International non-governmental organization

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An international non-governmental organization (INGO) is an organization which is independent of government involvement and extends the concept of a non-governmental organization (NGO) to an international scope.

NGOs are independent of governments and can be seen as two types: advocacy NGOs, which aim to influence governments with a specific goal, and operational NGOs, which provide services.[1] Examples of NGO mandates are environmental preservation, human rights promotions or the advancement of women. NGOs are typically not-for-profit, but receive funding from companies or membership fees.[2] Many large INGOs have components of operational projects and advocacy initiatives working together within individual countries.

The technical term "international organizations" describes intergovernmental organizations (IGOs) and includes groups such as the United Nations or the International Labour Organization, which are formed by treaties among sovereign states.[3] In contrast, INGOs are defined as "any internationally operating organization which is not established by inter-governmental agreement".[4]

An INGO may be founded by private philanthropy, such as the Carnegie, Rockefeller, Gates and Ford Foundations, or as an adjunct to existing international organizations, such as the Catholic or Lutheran churches. A surge in INGOs for economic development occurred during World War II, some of which would later become large organizations like SOS Children's Villages, Oxfam, Catholic Relief Services, Care International and Lutheran World Relief. The number of INGOs grew from 6,000 in 1990 to 26,000 in 1999, and a 2013 report estimated about 40,000.[5]

Except for incorporation under national laws, no current formal legal status exists for INGOs, which can lead to complications in international law.[5][dubious ]


International non-governmental organizations emerged alongside humanitarian aid with the realization that no single government could single-handedly solve global crises.[6] Governments began offering greater support to private, international organizations and NGOs in the 1980s as a way of allowing more time and resources to be spent on national projects.[6] Often, a humanitarian aid organization would clash with a government's approach to the unfolding domestic conflict. In such cases, INGOs have sought out autonomy to extend help regardless of political or ethnic affiliation.[6]

In 1910, the Union of International Associations (UIA) were the first to suggest that a "super-national" status be given to international organizations with diplomatic intentions without governmental influence.[5] The International Law Association (ILA) modified this, adding that this "super-national" organizational status may be adopted[by whom?] for associations formed for no profit.[5]


The main focus of INGOs is to provide relief and developmental aid to developing countries. Health-related projects such as HIV/AIDS awareness, prevention and treatment, clean water, and malaria prevention—and education-related projects such as schools for girls and providing books—help to provide the social services that the country's government does not provide. International non-governmental organizations are some of the first responders to natural disasters, like hurricanes and floods, or crises that need emergency relief. Other organizations, like the International Justice Mission, are working to make judicial systems more effective and legitimate. Still others, such as those promoting micro-finance and education, directly impact citizens and communities by developing skills and human capital while encouraging citizen empowerment and community involvement.

NGOs, in general, account for over 15% of total international development aid, which is linked to economic development.[7] As of 2007, aid (partly contributed to by INGOs) over the past thirty years is estimated to have increased the annual growth rate of the bottom billion by one percent.[8]


Given they are usually supported by donations, a popular concern about INGOs is where the money goes and whether it is spent efficiently.[9] High administrative costs can be an indication of inefficiency, enrichment of employees at the expense of beneficiaries, embezzlement or misdirection of funds to corrupt local officials or dictatorship.[10] Numerous attempts have been made to remedy the accountability of INGOs surrounding where and for what their money is being used.[11] Websites like Charity Navigator and GiveWell attempt to provide transparency as to how much goes to administrative costs, what activities money is spent on, whether more donations would be helpful, and how cost-effective the activities are compared to other charities or potential activities.

Moreover, multiple organizations often exist to solve the same problem. Rather than collaborating to address a given situation, organizations frequently interact as competitors, which creates bottlenecks of treatment and supplies.[12] Conflicts typically require organizations to quickly provide aid to regions with conflict. As such, ensuring immediate and future care quality is paramount.[6] To this point, INGOs must prepare regions for when they leave by providing the tools and guidance necessary to support their citizens.[13] More research must be done on the impacts of INGO support from the perspective of the recipient country or region, as much of currently published research has been completed from the lens of a Westernized donor or INGO.[14]

Another criticism is that many of the people benefiting from INGOs have no way to influence those activities and hold the organizations accountable.[15] (for example by threatening to withhold donations). Some charitable organizations solicit the participation of local communities to avoid problems related to intercultural competence, and avoid unintended consequences due to lack of buy-in or lack of knowledge about local conditions.

