International non-governmental organisations (INGOs) are non-governmental organisations that either work at the international level or have international members. International non-governmental organisations are a mixed bag, best described as those organisations that are not intergovernmental, business entities or terrorist organisations (Davies 2014, 3). There is no exact figure for the number of international non-governmental organisations that are currently active. The United Nations lists over 4,000 with consultative status – which may only be a fraction of their true number.
Some spectacular and headline-grabbing protests are organised by certain international non-governmental organisations. Images of Greenpeace protestors chaining themselves to ships, or of anti-globalisation protestors blocking streets, are usually well covered in the media. These are the organisations whose mission is to raise awareness among the general public on issues of concern. No less effective are those that carry out their missions away from the limelight. Mercy Corps, for example, helps disaster survivors in countries around the globe, Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders) is often the first highly skilled responder to a crisis and Oxfam is at the forefront of various poverty eradication programmes around the world. Former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan termed groups like these the ‘unsung heroes’ of the international community.
Hybrid organisations are those international organisations whose membership comprises both states and civil society members. The states may be represented by government departments or agencies; while civil society, as we have seen earlier, can be just about anyone or any organisation. One such hybrid international organisation is the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), which deals primarily with the preservation of the environment and whose members include government agencies from countries such as Fiji and Spain and non-governmental organisations from all corners of the globe. Individual members are often experts and affiliated to one of the IUCN’s six commissions. The number of hybrid organisations has increased as more and more partnerships are forged between states and civil society. There is now an understanding that hybrid organisations, where governments, non-governmental organisations and multinational corporations all have a say, can be highly effective because of the reach, expertise and funding that such groupings can command.