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International non-governmental organization

An international non-governmental organization (INGO) has the same mission as a non-governmental organization (NGO), but it is international in scope and has outposts around the world to deal with specific issues in many countries.To be an NGO means to be independent from governments. They can be split into two different divisions, "advocacy" NGOs which aim to influence governments with a specific goal and "operational" NGOs which provide services. Examples of mandates for an NGO could be environmental preservation, human rights promotions or the advancement of women. NGOs are typically non-for-profit but receive funding from companies or membership fees.[1]

Both terms, NGO and INGO, should be differentiated from international organizations (intergovernmental organizations, IGOs), which describes groups such as the United Nations or the International Labour Organization. The role of an IGO is to unite sovereign states using some form of constituent documents.[2] In contrast, INGOs are defined as “any internationally operating organization which is not established by inter-governmental agreement.”[3]

An INGO may be founded by private philanthropy, such as the Carnegie, Rockefeller, Gates, Zator and Ford Foundations, or as an adjunct to existing international organizations, such as the Catholic or Lutheran churches. A surge in the founding of development INGOs occurred during World War II, some of which would later become the large development INGOs 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 estimates report that it currently reaches about 40,000.[4]

International Non-governmental Organizations can further be defined by their primary purpose.[5] Some INGOs are operational, meaning that their primary purpose is to foster the community-based organizations within each country via different projects and operations. Some INGOs are advocacy-based, meaning that their primary purpose is to influence the policy-making of different countries' governments regarding certain issues or promote the awareness of a certain issue. Many of the large INGOs have components of both operational projects and advocacy initiatives working together within individual countries.

Scholars usually refine the definition of an INGO depending on the organization's particular aims and priorities.[3] Many of the large INGOs have components of both operational projects and advocacy initiatives working together within individual countries. There is no current formal legal status for INGOs which can lead to complications in international law.[4]

Criteria for UN cooperationEdit

To be associated with the United Nations Department of Public Information, an INGO (and NGOs in general) must follow these certain criteria.:[6]

  • The NGO must support and respect the principles of the Charter of the United Nations;
  • Must be of recognized national or international standing;
  • Should operate solely on a not-for-profit basis and have tax-exempt status;
  • Must have the commitment and the means to conduct effective information programmes with its constituents and to a broader audience about UN activities by publishing newsletters, bulletins and pamphlets; organizing conferences, seminars and round tables; or enlisting the attention of the media;
  • Should preferably have a satisfactory record of collaboration with UN Information Centres/Services or other parts of the UN System prior to association.
  • Please note that in cases where the NGO has no record of collaboration but the DPI Committee on NGOs approves its applications, it will have a provisional association status of two years until which it can establish a partnership with the relevant UNICs/UNISs or UN system organization;
  • The NGO should provide an audited annual financial statement, indicated in US currency, and conducted by a qualified, independent accountant;
  • The NGO should have statutes/bylaws providing for a transparent process of taking decisions, elections of officers and members of the Board of Directors.
  • Should have an established record of continuity of work for a minimum of three years and should show promise of sustained activity in the future.


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.[4] Later on that same year, the International Law Association (ILA) modified this, adding that this “super-national” organizational status may be adopted for associations formed for no profit.[4]

The main focus for INGOs is to provide relief and developmental aid to developing countries. In relation to states, the purpose of INGOs is to provide services that the state is unable or unwilling to provide for their people. These organization's projects in health, like HIV/AIDS awareness and prevention, clean water, and malaria prevention, and in education, like schools for girls and providing books to developing countries, help to provide the social services that the country's government is unable or unwilling to provide at the time. International Non-governmental Organizations are also some of the first responders to natural disasters, like hurricanes and floods, or crises that need emergency relief.

NGOs in general account for over 15% of total overseas development aid, which is linked to the growth and development process.[7] It has been estimated that aid (partly contributed to by INGOs) over the past thirty years has increased the annual growth rate of the bottom billion by one percent.[8] While one percent in thirty years does not sound like a lot of progress, credit should be given to the fact that progress has been consistently increasing throughout the years instead of remaining stagnant or falling backwards[original research?].

Many international projects and advocacy initiatives promoted by INGOs encourage sustainable development via a human rights approach and capabilities enhancing approach. INGOs that promote human rights advocacy issues in part try to set up an international judicial standard that respects the rights of every human being and promotes the empowerment of disadvantaged communities.

Other organizations, like the International Justice Mission, are working in effective and legitimate judicial systems, which enhances a country's legitimacy and development. Still others, such as those promoting micro-financing and education, directly impact of capabilities of citizens and communities by developing skills and human capital while encouraging citizen empowerment and community involvement. INGOs, along with domestic and international governmental initiatives, are a critical part of global development.

