Why do NGO’s work in global coalitions


Civil society coalitions emerge for a variety of reasons. Some motivating factors include:

  • The desire to maximise NGO influence on advocacy targets in different countries, including helping activists overcome obstacles at a national level by drawing on international support.
  • The need to make the most of scarce human and financial resources and to avoid duplication of effort among NGOs working on similar issues.
  • The desire to ensure effective communications among key NGO actors working on a particular issue and to pool the expertise available to NGOs.
  • The desire to avoid NGO disunity on an issue. Opponents will be all too willing to exploit differences in opinion among NGOs in order to undermine the overall goal being pursued.

Working in coalitions also provides a coordinated way for NGOs to forge and maintain strategic partnerships with external actors. It is easier for a government to relate to a coalition as a single partner that represents the range of civil society actors on an issue than to work out whom to interact with from among a host of organisations.

However, coalitions also impose costs and constraints on member organisations. A key trade-off when working in coalition is between the gains in effectiveness (stronger voice and wider reach) on the one hand and the amount of time and resources spent in making a coalition work on the other. Coalitions have been described as a ‘necessary bureaucracy’ and every coalition an NGO joins brings with it another set of communications, another email list and another set of conference calls and meetings.

“Governments and international organisations such as the UN sometimes see significant benefits in having NGOs organising themselves into coalitions. For example, the ECOSOC Statute for Non-Governmental Organisations states that: “Where there exist a number of organisations with similar objectives, interests and basic views in a given field, they may, for the purposes of consultation with the Council, form a joint committee or other body authorised to carry on such consultation for the group as a whole.”

ECOSOC Resolution 1996/31, 25 July 1996.


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