While common parlance now, the term nongovernmental organization (NGO) was not officially coined until 1945 when the United Nation's (UN) Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) clarified its relationship with intergovernmental specialized agencies and international private organizations in the UN Charter. ECOSOC decided that an “international NGO” (INGO) was “any international organization that is not founded by an international treaty.” The UN also determined that NGOs should be given suitable arrangements to be consulted on key issues. The status of NGOs was confirmed in the three conventions arising from the UN Earth Summit in Rio in 1992.

It is important to distinguish between NGOs and not-for-profit agencies. Unlike NGOs—which tend to emerge specifically to address certain issues, offer specific services, or advance a cause—nonprofit agencies may also ...

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