Nearly every INGOs originate and persist throughout voluntary action by individual actors with explicit rationalized goals. Under bold norms of open membership and democratic decision-making, they seek to spread "progress" throughout the world, in the purposes of encouraging safer and more efficient technical systems, more powerful knowledge structures, better care of the body, friendly competition and fair play. In order to achieve these goals, they highlight communication, knowledge, consensual values and decision-making, and individual commitment. INGOs have five basic world-cultural principles underlying between ideologies and structures, that is, universalism, individualism, rational voluntaristic authority, human purposes of rationalizing progress, and world citizenship.[9][10]


There are important controversies and critiques of the effectiveness of INGOs.[11]

With the uprise of INGOs over the past few decades, there has also been an uprise of questions about how and where their money is being spent. When administrative costs are high within an organization, scholars wonder whether their money is going to help developing nations or for other corrupt uses. There is also the possibility that INGO funds are privately being used to support dictatorships.[12]

In March 2015, the European Journal of International Relations published that the existence of INGOs was infringing upon the natural process of globalization. The argument being that INGOs impact governmental decisions.[13]

There have been numerous attempts made to remedy the accountability of INGOs surrounding where and for what their money is being used.[14] Websites like Charity Navigator and GiveWell are intended to provide information on the breakdown of money and donations spent within the organization. Along with the approval of the UN based on its criteria of the NGOs, these websites promote transparency and accountability in international non-governmental organizations so that people looking to make a donation can make an educated decision based on what they want to support and if their money will be used effectively.

Even if an INGO's funds are being effectively used, some critics would argue that the means the organization promotes is ineffective in combating their issue. For example, Peter Singer gives an example of INGOs giving out bed nets, saying:

"They will, if used properly, prevent people from being bitten by mosquitoes while they sleep, and therefore will reduce the risk of malaria. But not every net saves a life: Most children who receive a net would have survived without it. Jeffrey Sachs, attempting to measure the effect of nets more accurately, took this into account, and estimated that for every one hundred nets delivered, one child's life will be saved every year."[15] "A long-lasting insecticide-treated bed net costs an average of $5", so assuming the bed net lasts one year, saving one child's life costs $500.[16]

There is also another argument regarding the accountability of INGOs. These nongovernmental organizations need to account for possible consequences. For example, INGOs such as Oxfam and Greenpeace influence many people’s lives as they provide important social and relief services. The people who rely on INGOs, however, do not have the means to affect the activities of these INGOs. Thus, in order for these INGOs to exercise their power responsibly and work for the sake of the people who are affected by their activities, they need to have accountability for their activities. How the funds were used and how much their aims were achieved should be exposed.[17]

There is thus a concern that the ‘work’ INGOs are providing for developing countries is providing more harm and more long term issues than help.[12]

Case studiesEdit

INGO case studies show both the short-term relief and long-term campaigns that INGOs are involved in promoting. Income statements and expense breakdowns of each INGO can be found at Charity Navigator which details the amount of money large INGOs have at their disposal and how effectively different organizations use their donations[citation needed].

CARE InternationalEdit

CARE International is a large humanitarian INGO that is committed to fighting poverty. They take a special interest in empowering poor women because "women have the power to help whole families and entire communities escape poverty".[18] The mission[18] and explicit goals of CARE, as described on their website, are to facilitate lasting change by:

  • Strengthening capacity for self-help
  • Providing economic opportunity
  • Delivering relief in emergencies
  • Influencing policy decisions at all levels
  • Addressing discrimination in all its forms

One of CARE's projects is responding to natural disasters. For example, CARE has been an integral part of the relief effort in the outbreak of cholera in Haiti. Some of CARE's relief tactics[19] in Haiti are:

  • distributing high-energy biscuits, water purification tablets, oral rehydration salts, and hygiene kits,
  • instructing Haitians on how best avoid and prevent cholera, and
  • providing clean water and safe latrine facilities to people living in camps for survivors of Haiti's January 12 earthquake.

