Help or Harm: The Human Security Effects of International NGOs

Carew Boulding, University of Colorado

CarewBouldingAmanda Murdie’s new book takes on the difficult and important question of whether international non-governmental organizations (INGOs) are actually doing more harm than good in their global efforts to promote development and human rights. Murdie focuses on the impact that INGOs have on human security, defined as freedom from want and freedom from fear. Until now, the literature on NGOs has followed a common path in academic research on new global issues: first wildly optimistic, then crushingly negative. Murdie’s book is a welcome step further—a clear-eyed, thoughtful, empirical investigation of the measureable effects of international NGO activity on human well-being around the world. Murdie gently points out that many scholars yearn to love NGOs; we are disappointed if they fail to live up to our expectations. Murdie does not fall into this trap. Instead, her analysis allows the data to speak for themselves, showing evidence that INGOs generally tend to do more good than harm, but that important factors make their success more or less likely, including support from the international system, support from the domestic community, working in a country with a government relatively free from corruption, and a domestic society relatively free to engage with NGOs.

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Perspectives on Politics / Volume 14 / Issue 01 / March 2016, pp 179-180
Copyright © American Political Science Association 2016