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Sun. December 10, 2023
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Sustainable Development: The role of NGOs
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Gender and development, urban growth, industrial or agricultural policy, science and technology, education and other related fields, all face increasingly complex and difficult dilemmas that must be addressed by policy makers. These issues require a central focus on sustainable development. The Brundtland Commission 1987 defines sustainable development as meeting the needs of the present society without jeopardizing the ability of future generations to meet their needs. It encompasses two chief elements: needs and limitations. Scholars Castro 2004 and Leuenberger 2006 hail sustainable development as one of the most indispensable concepts of our time, critical for the study of international affairs. NGOs have been immensely influential in popularizing the concept of sustainable development. In fact, they drive many inter-governmental negotiations on pertinent issues and occupy themselves with social, economic and environmental issues associated with businesses. Some NGOs are research-driven policy organizations who engage with decision-makers. They are referred to as “watchdogs” for their role in ensuring activities go as planned. NGOs may be highly sophisticated organizations or simply, grassroots groups. Regardless, their role is pursuing the public interest and securing a high degree of public trust. To this end, they are dedicated to issues which occur across longer time horizons, such as sustainable development. While not always sufficient, NGOs are useful seekers of the good of society and stakeholders, ensuring corporate social responsibility. Jacob 1997 posits that development is a matter of critical concern, especially for developing nations and such a global issue can only be tackled through sustainable mechanisms. Hecht 1999 believes that the ability of developing countries to practice sustainable development is affected by three main factors: a domestic policy actions, including steps taken toward creating open and free market economies, sound and enforceable environmental policies, and public participation in decision making b financing policies of the bilateral and multilateral lending institutions and c private sector investment and clean technology development. The interaction of these factors thus forms a triad for sustainable development. What then is the role of NGOs? Mercer 2002 believes that the political role of NGOs is very complex. For this reason, NGOs must be assessed with a contextual, instead of a value-laden approach. NGOs are currently making a valuable contribution to development. Many NGOs promote dialogue and other initiatives which address the needs of minority, marginalized and disadvantaged groups. The corresponding outcomes are new or revised policy frameworks as well as an increased governance capacity to enforce them. This has created improved conditions and creative communities with the clearly defined roles, ethics and values necessary for sustainable living. NGOs are associated with the ideals of a democratic society. They work to promote social change in their respective locations. In spite of this, NGOs are victims of significant criticisms. They are considered a weak third sector among the market and the state, since they do not possess the financial independence or political power of the other two actors. Another major obstacle faced by NGOs is the demand placed upon them to find simple, neat and comprehensive solutions to complex development problems the “magic bullet syndrome.” However, such an emphasis on simplicity and success is unrealistic and counterproductive. In developing countries, the level of commitment of the state to sustainable development issues is weak. NGOs do not receive high priority in government programmes and budgets. In some cases they are not involved in sustainable development initiatives relevant bodies and councils do not exist, and where they do, they are ineffective. Furthermore, data and information required to develop effective sustainable development programmes and projects are not available. In many cases, during regional and international meetings, issues of concern to developing countries are sidelined and do not receive the level of attention which these countries may desire. Overall, there is a lack of coordination among institutions on issues of sustainable development. Hence, it is for these reasons that scholars must explore “how” NGOs can facilitate sustainable development and by “what” methods they are able to do so. By examining such a contribution, we are able to explore new partnerships in policy-making through shared experiences and analyses. This further enhances the authenticity and competence of policy-making, worldwide. The idea of sustainable development and NGOs reveals an avenue of effectiveness in policy making and good governance. By understanding this dynamic, we are able to leverage knowledge that allows us to address challenges found in communities, professions and our entire world. Dana-Marie Seepersad is a PhD candidate in the field of Public Policy and Administration. She has a Masters in International Relations and a Bachelor of Arts in Communication and Literature. Dana-Marie is a teacher at the University of the West Indies, Open Campus in Trinidad and Tobago. She is also published writer and her work is centered on addressing global issues.

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