What Role Do Human Rights NGOs Play in UN and International Criminal Justice Institutions?

What are NGOs and How Many of Them Are There?

Logically, the term non-governmental organization (NGO) can denote any kind of organization that is not part of the state apparatus. Such a broad definition, however, sweeps in businesses, voluntary associations, religious institutions not supported by the state, professional associations, social clubs, and any other private or public sort of association not formed by or deriving from state authority. More useful is the US State Department’s definition of an NGO that includes independent public policy research organizations, advocacy organizations, organizations that defend human rights and promote democracy, humanitarian organizations, private foundations and funds, charitable trusts, in societies, associations and nonprofit corporations, but not political parties.30 Using that definition, the US Government estimated there were some 1.5 million NGOs in the USA alone. In 2015, India’s Central Bureau of Investigation estimated there were more than 3 million NGOs operating throughout India.31 China Daily, a state-run newspaper based in the People’s Republic of China, reported in 2012 that the number of NGOs in China had grown to almost 500,000.32

For the present discussion, NGOs that have received UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) accreditation are most pertinent because NGOs need to have that consultative status before they can participate in UN meetings, as discussed in Section 2.2.33

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