Thomas J. Ward
of the International College
September 25th through September 28th the World Association
Non-Governmental Organizations convened in Bangkok, Thailand for its
annual conference. With representation
from 147 NGOs and 50 countries, WANGO
chose the pursuit of “an ethical and caring society” as
theme, building on the focus of the 2002 Conference which was “Culture
Responsibility and the Role of NGOs.”
and oral presentations at this year’s Conference noted the increasing
played by the civil society in assisting populations, governments and
organizations to address central problems facing humanity.
Increasingly, the role played by civil
society must be factored into the political and economic equations of
present and the future. NGOs are
gaining growing recognition for providing expertise and in depth
of the “on the ground” realities of today’s unique social, political,
economic problems. NGOs are gaining
recognition for their ability to deliver unparalleled levels of
cost effectiveness in their provision of goods and services to needy
populations, making them the logical partner or coordinating impetus
completion of many of the tasks which governments and regional and
international organizations strive to achieve.
have played a crucial role in defining and addressing international and
regional agendas in diverse areas including the delivery of health
for the furtherance of a sustainable environment, and for impeding
violations. The abstract of the
Session of the conference, NGOs as Advocates and Agents of an
Caring Society, noted that “NGOs impact” on “how multinational
do business and how governments, large and small, conduct their
that, excluding the World Bank and the IMF “…NGOs now deliver more
assistance than the entire U.N. system.”
since 1970, NGOs have often defined the moral agenda, setting the world
with Amnesty International, the International Campaign to ban
Landmines, and Doctors
without Borders numbering among the NGOs having been awarded the Nobel
Prize for the contributions that they have made toward reducing
human suffering. As has been noted in
this Conference, “the
non-governmental sector serves as
key advocates and agents for bringing about an ethical and caring
NGOs like other aspects of modern society should be held to strict
and should act within defined standards of ethics, accountability, and
transparency. During this Conference,
it was pointed out that even such well known organizations as the
Red Cross and the United Way have come under fire for inappropriate
procedures and for misuse of funds in recent years, pointing to the
need to address
this matter at a time when NGOs come more and more to the forefront as
standard for vision, leadership, and integrity.
first two plenary sessions of this year’s Conference were convened at
United Nations ESCAP headquarters in Bangkok.
Taj Hamad, Secretary General of WANGO, noted that this
coincided with the opening in New York of the 58th UN
Assembly where more than 90 heads of State gathered, expressing their
of the UN’s mandate to champion the cause of world peace and etch out a
thrust for the world’s premier international organization.
Bangkok, the World Association of Non-Governmental Organizations
gathered to discuss in their opening plenary the role of NGOs
as advocates and agents of an ethical and caring society.
In the second plenary the focus of the
session was the concept of human security and the role that NGOs can
furthering human security.
the opening plenary it was pointed out by the session’s first speaker,
Juree Vichit-Vadakan, that the role of NGOs is increasingly central and
the social pressures emphasizing economic success as the bottom line
to downplaying the importance of sustainable development, as well as
environmental and cultural preservation, and service to others,
noted that civil society can serve as an agent of change because it
and continues to sees the poor and the marginalized as a central
which is often forgotten by other sectors of society.
Vichit-Vadakan emphasized that, to foster a more caring society, NGOs must learn to work with the media and
inform of their activities as well as take advantage of venues for
engagement to accomplish their goals.
Plenary Session’s second speaker, Thai Senator Mechai Varavaidya, spoke
role that the UN can play in lending its imprimatur to supporting an
role for NGOs. The Senator pointed to
governments establishing a double standard in the registration
well financial constraints placed on NGOs as compared to upstart
other corporate entities. He
recommended that that there be a designate of the UN Secretary General
known the UN support for an increased role to civil society
the ongoing resistance to NGOs in some countries.
spoke also of the need for NGOs to have their own source of financial
support. NGOs may need a separate
business arm to donate profits to the NGO’s operational expenses. NGOs cannot depend on governments for
support. Such reliance can lead to an
unhealthy politicizing of NGOs.
Chung Hwan Kwak, Chairman of WANGO’s International Council and the
speaker, pointed toward the responsibility of NGO leadership to be
and to the need to foster character development within the NGO
community. He spoke of the role of NGOs as
conscience while noting that the human conscience serves as the measure
differ between acts of altruism and selfishness. Character,
it was noted, is built not on official convictions but
on a lifestyle consistent with such convictions. An
ethical and caring society is not an institution but is always
defined through a human face.
Kwak stated that universal standard and order originate with God and
religions, and that the family is the foundational social institution
which we develop ourselves. The family
is the primary institution for the formation of character and for the
of ethics and unselfish love.
Kwak noted that, through international organizations, regional
international transport and communication, our world is becoming
one. However, what is lacking is “the
heart of being one family and yet this is our destiny. Without a heart
love, we can not solve the differences that divide people by race,
class, and ethnicity. Nor can we solve HIV, environmental, and ethnic
either.” Whether black, white, or yellow,
when we are hospitalized with an ailment, we are all treated in the
and with the same medicines. “The root of all solutions lies in the
of our common humanity and our common roots.”
Dr. Kwak noted, needs examples of ethical and caring communities. He noted that WANGO founder Dr. Sun Myung
Moon has the constant vision of having a parental heart toward others. Through fostering such familial care and
concern, any NGO’s relevance will grow and it will be better prepared
contribute to the building of a better and more prosperous world.
The second plenary session on human
security noted in its written abstract that “Traditional security
have focused on the state as the referent of security, and mainly the
ability to counter external threats” whereas “in the human security
the individual is the primary referent of security.”
