The World Congress of NGOs is a unique forum where representatives of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) with diverse foci meet, examine issues of pressing global concern, share innovative ideas and practices, and build strategic partnerships. Together with leaders from the intergovernmental, governmental, and for-profit sectors, the participants map strategies to address the serious challenges facing both the third sector and the larger global community. Professional experts add practical trainings to help the NGOs become more effective in carrying out their vital missions.
The 2012 World Congress will take place from July 5 to 8 in Nairobi, Kenya. Convened by the World Association of Non-Governmental Organizations (WANGO), this present event comes on the foundation of international WANGO conferences held in Bangkok, Budapest, Santo Domingo, Toronto, and Washington, D.C., and an online World Congress held in 2010. Regional conferences have been held in such locales as Accra, Nairobi, Bangkok, and Montevideo.
Reflecting the unique challenges in our increasingly globalized world, the theme for the 2012 World Congress is The Role of NGOs in Times of Global Crises. Attendees will examine many of the serious perils confronting humanity at this time: the financial crisis, environmental impacts, peace and security issues, terrorism, humanitarian crises, human rights violations, scarcity of fresh water, and so forth.
NGOs (charities, nonprofits, civil society organizations) offer unique strengths for tackling the daunting challenges of our time. Their flexibility and grassroots connections aid them in quickly mobilizing resources to communities devastated by natural or man-made disasters. Their ability to work beyond borders and build transnational partnerships allow them to effectively tackle environmental problems, trafficking, and other concerns that extend beyond political boundaries. Their willingness to address threats that other groups may overlook or fear to tackle make them effective advocates in protecting human rights and confronting governmental and corporate corruption. And their often single-minded commitment and strong motivation gives them a civic power that other institutions may lack.
Notably, as institutions that do not place profit as their number one goal, NGOs also tend to be among the most trusted institutions in society, scoring higher on trust barometers than the governmental, corporate, and media realms. They generally are cost-effective and able to mount significant projects without large offices, staff, or funding.
NGOs have used these advantages to forge an effective middle ground between the state and the corporate world. They are now impacting policies and guiding agendas that once were nearly exclusively the arena of governments and corporations. In many cases, NGOs have proven to be more adept than government and business to respond to various needs. Such strengths place them in a key position to address present-day crises in the realms of financial institutions, water and food, refugees, governance, human rights and trafficking, poverty, environment and so forth.
Of course, NGOs also face many shortcomings, which this Congress will also address. A key, oft-cited weakness of the sector is lack of inter-NGO communication and coordination. Other challenges include limited institutional capacity and management expertise, frequent poor government-NGO cooperation, lack of understanding of the broader social and economic context, and funding difficulties. And this is not to forget the complication of having some NGOs that act unethically, thus weakening trust in the NGO sector.
World Congress of NGOs 2012 will bring together representatives of NGOs, colleges and universities, governmental and intergovernmental agencies, funding bodies, and corporations to address today's most serious challenges and to help NGOs be more effective in their particular missions.
A variety of session formats will be used for providing a visionary approach to issues and offering practical tools to aid NGO leaders. These formats include plenary sessions in which leading authorities deliver thoughtful presentations on broad vision issues, panel sessions where NGO representatives introduce their organizations or discuss their activities or interests, workshops with experts facilitating training on practical topics of importance to NGOs, symposia where issues of special interest are addressed, and regional breakout sessions and mixers for NGOs to network and explore regional concerns.
The World Congress of NGOs is structured to maximize discussion and solutions to the many challenges of the nonprofit sector, the African region, and the greater community; to help NGOs connect and learn from one another; and help empower NGOs to be more effective in their missions.
The congress will be held at the Sentrim 680 Hotel located in central business district of Nairobi, with easy access to the social, business, and entertainment center of the capital. The Sentrim 680 Hotel is about 25 minutes (15 kilometers) from Jorno Kenyatta International Airport.
Popularly known as "The Green City in the Sun" due to its foliage, Nairobi is a cosmopolitan city. It is also one of Africa's most financially and politically prominent cities, with over 100 major international companies and organizations, including the UN Environment Programme. Over one mile in elevation (5449 feet above sea level, Nairobi enjoys a fairly moderate climate, with evening temperatures in July sometimes even chilly, dropping to 10 °C (50 °F). Nairobi (from the Maasai phrase meaning "the place of cool waters") is also known as the Safari Capital of the world, due to its prominence for safari tours.
One of the highlights of the World Congress of NGOs is the Awards Banquet, when NGOs that have shown remarkable leadership and service in their field of endeavor are honored. Recognizing the spirit of volunteerism among NGOs and acknowledging particularly effective NGOs, both large and small, has been a hallmark focus of WANGO. The 2012 awardees will be announced at the WANGO Awards Banquet on the evening of Saturday, July 7 .
Awards will be presented in diverse categories, including Peace & Security, Education, Human Rights, Environment, Inter-religious Cooperation, and Family & Peace. Among past WANGO awardees are such NGOs as Rotary International, the Arias Foundation, International Foundation for Education and Self-Help, Free the Children, SurfAid International, the Bahrain Women's Society, the World Association of Early Childhood Educators, the Inuit Circumpolar Conference (Canada), the United Religions Institute, and the African American Islamic Institute. Dr. Wangari Maathai's Green Belt Movement was recognized with the Environment Award just one year before she became recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize and Yusef Islam's (Cat Stevens) Small Kindness was recognized with the Humanitarian Award shortly before he became recipient of the annual award from an association of Nobel Prize winners.
The Universal Peace Award has been WANGO's highest award for individuals. Among previous award recipients are Prof. Dr. Federico Mayor Zaragoza, former Director General of UNESCO; H.R.H. Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn of Thailand; and H.E. Kenneth Kaunda, founding President of Zambia; Chief Oren Lyons of the Onondaga Council of Chiefs of the Six Nations of the Iroquois Confederacy, and Bill Drayton, founder of Ashoka. In 2011, the Universal Peace Award was received by H.E. Dr. Ibrahim Gambari, the Joint Special Representative for UNAMID (Joint Africa Union-United Nations Peacekeeping Mission in Darfur) and former UN Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs.