In This Article Nongovernmental Organizations

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Reference Resources
  • Journals
  • Civil Society
  • Images of Children in NGO Advocacy

Childhood Studies Nongovernmental Organizations
by
Anna Holzscheiter
  • LAST MODIFIED: 23 March 2012
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199791231-0044

Introduction

Nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) are now considered to be the linchpin of grassroots, local, national, and transnational civil society engagement and organization. Their role and importance continue to grow, and academic engagement with NGOs and the specific power they hold are more vibrant than ever. Although NGOs, the various advocacy networks they form, and contentious issues around which they group are certainly not a new phenomenon, their exponential growth since about the 1980s is remarkable, particularly in terms of their increasing internationalization and the ways in which they have become prominent players alongside nation-states in international standard-setting. In this regard, the role of NGOs in the drafting of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC)—the core international treaty enshrining an international notion of childhood and defining the human rights of children—is one of the earliest and most successful examples of NGO involvement in international standard-setting. In the field of child protection and child advocacy, the bulk of research, however, is still concerned with NGOs’ role beyond the political realm, i.e., the core functions that they occupy in society, their role in monitoring implementation of child protection standards and human rights legislation for children, and in contesting policies. NGOs are seen here as crucial actors providing basic services for children and adolescents, working for civic education, and advocating for the rights of children and their visibility in public policy. Recently, academic research on NGOs, which were previously taken to be the “conscience of the world” (see Willets 1996, cited under General Overviews), has experienced a second wave of research that sheds a more critical light on the representativity, legitimacy, and often considerable power that NGOs hold on all levels of societal and political organization. Much of the academic engagement with NGOs has revolved around definitional issues—seeking to define what is “nongovernmental” and trying to make an analytical differentiation between different types of nongovernmental or nonstate actors.

General Overviews

Although a vast body of literature deals with the history, structure, and evolution of national and international civil societies and the specific role of NGOs in these processes, general overviews of NGOs in the field of child protection and children’s rights are rare—at least from an explicitly academic standpoint. Policy papers written by NGOs themselves or other public and private bodies cooperating with NGOs (e.g., the United Nations Development Programme [UNDP] or the United Nations Children’s Fund [UNICEF]) abound, but comprehensive discussions of how NGOs have shaped childhood images and policies throughout the last centuries are hard to find. Kumari and Brooks 2004 and Percy-Smith and Thomas 2009 discuss children’s rights as one of the primary terrains in which NGOs have proven to be highly influential and successful in their advocacy, particularly on an international level. They also reflect specific discussions on civil society advocacy, especially in terms of how children and young people eventually can participate actively in national and international civil society. A recent edited volume (Denov, et al. 2011) emphasizes the seminal contribution of NGOs to cross-cultural dialogue about the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) and its principles. On a general level, Willets 1996 is considered an earlier classic in research on the role of NGOs in international politics and is probably one of the most cited edited volumes. Brysk 2005 was one of the first studies to look at contributions by NGOs to make the “private” public and to expand the global human rights agenda considerably; this study was also one of the first to discuss children’s rights as one area in which this trend was most visible. Baehr 2009 is valuable because it discusses definitional issues about what exactly characterizes an NGO and where it gets its authority, examining NGO influence on the global child rights discourse as an especially noteworthy example of NGO authority.

  • Baehr, Peter R. Non-Governmental Human Rights Organizations in International Relations. Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan, 2009.

    DOI: 10.1057/9780230233706E-mail Citation »

    A comprehensive overview of the discussion on what constitutes a nongovernmental organization, how these organizations are structured internally, and how they interact externally with intergovernmental organizations, specifically in the field of human rights. The book is particularly informative in terms of the multiple parameters that influence NGO interaction with governments on an international level. Children’s rights are explicitly addressed in a subchapter as an area in which NGO influence on standard-setting has been and remains remarkable.

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    • Brysk, Alison. Human Rights and Private Wrongs: Constructing Norms in Global Civil Society. New York: Routledge, 2005.

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      Exploring the evolution of human rights legislation, particularly with regard to a gradual encroachment into areas previously considered “private,” such as violence against women or the protection of children from abuse in the family context. Discusses how cross-border civil society activism has successfully constructed “private wrongs” as issues of global concern. Specifically analyzes how global civil society has sought to achieve better human rights protection for migrant children.

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      • Denov, Myriam S., Richard Alexander Maclure, Kathryn M. Campbell, and Dharshini Seneviratne, eds. Children’s Rights and International Development: Lessons and Challenges from the Field. Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan, 2011.

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        Contributions to this edited volume revolve around singular projects and collaborations in developing countries, in which NGOs and community-based organizations (CBO) worked together in innovative ways, aiming to enhance child protection through participation and empowerment of children and adolescents. The volume’s contributions share the argument that to be cross-culturally relevant, the UNCRC’s principles must be interpreted in flexible and innovative ways in order to make sense in diverse social contexts.

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        • Kumari, Ved, and Susan L. Brooks, eds. Creative Child Advocacy: Global Perspectives. New Delhi and Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE, 2004.

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          The book revolves around child advocacy in the legal system. Parts 2 and 4 are of particular interest because they discuss examples of successful NGO advocacy on behalf of children (e.g., in the areas of child labor or juvenile justice). The last part of the book explores how NGOs can be effective in their advocacy, even in highly politicized and restrained settings.

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          • Percy-Smith, Barry, and Nigel Thomas, eds. A Handbook of Children and Young People’s Participation: Perspectives from Theory and Practice. London and New York: Routledge, 2009.

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            Edited by two well-known scholars who have studied child participation for a considerable time. The volume assembles a range of cutting-edge contributions that discuss sense and nonsense of children’s participation in a variety of settings, both in industrialized and developing countries. The rather brief contributions to the “Approaches to Practice” section offer excellent examples of innovative methods and structures to ascertain meaningful participation of children.

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            • Willets, Peter, ed. The Conscience of the World: The Influence of Non-Governmental Organisations in the U.N. System. Washington, DC: Brookings Institution, 1996.

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              The argument that NGOs form the “conscience of the world” as advocates for particularly vulnerable people has become one of the most cited slogans in the literature on nongovernmental organizations. Two of the case studies explicitly deal with children’s issues, exploring the role of NGOs in the drafting and evolution of the Save the Children Fund by the UNCRC from a relief organization to a children’s rights organization.

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              Reference Resources

              A range of excellent sources are available for those interested in numbers, size, membership, geographical origin, and activities of nongovernmental organizations. In terms of accounting for the growing numbers and diversity of NGOs, the Yearbook of International Organizations, published by the Union of International Associations, is a classic compendium seeking to list all international NGOs, i.e., those organizations that operate across national borders. Another core yearbook in this field is the Global Civil Society Yearbook, published by the London School of Economics, which has aimed to trace the evolution and transformation of global civil society and NGOs since 2001. For child-specific NGOs, the Directory of National and International Organizations provided by the Child Rights Information Network (CRIN) offers the most comprehensive and detailed overview of organizations working on national and international levels on behalf of children and young people. Profile of National Child Rights Coalitions gives an excellent overview of national civil society networks and their composition. Anheier, et al. 2010 and Edwards 2011 must be considered major reference works as both publications aspire to present a comprehensive overview of theories, concepts, and debates revolving around civil society. An important source of information for staff members of NGOs or those interested in the practicalities and logistics of NGO involvement in the United Nations is the UN Non-Governmental Liaison Service.

