In just 20 years the number of international NGOs has increased from 13,000 in 1981 to more than 47,000 in 2001 (Wild, 2006). The NGO sector has become "the eight largest economy in the world" worth $1 trillion, with an annual budget of $15 billion for development programs, 19 million paid staff members and countless volunteers, and the good will and respect of millions around the world (Hall-Jones, 2006).
Public response to NGOs has been much more positive than negative on both global and national levels. Former UN Secretary-General Kofi Anan called NGOs the "new superpower" (Scheper, 2001). The praise is not undeserved. At least part of the credit in establishing international agreements and norms about environmental issues (the Kyoto Protocol), human rights (campaign against torture of suspected terrorists), gender equality (rape in conflict areas), and other concerns should go to NGOs. In many developing nations, especially where authoritarianism and corruption are deeply rooted and persistent problems, NGOs are often considered to be more responsive, trustworthy and competent, especially in defending people against human rights violations by state actors and in the delivery of badly needed health, education and other services. NGOs have also contributed greatly to documentation and dissemination of information and analysis that have given and continue to give direction and substance to international debates.
The evaluation of NGO performance is not entirely positive. There are NGO critics and critiques. Questions are only to be expected from government and business interests that are affected negatively by NGO issue advocacy, such as campaigns against granting corporations mining concessions that will threaten the right of indigenous tribes to their ancestral land. However, serious and urgent questions have been raised regarding NGO orientation, their competence, their ability to uphold the interests of their stakeholders, and their adoption and practice of transparency and accountability in their day-to-day operation.
In addition, a substantial number of political activists have questioned the "apolitical" stance of a number of NGOs, relations between NGOs (mostly based in the global north) and social movements (mostly based in the global south), the growing reliance of NGOs on government and corporate funding, and what is seen to be their slow transformation into quasi-governmental institutions (Albrow and Anheier, 2007).
This paper is an attempt to give a factual account on the actual performance and impact of NGOs concerning particular issues and what some consider as the overarching goal of civil society -- global social justice in a sustainable world. It will also present and briefly discuss definitions of civil society and global governance that provide the general context and background for the discussion on non-governmental organisations.
II. Global Civil Society and Global Governance
Professor Mary Kaldor, Co-director of the Centre for the Study of Global Governance based in the London School of Economics defined global civil society as:
"A platform inhabited by activists or post-Marxists, NGOs and neoliberals, as well as national and religious groups where they argue about, campaign for (or against), negotiate about or lobby for the arrangements that shape global developments" (Kaldor,