Guiding Principles on Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs)

The International Journal
of Not-for-Profit Law

Volume 9, Issue 1, December 2006

United States Department of State

On December 14, 2006, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice announced ten Guiding Principles on Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs), the full text of which is reprinted below. “We were pleased to be asked to participate in this initiative and to engage with human rights partners,” said Douglas Rutzen, President of ICNL. “The key question is how these principles will be implemented, and we look forward to a discussion with civil society and government representatives on how to translate them into concrete and appropriate action.”

Recognizing that non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are essential to the development and success of free societies and that they play a vital role in ensuring accountable, democratic government,

And recalling the right to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and association enshrined in the U.N. Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the U.N. Declaration on Human Rights Defenders,

We hereby pledge our commitment to the following principles and our determination to work for their full implementation throughout the world:

1. Individuals should be permitted to form, join and participate in NGOs of their choosing in the exercise of the rights to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and association.

2. Any restrictions which may be placed on the exercise by members of NGOs of the rights to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and association must be consistent with international legal obligations.

3. NGOs should be permitted to carry out their peaceful work in a hospitable environment free from fear of harassment, reprisal, intimidation and discrimination.

4. Acknowledging governments’ authority to regulate entities within their territory to promote welfare, such laws and administrative measures should protect – not impede – the peaceful operation of NGOs and be enforced in an apolitical, fair, transparent and consistent manner.

5. Criminal and civil legal actions brought by governments against NGOs, like those brought against all individuals and organizations, should be based on tenets of due process and equality before the law.

6. NGOs should be permitted to seek, receive, manage and administer for their peaceful activities financial support from domestic, foreign and international entities.

7. NGOs should be free to seek, receive and impart information and ideas, including advocating their opinions to governments and the public within and outside the countries in which they are based.

8. Governments should not interfere with NGOs’ access to domestic- and foreign-based media.

9. NGOs should be free to maintain contact and cooperate with their own members and other elements of civil society within and outside the countries in which they are based, as well as with governments and international bodies.

10. Whenever the aforementioned NGO principles are violated, it is imperative that democratic nations act in their defense.



* As used here, the term NGOs includes independent public policy advocacy organizations, non-profit organizations that defend human rights and promote democracy, humanitarian organizations, private foundations and funds, charitable trusts, societies, associations and non-profit corporations. It does not include political parties.