              • Anheier, Helmut K., Stefan Toepler, and Regina List, eds. International Encyclopedia of Civil Society. 3 vols. New York: Springer, 2010.

                DOI: 10.1007/978-0-387-93996-4E-mail Citation »

                This encyclopedia represents a major reference work inasmuch as it seeks to include a broad range of theories, concepts, and debates about civil society from different academic disciplines. It presents an interdisciplinary compendium of definitions, terminologies, biographies, and organizational profiles. It also captures the specific forms and functions of civil society in different cultures and explores the evolution of the notion of civil society throughout history.

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                • Child Rights Information Network. Directory of National and International Organizations.

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                  Without doubt, the most important source for information on child-specific nongovernmental organizations. Searches for NGOs can be by issues, region, or name. Individual organization’s profiles provide information on when the organization was established, the number of staff members, the main contact, address of the organization, aims and activities of the NGO, areas of expertise, as well as countries and regions in which the organization works.

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                  • Child Rights Information Network. A Profile of National Child Rights Coalitions: Findings of the NGO Group for the CRC Survey of National Child Rights Coalitions. CRIN-NGO Group Joint Working Paper 1. London: Save the Children UK, 2004.

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                    An excellent overview of the profile, structure, and activities of national child rights coalitions, presenting findings of a survey of thirty-two national coalitions (out of approximately one hundred coalitions existing at the time of publication). Presents insights into the composition of the national coalitions, concluding that most coalitions are composed largely of NGOs that engage in advocacy and monitoring of children’s rights.

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                    • Edwards, Michael, ed. The Oxford Handbook of Civil Society. New York: Oxford University Press, 2011.

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                      An important reference source covering a broad range of aspects related to the history, structure, public spaces, and achievements of civil society in different regions of the world and globally. Contributions are written by outstanding experts in this field.

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                      • Global Civil Society Yearbook. London: London School of Economics, 2001–.

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                        Published annually, another major general reference work for everyone interested in NGOs. Obligatory reading for students, practitioners, and researchers interested in learning about major evolutions and controversies within global civil society. Contributions to the yearbook are about issues in global civil society.

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                        • Union of International Associations. Yearbook of International Organizations, 2008/2009. 3 vols. Munich: K. G. Saur Verlag, 2008.

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                          Published since 1910. The most important compendium of international nongovernmental organizations and, as such, the most relevant source for statistics of NGOs in general: their regional distribution, types, aims, and activities. Contains information on the geographic area or origin, membership, and leadership of NGOs as well as their publications.

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                          • UN Non-Governmental Liaison Service.

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                            Another important source for information on NGOs working with the United Nations. Important publications of the UN-NGLS include the two Year in Reviews published in 2006 and 2007, and the 2005 UN System Engagement with NGOs, Civil Society, the Private Sector, and other Actors: A Compendium.

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                            Journals

                            The three major journals in the field of childhood studies (Childhood, Children & Society, and the International Journal of Children’s Rights) have published a range of scholarly contributions that deal in one way or another with NGOs and their pivotal, yet often controversial, role in protecting children, advocating for their rights and visibility, and providing basic services for them. Sociological and political science journals focusing on NGOs have also covered child-related topics in their exploration of national and global civil society and the state-society relationship in a wide range of social, economic, and political contexts. For broader discussions on the history, evolution, and effects of NGOs, Global Governance and Government and Opposition cover the phenomenon from a political science perspective, whereas the Journal of Civil Society, Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly, and Voluntas offer interdisciplinary forums for cutting-edge research on NGOs.

                            • Childhood. 1993–.

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                              The major interdisciplinary journal in the field of childhood studies published by SAGE. A range of articles revolve around the role of NGOs in service-provision and advocacy vis-à-vis political decision makers. Most interesting contributions on the role of NGOs in child protection and child rights advocacy are those that explore the tensions and dilemmas that NGOs experience in terms of their intercultural work.

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                              • Children & Society. 1987–.

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                                Addresses multiple issues related to family life and governmental policies targeting children and their families, both in industrialized and developing countries. Many contributions to the journal revolve around civil society’s role in protecting children and promoting their participation, e.g., in policymaking and community interventions. Articles discuss the role of NGOs in implementation of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC), the extent to which they adhere to participatory methodologies in research, etc.

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                                • Global Governance: A Review of Multilateralism and International Organizations.

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                                  An important journal that addresses the role of nongovernmental organizations particularly through the lens of the growing institutional density of global politics, thereby discussing the extent to which global governance reflects on the structures, authority, and leverage of NGOs in world politics, e.g., the disparity of voices from North and South and questions of accountability and legitimacy of NGOs in multiactor settings.

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                                  • Government and Opposition. 1965–.

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                                    This international journal has been reflecting much of the academic debate on the role and responsibility of NGOs, particularly in terms of their supposed legitimacy and accountability and the ways in which NGOs establish and shape national and international public spheres. Influential scholars such as Jan Aart Scholte, Philippe Schmitter, Michael Zürn, and Anne-Marie Slaughter have revisited the position of civil society organizations in broader global governance frameworks in this journal.

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                                    • International Journal of Children’s Rights.

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                                      Together with Childhood, the most important journal that explores different understandings and approaches toward children’s rights from an interdisciplinary perspective. It examines how national and international human rights standards for children have been shaped by, and are shaping discourses on, the child and childhood. As vital actors promoting and protecting children’s rights in different cultural contexts, NGOs are frequently subjects of theoretical debate and empirical analysis in the journal.

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                                      • Journal of Civil Society. 2005–.

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                                        This journal provides an important academic platform for all debates revolving around the notion of civil society. The contributions explore the history, structure, composition, and patterns of national, international, and global civil society, with perspectives from a broad variety of disciplines. Naturally, NGOs and the nonprofit and nongovernmental institutions known as the “Third Sector” occupy center stage as objects of investigation in the journal.

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                                        • Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly. 1972–.

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                                          This is a peer-reviewed interdisciplinary journal that seeks to advance knowledge about nonprofit organizations, philanthropy, and volunteerism. It provides extensive coverage of children’s issues with regard to the nonprofit sector.

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                                          • Voluntas: International Journal of Voluntary and Nonprofit Organizations. 1990–.

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                                            The official journal of the International Society for Third-Sector Research. An interdisciplinary journal that aims to serve as a forum for international research on the interplay among states, markets, and the household sector. It specifically targets practitioners and policymakers as a readership.

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                                            Civil Society

                                            Nongovernmental organizations are a research subject primarily in the fields of sociology, political science, philosophy, and, increasingly, in law. Major works emerged in the late 1980s and early 1990s that sought to define NGOs, explain their emergence and role in national and international society and politics, and understand the logics that underlie their work. This occurred precisely at a time when the growth of civil society organizations was clearly visible through, for example, the rising numbers of NGOs accredited at the United Nations. Weiss and Gordenker 1996 was among the first noticeable studies to cover this phenomenon. The early literature on NGOs remains either largely descriptive (see Charnovitz 1997, cited under History of NGOs, or Willets 2002), seeking to capture the phenomenon of the “NGOization” of civil society activism on national and international levels, or puts forward a normative interpretation of NGOs as “the conscience of the world,” i.e., as the moral backbone of international politics. Lindblom 2005 is exceptional inasmuch as it approaches the subject of NGOs from a perspective of international law. More recently, scholarly work in this field has been preoccupied more with questions of accountability, legitimacy, and representation that seem to underlie much of the authority of NGOs in national and international politics. Glasius, et al. 2004 and Keane 2003 are early examples of this trend. Scholars have been concerned with questioning these bases for legitimacy and also reflect on alternative theories and conceptual models with which to capture and measure the influence and legitimacy of NGOs. Edwards 2009, Reinalda 2011, and Willets 2011 relocate civil society activism and NGOs in 21st-century national societies and global governance.

