How to use it

The database provides studies on humanitarian NGOs in war-torn countries. Considering the dispersal of records, which make cross-checking from contradictory sources quite difficult, the information put online have been selected according to their availability and their pertinence for a strategic analysis.


Readers are invited to use the database in the spirit of the Internet community, freely, and free of charge. Should this data serve for writing a report, an article or a book, we would like our source to be mentioned.

The presentation of NGOs is composed of five parts:

1) A description comprising:
- the name and the acronym of the NGO;
- the address of the head office;
- the existence of possible “branches” abroad. Whatever the official name and the autonomy of the “affiliate”, a branch is a member organisation which belongs to and maintains a formal relationship with an international structure;
- the website of the NGO;
- the date of creation of the NGO;
- the field of action of the NGO: nutritional, medical care, educational, child sponsorship, defence of Human Rights, peace building, others;
- the level of action of the NGO: operational agency, financial channel (ranging from Foundations to the underground apparatus of political parties), duplicate (figurehead or replica of another “hidden” organization), empty shell;
- the possible religious character of the NGO: Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Orthodox, Buddhist, etc.;
- the occurrence of the NGO: either a permanent or an ad hoc organization;
- the percentage of private funds in the published budget of an NGO: unlike subsidies and contracts from the public sector, it includes personal donations and legacies, resources from various investments, the members’ contributions, the sales of goods or services, corporate sponsorship, support from foundations or non-governmental institutions, gifts in kind, and national lotteries (even if they depend on the state, for their resources come from individuals) etc. The yearly budget is given in millions to the nearest hundred of thousands;
- the regional, national or international character of the NGO: one or several countries of intervention;
- the transparency of the NGO: accountability, defined as the availability of activity and financial reports to citizens who are not members, private donors or institutional backers of the organization. Data should be accessible on Internet, for mail or telephone requests to the head office are much more unpredictable.

A six-point gradation from 0 to 5 sets up a hierarchy in this regard:

Level 0: no annual or financial report available on Internet;
Level 1: no financial report available on Internet. The website gives access to a mission statement but there are no exhaustive lists of interventions per country and no information on actual expenditures;
Level 2: the website gives access to only one financial report, dated from the previous year or older. There are no data about actual expenditures per country or per programme. At best, the annual report looks like an advertisement pamphlet and provides no exhaustive list of interventions;
Level 3: the NGO's website fulfils one of the two following expectations. Either it gives access to several financial reports dated from the previous year or older. Or it gives access to only one financial report but completes the picture with an exhaustive list of interventions and/or data on actual expenditures in the field;
Level 4: the NGO's website gives access to one or several financial reports, the latest being two years old maximum. There are also exhaustive lists of interventions and more detailed data on actual expenditures, especially regarding earmarking and the origin of financial resources per country or programme;
Level 5: confirming accountability on a regular basis, the NGO's website gives access to one or several financial reports, the latest being two years old maximum. There are also exhaustive lists of interventions and detailed data on actual expenditures, especially the source, the names and the origin of funding per country or programme. Out of the financial resources, the percentage of earmarking helps to clarify the situation in this regard. Even better, annual reports really try to assess difficulties from a self-critical perspective.

2) A history
- The chronology of the NGO is presented as follows: date, country considered, description. The date can correspond to a one-off action, it can be a closed period of time, or something in the long term: “since” means that the action is still in process, “from”, that we do not know the date the event considered ended.
- First and last names are always mentioned; for the needs of the translation, acronyms are all explained between brackets, even the most obvious ones; only the acronyms of NGOs in the database are not detailed as they correspond to a record.
- As we study the moral dilemmas of humanitarian action, a quick look could give a negative impression. But the issues pointed out must be understood in a precise historical, social, political, economical and cultural context. So it is necessary to balance the descriptions of the database with the longevity and the transparency of an NGO, which obviously increases the list of identified issues.

3) Analytical comments, the form and content of which depend on their author. This part usually deals with:
–The mission: changes in the organisation’s status; its relationship to humanitarian action.
–The internal governance: operational functions; capacities; democratic or authoritarian patterns; the executive; general assemblies and the role of voluntary members as regard to professional workers; salaries; staff unionisation; the relationship between the departments of operations, finance and communication.
–The networking: coordination problems; the links with intergovernmental organisations and other NGOs; autonomy and the centralized or federal control over national sections through certification, franchise and/or exclusion.
–Public relations: communication policy; confidentiality; access to archives; transparency; impartiality; proselytising; merchandising; lobbying; the relationship to the media.
–The financial resources: political economy of the institution; proportion of governmental funds; diversification of resources; their implications for the social mission; financial scandals.
–The links with politics: the relationship to parties and governments; institutional advocacy and militancy; individual politicisation of members.
–The links with the military: embedment during peace operations; decision or not to use armed escorts and/or private guards; security policy and evacuation of the staff; the relationship to regular forces and guerrillas.
–The links with economics: corporate sponsorship; campaigns against companies; partnership with the World Bank and financial institutions; economic sanctions.
–The institutional learning: the analysis capacity; the production of studies; self-criticism; external evaluations and their publication; lessons learned; the operational implications to do no harm.

4) Written sources on the NGO
- Press, specialized reviews, academic works, testimonies, biographies, assessments, reports, “grey” literature.
The information also comes from:
- The websites of the NGOs;
- Oral reports and interviews of actors in the field;
- The cross-checking of data by sending each NGO the information collected about it, with a right to correct.

5) A right to reply giving the detailed conditions in which the description of the NGO has been drafted. Each notice is signed by its author with the last update.


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