This page contains affiliate links. This means if you a follow a link and make a purchase, at no additional cost to you, Humanitarian Careers will receive a commission. Thank you for supporting the site.
There are hundreds of international development organisations in the world. Many are multi-million-dollar operations that employ hundreds of staff in dozens of countries. Others are small organisations working on grassroot projects in developing countries. We’ve all heard of the most famous global development agencies, but what do these, and smaller organisations, actually do?
Work To Reduce Poverty
A first thing international development organisations do is fight to reduce poverty.
689 million people around the world live in extreme poverty – defined as living on less than 1.90 dollars a day. International development organisations run programmes to lift people out of destitution. They run a wide range of poverty reduction programmes around the world aiming to create sustainable improvements in people’s lives.
Poverty reduction is perhaps the most important thing international development organisations do. The mandate of most development organisations is to run different projects that aim to reduce the number of people living in poverty. International development organisations also work to provide people the means to help themselves escape the poverty trap.
Assist People Affected By Disasters And Conflicts
A second thing international development organisations do is help people who have been impacted by disasters and wars.
War devastates communities and causes loss of life and destruction. Natural disasters, such as earthquakes, floods, extreme weather, and droughts can also destroy communities. International development organisations work to help people affected by disasters and conflicts and help them to rebuild their lives.
As well as providing direct assistance to communities affected by conflicts and disasters, international development organisations also run projects to tackle the root causes of conflicts. These aim to prevent communities returning to fighting. Many international development organisations also work on disaster risk reduction and disaster preparedness – aiming to reduce the impact on communities of future disasters.
Another thing international development organisations do is help refugees and displaced people.
There are over 70 million refugees in the world – these are people who have crossed borders to escape conflict or persecution. There is also an estimated 38 million international displaced people globally – people who have been displaced within their own countries. Many international development organisations run projects to help these people.
People who are displaced require a range of support, from shelter and food to mental health and livelihoods assistance. One of the key things international development organisations do is provide aid to refugees and displaced people. This is especially important for refugees hosted by poorer countries who do not have the resources to provide them assistance.
Work With Developing Country Governments
A further thing international development organisations do is work with governments in developing countries.
The aim of international development is to improve the quality of lives of people in poorer countries. A key way to do this is to work towards better governance at both national and local levels in developing countries. Many international development organisations provide assistance to developing country governments.
Providing advice and technical support to governments is a major part of what development organisations do. This can include on areas such as revenue collection, increased efficiency, election running and improved justice systems. This support is vital to many governments in poorer countries and is a key part of the mandate of many international development organisations.
International Development Online Courses
If you want to know about what international development organisations do, we recommend taking an online short course. We think the Management of International Development: Towards Agenda 2030 course is great. It looks at the current international development model as well as the trends that will be key to global development in the near future. Follow the link to the course’s page for more information.
We also think the online course Sustainable Development in the 21st Century by Yonsei University to be one of the best for those interested in international development. Delivered by former UN Secretary General Ban-ki Moon, the online course would be a great addition to the CV of anyone looking to work in international development. The link is to the course’s page.
If you are interested in the practical methods used on international development projects, we recommend the online course How To Design & Fund International Development NGO Projects. The course teaches students the tools needed to establish and run impactful development projects. Click the link to visit the course’s page for more information.
An important thing many international developments organisations do is help to build infrastructure in developing countries.
Infrastructure – roads, railways, airports, utilities, and tele-communications, are vital to a country’s development. However, many poorer countries lack the funds to build the infrastructure they need. International development organisations provide funding to governments around the world to build vital infrastructure. This can give a major boost to their economies.
As well as providing funds to build infrastructure in developing countries, another thing international development organisations do is provide technical guidance on where, and how, infrastructure should be built. This can be vital assistance to governments in poorer countries who have limited funds and resources to use for infrastructure development.
Many international development organisations provide education to children in poorer countries.
Worldwide, 787 million children are not in school. This is because in many places’ governments are unable to provide quality education. In order to tackle this issue, many international development organisations run education projects providing schooling to children in areas where they would otherwise go without.
Running education projects is one of the most important things international development organisations do. Allowing more children to access quality education is vital to improving the lives of many people in developing countries. It also has a proven benefit to the economies of poorer countries, helping them to lift people out of destitution.
Another thing international development agencies do is help organise communities so they can better advocate for their own needs.
Community organisation is a key part of international development. It involves bringing communities together – often that are marginalized from mainstream society, and providing them the tools and techniques required to make their needs known. Community organisation can be a key step in helping people in poorer countries to access the resources they need to lift themselves out of poverty.
