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Intergovernmental Organizations and Non-governmental Organizations in Reducing State Conflicts

Info: 2281 words (9 pages) Essay
Published: 23rd Sep 2019 in International Relations

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In 1918 with the end of the First World War, states across the globe were determined to make sure no international conflict of such scale ever happened again. The world needed a way to consistently and reliably approach international disputes without disagreements ending in war. As a solution, the 28th President of the United States, Woodrow Wilson, proposed the League of Nations. The League of Nations was supposed to provide this outlet for states to peacefully resolve international conflict. It was new way to maintain peace internationally (Davies 2012). However, the League’s legitimacy and overall authority was never taken seriously by states, and thus came its demise. Nevertheless, the need for international mediation was still something the states believed they needed to avoid a second all-out war. Since the League of Nation’s fall, other powerful third-party organizations have come to play an important role in international law and policy making. Intergovernmental organizations (IGO’s) and Nongovernmental organizations (NGO’s) have made important contributions to international development and the advocation for human rights. This paper, however, focuses on the effectiveness of conflict abatement demonstrated by these organizations and whether they should even be allowed to participate in international affairs. With the effectiveness of these organizations currently unclear, it begs the question: why do states submit to international laws and memberships of these organizations?

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With seemingly more freedom in abstaining from membership in these organizations, this paper explores how states’ participation within IGO’s and NGO’s is based on the perception that IGO’s and NGO’s are predominantly effective in deterring and managing conflict within and between states. More broadly, states believe these organizations are effective so they adhere to laws set by each organization. This paper will explore whether this belief in their effectiveness is true. Do IGO’s and NGO’s effectively deal with conflict?

When IGO’s and NGO’s first came to the world stage, many people did not think they should have any place in international affairs. Opponents of their presence believed they would unsettle governance and deter progress (Johnson 2016). Their members do not hold positions in government and thus should not have access to any type of briefings or discussions regarding policy and mediation. Even if they were knowledgeable enough to participate in different proceedings, the disorganization of each group prohibits them from being effective in conflict management. For example, Ramarajan, Lakshmi, and et al (2016) claim that the disruptive relationship between peacekeepers and NGO officials hinders the success of conflict management due to miscommunication between the peacekeeping and NGO groups. Even though the peacekeepers and NGO’s are working towards the same goal, their lack of communication hinders them from making real progress towards peaceful resolutions. Intergovernmental organizations are subject to a similar problem. On a larger scale, people believe IGO’s can be ineffective because of clashing geopolitical ideas between members of the organization. When different states hold different agendas, it can prevent them from reaching an amicable solution, further prolonging the conflict. Additional problems have also been associated with opposing ideas between the IGO’s and the NGO’s. Natsios (1995) claims lack of efficiency can also stem from the unwillingness these organizations have to work together. Many times, each organization has their own set of rules and regulations and neither wants to concede to cooperate with the other (Aurobinda Mahapatra 2016).

 Furthermore, even if the internal rankings within NGO’s are organized enough to function, there are other outside factors that NGO’s and IGO’s can’t control but that definitely hinder their ability to direct peacekeeping. For example, according to Corbetta, Renato, et al. (2015) conflict can be perpetuated by adversaries’ own expectations of NGO’s and IGO’s response tactics. Peacekeepers do not have training to act as third-party negotiators (Diehl, Pf, et al. 1996) so their range of conflict management is limited and ineffectual for situations that require this type of tactical approach. Because of the lack of organization and narrow specialization, the perceived lack of efficiency undermines the confidence people have in these organizations’ capacity to deal with different types of conflict. Moreover, the more people that believe the IGO’s and NGO’s performance in conflict abatement is inefficient, the further their legitimacy is undermined. As a result, the less their authority is accepted and fewer states will submit to the international laws established through the organizations (Donno, Daniela, et al. 2015)

Even if the organizations’ methods don’t effectively precipitate a solution, studies show their intervention can expedite conflict (Diehl, Pf, et al 1996). The lost opportunities of establishing resolutions can increase the chances of war (Diehl, Pf, et al 1996). IGO’s like the United Nations have doubled their peacekeeping and observation since 1989 (Diehl, Pf, et al. 1996), but whether the increased presence of the peacekeepers has reduced conflict is unclear. Furthermore, other critics of intergovernmental organizations and non-governmental organizations believe their ineffectiveness could be due to the tactics used by these two groups. Wright (2000) states that IGO and NGO inefficiency is a result of their lack of offensive strategies. In order to increase efficiency, the two groups should ideally coordinate to develop a system that alerts them to potential hotspots for conflict before it increases to war. It is imperative to learn conflict escalation patterns and to manufacture guidelines on appropriate intervention methods. Knowing when is suitable for either diplomatic or military intervention is key to preventing and avoiding the prolongment of conflict. In addition to knowing the best methods for conflict management, these organizations have to be willing to evaluate the methods used instead of just the outcomes (Moita 2016). Without an in depth understanding of the outcomes precipitated by each peacekeeping method, there will be no way to determine how conflicts respond in response to their intervention. This type of evaluation would create a more critical and improved look at the performance the intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations’ efficacy in dealing with conflict.

