This article examines nongovernmental development organizations (NGDOs) as a form of civil society. It traces the emergence of NGDOs from relative obscurity to a substantial presence in the international development community, a process that became more complex over time as NGDOs were conflated with a new discourse of civil society on the one hand and challenged by a human rights perspective on the other. It suggests that the evolution of NGDOs over the past twenty years can be explained in terms of a continuation of earlier systemic processes that stem partly from critical evaluations of NGDO achievements and partly from disruptive "punctuations" in the global order.