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.

Both terms, NGO and INGO, should be differentiated from intergovernmental organizations (IGOs), which describes groups such as the United Nations or the International Labour Organization. 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.

International Non-governmental Organizations can further be defined by their primary purpose.[1] 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.


To be associated with the United Nations Department of Public Information, an INGO (and NGOs in general) must follow these certain criteria.:[2]


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.[3] 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.[4] 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.

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.[5][6]


There are important controversies and critiques of the effectiveness of INGOs.[7]

The first critique is that money provided by INGOs does not actually reach the neediest people. Especially when administrative costs are high within an organization, people wonder whether their money is going to help developing nations or into a CEO's pocket. If a country's government is corrupt, there is also the possibility that INGO funds are being siphoned off by the government.

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, 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."[8] "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.[9]
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. These 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.[10]

Case studies

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.

CARE International

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".[11] The mission[12] and explicit goals of CARE, as described on their website, are to facilitate lasting change by:

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[13] in Haiti are:

Amnesty International

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,[14] as described on their website, are to:

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.[15]

Oxfam International

Oxfam International 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:


Multiple interdisciplinary projects


Children and youth


Human rights



Space and technology

See also


  1. World Bank and NGOs." October 3, 2007. (accessed November 10, 2010).
  2. UN Department of Public Information, "Criteria." (accessed November 10, 2010)
  3. "World Bank and NGOs." October 3, 2007. (accessed November 10, 2010).
  4. 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).
  5. Lechner and Boli, Frank J. and John (2012). The Globalization Reader (4th ed.). John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. p. 309.
  6. 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: 171. doi:10.2307/2657298.
  7. Briefing about "International non-governmental organisations" in D+C/E+Z.
  8. Singer, Peter 2009. "How Can You Tell Which Charities Do It Best?" in The Life You Can Save. New York: Random House. (p.86).
  10. Ebrahim, A.: 2003, 'Accountability in Practice: Mechanisms for NGOs', World Development 31(5), 813-829.
  11. CARE. "About CARE." (accessed November 12, 2010).
  12. CARE. "About CARE." (accessed November 12, 2010).
  13. Lane, Kathy and Melanie Brooks. "CARE Steps Up Haiti Response as Cholera Cases Surge." November 11, 2010. (accessed November 12, 2010).
  14. Amnesty International. "About Amnesty International." (accessed November 10, 2010).
  15. Amnesty International. "About Amnesty International." (accessed November 10, 2010).

Further reading

External links

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