Eloy Anello

Publication Date



Since the 1950’s, NGOs have featured prominently in education, development and social change movements in Latin America since the 1950’s. This paper provides concrete examples of the roles NGOs have played in research and development. An analysis of NGO characteristics and a functional typology based on their delivery of services, research focus and grassroots action is provided.

The NGO phenomenon is an emerging reality of great significance to Latin American development processes. Donor agencies, governments and NGOs themselves are expressing the need to better understand this social phenomenon, which bears promise in its potential capacity to respond to critical development issues at a time when the world is characterized by "the persistence of poverty and the declining availability of financial resources" (Brown & Korten, 1988).

The huge number of NGOs, their overwhelming heterogeneity and the diverse contexts in which they operate within Latin America make it extremely difficult to draw generalizations about their reality that would be universally true. Nonetheless, this exploratory discussion paper will attempt to provide a general picture of specific characteristics that depict the nature of NGOs in Latin America and will offer some initial responses to key questions posed by the International Development Research Center of Canada (IDRC). This paper does not pretend to provide definitive answers to these questions, but rather it will share the author's observations and reflections based on personal experience working with various NGOs in Central and South America, a review of the sparse literature that exists on Latin American NGOs, and interviews with directors of NGOs in Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Guatemala and Peru.

Book Series Title

Occasional Paper Series on Non Governmental Organizations