In March 2015, the European Journal of International Relations criticized the impact of INGOs on government decision-making, claiming they are slowing integration of developing countries into the global economy.[16]

Notable international NGOs[edit]

Multiple interdisciplinary projects[edit]


Children and youth[edit]


Human rights[edit]




Space and technology[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ IGO-NGO Cooperation." . (accessed February 19, 2020).
  2. ^ Goode, Walter, ed. (2007). Dictionary of trade policy terms. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 9780521885065.
  3. ^ Appel, Benjamin J. (January 2018). "Intergovernmental Organizations and Democratic Victory in International Crises". The Journal of Politics. 80 (1): 274–287. doi:10.1086/694256.
  4. ^ Ahmed, Shamima; Potter, David M. (2006). NGOs in international politics. Bloomfield, CT: Kumarian Press. ISBN 9781565493469. OCLC 732955747.
  5. ^ a b c d Ben-Ari, Rephael Harel (2013). The Legal Status of International Non-Governmental Organizations: Analysis of Past and Present Initiatives (1912-2012). Martinus Nijhoff Publishers. ISBN 9789004254367.
  6. ^ a b c d Buse, Kent; Tanaka, Sonja (2011-08-01). "Global Public-Private Health Partnerships: lessons learned from ten years of experience and evaluation". International Dental Journal. Live.Learn.Laugh. A Unique Global Public-Private Partnership to Improve Oral Health. 61: 2–10. doi:10.1111/j.1875-595X.2011.00034.x. ISSN 0020-6539. PMC 9374971. PMID 21770935.
  7. ^ "World Bank and NGOs." October 3, 2007.[dead link] (accessed November 10, 2010).
  8. ^ Collier, Paul. 2007. The Bottom Billion: Why the Poorest Countries are Failing and What Can Be Done About It. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press. (p.100).
  9. ^ Lorenz, Nicolaus (2007-07-01). "Effectiveness of global health partnerships: will the past repeat itself?". Bulletin of the World Health Organization. 85 (7): 567–568. doi:10.2471/BLT.06.033597. PMC 2636373. PMID 17768507.
  10. ^ Collingwood, Vivien; Logister, Louis (April 2005). "State of the Art: Addressing the INGO 'Legitimacy Deficit'". Political Studies Review. 3 (2): 175–192. doi:10.1111/j.1478-9299.2005.00022.x.
  11. ^ Crack, Angela M. (2013-04-01). "INGO Accountability Deficits: The Imperatives for Further Reform". Globalizations. 10 (2): 293–308. doi:10.1080/14747731.2013.786253. ISSN 1474-7731.
  12. ^ Hunt, Matthew; Miao, Jingru (April 2017). "Moral Entanglement and the Ethics of Closing Humanitarian Medical Aid Projects". Prehospital and Disaster Medicine. 32 (S1): S47–S48. doi:10.1017/S1049023X17001376. ISSN 1049-023X.
  13. ^ Fourie, Carina (2018-05-15). "The trouble with inequalities in global health partnerships". Medicine Anthropology Theory. 5 (2). doi:10.17157/mat.5.2.525. ISSN 2405-691X.
  14. ^ Jammihal, Ravindra; Ralte, Harry; Roy, Nobhojit (February 2009). "Humanitarian Medical Aid to Developing Nations: A Recipient Country's Perspective". Prehospital and Disaster Medicine. 24 (S1).
  15. ^ Ebrahim, A.: 2003, 'Accountability in Practice: Mechanisms for NGOs', World Development 31(5), 813-829.
  16. ^ Pinheiro, Diogo; Chwieroth, Jeffrey M.; Hicks, Alexander (2014-05-21). "Do international non-governmental organizations inhibit globalization? The case of capital account liberalization in developing countries". European Journal of International Relations. 21 (1): 146–170. doi:10.1177/1354066114523656. ISSN 1354-0661.

Further reading[edit]

  • Atack Iain 1998. "Four Criteria of Development NGO Legitimacy," in World Development 27(5), pp. 855–864.
  • Collier, Paul 2007. "Aid to the Rescue?," in The Bottom Billion: Why the Poorest Countries are Failing and What Can Be Done About It, pp. 99–123. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press.
  • Haugen, Gary; Boutros, Victor (2010). "And Justice for All: Enforcing Human Rights for the World's Poor". Foreign Affairs. 89 (3): 51–62.
  • Singer, Peter 2009. "How Can You Tell Which Charities Do It Best?," in The Life You Can Save, pp. 82–125. New York: Random House.