International non-governmental organization (Redirected from International nongovernmental organization)

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. 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. 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. In contrast, INGOs are defined as "any internationally operating organization which is not established by inter-governmental agreement".

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.

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


International non-governmental organizations emerged alongside humanitarian aid with the realization that no single government could single-handedly solve global crises. 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. 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.

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. 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.


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. 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.


Given they are usually supported by donations, a popular concern about INGOs is where the money goes and whether it is spent efficiently. 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. Numerous attempts have been made to remedy the accountability of INGOs surrounding where and for what their money is being used. 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. Conflicts typically require organizations to quickly provide aid to regions with conflict. As such, ensuring immediate and future care quality is paramount. To this point, INGOs must prepare regions for when they leave by providing the tools and guidance necessary to support their citizens. 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.

Another criticism is that many of the people benefiting from INGOs have no way to influence those activities and hold the organizations accountable. (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.

Notable international NGOs

Multiple interdisciplinary projects



Children and youth


Human rights


Water, sanitation, and hygiene



Space and technology

See also

This page was last updated at 2024-02-09 07:40 UTC. Update now. View original page.

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