                                            • Edwards, Michael. Civil Society. 2d ed. Cambridge, UK: Polity Press, 2009.

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                                              Explores the different roles and hopes that are attributed to civil society in the 21st century, ranging from civil society as the realm of goodwill, charity, and emancipation versus the “bad” state, to civil society as the public sphere in which a plurality of organizational forms (NGOs just being one among many), philosophies, aims, and ideas influences societal and political life. Originally published in 2004.

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                                              • Glasius, Marlies, David Lewis, and Hakan Seckinelgin, eds. Exploring Civil Society: Political and Cultural Contexts. London and New York: Routledge, 2004.

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                                                An important edited volume that examines the shape and dynamics of civil societies in different parts of the world, arguing that an equation of civil society with the NGO sector is problematic in many national and local contexts. Clearly belongs to the second wave of research on NGOs because most of the contributions share a skepticism with regard to the growing “NGOization” of national and international civil society.

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                                                • Keane, John. Global Civil Society? Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2003.

                                                  DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511615023E-mail Citation »

                                                  Approaching the subject of global civil society from a political theory perspective. Explores the phenomenon by asking why so many human beings form collectivities in order to advance causes that transcend national boundaries. Discusses the differences between descriptive, pragmatic uses of the term civil society versus those that carry normative and ethical implications.

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                                                  • Lindblom, Anna-Karin. Non-Governmental Organisations in International Law. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2005.

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                                                    Discusses the contemporary status of NGOs in the international legal system. Approaches NGOs from a perspective of international law, thereby complementing existing research on NGOs that has been conducted primarily within the academic fields of political science and sociology.

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                                                    • Reinalda, Bob, ed. The Ashgate Research Companion to Non-State Actors. Farnham, UK: Ashgate, 2011.

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                                                      An important anthology bringing together many of the most influential scholars working on nonstate actors and NGOs. Covers a range of contentious issues in contemporary research on nonstate actors and their influence on policymaking and societal transformation. Individual chapters explore the impact of nonstate actors on specific issue-areas (human rights, security, and development aid) as well as the nature of nonstate actors’ authority and position vis-à-vis other actors (governmental, civil society, etc.).

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                                                      • Weiss, Thomas G., and Leon Gordenker, eds. NGOs, the UN, and Global Governance. Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner, 1996.

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                                                        An early core reading addressing the growing involvement and influence of NGOs within the United Nations. Addresses the visible shift toward private authority that the exponential growth of NGOs has brought about and that has resulted in a gradual movement toward global (rather than intergovernmental) governance. Explores NGOs’ intermediary position between market and state, public and private spheres, and local and global levels of social mobilization and political activism.

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                                                        • Willets, Peter. What Is a Non-Governmental Organization?. UNESCO Encyclopaedia of Life Support Systems, Section 1, Institutional and Infrastructure Resource Issues, Article 1.44.3.7, 2002.

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                                                          A highly useful resource for anyone interested in the range of classification schemes for nongovernmental organizations. Willets posits that the term NGO has been coined by the United Nations as a means for differentiating between different classes of actors with participatory rights at the United Nations. Willets offers a set of core characteristics for NGOs, such as their formal independence from government and their not-for-profit, nonviolent goals.

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                                                          • Willets, Peter. Non-Governmental Organisations in World Politics: The Construction of Global Governance. Milton Park, UK, and New York: Routledge, 2011.

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                                                            Following the early success of The Conscience of the World (see Willets 1996, cited under General Overviews), Willets explores the position of nongovernmental organizations with larger social movements and advocacy networks. In this recent publication, Willets considerably departs from his earlier work that has rested on unchallenged assumptions with regard to NGO authority and legitimacy, shedding a critical light on the authority of NGOs in global policymaking.

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                                                            History of NGOs

                                                            An abundant amount of literature on the history of NGOs is available; however, a major shortcoming is that it mainly covers the emergence and evolution of NGOs in the Northern Hemisphere and the increasing transnationalization of civil society activism. Charnovitz 1997 and Korey 1998 are considered classical accounts of the history of NGO–United Nations relationships. Otto 1996, Brett 1995, and Alger 2002 are also highly referenced sources in this regard. Boli and Thomas 1999 explores the authority of NGOs in world politics from a sociological perspective—its argument that NGOs contribute to the diffusion of a specific world culture has been widely seized. Arts, et al. 2001 and Josselin and Wallace 2001 are more descriptive accounts seeking to picture different types, activities, and power resources of NGOs, whereas Cullen and Morrow 2001 addresses the issue from a more critical standpoint on representation and diversity. The surfacing of NGOs and their increasing institutionalization in developing countries are rarely addressed in historical overviews. Similarly, although the history of NGO activism and advocacy is discussed for specific areas in child protection, the roots of modern civic concern for children and young people are seldom discussed.

                                                            • Alger, Chadwick F. “The Emerging Roles of NGOs in the UN System: From Article 71 to a People’s Millennium Assembly.” Global Governance 8.1 (2002): 93–118.

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                                                              Discusses changes in the relationship between NGOs and the United Nations, tracing the evolution of rules and regulations governing NGO–United Nations interactions. The article looks specifically at widening participation of NGOs within the institutional framework of the World Bank and the World Trade Organization and discusses the influence of international NGO conferences on norm evolution in international politics.

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                                                              • Arts, Bas, Math Noortmann, and Bob Reinalda, eds. Non-State Actors in International Relations. London: Ashgate, 2001.

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                                                                This edited volume analyzes the pivotal role of NGOs in international and transnational politics. Looks at the authority and role of NGOs from a variety of perspectives, such as law and public policy, and applies these lenses to different case studies on climate change, security, and indigenous and civil rights movements.

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                                                                • Boli, John, and George M. Thomas, eds. Constructing World Culture: International Nongovernmental Organizations Since 1875. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1999.

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                                                                  One of the classics in international political sociology that studies the emergence of nongovernmental organizations and their effects on world politics and a distinct “world culture” from the late 19th century to the end of the 20th century. Argues that one of the effects of increasing civil society activism through NGOs is a rationalization and standardization of global civic engagement and policymaking.

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                                                                  • Brett, Rachel. “The Role and Limits of Human Rights NGOs at the United Nations.” Political Studies 43 (1995): 96–110.

                                                                    DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9248.1995.tb01738.xE-mail Citation »

                                                                    Brett discusses different areas of NGO involvement in the United Nation’s human rights activities, from standard-setting to treaty bodies to political bodies in general, describing how some NGOs have been highly influential in these various domains.

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                                                                    • Charnovitz, Steve. “Two Centuries of Participation: NGOs and International Governance.” Michigan Journal of International Law 18.2 (Winter 1997): 183–286.

