In today’s globalised world more than just the government representatives occupy the international political spectrum; there are many actors and different interests that are represented during international negotiations and international diplomacy. Of these, Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) now play an increasingly important role in international politics. Although this is not true of all NGOs, many are totally independent from a state or government (including funding) and can present ideas and opinions that do not align with those of the country from which they originate. In this sense an NGO can be invaluable in highlighting causes that may otherwise be overlooked by a government.
NGOs also have the advantage of carrying very little political baggage and as such they can often more easily gain the trust of the local affected. Many NGOs are international and have representatives from all across the world with a key focus of supporting the people that they are attempting to help. The NGOs have the advantage of not having more than one issue to consider; whereas a government may have to consider a multitude of stakeholders in any given negotiations along with the political implications of any decisions, an NGO does not have this concern.
The impact of NGOs in international diplomacy is not always clear cut; while many do not rely on state funding they can often act as a positive reflection on the country from which they originate. Conversely, by having minimal ties to a state an NGO may criticise the actions of a government relating to a specific cause and provide negative international coverage on an issue, contradicting the views of politically minded representatives and potentially damaging the government’s reputation and their global image. The NGOs are often on the front line of any situation and have the upper hand when it comes to providing views and opinions; it is this direct experience that is seeing the work and the opinion of the NGOs representatives being increasingly more sought after. Governments are beginning to recognise the importance of the work of NGOs and the benefits that they may gain from involving them in discussions and engaging with them; a positive contribute to their public diplomacy strategy.
Zatepilina, O. (2009), “Non-State Ambassadors: NGO’s Contribution to America’s Public Diplomacy”, in Place Branding and Public Diplomacy, Vol.5, No 2, 156-168