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Perceptions of the Legitimacy of International NGOs

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Chapter Summary

This chapter examines how NGOs perceive the issue of legitimacy. Its purposes are mainly of a heuristic nature: the perceptions provide a starting point for revising theories of legitimacy, and extend the understanding of how NGOs function and the extent to which they are addressing legitimacy-related issues. For this research, employees of internationally operating NGOs were interviewed about their perceptions of the legitimacy of their activities. Many of the representatives of the NGOs express the view that the legitimacy debate is politically or strategically motivated, and used by critics of NGOs (corporations, political parties, other NGOs) to attack the agendas of the NGOs. Interviews with some stakeholders reveal a wide range of forms of cooperation between NGOs and stakeholders. All of the interviewees referred to a range of overlapping sources of legitimacy: procedural criteria, popular support, effectiveness, international norms, morality, recognition, and representation.

Keywords: international NGO; legitimacy debate; NGO representative; perception of legitimacy



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