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                                                                      Among the most widely cited articles offering an historical account of NGO emergence, proliferation, and growing visibility in international governance. Argues that the history of NGO involvement has seen different phases, from emergence to engagement prior to World War II to formalization in the immediate aftermath of the war to underachievement from the 1950s to 1970s and then, finally, to intensification since the early 1970s.

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                                                                      • Cullen, Holly, and Karen Morrow. “International Civil Society in International Law: The Growth of NGO Participation.” Non-State Actors and International Law 1.1 (2001): 7–39.

                                                                        DOI: 10.1163/15718070121003419E-mail Citation »

                                                                        One of the earliest articles questioning the unchallenging legitimacy of NGOs. The authors argue that an increase in the numbers of NGOs cannot be equated with an increase in diversity of voices, participants, and constituencies. Article criticizes the representativity and elitism of many NGOs that have access to international institutions, particularly those originating in North America.

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                                                                        • Josselin, Daphne, and William Wallace, eds. Non-State Actors in World Politics. Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave, 2001.

                                                                          DOI: 10.1057/9781403900906E-mail Citation »

                                                                          An insightful edited volume that sheds light on different types of nonstate actors in world politics, thereby departing from the narrow focus on NGOs. The different contributions to the volume discuss faith-based organizations, trade unions, religious movements, and organized crime as different forms of transnational social organization, e.g., looking at the ways in which these actors collaborate transnationally through such entities as ethics networks and expert groups.

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                                                                          • Korey, William. NGOs and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1998.

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                                                                            One of the classical readings on NGO involvement in the UN human rights system, looking at the influence of individual NGOs such as Amnesty International, the Anti-Slavery Society, and Human Rights Watch on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The book also traces the diverse roles that NGOs have taken, from standard-setters to fact-finders, and from ombudsmen to influential partners in the very design of international institutions.

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                                                                            • Otto, Dianne. “Nongovernmental Organizations in the United Nations System: The Emerging Role of International Civil Society.” Human Rights Quarterly 18.1 (1996): 107–141.

                                                                              DOI: 10.1353/hrq.1996.0009E-mail Citation »

                                                                              Examines the history of the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) relationships with NGOs over time. Argues that, so far, rules and regulations have tended to support the status quo with only minor changes to the standard operating rules and a continuation of the state-centric liberal realism that has shaped United Nations–NGO relationships.

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                                                                              Child-Focused Organizations

                                                                              Very few publications specifically address the history of nongovernmental organizations in the field of child protection, advocacy, and empowerment. Platt 1977 provides an early critical discussion of the effects of civic engagement on child protection institutions. Sznaider 1997 approaches the subject from a similar perspective. Most seminal works in childhood studies to some extent or another touch on the critical role of civic engagement groups, social movements, and charity organizations in making children and adolescents more visible in society. The account by Black 1996 of the history and transformation of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), for instance, repeatedly stresses how NGOs have contributed to UNICEF’s work and institutional change. However, systematic discussion and analysis of the evolution of national and global civil society in this particular field are sparse. The history of NGOs prior to the International Year of the Child (1979) and the drafting of the UN Convention of the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) (1979–1989) have been rarely addressed in research—noticeable exceptions being Marshall 1999, Marshall 2002, and Breen 1994. Holzscheiter 2010 analyzes the childhood discourses that have had an impact on international law in the field of child protection throughout the 20th century from an analytical standpoint, highlighting the seminal role of NGOs in this process.

                                                                              • Black, Maggie. Children First: The Story of UNICEF, Past and Present. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996.

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                                                                                An insightful account of the history of UNICEF and how the organization changed through the adoption and consolidation of the UNCRC. UNICEF’s collaboration with NGOs and the pivotal role of civil society in the promotion and implementation of the UNCRC are recurrent themes of this book.

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                                                                                • Breen, Rodney. “Saving Enemy Children: Save the Children’s Russian Relief Operation, 1921–23.” Diasters 18.3 (1994): 221–237.

                                                                                  DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-7717.1994.tb00309.xE-mail Citation »

                                                                                  Analyzing the specific strategies of the Save the Children Union during the famine in Russia. This historical account shows that media campaigning was a vital ingredient of this early success story of Save the Children’s involvement in disaster relief.

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                                                                                  • Holzscheiter, Anna. Children’s Rights in International Politics: The Transformative Power of Discourse. Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan, 2010.

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                                                                                    Analyzes the evolution of the international discourse on childhood and children’s rights and its effects on international law and politics in this field. Discusses the role of NGOs as a major driving force behind the growth in international legislation on behalf of children. Major emphasis on the contribution of NGOs to the drafting of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

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                                                                                    • Marshall, Dominique. “The Construction of Children as an Object of International Relations: The Declaration of Children’s Rights and the Child Welfare Committee of League of Nations, 1900–1924.” International Journal of Children’s Rights 7.2 (1999): 103–147.

                                                                                      DOI: 10.1163/15718189920494309E-mail Citation »

                                                                                      The only article that addresses the creation of the League of Nations Declaration on the Rights of the Child in 1924. It extensively discusses the role of major international child welfare organizations in this process, particularly the Save the Children International Union.

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                                                                                      • Marshall, Dominique. “Humanitarian Sympathy for Children in Times of War and the History of Children’s Rights, 1919–1959.” In Children and War: A Historical Anthology. Edited by James Marten, 184–199. New York: New York University Press, 2002.

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                                                                                        Discusses the emerging concern of international organizations for children and other vulnerable groups in the interwar period and after World War II and the seminal role that the NGO Save the Children International Union played in making child protection an issue in international relations.

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                                                                                        • Platt, Anthony M. The Child Savers: The Invention of Delinquency. 2d ed. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1977.

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                                                                                          An early classic reading that seeks to understand how the child-saving movement that emerged in the late 19th and early 20th centuries was connected to the evolution of the welfare state and, specifically, the institutionalization of juvenile courts. Platt argues that, rather than promoting a humanist approach toward children, the child-saving movement helped a dehumanized and arbitrary criminal justice system.

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                                                                                          • Sznaider, Natan. “Compassion and Control: Children in Civil Society.” Childhood: A Global Journal of Child Research 4.2 (1997): 223–240.

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                                                                                            Focuses on the emergence and expression of civil society interest in the moral education and physical integrity of children from a sociological perspective.

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                                                                                            NGOs and the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child

                                                                                            The histories and success of both NGOs in international politics and the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) are closely intertwined. The UNCRC drafting is commonly seen as the first international treaty-making process in which NGOs made a substantial contribution to the content of a human rights treaty. Accordingly, the role of NGOs in the UNCRC drafting has received much attention in scholarly work. Following this seminal role of NGOs in the UNCRC negotiations, NGOs were implicitly referred to in Article 45 of the Convention as “other competent bodies” that may be involved in implementation. They have, therefore, been a recurring subject in academic research, with a particular focus on NGOs’ important, yet difficult, position between an international human rights discourse and local constituencies.

                                                                                            Drafting

                                                                                            The seminal role that NGOs have played in drafting, finalizing, and promoting the UNCRC has been documented widely, particularly in works by a range of authors who were personally involved in the negotiations leading to the UNCRC (Cantwell 1992, Price Cohen 1990, and Longford 1996). LeBlanc 1995 provides the most detailed account of the politics surrounding the UNCRC drafting, whereas Dorsch 1994 remains, to date, the only systematic discussion of the UNCRC negotiations from a legal point of view. The literature, however, remains exceptionally descriptive, thereby contributing little to theory-building and analysis of international negotiations or lawmaking.

