NGOs, the state, and the development process: The dilemmas of institutionalization

Document Type

Book Chapter


During the prolonged period of military rule and fiscal collapse that, to a greater or lesser extent, afflicted many countries in Latin America, voluntary organizations of the most varied kind flourished, particularly nongovernmental organizations, or NGOs. Once an innocuous acronym awarded by the UN to well-heeled international interest groups entitled to attend and address its meetings, this term has come imperceptibly to mean something quite different in the language of the international development community It has lost its quasi-legal significance and has gained a multitude of connotations and associations, to the point where to talk of “the NGOs” is to evoke activism, technocracy, competition, commitment, populism, development, and participation. To emphasize the dissonance would not be in the least inappropriate because if there is one thing NGOs are noted for, it is the amount of noise they make and the number and force of their opinions. In that, but only that, they carry on the tradition of those well-established international bodies (the International Trade Union Confederations, the International Chambers of Commerce, and the like) whose role at the UN is exclusively to speak, since they have voice but no vote.

Publication Title

The Changing Role of the State in Latin America

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