Why Do We Trust NGOs?

by The Global Journal May 18, 2012

The Credibility of Transnational NGOs: When Virtue is Not Enough, by Peter Gourevitch, David Lake, Janice Gross Stein, €24.39, $32.99.

We live in a world where NGOs are not only multiplying in number, but are increasingly entrusted with a role as the de facto guardians of the common interests of humanity. Major international – or ‘transnational’ NGOs in particular, have assumed a unique position in global governance processes. These institutional heavyweights are able both to mobilize substantial funds, as well as shape global norms – and therefore social change – in a way that has no precedent in history. Yet, as the editors of this volume ask, why do we trust transnational NGOs? Though The Credibility of Transnational NGOs is a collection of theoretically framed political science researches, this central theme has more than scholarly interest. Many of the activities in which NGOs engage – from humanitarian relief to human rights monitoring, microcredit lending to ethical certification – are premised on their position as impartial, principled actors. Credibility is a ‘valuable asset’ that NGOs strive to acquire and protect. Through a series of in-depth case studies covering organizations as diverse as Rugmark, Amnesty International, Islamic Relief and Kiva, the authors featured in The Credibility of Transnational NGOs investigate the sources of NGO credibility, as well as the strategies NGOs employ to augment their reputations and further their ‘brand’. While many of the findings would appear self-evident – the importance of common values, for example – the very fact that scholars are turning their rigorous gaze towards an under-researched sector is nonetheless a step in the right direction.