                                                                                            • Cantwell, Nigel. “The Origins, Development and Significance of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.” In The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child: A Guide to the “Travaux Préparatoires.” Edited by Sharon Detrick, 19–30. Dordrecht, The Netherlands: Martinus Nijhoff, 1992.

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                                                                                              The personal account of the spokesperson of the NGO Ad-Hoc Group participating in the drafting of the UNCRC. An important source of information with regard to the social and political dynamics that characterized the negotiations of the 1989 Convention.

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                                                                                              • Dorsch, Gabriele. Die Konvention der Vereinten Nationen über die Rechte des Kindes. Berlin: Duncker and Humblot, 1994.

                                                                                                DOI: 10.3790/978-3-428-08087-8E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                The only monograph that provides an in-depth legal discussion of the drafting of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. The role of nonstate actors in this legal exercise also figures in Dorsch’s analysis.

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                                                                                                • LeBlanc, Lawrence J. The Convention on the Rights of the Child: United Nations Lawmaking on Human Rights. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1995.

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                                                                                                  The most comprehensive, but largely descriptive, account of the drafting history of the UNCRC in which LeBlanc analyzes state and nonstate participation in terms of regional origin of delegates, number of meetings attended, etc. The specific contribution of NGOs to the drafting is also discussed.

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                                                                                                  • Longford, Michael. “NGOs and the Rights of the Child.” In “The Conscience of the World“: The Influence of Non-Governmental Organizations in the UN System. Edited by Peter Willets, 214–240. Washington, DC: Brookings Institution, 1996.

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                                                                                                    Former UK delegate to the drafting of the UNCRC describes the dynamics in the Working Group with a detailed account of how, when, and why NGOs were able to make their pioneering contribution to international lawmaking for children.

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                                                                                                    • Price Cohen, Cynthia. “The Role of Nongovernmental Organizations in the Drafting of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.” Human Rights Quarterly 12.1 (1990):137–147.

                                                                                                      DOI: 10.2307/762172E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                      Another account of a former NGO participant to the drafting of the UNCRC. Price Cohen argues that in the UNCRC drafting, NGOs were able to circumvent the participatory constraints of lawmaking in the United Nations considerably, not only observing but also intervening in written and oral form. Her article describes different NGO strategies to influence treaty-drafting exercises.

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                                                                                                      Implementation

                                                                                                      Early literature on implementation of international standards for the protection of children and their rights has been largely descriptive, discussing potentially successful implementation strategies for NGOs that target both political and societal spheres (see Breen 2003, Price Cohen 1996, Hart and Theytaz-Bergman 1996, and Verhellen 1996). Vučković Šahovic 2010 offers a welcome departure from the narrow focus on traditional charity and advocacy NGOs, discussing how different types of nonstate actors are contributing to the implementation of the General Measures of the UNCRC. Veerman and Levine 2000 is one of the earliest articles addressing the role of NGOs as mediators between global norms and grassroots work in local settings. Newer research on the subject points to the manifold dilemmas and frictions that materialized twenty years after the adoption of the UNCRC (Invernizzi and Williams 2011). The latter publication presents a collection of cutting-edge discussions on how to interpret the concept of children’s rights in contemporary global and national politics and local settings.

                                                                                                      • Breen, Claire. “The Role of NGOs in the Formulation of and Compliance with the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict.” Human Rights Quarterly 25.2 (2003): 453–481.

                                                                                                        DOI: 10.1353/hrq.2003.0012E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                        Highlights the role that NGOs can play in international lawmaking, arguing that, despite their initial failure to raise international standards for the protection of children in armed conflict, they successfully reached their goal with the Optional Protocol to the UNCRC that entered into force in 2002.

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                                                                                                        • Hart, Stuart N., and Laura Theytaz-Bergman. “The Role of Nongovernmental Organizations in Implementing the Convention on the Rights of the Child.” Transnational Law & Contemporary Problems 6.2 (Fall 1996): 373–392.

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                                                                                                          Analyzes the role of NGOs in implementation from a perspective of potentially successful strategies such as national and international coalitions and networks.

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                                                                                                          • Invernizzi, Antonella, and Jane Williams, eds. The Human Rights of Children: From Visions to Implementation. Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2011.

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                                                                                                            Although largely focusing on the role of State Parties and the Committee on the Rights of the Child in implementing the UNCRC, this thought-provoking discussion of the status quo in implementation also discusses the contribution of NGOs in making the rights of children and young people a reality rather than merely a normative idea.

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                                                                                                            • Price Cohen, Cynthia, ed. Special Issue: Implementation of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. Transnational Law & Contemporary Problems 6.2 (Fall 1996).

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                                                                                                              Contributions by a range of influential authors reflecting on possibilities for implementation in their position as both academics and “implementers” (Theytaz-Bergman, Price Cohen, and Rios-Kohn).

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                                                                                                              • Veerman, Philip, and Hephzibah Levine. “Implementing Children’s Rights on a Local Level: Narrowing the Gap between Geneva and the Grassroots.” International Journal of Children’s Rights 8.4 (2000): 373–384.

                                                                                                                DOI: 10.1163/15718180020494758E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                Argues that NGOs are critical in narrowing the gap between Geneva and the grassroots. One of the earliest articles exploring the role of NGOs in the implementation of the UNCRC at the lower levels, e.g., communities, municipalities, etc.

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                                                                                                                • Verhellen, Eugeen, ed. Monitoring Children’s Rights. The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff, 1996.

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                                                                                                                  Essential reading for anyone interested in the drafting and implementation of the UNCRC. Brings together insights from the most influential theorists and practitioners on children’s rights at that time. A whole section is dedicated to the role of NGOs in monitoring and implementing the UNCRC, exploring also individual NGOs active in this field.

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                                                                                                                  • Vučković Šahovic, Nevena. The Role of Civil Society in Implementing the General Measures of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Florence: UNICEF Innocenti Research Centre, 2010.

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                                                                                                                    Highlights the role of civil society in implementation of the General Measures, going well beyond the classical type of not-for-profit NGO (advocacy or relief), taking into account a broad range of civil society actors such as faith-based organizations, think tanks, trade unions, and business associations.

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                                                                                                                    Specific Issue-Areas

                                                                                                                    Although the impact of NGOs in the field of child protection and advocacy for children’s human rights has been recurrently subject to scientific inquiry, specific issue-areas have attracted considerable attention in terms of their salience in international discourse, reflecting global priorities in concern for specific groups of children living in especially difficult circumstances, most notably child labor and armed conflict. In terms of the underlying philosophy of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC), NGOs have also been studied in terms of their contribution to fostering participatory rights, methods, and practices.

                                                                                                                    Children in Armed Conflict

                                                                                                                    Considering that international concern for children as a particularly vulnerable segment of society primarily arose after the two world wars in the 20th century, it is hardly surprising that much research has revolved around the situation of children who are affected by armed conflict—both as victims of violence and as violent agents themselves (child soldiers). NGOs such as Save the Children or the International Committee of the Red Cross (see Dutli and Bouvier 1996) have been a major driving force behind the creation of soft and hard law in this area. Carpenter 2007 and Carpenter 2010 have studied this phenomenon using a transnational advocacy network approach, offering a compelling explanation for NGOs’ narrow approach toward children in armed conflict. Watson 2006 also discusses how child-focused NGOs have heavily influenced the creation of Southern security norms for the protection of children in armed conflict.

