LatinaLista — According to Wikipedia, the (short) definition of a NGO or non-governmental organization is "a legally constituted organization created by natural or legal persons that operates independently from any government." The United Nations is credited with coining the term in 1945 to differentiate between organizations that are related to the government and those that are not.
It's safe to say that since 1945, NGOs have multiplied as quickly as the human race has grown. According to Wikipedia, there are 40,000 NGOs operating internationally. According to humanrights.gov, there are 1.5 million NGOs operating in the United States alone.
These (USA) NGOs undertake a wide array of activities, including political advocacy on issues such as foreign policy, elections, the environment, healthcare, women’s rights, economic development, and many other issues. Many NGOs in the United States also operate in fields that are not related to politics. These include volunteer organizations rooted in shared religious faith, labor unions, groups that help vulnerable people such as the poor or mentally ill, and groups that seek to empower youth or marginalized populations. Indeed, NGOs exist to represent virtually every cause imaginable.
Those causes even extend to such nebulous issues as "information freedom," like what Wikipedia is credited with doing on a global scale. So, maybe it shouldn't be any surprise that Wikipedia, or more accurately, its parent company, Wikimedia Foundation, was selected as the #1 NGO in the world in the first-ever Top 100 international ranking of NGOs by The Global Journal.
For their purposes, the Global Journal editors tweaked the definition of a NGO: "For the purposes of this project, we defined NGOs as operational or advocacy focused non-profit organizations organized on a local, national or international level."
The list features NGOs such as Switzerland-based "Médecins Sans Frontières", an international health relief organization; the USA-based "Heifer International," helping poor rural communities create sustainable livelihoods; Brazil's "Viva Rio" which combats urban violence; and Colombia's "Escuela Nueva," an organization that helps low-income and rural areas improve educational resources and outcomes.
The countries represented on the list are from every continent with many from the United States, Europe, India, Africa, South America and the Mideast, and the NGOs are all awesome examples of what a person, or group of people, are able to accomplish for the good of society.
The top ten NGOs are:
#01 - Wikimedia Foundation
#02 - Partners In Health
#03 - Oxfam
#04 - BRAC
#05 - International Rescue Committee
#06 - PATH
#07 - CARE International
#08 - Médecins Sans Frontières
#09 - Danish Refugee Council
#10 - Ushahidi