International NGOs in development studies

Authored by: Helen Yanacopulos

Routledge Handbook of NGOs and International Relations

Print publication date:  April  2019
Online publication date:  April  2019

Print ISBN: 9781138285507
eBook ISBN: 9781315268927
Adobe ISBN:


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Suffering, disease and famines: such are the stories of humanitarian appeals and one of the primary means by which many people connect and contribute to international development. When our urge to help is ignited, the obvious place to turn is to International Non-Governmental Organisations (INGOs) in order to make donations. Some development INGOs have become household names, such as Oxfam, Save the Children, Action Aid, CARE or faith-based organisations such as CAFOD, World Vision or Christian Aid, to name just a few. These organisations are international ‘charities’ that work in international development and humanitarian relief in most continents where there is extreme poverty, primarily in Africa, Asia and Latin America. The term NGO describes a spectrum of different types of organisations working on issues of development and humanitarian relief and can refer to a ‘one man in an office’ operation, or to an internationally based organisation such as Oxfam with many national sister Oxfams and a complex array of partner organisations. This chapter will examine how these development INGOs are conceptualised broadly, and then their conceptualisations within international relations and within development studies. 1 To do so, the chapter primarily focuses on large-scale International NGOs working in international development and humanitarian relief. These international actors are complex organisations operating at different scales, frequently with different missions and functions. Exploring how INGOs function and are explained within the international relations and international development literature will illustrate the difficulties in explaining and analysing this diverse set of international actors. And while the international development literature’s more functional analysis of INGOs better captures their work, this chapter will illustrate how there are still some gaps in how we conceptualise development INGOs.

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