Forming NGO umbrella organizations

Creating consortia of nongovernmental institutions
NGOs that reach consensus have more power to negotiate. In the same way that business people, farmers and industrialists form 'Chambers' or 'Association' to defend their interests, NGOs form umbrella organizations and forums to build an institutional framework with the legal backing and power to negotiate and contest other public and private powers.
Several NGO umbrella organizations have been launched with mixed success, including the Environmental Liaison Centre and the Centre for Our Common Future. The UN Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) spurred the creation of national forums that attracted wide participation and energized existing groups to mobilize around its agenda issue. In countries where these groups have continued campaigning on the issues after UNCED, they have gained a new legitimacy in the eyes of government officials. Regional models that succeeded throughout UNCED were loose networks that spread out promoting positions on substantive issue -- among them the Japan NGO Forum, the Brazil Forum and the US Citizens' Network. These networks continue to promote awareness of sustainable development issues in their regions.

The General Arab Women Federation is the umbrella under which is concerted the efforts of Arab women's organizations for improving social conditions in general and women's in particular. It maintains a relation of coordination and interaction with member organizations in order to identify their needs and capabilities; to provide them with technical assistance; to enable them to play their national and pan-Arab role; and to undertake projects would consolidate their efforts and render them more effective and economical.

Competition among NGOs for space, funds and prestige works against their forming networks. This situation highlights the need for NGO umbrella organizations, which could benefit all their members by eliminating duplicative efforts and the scattered allocation of often subcritical funds of the NGO community. An NGO "super network" would work only if members are willing to be straightforward, to tolerate differences and to work for consensus on key points. Such an NGO umbrella organization would have to be autonomous, emanating from the NGO community and unfettered by ties to government or industry that would allow it to be manipulated.
Type Classification:
D: Detailed strategies