Cover of Help or Harm by Amanda Murdie
Help or Harm
The Human Security Effects of International NGOs
Amanda Murdie


320 pages.

Hardcover ISBN: 9780804791977
Ebook ISBN: 9780804792479

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Excerpts and More

When do international non-governmental organizations like Oxfam or Human Rights Watch actually work? Help or Harm: The Human Security Effects of International NGOs answers this question by offering the first comprehensive framework for understanding the effects of the international non-governmental organizations working in the area of human security. Unlike much of the previous literature on INGOs within international relations, its theoretical focus includes both advocacy INGOs—such as Amnesty International or Greenpeace, whose predominant mission is getting a targeted actor to adopt a policy or behavior in line with the position of the INGO—and service INGOs—such as CARE or Oxfam, which focus mainly on goods provision.

The book rigorously and logically assesses how INGOs with heterogeneous underlying motivations interact with those other actors that are critical for advocacy and service provision. This theoretical framework is tested quantitatively on a sample of over 100 countries that have exhibited imperfect human security situations since the end of the Cold War. These case-study vignettes serve as "reality checks" to the game-theoretic logic and empirical findings of the book.

Amanda Murdie finds that INGOs can have powerful effects on human rights and development outcomes—although the effect of these organizations is not monolithic: differences in organizational characteristics (which reflect underlying motivations, issue-focus, and state peculiarities) condition when and where this vibrant and growing force of INGOs will be effective contributors to human security outcomes.

About the author

Amanda Murdie is an Assistant Professor of Political Science at the University of Missouri.

"[T]he book is a remarkable achievement. It arranges three movements in a prodigious whole: a compelling account of questions of INGO fairness and accountability, ingenious use of available large-scale data on INGOs and countries, and a sophisticated theory of INGO 'signaling' to linkthe questions and the data. It will be essential for scholars, students, policymakers, and INGO professionals."

—William E. Demars, Political Science Quarterly

"Building upon constructivist international relations theory as articulated in Margaret Keck and Kathryn Sikkink's seminal work on NGOs, Activists Beyond Borders, Murdie skillfully questions what makes these actors successful in improving human security . . . International relations scholars and practitioners will find Murdie's work engaging . . . Recommended."

—M. M. Gunter Jr., CHOICE

"Journals such as Human Rights Quarterly are dominated by either detailed qualitative studies abuses in a single state or combination of countries, of or legalistic analyses of major treaties, conventions, and agreements. Help or Harm departs from these orthodox patters. Its tables, graphs, and charts complement the great majority of existing qualitative human rights publications . . . Murdie reaches out to readers with different interest. She provides 'reality checks' about the INGOs, based on case studies and anecdotal research. In short, quantitative and qualitative scholars alike will find much of value in Help or Harm . . . Murdie has contributed a fundamentally important book, greater than the sum of her first-rate previously-published articles"

—Claude Welch, Human Rights Quarterly

"Murdie aims to provide a comprehensive framework for understanding the work of international non-governmental organizations, examining their activities in more than 100 countries and identifying those factors which appear to determine their success in bolstering human security. "


"Scholarship on International Non-Governmental Organizations (INGOs) has historically lagged behind their growing importance in global affairs. Murdie's work is at the forefront of this emerging research focus, bringing theoretically informed and empirically rigorous analysis to bear on several aspects of human security. No book is better on the subject and none is likely to be for many years to come."

—Paul F. Diehl, Henning Larsen Professor of Political Science, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

"Amanda Murdie is one of the new academic stars studying human rights and civil society. In Help or Harm: The Human Security Effects of International NGOs, as in much of her work, she has taken some of the most enduring debates in the field, formulated testable hypotheses, located or created relevant data sources to test the hypotheses and provided persuasive and nuanced answers to those debates."

—Kathryn Sikkink, Ryan Family Professor, Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University

"Amanda Murdie strips away the rose-colored glasses through which international non-governmental organizations (INGOs) are often viewed. Recognizing that they differ greatly in motivation, she finds compelling evidence that where INGOs share values with local populations, can credibly signal their 'principled' nature, and local conditions are propitious, they can have a positive effect on human welfare."

—David A. Lake, Jerri-Ann and Gary E. Jacobs Professor of Social Sciences and Distinguished Professor of Political Science, University of California, San Diego

"Dr. Amanda Murdie prepared an excellent overview of humanitarian aid and its influence (or lack thereof) on human security. How is it possible, with all of the resources flooding in to help less developed countries, that we do not see progress – and sometimes even observe regression? Difficult questions, which are not asked due to politeness are opening the book and rightly demanding answers... 5/5 – outstanding book worth recommending."

—Natalia Wojtowicz, Applied Military Sciences