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 Since the beginning of these organizations, many have tried to improve and update the methods used to manage conflict. What used to only be post conflict management has now evolved in to many different types of conflict management to promote international peace in all situations. This transition from small scale conflict to large, diverse conflict management has seemingly promoted the reduction of conflict globally (Moita 2016). Contrary to the belief that IGO’s and NGO’s are ineffective at reducing conflict, many people accredit them with producing positive results in areas experiencing conflict. The proponents for these organizations believe that skeptics who dislike IGO’s and NGO’s results have a misguided interpretation of the roles these organizations are supposed to play (Hultman, Lisa, et al.). Supporters believe it is impossible to blame inefficiency solely on the organizations. As previously mentioned, these organization cannot control every aspect of conflict within or between different states. Therefore, it is impossible to deem their actions insufficient because they do not hold all of the cards; nor are they allowed to. In short, IGO’s and NGO’s are doing the most with the least. However, even with the limitations and unforeseen hurdles these organizations have to manage studies show they are still capable of efficiently reducing conflict. According to (Hultman, Lisa, et al. 2014), overall peacekeepers sent by the UN are effective at reducing violence. (Hultman, Lisa, et al. 2014) shows that the number of battle deaths decreases in the presence of peacekeepers. Additionally, what could be seen as a lack of intervention on the behalf of the IGO’s and NGO’s during conflict is actually an attempt to increase the self-sufficiency of the states (Piiparinen 2016). Moreover, during conflict or war, it can be very difficult to determine which group was actually victorious (Moita 2016). In turn, it can be equally as difficult to determine how valuable the organizations’ aid was in reducing the conflict. In weighing IGO and NGO value, the possibilities of what would have happened are not as crucial to measure their effectiveness. However, looking at the different possibilities and outcomes of their actions can help these organizations in the future determine the best way to handle different types of conflict. The decisions of the organizations to intervene in the first place is also important when looking at the short-term effectiveness of NGO and IGO participation. It is up to these organizations to determine whether they believe the conflict will escalate to affect other states (Aurobinda Mahapatra 2016). Their decision to abstain from action may be seen as lack of action and effectiveness, but on the other hand could also be the decision to allocate their resources to crucial conflicts.

 This paper addresses many perceptions of whether intergovernmental organizations and non-governmental organizations are effective at reducing or eradicating different types of conflict within and between states. While both sides present convincing arguments as to the effectiveness and necessity of these organizations, each argument fails to address the efficacy of these organizations in the long run. This research directly contributes to the current literature on intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations and their ability to manage conflict but will also serve to analyze how these organizations’ actions contribute to sustainable peace in and between states. Ramarajan, Lakshmi, et al. (2016) directly states the lack of long-term research as a limitation of their study, and little research exists on the empirical evidence between the long-term of impact of IGO and NGO involvement and the sustainability of peace in previously conflicted areas. If the goal of the IGO’s and NGO’s are to only reduce conflict temporarily, then the morality and necessity of these organizations needs to be reevaluated. Whether long-term peace is their goal or not is only part of the puzzle though; the bigger picture deals with whether they achieve this lasting peace through the methods employed by the intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations.

Works Cited

  • Aurobinda Mahapatra, Debidatta. “The Mandate and the (In)Effectiveness of the United Nations Security Council and International Peace and Security: The Contexts of Syria and Mali.” Geopolitics, vol. 21, no. 1, 2016, pp. 43–68.
  • Corbetta, Renato, et al. “Between Indifference and Coercion: Third-Party Intervention Techniques in Ongoing Disputes.” Conflict Management and Peace Science, vol. 32, no. 1, 2015, pp. 3–27.
  • Davies, Thomas. “A ‘Great Experiment’ of the League of Nations Era: International Nongovernmental Organizations, Global Governance, and Democracy Beyond the State.” Global Governance, vol. 18, no. 4, 2012, pp. 405–423.
  • Diehl, Pf, et al. “United Nations Intervention and Recurring Conflict.” International Organization, vol. 50, no. 4, 1996, pp. 683-&.
  • Donno, Daniela, et al. “Screening Out Risk: IGOs, Member State Selection, and Interstate Conflict, 1951–2000.” International Studies Quarterly, vol. 59, no. 2, 2015, pp. 251–263.
  • Hultman, Lisa, et al. “Beyond Keeping Peace: United Nations Effectiveness in the Midst of Fighting.” The American Political Science Review, vol. 108, no. 4, 2014, pp. 737–753.
  • Johnson, Tana. “Cooperation, Co-Optation, Competition, Conflict: International Bureaucracies and Non-Governmental Organizations in an Interdependent World.” Review Of International Political Economy, vol. 23, no. 5, 2016, pp. 737–767.
  • Moita, Madalena. “Think Positive Peace in Practice: Evaluating the Effectiveness of the United Nations in the Implementation of a Comprehensive Peace.” Janus.net, vol. 7, no. 1, 2016, pp. 55–72.
  • Natsios, Andrew. “NGOs and the UN System in Complex Humanitarian Emergencies: Conflict or Cooperation?” Third World Quarterly, vol. 16, no. 3, 1995, p. 405.
  • Piiparinen, Touko. “Intervening to Strengthen Sovereignty: The Lessons of the UN Intervention Brigade for Global Peacekeeping.” International Relations, vol. 30, no. 2, 2016, pp. 154–175.
  • Ramarajan, Lakshmi, et al. “RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN PEACEKEEPERS AND NGO WORKERS: THE ROLE OF TRAINING AND CONFLICT MANAGEMENT STYLES IN INTERNATIONAL PEACEKEEPING.” International Journal of Conflict Management, vol. 15, no. 2, 2004, pp. 167–191.
  • Wright, David Lewis. Ethnic Turmoil and Human Rights, the Promise of the IGO and NGO Sectors in Conflict Prevention, 2000.


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