International NGOs and the Long Humanitarian Century: Legacy, Legitimacy, and Leading into the Future

By: Andrew Thompson and Mike Aaronson | 2021 | Academic articles



The rise of powerful international NGOs (INGOs) is widely recognized as a key development in the international humanitarian landscape over the last century, especially in the last thirty years. The part played by INGOs in the delivery of emergency relief and longer-term development assistance is well documented.

But there is a widespread feeling within the leadership of the INGO community that this is a time for critical reflection about the nature of INGOs themselves and their relations with their donors and beneficiaries as well as with governments in their countries of operation. There is much talk of INGOs being in crisis: a crisis of legitimacy, of core identity, and of relevance.

In 2021, the project team interviewed the CEOs of leading international NGOs on the challenges facing the sector now and in the coming years. This report details the findings from their 50 hour-long interviews with leaders in the development sector.


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