- Commonwealth initiatives
National NGOs in Commonwealth countries
The composition of local NGOs in many countries is mostly aligned with specific areas of need. Health, education, sustainable development and poverty reduction distinctly form the bulk of NGO activity in most of the Commonwealth including developed countries. In the UK NGOs aligned to health issues, such as Cancer Research UK, receive the most income. By most measures BRAC a microfinance, health and education NGO is the largest in Bangladesh. In Australia the most successful NGO in terms of fundraising revenue is devoted to causes of the aged (2010).
NGOs have existed in many forms over the centuries. In developing countries where they appear to be needed most they are progressively receiving more significant recognition as the ‘third sector’. NGOs are now increasingly and uniquely recognised by statute in a lot of countries. Traditionally non-profit organisations in the Commonwealth have been able to establish themselves mainly and simply as legal entities such as trusts or companies limited by guarantee. However in the past two decades a variety of legislation has been introduced in a number of countries setting out standards which they should follow, some of which has been controversial.
The Commonwealth Foundation is the leading Commonwealth organisation working in the area of national civil society today. The Foundation, an intergovernmental organisation, was established in 1965 and is funded principally by governments. The Foundation exists to empower charities, NGOs, professional associations, trade unions, faith groups and cultural practitioners. It carries out some of its work through the provision of grants. Within the Commonwealth Secretariat a number of departments have engaged with civil society in areas including health, education, gender, environment and youth affairs. A civil society liaison office exists within the Strategic Planning and Evaluation Division of the Secretariat.