Civil society and NGOs

Abdul Hadi Mayar

The social upheaval in the West during past centuries gave birth to modern democracies, in which not only the rights of all members of the society were manifestly defined but each member was obligated to play active role in collective wellbeing of the state and society. Later, when the role of the state was restricted under the concept of liberalism and social democracy and a vacuum emerged between the individual and the state, a need felt for promoting collective good by the individuals on voluntary basis and without the involvement of the state. This was the time when the concept of civil society organisations [CSOs] developed and numerous voluntary groups came into the arena to fill the gap. Later, terminologies of non-governmental organization [NGOs] and International non-governmental organizations [INGOs] came in vogue during the last century.
With the passage of time, the institutes of civil society and civil society organizations not only gained strength but also proliferated beyond state frontiers and evolved into gigantic regional and international groups, each working in specific fields and for the accomplishment of certain objectives.
In the post-Cold War era, when polarization engulfed world politics, international harmony and cohesion became its major casualty. Though a legitimate campaign for ensuring global peace and stability, the war on terror created a degree of mistrust between the West and the conservative segments in the Muslim societies. True or false, the trumpet of the Clash of Civilization also added fuel to the distrust. Whatever gap was left was filled by the so-called Great Games of economic interests, the clash of trade and energy corridors, and global political ventures to change regional geographies.
Besides other ills, the ensuing mistrust created skepticism about the role of the international CSOs, particularly those funded by the Western powers. There have also been instances and accusations of international NGOs involved in underhand activities and even funding of non-state militant groups in the developing countries – a charge that can be shrugged off on the plea that anything is possible in the present messy state of affairs when terror groups and those abetting and financing militancy do succeed to infiltrate entities wherefrom they can function safely. While the organizers of these groups ought to keep vigil on elements trying to misuse their set-ups, state security organizations also need to thoroughly watch movements in diverse fields.
Prime need for all international organizations in the prevailing atmosphere of mistrust is to adopt a holistic, integrated, and ideologically viable approach for the betterment of all human beings. While focusing on human development indices, there should be a realization to create a civilized and ‘diversified’ international order. Any attempt to alleviate poverty ought to propel socio-political awareness among the local communities. The aim of any voluntary undertaking must not be merely the material well-being of local communities but also their voluntary integration into a global order.
Misgivings of certain circles about the bias of international bodies towards particular religions, regions and nations need to be removed. Irrespective of the urgency to promote global ethical standards, there must be appreciation for national, religious, and cultural values of local communities. This would not only raise the stature and credentials of international organizations but also boost their clout in the eyes of the local communities.
— The writer is a freelance journalist based in Islamabad.

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