For many international development agencies, community organising is one of the main things they do. As well as helping to organise community groups, international development organisations can also work with marginalised groups such as women, LGBT, refugees and displaced people, or those of ethnic minorities. Community organisation assisted by international development agencies can have a marked impact on people lives.
Provide Quality Healthcare
A vital thing many international development organisations do is provide quality healthcare to people who may otherwise go without.
Millions of people around the world living in poverty do not have access to the healthcare they need. International development organisations run health projects that provide quality medical assistance to people who cannot afford it. This is especially important in communities living in destination or those living in remote areas, as well as for marginalised groups.
As well as providing healthcare to people living in poverty, another thing international development organisations do is provide medical assistance to those affected by conflicts and disasters. Natural disasters and wars can destroy healthcare infrastructure. International development organisations run projects to rebuild health centres and provide urgent care to people in crisis zones.
Campaigning is another thing that international development organisations do.
International development organisations run campaigns in both developing countries and richer ones that aim to change people’s perceptions of an issue. These campaigns can be vital to creating long-term change.
Campaigns ran by international development organisations can target the wider public and have them engage with an issue, or they can target politicians, business leaders and other people in positions of power to influence them to make changes. Campaigning is one of the most important things international development organisations do.
Protect Vulnerable People
A key thing international development organisations do is work to protect vulnerable people, especially during crises.
There are many reasons why people from certain groups may become vulnerable. Poverty, disasters, and conflicts can increase people’s vulnerability. Another thing international development organisations do is run projects to protect and build networks to ensure people are protected.
Children, women, LGBT people, ethnic and religious minorities, older people, and people living with disabilities are some examples of people who are especially vulnerable in society. Factors such as poverty, or the impact of disasters or conflicts, remove many of the networks that support more vulnerable people. One thing international development organisations do is run programmes to assist people such as these in crises zones or areas of poverty.
Work Towards Food Security
Millions of people around the world are food insecure. One thing international development organisations do is work to ensure people in poorer countries have access to food, especially in times of famine.
When communities are hit by famine, often poorer countries lack the resources to provide food and give urgent assistance. International development organisations play a vital role in saving lives during times of food shortages.
As well as providing vital food aid when famines hit, another thing international development organisations do is work with communities at risk of food insecurity to improve their access to food. This can be done through improving agriculture, irrigation, and the local economy.
Provide Clean Water
Another thing international development organisations do is work to provide clean water and sanitation to people in poorer countries.
785 million people around the world do not have access to clean water. Work done by international development organisations is key to addressing this issue. Many poorer communities, as well as those in remote areas or who are marginalised from society, depend on their clean water from international development agencies.
As well as clean water provision, access to sanitation facilities and garbage remove are also examples of the important work done by international development organisations. Without these agencies, many communities in developing countries would lack proper sanitation.
Work To Improve Child Nutrition
Childhood nutrition projects are another vital thing that international development organisations do.
Poverty can have a massive impact on childhood nutrition. Mothers living in poverty often cannot access quality nutrition that is needed to support breastfeeding. They also often lack access to healthcare and education that can be crucial in helping them care for their children. International development agencies run projects to address these issues.
When conflicts and disasters hit communities, often it can be hard for mothers to provide nutrition to their children. Helping mothers in crises zones provide nutrition to their children is another example of what development organizations do.
Fight For Gender Equality
A further thing international development organisations do is campaign for gender equality.
In many countries, women do not have the same rights as men. This can limit their access to healthcare and education, as well as their ability to work. It also makes them more vulnerable to violence and exploitation as well as reduces their ability to organise and advocate for improvements in their lives.
Many international development organisations run projects aimed at making women more equal in societies. These can focus on fighting for women to have better access to services they need. They can also work to change a societies perception of women and aim for longer-term and system change.
Another thing international development organisations do is advocate for systemic change that can benefit people living in developing countries.
Advocacy is when organisations or groups aim to influence decision makers, including politicians, community leaders, businesses, and cultural and religious leaders. It can be one of the most important ways to create long-term improvements to people lives. International development organisations use advocacy to change policies that assist people living in poorer countries.
Almost all international development organisations engage in advocacy. It is an vital part of their work and one of the most prominent things they do.
A final thing international development organisations do is fundraise.
All international development agencies are reliant on raising money to support their work. There are many ways they do this. The majority of international development agencies are funded by a combination of public donations and grants from institutional donors – such as national governments and inter-governmental organisations such as the United Nations and European Union.
Effective fundraising is foundational to everything international development organisations do. They are required to regularly raise funds to ensure their development projects continue. Development organisations also need to raise funds they can use to begin new projects and respond to crises when they occur.