                                                                                                                    • Carpenter, R. Charli. “Studying Issue (Non)-Adoption in Transnational Advocacy Networks.” International Organization 61 (2007): 643–667.

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                                                                                                                      Compares two issue-areas (child soldiers and girls in war versus children born as a result of wartime rape) and argues that existing theories on issue salience in transnational advocacy coalitions fail to explain why issue salience was dramatically higher for the former.

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                                                                                                                      • Carpenter, R. Charli. Forgetting Children Born of War: Setting the Human Rights Agenda in Bosnia and Beyond. New York: Columbia University Press, 2010.

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                                                                                                                        Arguing that the international human rights community has, so far, failed to acknowledge the particularly difficult situation of children born as a result of wartime rape.

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                                                                                                                        • Dutli, Mariá T., and Antoine Bouvier. “Protection of Children in Armed Conflict: The Rules of International Law and the Role of the International Committee of the Red Cross.” International Journal of Children’s Rights 4.2 (1996): 181–188.

                                                                                                                          DOI: 10.1163/157181896X00437E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                          A largely descriptive paper that highlights the many ways in which the International Committee of the Red Cross advanced international law for the protection of children in armed conflict throughout the 20th century.

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                                                                                                                          • Watson, Alison M. S. “Saving More Than the Children: The Role of Child-Focused NGOs in the Creation of Southern Security Norms.” Third World Quarterly 27.2 (2006): 227–237.

                                                                                                                            DOI: 10.1080/01436590500432267E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                            Shedding light on how child-focused NGOs actively contribute to the construction of specifically Southern security discourses and norms, this challenging paper argues that contemporary advocacy on behalf of children in armed conflict often masks the exceptional diversity of childhood experience and, more importantly, the agency of children and young people and their potential contribution to the creation of security norms.

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                                                                                                                            Child Labor

                                                                                                                            Another popular research field in terms of NGOs and child protection is child labor. Following the general trend of first and second wave research on NGOs, academic discussion has moved on from a rather uncritical exploration of how to achieve better compliance with national and international standards in this field to a much more polarized debate on the adequacy of existing international legislation in different cultural, economic, and political contexts. This newer debate has also pointed to a deep-seated antagonism between protectionist, abolitionist charities and NGOs that seek to empower working children and to acknowledge their interests and agency. Liebel 2003 and Liebel 2004 are sources by one of the most prominent advocates for refocusing the debate on working children to make international legislation more compatible with different cultures. The other publications referenced (Smolin 1999, Smolin 2000, White 1994, White 1999, and Hertel 2006) are noteworthy inasmuch as they picture NGO activism on behalf of working children as a heavily contested field, addressing the implications of polarized NGO debates on standard-setting in this field.

                                                                                                                            • Hertel, Shareen. Unexpected Power: Conflict and Change among Transnational Activists. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2006.

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                                                                                                                              Analyzes advocacy in the field of economic and labor rights, with a specific focus on transnational campaigns for the abolition of child labor that illuminates how these campaigns were contested by the very people they were intended to help. One of the rare studies that explores contentious politics within international civil society rather than between civil society and state actors or firms.

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                                                                                                                              • Liebel, Manfred. “Working Children as Social Subjects: The Contributions of Working Children’s Organizations to Social Transformation.” Childhood 10.3 (2003): 265–285.

                                                                                                                                DOI: 10.1177/09075682030103002E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                An important contribution to the literature on child labor, discussing the role of working children’s organizations (as a specific type of NGO or social movement) in global and local social transformation processes.

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                                                                                                                                • Liebel, Manfred. A Will of Their Own: Cross-Cultural Perspectives on Working Children. London: Zed, 2004.

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                                                                                                                                  Offers a subject-oriented perspective on working children, aiming to show the diversity of methodologies and approaches that can ensure that working children are seen as agents able to shape their own lives rather than as passive objects of rescue and protection. NGOs’ best and worst practices are discussed throughout the book.

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                                                                                                                                  • Smolin, David M. “Conflict and Ideology in the International Campaign Against Child Labour.” Hofstra Labor and Employment Law Journal 16.2 (1999): 383–452.

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                                                                                                                                    Argues that international campaigns for the abolition of child labor have been characterized by strong prevailing ideology of an incompatibility of “proper” childhood and any type of child labor. Concludes the international advocacy in this field has been largely undemocratic, leaving little room for ideological alternatives.

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                                                                                                                                    • Smolin, David M. “Strategic Choices in the International Campaign Against Child Labor.” Human Rights Quarterly 22.4 (2000): 942–987.

                                                                                                                                      DOI: 10.1353/hrq.2000.0049E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                      Challenges the unquestioned assumptions on which international NGO activism on behalf of working children is based, concluding that social movements at times pursue interests that run counter to the best interests of those for whom they are advocating.

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                                                                                                                                      • White, Ben. “Children, Work and ‘Child Labour’: Changing Responses to the Employment of Children.” Development and Change 25.4 (1994): 849–878.

                                                                                                                                        DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-7660.1994.tb00538.xE-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                        Discusses how social and political action against child labor evolved in the 20th century as a particular form of abolitionism. A thought-provoking yet balanced discussion of the ways in which a range of influential NGOs has endorsed a protectionist child-saving attitude toward working children, whereas others have endorsed more emancipatory perspectives on working children and youth.

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                                                                                                                                        • White, Ben. “Defining the Intolerable: Child Work, Global Standards and Cultural Relativism.” Childhood: A Global Journal of Child Research 6.1 (1999): 133–144.

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                                                                                                                                          Addresses the inherent tensions between universalistic international values and relativist, context-sensitive approaches toward definitions of child labor, thereby questioning the easy applicability of international child protection standards such as, most prominently, those formulated by the International Labour Organization (ILO).

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                                                                                                                                          Street Children

                                                                                                                                          Similar to the area of child labor, research on street children has also occasionally addressed how grassroots, national, and international NGOs have targeted these children in their work. Connolly and Ennew 1996 is the most comprehensive publication with regard to theoretical and practical approaches toward street children. Akin to the debate on adequate terminology in the field of child labor, analysis of NGO work with street children has also critically revisited how the semantics of the street may contribute to discrimination and social exclusion (see also Connolly and Ennew 1996). Both Nieuwenhuys 2001 and Snodgrass Godoy 1999 use the area of street children as an example of how Western notions of childhood reflect on national and international strategies.

                                                                                                                                          • Connolly, Mark, and Judith Ennew, eds. Special Issue: Childhood. Children Out of Place 3.2 (1996).

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                                                                                                                                            This special issue is a collection of the most avant-garde research on street children at that time—highlighting the problematic implications of applying a Western notion of childhood to children who live outside the seemingly protective family environment. It discusses a range of new theoretical and practical approaches toward street children and the negative image of the street that lies at the heart of many programs (including NGO projects).

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                                                                                                                                            • Nieuwenhuys, Olga. “By the Sweat of Their Brow? ‘Street Children,’ NGOs and Children’s Rights in Addis Ababa.” Africa 71.4 (2001): 539–557.