Amnesty InternationalEdit

Amnesty International is an INGO that is dedicated to the promotion and protection of internationally regarded human rights as declared in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Their goals,[20] as described on their website, are to:

  • Stop violence against women
  • Defend the rights and dignity of those trapped in poverty
  • Abolish the death penalty
  • Oppose torture and combat terror with justice
  • Free prisoners of conscience
  • Protect the rights of refugees and migrants
  • Regulate the global arms trade

This organization uses more of an advocacy approach to promote change and human rights within the government. Their website claims they mobilize "public pressure through mass demonstrations, vigils and direct lobbying as well as online and offline campaigning" in order to promote their ongoing campaigns, which reflect their goals.[20]

An organization like Amnesty International, unconnected to the government allows them to approach human rights in ways governmental organizations like the United Nations cannot.[21]

They were an integral part in making the gap that existed between IGOs and finding solutions to international human rights principles and practices.[22] In conjunction with other INGOs, Amnesty International was able to help create a lot of accepted guidelines surrounding human rights law. These include everything from core treaties to the creation of official guidelines on how human rights should be implemented. They have also led to boundaries on the extent states should be allowed to ignore human rights violations in other countries under the guise of diplomacy and maintaining the peace.[22]

The intention of human rights is to put people and their safety above all else and Amnesty International does this both through their external work with other countries but also within their organization. They can thus report on human rights violations that the United Nations may have political pressure to ignore. This was the case in May 1992 when they reported on violations in Tibet that had been glazed over by the United Nations.[4]

Oxfam InternationalEdit

Oxfam International was created during the Second World War when a coalition of British peace and relief groups organized a petition to the British government to allow humanitarian relief to Greece. Greece was at this point in time occupied by the German army and blocked in by Allies, thus resulting in a nationwide hunger. In 1943, this coalition was registered as a charity under the name Oxford Committee for Famine Relief (Oxfam). Unlike many other organizations which ceded with the end of the war, Oxfam continued its activities thus focusing outside of European countries and providing clothing and supplies to the Middle East.[3]

Nowadays, Oxfam is no longer Britain exclusive, having chapters in Australia, Belgium, Canada, Hong Kong, Ireland, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Spain, the United Kingdom, and the United States.[3]

It is an INGO which works with local partner organizations and people living under poverty trying to exercise their human rights. The areas Oxfam focuses on include development, emergencies, campaigning, advocacy and policy research. The details to each area are:

  • long-term programs to eradicate poverty and injustice
  • deliver immediate life-saving assistance to people affected by natural disasters or conflict
  • raise public awareness of the causes of poverty
  • encourage ordinary people to take action for a fairer world
  • press decision-makers to change policies and practices that reinforce poverty and injustice
  • speak with authority as a result of research and analysis

Notable international NGOsEdit

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Goode, Walter, ed. (2007). Dictionary of trade policy terms. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 9780521885065.
  2. ^ 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.
  3. ^ a b c d Ahmed, Shamima, 1959- (2006). NGOs in international politics. Potter, David M., 1961-. Bloomfield, CT: Kumarian Press. ISBN 9781565493469. OCLC 732955747.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  4. ^ a b c d e 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.
  5. ^ World Bank and NGOs." October 3, 2007. (accessed November 10, 2010).
  6. ^ UN Department of Public Information, "Criteria." (accessed November 10, 2010)
  7. ^ "World Bank and NGOs." October 3, 2007. (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. ^ Lechner and Boli, Frank J. and John (2012). The Globalization Reader (4th ed.). John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. p. 309.
  10. ^ Boli and Thomas, John and George M. (1997). "World Culture in the World Polity: A Century of International Non-Governmental Organization". American Sociological Review. 62 (2): 171–190. doi:10.2307/2657298. JSTOR 2657298.
  11. ^ Briefing about "International non-governmental organisations" in D+C/E+Z.
  12. ^ a b 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.
  13. ^ 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.
  14. ^ 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.
  15. ^ Singer, Peter 2009. "How Can You Tell Which Charities Do It Best?" in The Life You Can Save. New York: Random House. (p.86).
  16. ^ "Bed Nets for Children - CDC Foundation". Retrieved 23 March 2018.
  17. ^ Ebrahim, A.: 2003, 'Accountability in Practice: Mechanisms for NGOs', World Development 31(5), 813-829.
  18. ^ a b CARE. "About CARE." (accessed November 12, 2010).
  19. ^ Lane, Kathy and Melanie Brooks. "CARE Steps Up Haiti Response as Cholera Cases Surge." November 11, 2010. (accessed November 12, 2010).
  20. ^ a b Amnesty International. "About Amnesty International." (accessed November 10, 2010).
  21. ^ Thakur, Ramesh (May 1994). "Human Rights: Amnesty International and the United Nations". Journal of Peace Research. 31 (2): 143–160. doi:10.1177/0022343394031002003. ISSN 0022-3433.
  22. ^ a b Clark, Ann Marie (2010-03-18). Diplomacy of Conscience: Amnesty International and Changing Human Rights Norms. Princeton University Press. ISBN 9781400824229.

Further readingEdit

  • 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.