In recent years, NGOs have become more prominent, more visible across a broader spectrum of interests. Governments and international organizations increasingly rely on NGOs to implement aid programs and deliver development assistance, channeling millions of dollars through these organizations and arguing, in effect, that NGOs have the capacity to address social and environmental problems with greater efficiency than government agencies. Today, thousands of internationally operating NGOs deliver billions of dollars of assistance annually, and the U.S. government gives a large share of its aid funds through NGOs.
NGO officials are widely cited in the media and relied upon in congressional testimony; corporations regularly consult with NGOs prior to major investments. NGOs also use their growing influence inside international organizations to push for the establishment of globalized standards and international legal norms. Yet this growing local and global role has in large part been unchecked and unregulated. Coupled with sparse (or reluctant) practices of public disclosure and a spate of high-profile NGO scandals in the last decade, calls for greater transparency in NGO operations have been resounding. Who funds NGOs? How effective are their programs? How do they influence governments and international organizations? What are their agendas? And to whom are they accountable?
In a society that demands greater transparency, AEI and the Federalist Society launched NGOWATCH.ORG. This site provides policymakers, the media, and the public with a monitoring tool that captures the complexity of the fast evolving world of NGOs and the multiplicity of issues a stake in an effort to bring accountability to the NGO sector.
Non-governmental organizations are a time-honored tradition in the United States and throughout the world. With greater NGO transparency, there will be greater accountability to the public, and with that, we hope, greater trust and effectiveness for the many who are engaged in good work.