In opening this session, Dr. Noel Brown,
the session Chair, lamented that global
human insecurity is the world reality. He
noted developments in the United States
such as a Department of Homeland Security and the proliferation of
cameras, as well as the growing number of gated communities with
entry, serve as reminders of such insecurity and as indicators of the
address this challenge..
first session speaker Mr. Francois Fouinat, Executive Director of the
Commission on Human Security explained that human
security is often related to freedom from fear and freedom from want --
Franklin Roosevelt’s four freedoms. Mr.
Fouinat pointed out that this includes freedom both from pervasive
people's lives and safety, as well as freedom from threats to their
and social well-being.
briefly tracing the trajectory of the work of the UN Commission on
Security, Mr. Fouinat noted that its goals were threefold:
Educating the public on human security; 2) using human security as an
paradigm to analyze the social conditions of a given society; and 3)
development of a concrete program of action.
commission has undertaken research in 6 areas:
Conflict victims (especially innocent victims such as children and the
2) refugees; 3) the challenges facing
war torn societies; 4) economic insecurity when it leads to abject
access to basic health service; and 6) education and curriculum reform
foster dialogue and understanding.
Fouinat noted that, through using human security as a working paradigm
promoting social well-being, it becomes clear that governments must
reorder their policies and priorities.
This can only happen, he felt, with the support and
insistence of civil
a second presentation, Mr. Dana Dillon of the Heritage Foundation
the challenges and progress in the war against terror, noting that
financially steps had been successfully taken to slow terrorism. He pointed to various indicators of this,
demonstrating that progress had been made, while noting the role that
society will need to play in addressing the challenge of rebuilding
more just social institutions.
final session speaker Dr. Sarah Michael, Fellow at the John F. Kennedy
of Government, described ways in which NGOs contribute to human
security. She noted that NGOs contribute
security because of their ability to mount a rapid response to threats
security. She likewise stated that NGOs
develop successful responses with far less overhead funding than
initiatives. NGOs are willing to take
risks and to address threats to human security that others would prefer
Dr. Michael, the three most common obstacles that NGOs face are: 1) The
donor aid or restrictions on it; 2) government antagonism toward NGOs;
the fact that transborder threats often fall outside of budgets.
his closing remarks, the session Chair, Dr. Noel Brown, pointed out
achieve the UN Millennium goal to halve poverty by 2015, resources are
that are currently being diverted to military purposes.
Plenary Session Three, NGOs &
Ethics: Toward an Ethical Culture in the Governmental, Corporate, and
Society Sectors, was chaired by Mr. William D. Lay, Director of the
NGO Code of Ethics Initiatives. As
explained in the written abstract to this session, “NGOs share with the
governmental and corporate realms a social responsibility to address
extraordinary challenges of our time and follow the highest ethical
Mr. Lay has prepared and distributed his
preliminary efforts in this initiative.
At the WANGO General Assembly of the membership, it was
project should advance in a timely fashion because of the great need
The first speaker at this session, Dr.
Alan Fowler, President of the International Society for Third Sector
and author of Striking a Balance, described the factors making
discussion of ethics and NGOs particularly germane at this time. This included the absence of an endemic value
system in the market economy but a strong focus on self-interest.
Dr. Fowler also pointed out that
voluntarism is adversely affected when pessimism about society becomes
prominent social theme. He also noted that today there is seemingly
both a lack
of ethical role
models and an ethics vacuum, partially resulting from contention ABOUT
should serve as the foundation of moral values. Should
it be shared religious values or shared human values,
given that the two have been known to collide with each other?
Fowler offered preliminary thoughts about shared moral values and, as
possible operating paradigm for furthering an ethical culture based on
interplay amongst government, the corporate world and civil society,
society serving as a driving force to foster and monitor ethical
practices. In the question and answer
session, Dr. Fowler also referred to the family as the starting point
fostering a more ethical culture.
a second presentation, Mr. Robert Dobias of the Asian Development Bank
its strategic agenda, which includes sustainable economic growth,
social development and the encouragement of good governance. He traced the process whereby NGO
in ADB activities has advanced since 1987.
He noted that whereas in 1991 8% of ADB loans had NGO
had increased to 52% by 1999. For ADB,
there are four elements of good governance: accountability, wide
tracking or predictability, and transparency and he described the steps
taken by the ADB to monitor them in NGOs operating in tangent with the
the third presentation of this session, Dr. Tunku Abdul Aziz of
International, noted the global decline in the ethical standards of
behavior…and affirmed that honesty, integrity and social responsibility
embraced by those who have responsibility in modern society.
made reference to the WANGO Conference venue of Bangkok, pointing out
had been the epicenter of East Asia’s financial disaster of the late
pointing out that this serves as a reminder that unbridled excesses
role in the business of today’s world nor can they have a place in
The Annual Conference also included a
series of interactive and breakout sessions that dealt with problems
the trafficking of women and children, UN reform including the creation
inter-religious council, sustainable development, human rights, and the
of Microcredits as well as training sessions on fundraising, conflict
resolution, management and leadership skills, and ways of fostering
NGO-government working relations.
At this year’s WANGO General Assembly
business meeting, the Ghana WANGO chapter was welcomed as the newest
chapter. Support was expressed to proceed with Mr. Lay’s
efforts to create an NGO draft code of ethics.
his closing remarks, Mr. Hamad introduced
participants to the African expression Wagarugu, meaning to come to see
then report back to others. This became
a metaphor for the conference. The
Secretary General asked that those who had attended kindly share the
experience with others.