MELBOURNE – It has long been clear that many non-state actors have more influence on international policymaking than a great many sovereign states. No one doubts the impact that major multinational corporations and terrorist organizations can have, for better or worse. But the role of a number of international non-governmental organizations (INGOs) has been more significant than is generally recognized, and what makes the best of them tick is worth exploring.
According to current estimates, there are some 40,000 NGOs operating internationally, with the overwhelming majority focusing primarily on health, education, welfare, economics, industry, energy, the environment, human rights, social policy, and governance- and development-related issues. A much smaller number – a few hundred at best – work primarily on peace and security issues, though some primarily human rights-focused organizations like Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International are influential here.