The term “Non-Governmental Organization” (NGO) first came in to use in the year 1945. The term was coined during one of the conferences of The United Nations, as a measure to distinguish organizations from inter-governmental and member organizations.
Though the term NGO received recognition only after 1945, studies suggest that several organizations were actively engaged against slavery, racism and women suffrage during the late eighteenth century.
NGO is a broad term encompassing organizations, that are not affiliated by the government or a private company. Some countries use the term Non-Profit Organization, Voluntary Organization, Charitable Organization to represent organizations that are independent of government. Considering the wide diversity of NGOs both in terms of their function and structure, it is very difficult to define the term ‘NGO’. However, some of the definitions that are widely used have been suggested by World Bank and United Nations.
The World Bank defines NGOs as “private organizations that pursue activities to relieve suffering, promote the interests of the poor, protect the environment, provide basic social services, or undertake community development.
The United Nations defines an NGO as “a non-for-profit, voluntary citizens’ group, which is organized on a local, national or international level to address issues in support of the public good.”