Government, Social Welfare and NGOs

A Failure of Governance

The phenomenon of the NGOs or the Non Governmental Organizations entering the field of social welfare accelerated in the 1990s. In earlier decades, though there were several charitable trusts and organizations like Red Cross, Medicine Sans Frontiers, and Doctors without Borders, the explosion in the number of NGOs and the concomitant rise in their profile were relatively muted. This aspect of the NGOs taking center stage has been attributed to the failure of the various governments across the world to deliver development and actualize the principles of social justice and social welfare. Hence, the reasoning goes that the NGOs had to step in and deliver where the governments had failed. This trend became more noticeable in the first decade of this millennium wherein the NGOs were seen by many as the real votaries of social welfare with the rise in the failed states of Africa and other parts of the world where governance simply collapsed.

The Government is Still Relevant

Having said that, it needs to be mentioned that even now the government is the best bet to actualize social welfare because it has the size and the scale to reach out to large populations. No matter how much the NGOs try, they simply cannot match the power of the governments in actualizing social welfare simply because the governments are the agencies tasked with the purpose of social welfare and because the amount of money that is at the disposal of the governments is something that even the biggest NGOs cannot match. Hence, the implications of this are that the government and the NGOs are in a seesaw battle with each of them trying to outdo the other where social justice and social welfare are concerned. This is the reason why the governments and the NGOs exist in a state of tension with each other.

A Model of Cooperation

The ideal model for actualizing social welfare would be one where the government is directly in charge but where the NGOs are tasked with the objective of ensuring smooth delivery of social services and where they are called upon to monitor the delivery mechanisms and provide objective feedback. This means that the external audits of the programs undertaken by the government have to be done by the NGOs no matter how much the governments resist such efforts. Further, this model of development is being practiced in India where the National Advisory Council or the NAC advises the government on schemes like the Employment Guarantee Scheme, the Food Security Bill and performs external audits of these schemes to ensure that the benefits are reaching the intended recipients.

Closing Thoughts

Finally, both the government and the NGOs have to realize that each cannot do without the other and hence, instead of a tense relationship, a creative tension wherein each complements and supplements the other would be preferred. After all, social welfare is a topic that is of paramount importance and something that should not be marred by personality clashes or overlapping areas of interest.


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