NGOs in South Asia

Authored by: Patrick Kilby

Routledge Handbook of NGOs and International Relations

Print publication date:  April  2019
Online publication date:  April  2019

Print ISBN: 9781138285507
eBook ISBN: 9781315268927
Adobe ISBN:


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NGOs in South Asia are as diverse as the countries of the region. The term ‘NGO’ covers a wide diversity of not-for-profit entities ranging from large educational institutions to small grassroots NGOs in a community. What they have in common is a broader community purpose based on a set of values shared by their governing members and supporters, rather than a profit motive, or being an instrument of government, as the source of their motivation (Lissner 1977; Kilby 2011). There are of course grey areas where industry NGOs advocate for their for-profit members, and many government statutory authorities share common elements including values, much like an NGO. For this chapter I will mainly focus on local NGOs in South Asia, which are values based, and dedicated to the social development of their communities. Of course, this still includes a vast spectrum of NGOs ranging from those that are more activist and built around social movements for transformational change across communities; or are more locally based around improving family and community welfare and livelihoods; while others have a strong religious base for their values, and seek to see these values adopted more broadly. Of course, this naturally leads to values conflict, and while NGOs seldom attack each other directly, they often seek support government or other patrons to limit the reach of those NGOs that do not share their values. The other key element for a values-based NGO is credibility, and so NGOs need to establish some relationship with government or other powerful actors, and have a strong local community base to achieve some level of credibility. At the most basic level this involves some form of regulatory agreement with government, but if NGOs are to have a broader influence then the relationship often involves funding.

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