A cautionary tale from the history of NGOs

OUPblog published the following article titled, A Cautionary tale from the history of NGOs.” The article reads in part as follows;

“The contemporary world features more than twenty thousand international NGOs in almost every field of human activity, including humanitarian assistance, environmental protection, human rights promotion, and technical standardization, amongst numerous other issues. These organizations include household names such as Amnesty International, Greenpeace, and Doctors Without Borders, as well as less well known but sizeable institutions such as the International Cooperative Alliance which claims to represent more than a billion people. Many of these organizations comprise of networks spanning every continent, and their resources in some cases exceed the development assistance budgets of several OECD countries. Given their considerable role in contemporary global affairs, the activities of international NGOs have become subject to growing scrutiny, especially in the wake of a wave of scandals in recent years.

While the scale and reach of international NGOs today may appear to be unprecedented, these organizations have a history spanning many centuries. Up until the late eighteenth century they predominantly consisted of religious orders, but by the mid-nineteenth century international NGOs had been established in a wide array of areas including humanitarianism, anti-slavery activism, feminism, and the promotion of peace. Among the most influential and most globally networked of the international NGOs of the early nineteenth century was the International Shipwreck Society – an intriguing but now largely forgotten organization that sheds light on the potential and limitations of transnational organizations two centuries ago.”

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