. To a somewhat lesser degree, sub-concepts such as QUANGO (quasi NGO), PANGO (party-affiliated NGO), RONGO (retired officials NGO), DONGO (donor-organized NGO), DINGO (donor international NGO), and CONGO (co-opted NGO) are also closely tied to the sphere of government. However, the acronym CONGO is also used to denote both the Conference of NGOs in Consultative Relationship with the United Nations and commercially oriented NGOs, which brings us to the field of BINGOs (business interest NGOs), BONGOs (business-organized NGOs) and the MONGO (my own NGO), terms used to pin down for-profit or individual private interest NGOs. Both MONGO and MANGO can be used to denominate mafia(-organized) NGOs, but the latter acronym has been given several meanings and might also stand for manipulated NGOs or, value-neutral, for Macedonian NGOs.

Given this background, it is hardly surprising that the Tuvalu Association of NGOs is not unrivalled in using the acronym TANGO. While a regional anchoring is open in character, most of the sub-concepts mentioned above obviously exhibit tension vis-a-vis what still seems to be the main association with the plain concept of NGOs, namely the PINGO (public interest NGO) in general, and the RINGO (religious international NGO), the ENGO (environmental NGO), and the NGDO (non-governmental development organization) in particular. A specific variant of the latter is the Development Justice and Advocacy NGO (DJANGO). The acronym NGO has facetiously been interpreted as standing for En-J-Oy in regard to the staff of aid-receiving organizations, alluding to their special privileges that are unavailable to the surrounding communities. Similarly, such an interesting bird as the FLAMINGO, the ‘Flashy Minded NGO (representing the rich)’ has been suggested for adaptation.

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