NGOs in constructivist international relations theory

Authored by: Christopher Marc Lilyblad

Routledge Handbook of NGOs and International Relations

Print publication date:  April  2019
Online publication date:  April  2019

Print ISBN: 9781138285507
eBook ISBN: 9781315268927
Adobe ISBN:


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Non-governmental organizations, or NGOs, generally do not fall into the “armed” or “violent” non-state actor category. On the contrary, most NGOs reject violence as a matter of principle. Since contemporary NGOs clearly lack recourse to coercive practices through the organization, not to mention monopolization, of organized violence, it would certainly be difficult to imagine NGOs as true powerbrokers in a structural (neo-)realist world of material power distributions and imbalances. Similarly, though some NGOs, especially those established by private philanthropists, wield significant financial resources and corresponding leverage over weaker states or even intergovernmental organizations (IGOs), 1 the vast majority of NGOs are not-for-profits seemingly in constant search of funding. Accordingly, NGOs are neither drivers of complex interdependence, nor major stakeholders in international institutions optimized for mutual economic gain. NGOs are thus often relegated to a rather marginal status in both liberal-institutional and realist IR theory.

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