                                                                                                                                              DOI: 10.3366/afr.2001.71.4.539E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                              Authored by one of the most fierce critics of global discourses on childhood promoted by international organizations and NGOs. This paper highlights the strong tensions between globalizing narratives on childhood and local practices in Ethiopia, shedding a critical light on the activities of Western charitable NGOs interacting with street children in the Ethiopian capital.

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                                                                                                                                              • Snodgrass Godoy, Angelina. “‘Our Right Is the Right to Be Killed’: Making Rights Real on the Streets of Guatemala City.” Childhood 6.4 (1999): 423–442.

                                                                                                                                                DOI: 10.1177/0907568299006004003E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                An important contribution to the literature on street children questioning the relevance of human rights standards to children who are particularly exposed to massive and systematic human rights violations, such as children living on the streets.

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                                                                                                                                                Children in Emergencies

                                                                                                                                                Literature on humanitarian aid abounds; however, research is limited that specifically addresses how humanitarian NGOs target children. Ferris 2011 is a notable exception to this trend.

                                                                                                                                                • Ferris, Elizabeth G. The Politics of Protection: The Limits of Humanitarian Action. Washington, DC: Brookings Institution, 2011.

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                                                                                                                                                  Explores the central challenges facing humanitarian NGOs in the 21st century, arguing that current understandings of protection—and the international legal standards in which they are enshrined—are often out of sync with the reality of humanitarian emergencies and contemporary conflict scenarios.

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                                                                                                                                                  HIV/AIDS

                                                                                                                                                  In recent years, scholarly interest has also turned toward children affected by HIV and AIDS, seeking to understand how NGOs can strengthen national responses to the epidemic but also at times to reinforce rather than reduce the vulnerability of children affected by the epidemic. The studies in Meintjes and Giese 2006 and Henderson 2006 have been the most groundbreaking in this regard. Webb 2004 also sheds a critical light on the representational power of NGOs working with children affected by HIV/AIDS.

                                                                                                                                                  • Henderson, Patricia C. “South African AIDS Orphans: Examining Assumptions around Vulnerability from the Perspective of Rural Children and Youth.” Childhood 13.3 (2006): 303–327.

                                                                                                                                                    DOI: 10.1177/0907568206066354E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                    A thought-provoking paper challenging the core assumptions and terminologies underlying NGO policies vis-à-vis children orphaned by HIV/AIDS in South Africa. Henderson argues that the powerful global discourse on orphanhood and vulnerability obscures local particularities and the commonalities between orphans and other poor children affected by HIV/AIDS.

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                                                                                                                                                    • Meintjes, Helen, and Sonja Giese. “Spinning the Epidemic: The Making of Mythologies of Orphanhood in the Context of AIDS.” Childhood 13.3 (2006): 407–430.

                                                                                                                                                      DOI: 10.1177/0907568206066359E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                      The study presented in this paper examines local understandings of orphanhood and vulnerability in South Africa, addressing the often negative consequences of the “orphan” terminology for children affected by HIV/AIDS. The authors caution that external NGOs and other international actors have to show greater awareness for how they represent particularly vulnerable children when seeking to act in their best interests.

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                                                                                                                                                      • Webb, Douglas. “Legitimate Actors? The Future Roles for NGOs Against HIV/AIDS in Sub-Saharan Africa.” In The Political Economy of AIDS in Africa. Edited by Nana Poku and Alan Whiteside, 19–32. Aldershot, UK: Ashgate, 2004.

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                                                                                                                                                        Discusses how Northern Hemisphere NGOs working against HIV/AIDS address their “constituencies” in the South and challenges the ways in which they represent those whom they seek to help. The paper specifically mentions NGOs’ failure to incorporate children and young people’s opinions, wishes, and interests into their advocacy practices adequately.

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                                                                                                                                                        Child Participation and Empowerment

                                                                                                                                                        Although NGO policy papers and manuals on rights-based approaches, child participation, and empowerment abound, more scientific explorations of this issue are harder to find, particularly those on how NGOs employ these approaches and principles in practice. NGO experience and best practices in implementing participatory principles mostly remain anecdotal. Tisdall, et al. 2006 and Theis and O’Kane 2005 provide insightful discussions of how rights-based and participatory approaches have been seized by the NGO community; systematic and theoretically grounded debates on the feasibility and effects of NGOs’ approaches are missing.

                                                                                                                                                        • Theis, Joachim, and Claire O’Kane. “Children’s Participation, Civil Rights and Power.” In Reinventing Development? Translating Rights-Based Approaches from Theory into Practice. Edited by Paul Gready and Jonathan Ensor, 156–170. London: Zed, 2005.

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                                                                                                                                                          Explores how children’s rights approaches have emerged as a cornerstone of the work of children’s charities in developing countries. Examples from children’s clubs in Nepal illustrate the author’s claim that children’s participation is an important driving force for societal transformation in the country.

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                                                                                                                                                          • Tisdall, E. Kay M., John M. Davis, Malcolm Hill, and Alan Prout, eds. Children, Young People and Social Inclusion: Participation for What? Bristol, UK: Policy Press, 2006.

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                                                                                                                                                            Assembles chapters by many of the most acclaimed scholars working on child participation (Berry Mayall, Gerison Lansdown, Alan Prout, E. Kay M. Tisdall, among others). Several contributions to this edited volume discuss examples of NGOs that have been at the forefront in advocating for participation, fostering empowerment of children, and applying a range of participatory methodologies in their everyday work.

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                                                                                                                                                            Critical Approaches

                                                                                                                                                            Since the beginning of the 21st century, the philosophies, work, and effects of NGOs have come under much closer scrutiny, following a general interest in the role of private actors in national and global governance. Although much research continues to prove that NGOs are vital to a desired democratization of world politics, international institutions, and national political systems, the focus in research has shifted to a more critical engagement with the sources of NGOs’ authority and legitimacy, the considerable power they often hold, and their interactions with other actors, most notably, the business sector (see Grugel and Piper 2007). Research on child-focused NGOs has followed suit in this trend, mostly focusing on the problematic relationship between NGOs’ donor-governed agendas and the agenda (interests and desires) of the supposed or real constituencies for which they work across the most diverse cultural, social, and political contexts (see Ottaway and Carothers 2000; Bell and Coicaud 2007).

                                                                                                                                                            • Bell, Daniel A., and Jean-Marc Coicaud, eds. Ethics in Action: The Ethical Challenges of International Human Rights Nongovernmental Organizations. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2007.

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                                                                                                                                                              Brings together theorists and practitioners in the field of international human rights promotion and explores the ethical dilemmas that arise whenever universal human rights principles meet intricate local contexts.

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                                                                                                                                                              • Grugel, Jean, and Nicola Piper. Critical Perspectives on Global Governance: Rights and Regulation in Governing Regimes. London and New York: Routledge, 2007.

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                                                                                                                                                                Published in the important RIPE Series in Global Political Economy, this co-authored book explores so-called norm-based global governance in two specific issue-areas: migration and child labor. The authors argue that the global rights discourse is particularly important because it serves as a vehicle for legitimate claims made by nonstate actors on behalf of vulnerable groups such as children and young people.

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                                                                                                                                                                • Ottaway, Marina, and Thomas Carothers, eds. Funding Virtue: Civil Society Aid and Democracy Promotion. Washington, DC: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 2000.

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                                                                                                                                                                  An edited volume that discusses the possibilities and challenges of democratization through civil society. Two of the most well-known scholars in the field of democracy promotion—and critics of the “virtuous” world civil society—have assembled a range of insights into the manifold obstacles that civil society organizations confront in specific cultural and political settings around the world.

