What are NGOs?

Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are entities which are independent of governmental influence. NGOs are non-profit-making organizations and are usually primarily run by volunteers who share a common agenda.

NGOs can have a local, national or international role. NGOs can be charities or social organizations; or they can have a political role, for example, overseeing the activities of governmental institutions, overseeing elections, monitoring human rights issues or lobbying on issues of concern to the public.

NGOs may be self-funding, although some NGOs may accept funds from governments in accordance with their founding charter and in a manner which doesn’t compromise their independence.

NGOs in Bahrain

Although many organizations and institutions have a long history of action in Bahrain, King Hamad’s 2001 National Action Charter marks the beginning of the current era of civil society activity in Bahrain. This Constitution set out the role of NGOs and civil society activity in Bahrain

The National Action Charter stated that: “With a view to enabling the society to make use of all civil capabilities and activities, the state ensures the freedom to form non- governmental, scientific, cultural, professional associations and unions at a national level for legitimate purposes through peaceful means under terms and conditions as may be prescribed by law. No one shall be forced to join an association or union or to remain member thereof.”

Bahraini NGOs have played an important role in raising awareness and support for those living with disabilities or afflictions like autism and sickle cell disorder. Organizations like the Bahrain Women’s Union have also championed the cause of women in Bahrain.

Bahrain Businesswomen’s Society

The Bahrain Businesswomen’s Society is a good example of an NGO with a wholly local agenda, seeking to empower women in business. Many of the board members and active figures within the society are prominent and successful businesswomen.

The society was set up in 2000 and organizes a range of seminars, workshops and social activities to bring together professional women; and increase the knowledge, skills and experience of women in the world of business.

ABC of civil society

Media freedoms




Quality of life




UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights


Women’s rights



Zero-sum game

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