In the past few decades, the number, influence, and impact of transnational non-governmental organizations (NGOs) — defined as private non-profit organizations that operate independently from the government with a global mission to provide social and public goods in several countries — has significantly increased. NGOs are ubiquitous in global politics and serve critical roles in the provision of public goods and services, in advocacy and activism, and in standard-setting and governance, but their actions, impacts, and agency cannot be fully explained by the main strands of International Relations (IR) theory.
This literature focuses on positional power (e.g. via networks or status), institutions (e.g. information production and political opportunity structures) and social resources (e.g. framing, narrative, and peer pressure) to explain the impact of NGOs on global politics. We share DeMars and Dijzkeul’s (2015) critique that these theories and approaches often obscure the complex politics of NGOs and NGO action. We build on this research agenda by focusing not on NGOs as actors, but on how their agency is constructed through their interactions and relationships. In developing a relational approach to NGOs, we suggest that examining the interactions between NGOs will reveal much about their politics and their power, legitimacy and regulatory effects.
This is the second in a series of authors’ and practitioner workshops organized by the Käte Hamburger Kolleg/ Centre for Global Cooperation Research at the University of Duisburg-Essen, and the George Washington University.
Outcomes of the workshop will be presented in a policy paper in the KHK/GCR21 Research Paper Series with policy recommendations on NGO-NGO cooperation and an edited journal or book volume on NGO-NGO interaction.