What is the role and importance of NGOs?

This article will give you a better view on the main functions of non-governmental organizations, hereinafter NGO, in the marine industry and explain why they are an important party in creating legal measures and driving progress in the field.

What is an NGO

NGO stands for non-governmental organization, which is any non-profit, citizen-based group organized on a local, national or international level, operating independently of the government. The term was first used in the United Nations Charter after the Second World War. Driven by people with a common interest, NGOs perform various services and functions, often around specific issues.

What is the relationship between NGOs and the IMO?

The International Maritime Organization (IMO) may grant NGOs consultative status, given that they are capable of making a substantial contribution to its work. Once a year, the Council decides on this matter after approval of the Assembly.

Granting consultative status allows the IMO to obtain expert information or advice from an NGO involved in a particular sector of its work. At the same time, it gives NGOs the opportunity to express their view to the IMO, and in doing so, they often represent a certain group of parties. Privileges that come with consultative status include, among others, the possibility of submitting documents on agenda items of the different organs of the IMO, and representation at meetings of the Assembly and other organs upon invitation.

All in all, acquiring consultative status allows NGOs to get insights into the work of the IMO and influence the legal framework.

The importance of NGOs in keeping the balance

As organizations acting independently of the government, NGOs have the capacity to ensure that the authorities and bigger organizations act according to what they pledge.

How do they do that?

  • NGOs often enjoy exceptional access to knowledgeable people and information in their area of expertise. This means that they can make information accessible to the public and explain how it might affect them.
  • Additionally, NGOs create a channel for individuals to be represented and heard on a wider scale. Moreover, NGOs can adapt quicker and respond to everchanging societal needs more rapidly than governmental organizations.
  • Essentially, NGOs can be instrumental in ensuring transparency and accountability due to their access to information.

In the marine industry, NGOs mainly focus on:

  • Environmental issues,
  • Sustainability,
  • Competition,
  • Stakeholder representation, and
  • Biodiversity / marine life conservation.

This variety of different stakeholders all within the same industry, sharing experience and opinions, is what drives the debate in the industry forward and thus also progress. Because the members of the IMO do not include only governments and governmental organisations, NGOs also play an important role in creating the laws according to which the industry works.

In conclusion, due to their expertise covering all areas involved in the industry and their capability to influence it and thereby bring about progress, NGOs play an important role in the marine industry.