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                                                                                                                                                                  NGOs and Childhood Politics

                                                                                                                                                                  With regard to critical discussions of the ideologies underlying child protection politics and activism, Freeman and Veerman 1992 must be considered one of the most widely cited sources. Following recent interest in issues of democratic representation, legitimacy, and accountability, research on NGO involvement in international, national, and local protection of children has also experienced a critical twist. Here, particularly, the mismatch between the policies of NGOs and their practices on the ground, as well as the discrepancy between their public relations activities revolving around vulnerability and victimhood and their philosophy (espousing, in many cases, discourses of empowerment and participation), is at the center of critical reflection (see Manzo 2008, Watson 2006, and Wells 2008). More recent research also focuses on how NGOs represent children’s interests and opinions in the work, often criticizing a lack of accountability by NGOs toward children and adolescents as their “policy-takers” (see Holzscheiter 2010 and White 2002). Henderson 2006 and Meintjes and Giese 2006 (cited under HIV/AIDS) analyze what happens when Hemisphere NGOs do not sufficiently reflect on the terminologies and concepts they use to address vulnerable children; they convincingly show the unintended negative consequences of uniform global vocabularies and strategies.

                                                                                                                                                                  • Freeman, Michael, and Philip Veerman, eds. The Ideologies of Children’s Rights. Dordrecht, The Netherlands: Martinus Nijhoff, 1992.

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                                                                                                                                                                    Analyzes the history and evolution of the children’s rights movement as essentially a clash between child savers and liberationist movements—NGOs being part of both of these. Provides a detailed and well-argued account of the contentious nature of civic engagement on behalf of children.

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                                                                                                                                                                    • Holzscheiter, Anna. “The Representational Power of Civil Society Organizations in Global AIDS Governance: Advocating for Children in Global Health Politics.” In Power and Transnational Activism. Edited by Thomas Olesen, 173–189. Abingdon, UK, and New York: Routledge, 2010.

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                                                                                                                                                                      Discusses the potentially abusive representational power of civil society organizations that are part of the global response to HIV/AIDS, arguing that advocacy for children and adolescents is, in many cases, only loosely coupled with clear-cut structures and systematic processes of accountability.

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                                                                                                                                                                      • Manzo, Kate. “Imaging Humanitarianism: NGO Identity and the Iconography of Childhood.” Antipode 40.4 (2008): 632–657.

                                                                                                                                                                        DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-8330.2008.00627.xE-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                        Analyzes the iconography of childhood through which NGOs aim to construct their identity as rights-based organizations. Images of childhood are used as proxies for universal NGO values such as humanity, neutrality, and solidarity. Argues that the iconography of childhood creates a corporate identity for NGOs that share these four core humanitarian principles.

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                                                                                                                                                                        • Watson, Alison M. S. “Saving More Than the Children: The Role of Child-Focused NGOs in the Creation of Southern Security Norms.” Third World Quarterly 27.2 (2006): 227–237.

                                                                                                                                                                          DOI: 10.1080/01436590500432267E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                          Watson’s study is unique in showing how child-focused NGOs have, in fact, been a major driving force behind fortifying Southern security discourse and norms. However, in their activism, she believes, these NGOs have paid too little heed to the diversity of childhood experiences and the agency of children.

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                                                                                                                                                                          • Wells, Karen. “Child Saving or Child Rights: Depictions of Children in International NGO Campaigns on Conflict.” Journal of Children and Media 2.3 (2008): 235–250.

                                                                                                                                                                            DOI: 10.1080/17482790802327475E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                            Critically analyzes depictions of children in international NGO campaigns on behalf of children in conflict, focusing particularly on the Civil War in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Using a discourse analytical methodology to uncover the discursive and rhetorical devices, the author concludes that NGOs still view child rights as a supplement to child saving, despite their commitment to the idea that children are active, rights-bearing subjects. Available online by subscription.

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                                                                                                                                                                            • White, Sarah C. “From the Politics of Poverty to the Politics of Identity? Child Rights and Working Children in Bangladesh.” Journal of International Development 14.6 (2002): 725–736.

                                                                                                                                                                              DOI: 10.1002/jid.919E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                              The article puts into question the logic of child rights that inspires much of international NGO action in the field of children’s rights, giving insights from primary research in Bangladesh. White makes a convincing argument for the inadequacy of focusing solely on rights discourses and cultural resistance while failing to acknowledge the economic and political structure that causes child poverty in the first place.

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                                                                                                                                                                              Images of Children in NGO Advocacy

                                                                                                                                                                              For years, scholars have been analyzing the global politics of childhood using a range of cutting-edge qualitative methods with which to grasp the way narratives, images, and discourses shape, and are shaped by, political, legal, and societal practices around the world. Erica Burman must be considered a pioneer in analyzing the discourses surrounding international concern for children in the developing world (see Burman 1994 and Burman 1996). Her outspoken criticism of how children are used as icons in Western discourses does not stop short of NGOs. Manzo 2008 and Wells 2008 are following Burman’s earlier work by specifically exploring how children are depicted in NGO advocacy.

                                                                                                                                                                              • Burman, Erica. “Innocents Abroad: Western Fantasies of Childhood and the Iconography of Emergencies.” Disasters 18.3 (1994): 238–253.

                                                                                                                                                                                DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-7717.1994.tb00310.xE-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                A critical, thought-provoking analysis of “disaster pornography,” i.e., the iconographic use of children as signifiers of distress in media campaigns of NGOs that work in disaster relief. Explores the implications of such discursive practices, arguing, for example, that the imagery of children used in such campaigns contributes to the infantilization of the South by donor-obedient Northern Hemisphere NGOs.

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                                                                                                                                                                                • Burman, Erica. “Local, Global or Globalized? Child Development and International Child Rights Legislation.” Childhood 3.1 (1996): 45–66.

                                                                                                                                                                                  DOI: 10.1177/0907568296003001004E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                  One of the earliest articles looking at how different images of childhood have influenced the evolution of international children’s rights standards and how, in turn, international legislation on behalf of children has institutionalized a specific concept of childhood. Argues that practitioners (such as NGO staff) must be attentive to the concepts that inform their policies and programs in order to avoid cultural imperialism.

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                                                                                                                                                                                  • Manzo, Kate. “Imaging Humanitarianism: NGO Identity and the Iconography of Childhood.” Antipode 40.4 (2008): 632–657.

                                                                                                                                                                                    DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-8330.2008.00627.xE-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                    Analyzes how NGOs aim to construct their identity as rights-based organizations by buying into the iconography of childhood. Manzo maintains that images of childhood serve as larger signifiers for universal NGO values such as humanity, neutrality, and solidarity, offering a corporate identity with which NGOs can identify.

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                                                                                                                                                                                    • Wells, Karen. “Child Saving or Child Rights: Depictions of Children in International NGO Campaigns on Conflict.” Journal of Children and Media 2.3 (2008): 235–250.

                                                                                                                                                                                      DOI: 10.1080/17482790802327475E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                      Offers a most innovative methodological framework for the study of discourses of childhood promoted by a range of NGOs working in conflict zones. This critical analysis concludes that, in fact, conventional “child-saving” discourses outweigh more progressive portrayals of the children as active rights-holders.

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