The Rise of International Nongovernmental Organizations: A Top-Down or Bottom-Up Explanation?

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This study examines the conditions that facilitate the growth of international nongovernmental organizations (INGOs) in 126 countries, from 1982 to 2000. To explain the uneven growth of INGOs around the world, I test two competing theoretical approaches. The "top-down" perspective of growth focuses on the degree of a country's integration into the world polity and international economy. The "bottom-up" perspective emphasizes the development of democracy and the prosperity of the domestic economy as significant factors in facilitating INGO growth within a given country. An econometric analysis of panel data with ordinary least squares (OLS) suggests that both economic and political factors at the global and national level explain the rise of INGOs, rather than viewing either in an isolated fashion.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)393-416
Number of pages24
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2010

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Along with economic integration and increased trade flows and FDI, increased international political interactions through states and intergovernmental organizations (IGOs) provide a favorable international political opportunity for the rise and spread of INGOs. Tarrow (2005) explains internationalism, or political globalization, with two interrelated trends: an increase in (1) horizontal relations and network formation between nation-states, intergovernmental organization, and nonstate actors and (2) vertical links among subnational, national, and international levels. Political globalization, especially the increased cooperative partnership between IGOs and NGOs, has led to INGO proliferation in two ways. First, programs sponsored by IGOs offer financial resources, capacity building opportunities, and legitimacy for INGOs. International organizations lend legitimacy and resources to certain values and norms that often correspond to the aims of INGOs (Smith 2000). The UN and other IGOs like the World Bank are major players in funding and implementing programs with INGOs in fields such as humanitarian relief, refugee assistance, gender, and environmental issues. According to Reimann (2006, p. 49),

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Business and International Management
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Public Administration
  • Strategy and Management


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