Category Archives: Global

Using Neutrality to Protect Humanity

By Hayley Walker and Valdeir Faria Filho

Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are functioning in our global society, some better than others. Some are well-known (CARE, Amnesty International, Red Cross) and use effective marketing techniques, lobbying efforts, and provide programs internationally. Others are small, local organizations that work to make life better for specific groups of people. Regardless, these diverse and varying NGOs have multiple commonalities, though they may not be fully visible on the surface. All, however, embark on missions to protect humanity.

The World Association of Non-Governmental Organizations (WANGO) is an international organization that aims to unite NGOs and promote peace and wellbeing across the globe. WANGO offers resources and support to create connections among organizations striving to create a more just, sustainable world for all. As a proponent of networks and collaborations, WANGO sheds light on the synergy that results from global organizations working towards a common goal. With widespread government support, exceptional visionaries, and dedicated donors, WANGO has worked for the past 17 years to encourage NGOs to connect across borders and without boundaries, and to hold steadfast to the following guiding principles (WANGO Code of Ethics):

  • Responsibility, service, and public mindedness
  • Cooperation beyond boundaries
  • Human rights and dignity
  • Religious freedom
  • Transparency and accountability
  • Truthfulness and legality

NGOs, in the broadest sense, cannot be for profit organizations, must be independent of government, must not interfere in domestic state affairs, and must not advocate violence (Kaloudis, 2017). However, there comes a time when disaster relief and humanitarian organizations must interfere—or rather, intervene—in domestic affairs in an effort to protect humanity. Non-governmental organizations are frequently caught in the cross-fire of waring territories, failed states, and desperate civilians, with one goal in mind: to provide relief for those in need.

During times of crisis, NGOs rely deeply on their neutrality to aid them in reaching the most people possible. In accordance with WANGO’s principle of working towards cooperation beyond boundaries, neutrality refers to refraining from taking sides on issues regarding political, cultural, religious affiliation, or other sensitive issues that may result in conflict. That does not mean that NGOs disappear or go into hiding during such conflicts, but rather work harder to serve all affected—regardless of their stance on the issues. Impactful NGOs uphold the policy of not “taking sides,” and this is crucial to the safety of workers, volunteers, donors, and civilians. However, in recent years NGOs have faced difficulty in mitigating suffering as impartial entities, in part due to assumed association with national governments or international organizations (Brechenmacher, 2015).  Aid and relief of organizations urge conflicting parties to respect their neutral stance as they provide desperately needed services to civilians, but reality does not always allow provide for this ideal situation. State militaries may claim alliances with NGOs, and rebel forces may see this alliance as a threat to their progress. NGOs, however, frequently default to the emphasizing the value of impartiality in conflict zones and assert their neutral stance to relieve human suffering—a practice that is often debated. In order to reach civilians who may be trapped or displaced deep within war zones and conflict arenas, NGOs must carefully negotiate with opposing parties. They must ensure they remain under enough security to serve, but enough neutrality to relieve the suffering civilians from all sides.

Volunteer Tourism and Third Sector

Increasing Numbers Of US Students Choosing To Embark On Volunteer Tourism Gap Years http://bit.se/ityVZb

Increasing Numbers Of US Students Choosing To Embark On Volunteer Tourism Gap Years http://bit.se/ityVZb

Volunteer Tourism and Third Sector

by Siana Amos, MNA ’17

The rapid growth of the volunteer tourism industry has sparked diverse debates among participants, researchers, and professionals. While some see international volunteering as invaluable, others question the impact and motives of participants and volunteer sending organizations. Critics have raised concerns over the role of sending organizations and the effect that commercialization has had on the nonprofit sector. These disputes have caused stakeholders and spectators alike to analyze the impact and potential ethical risks of these service opportunities. However, in spite of this controversial position, research suggests that the use of ethical learning frameworks could allow the volunteer tourism sector to use its recent popularity to enact change and do good.

The $173 billion volunteer industry attracts more than 1.6 million volunteer tourists each year and is one of the fastest growing trends in travel today (Kahn, 2014). While commercialization has significantly contributed to the growth of the industry, these business-like models and the rise of for-profit agencies are widely controversial within the social sector. Volunteer sending organizations serve to develop volunteer opportunities, arrange pertinent logistics, and facilitate relationships between volunteers and host communities. Those that hold 501(c)(3) statuses work to enhance social and environmental good, and maintain a commitment to invest all profits in organizational activities and programs. WorldTeach, a leading nonprofit sending organization, promotes itself as a key proponent of universal education and responsible global citizenship. Their two-fold organizational mission demonstrates their commitment to the students and host communities, as well as their sizable volunteer population. Global Volunteers seeks to organize international volunteer opportunities that embody their philosophy of sustainable development. This organization believes that adequately managed and supervised short-term programs have means to enact social change. In contrast, for-profit companies like Projects Abroad and Global Crossroad work to alleviate systemic injustices but do so in a manner that generates profits for stakeholders. This diversification has resulted in increased attention and contrasting reviews for the volunteer tourism sector.

The recent adoption of commercial methods has enabled and constrained international volunteer efforts. Although business-like models regularly increase financial success, these strategies often redirect efforts away from philanthropic goals and towards profitable advances. Commercial orientations force sending organizations to manage multiple stakeholder relationships and balance opposing dynamics that may arise if the needs and interests of consumers (i.e. volunteer tourists) fail to align with those of the receivers (i.e. local communities). Opponents of volunteer tourism argue that gaps in culture, background, and privilege create a lack of intercultural competence and sensitivity among Western volunteers. Critics have also questioned volunteers’ seemingly selfless motives given that several use the experience as means to build their resumes or college applications. Despite these various concerns, studies reveal that international volunteers thoroughly enhance organizational practices. Supporters argue that international volunteers continuously address labor shortage needs, provide resources, philanthropy, and social capital, increase the intercultural competence of local staff and clients, and introduce new skills and abilities to host communities (Lough, McBride, Sherraden, and O’Hara, 2011). However, while efforts clearly yield some valuable outcomes, the potential dangers of volunteer tourism demonstrate a need for improvement across the industry.

The use of ethical frameworks that prioritize empathy and respect in partnerships would be highly beneficial in intercultural contexts. The Fair Trade Learning Model is a global educational exchange that achieves reciprocity “through cooperative, cross-cultural participation in learning, service and civil society efforts” (Hartman, Paris, and Blache-Cohen, 2014). This model argues that equal partnership and transparency are essential to foster a just, equitable, and sustainable world. This framework believes that community-driven outcomes and volunteer learning are of equal importance, and argues that efforts are most effective when attention is given to community voice and direction. This approach envisions volunteer programs as mutual learning experiences and maintains that programs should implement reflection processes to complement volunteer experiences. The Fair Trade Learning Model believes that sustainability is possible if volunteers and partners are aware of how funds are used and if all contributions are aligned with the economic and social dynamics of local communities. As such, this comprehensive framework suggests that preparation, awareness, and reflection would produce ethically engaged programs and participants.

Volunteer tourism can also be applied through a transformative learning lens. Transformational learning sees dialogue and reflection as essential aspects of volunteer tourism and believes that both allow insights to be integrated into everyday life. This approach identifies self-actualization as an outcome of transformational learning and promotes critical thinking in the practice of volunteer tourism (Coghlan and Gooch, 2011). While volunteer tourism presents various challenges, the valuable and beneficial outcomes should not be overlooked. Thorough application of these learning frameworks would enable international volunteerism to move beyond the simple act of giving back and develop into an experience that is equally beneficial for volunteers, host communities, and society at large.