Let us continue our journey into the organizational diversity of the humanitarian sector. In this post, we will have a closer look at non-governmental organizations (NGOs) by comparing national and international NGOs.


In our database[1], we distinguished between the following types of NGOs:

  • Community-based NGOs working in a specific part of their national territory;
  • National NGOs which only work in their home country;
  • Regional NGOs which work in the same region as their home country (i.e. a Kenyan organization developing programs in several African states);
  • International NGOs which work in at least one country that is not in the region of their home state;
  • National offices of international NGOs.

We also created a specific category to identify federations of NGOs, i.e. NGOs acting under the same organizational identity, although the level of autonomy of each federation member may largely vary between different types of federations. For this category, we distinguished between:

  • The “umbrella” organization, in charge of coordinating the activities and advocacy messages of the members and often referred to with the “international” denomination (i.e. Caritas Internationalis for the Caritas federation, CARE International for CARE);
  • The mother organization – the first organization that was created with the federation’s name;
  • National branches

The graph below shows the share of national NGOs per region of HQ location.


To perform this analysis we distinguished between NGOs working in their home country only ( community-based and national NGOs) and NGOs working outside their national borders (regional and international NGOs). We excluded national offices of international NGOs[2] as well as the umbrella organization of each federation[3] from this analysis. We also checked the geographical scope of activities for each federation of NGOs’ members to class them in the national NGO or international NGO category.

What do we learn from this mapping?

First, this graph shows which regions host the largest number of NGOs. Europe and North America are the two regions possessing the most, followed by Asia and Africa. The region counting the lowest number of NGOs is Oceania.

Second, our results enable us to identify regions where NGOs have the greatest capacity to intervene in distant crisis locations. These results confirm our analysis on the transnational humanitarian flux : the European and North American regions are the ones counting the largest share of international NGOs (74%). They are followed by South/ Central America and the Caribbean which hosts 67% of international NGOs. The Oceanian region is also characterized by a predominance of international NGOs (88%), but this figure is hardly illustrative, given the low number of NGOs founded in the region according to our database (26).

Third, two regions are quasi characterized by a balance between international and national NGOs.

Asia hosts 56% of local NGOs and Africa 45%.

Asia is the region hosting the largest share of community-based organizations (34% of the total population). Most of these organizations were born between the end of the 1970s and the beginning of the 1990s. On the contrary Asian international NGOs are rather young and were mostly founded between the mid-1990s and the beginning of the 21st century.

Among the NGOs intervening outside of their national borders, regional NGOs are predominant in Africa, mainly due to the dynamism of Kenyan NGOs in the Horn of Africa and South African NGOs. Africa hosts 20% of the total number of national NGOs.

Lastly, MENA is the only region characterized by a predominance of national NGOs. The region hosts 28% of the total number of community-based organizations and 15% of the national NGOs of our database. International NGOs present in the region are mainly concentrated in Turkey and in the Gulf States.

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[1] Please, refer to the post “Evidence 1: an expanding sector” for a detailed presentation of the database.

[2] The identification of each international NGO’s national office is currently under way.

[3] Given that its role is mainly a coordinating one.