Help or Harm: The Human Security Effects of International NGOs, Amanda Murdie

Reviewed by William E. Demars



Amnesty International, CARE, and Greenpeace have become household names. But all international nongovernmental organizations (INGOs or NGOs) promise to improve people’s lives or the environment a world away for a modest investment and have done so for more than 200 years. Since 1990, INGOs have multiplied to uncountable numbers, generated new issue areas, and spread into all regions and countries of the world. It is no exaggeration to claim that NGOs have become the global go-to organizational form for addressing old problems and discovering new ones.

Books on INGOs have also burgeoned since 1990. Amanda Murdie acknowledges that one such book “absolutely changed my life” when she read it as an undergraduate: Activists Beyond Borders: Advocacy Networks in International Politics, the 1998 volume by Margaret Keck and Kathryn Sikkink. Murdie goes on to identify that book as central to the “canonical literature” and “dominant theoretical framework” on INGOs (pp. 7, 19).

Murdie is part of a movement among scholars over the past decade to loosen the grip of certain conventional distinctions among INGOs—particularly among issue areas such as human rights, disaster relief, and the environment and between advocacy organizations and service organizations. These distinctions allow observers to limit the sc

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