Different types of international development organisations

Many people will be surprised but international development is now a multibillion pound business and one which takes in an array of different types of organisations. There are many different employment roles available from back-office to logistics, from management to boots on the ground. If you are looking for employment in the international development sector then you will be interested in this list of different types of international development organisations.

Non-governmental organisations (NGOs)

As the name suggest, these international development organisations operate independently of any direct government influence. In reality, all international development organisations to a certain extent communicate and cooperate with many different governments around the world. When looking for entry to a specific country to address a particular issue, there are many different hurdles and red tape can be a nightmare. So, while these aid agencies are not necessarily directly influenced by governments, they may well be afforded a degree of direction.

Well known NGOs

Some of the best-known NGOs include the likes of Oxfam and Save the Children which do amazing work right across the globe. Much of the work they do is not always reported and as a consequence their lead role in the NGO sector perhaps not always appreciated. If looking for employment with the likes of Oxfam and Save the Children it is worth noting that they can afford to be choosy about whom they take on. In the majority of cases they will request at least 2 to 3 years of experience with another NGO.

As the number of people living below the poverty line is now well in excess of 1 billion worldwide, we have seen the emergence of many relatively new NGOs. These organisations are sometimes classed as development, humanitarian or a mix of the two. Development is best described as the introduction of long-term programmes to assist with local issues, humanitarian aid addresses short-term disaster relief and a mixture of the two is often referred to as a “dual mandate”. The smaller less well-known NGOs cannot afford to be as choosy as the likes of Oxfam and Save the Children. Those applying with experience, whether voluntary or paid work, will likely receive preferential treatment.

What we are starting to see in the international development sector is the emergence of specific agencies with specific skills and experiences. So, if this is an area in which you are looking for future employment then you will need to focus your skills and your qualifications on the particular type of role you are targeting. While educational qualification such as a Master’s degree will help you in many situations, a growing number of NGOs now prefer experience above education. The specific recruitment policies of the likes of Oxfam and Save the Children are available on their websites as are those of the smaller NGOs.

International development organisations

Over the last 20 years or so there has been an increased focus on international development aid and organisations. We have seen the emergence of some enormous international organisations although to be fair many have been around for more than 20 years. We have the likes of:-

  • UNDP (United Nations Development Programme)
  • WHO (World Health Organisation)
  • WFP (World Food Programme)
  • World Bank

It is fair to say that gaining graduate or high-level employment with these types of international development organisations is difficult. Many will have young professional recruitment programs, which have proven successful for many applicants, but their standards are extremely high and challenging. Internships and PhD’s or Master’s degrees and appropriate work experience are often an additional requirement for the HQs of these larger organisations.

For many people, the first step towards high level employment with international development organisations tends to be via the local offices. As these organisations have tentacles right across the globe on occasion there may be opportunities to move across regional offices in different countries. However, history shows that many highly skilled, highly educated and highly experienced individuals will need to leave at some point to gain experience and then try to return.

National governments

The only problem with national governments is that a change in government can often bring about a change in international aid budgets. The UK authorities have in many ways led the way by defining the UK annually at budget as 0.7% of UK GDP. The current target for the UK authorities is in excess of £14 billion per annum which puts it amongst the larger contributors to overall international aid. As you might expect, many of the national government international development aid departments run gradual training courses. Historically, the number of vacancies has tended to be relatively low and competition relatively high.

Official government information confirms that by far the majority of roles are filled by local nationals. This will obviously differ with overseas offices where there may be a requirement for different language skills and experience. Those who successfully negotiate the graduate training schemes will stand themselves in good stead for a future career in international development. Some of the more high profile government agencies include:-

Employment laws

Whether you are a volunteer or a paid member of staff with any one of the above NGOs, international or governmental agencies you are still afforded the relevant protections under employment law. Graduate training schemes have proven to be one of the more successful methods of recruiting future members of staff. They are based upon training, developing skills and experience and then matching successful candidates with relevant roles. This is an integral part of employment law across the globe.

The bottom line is that all of these agency types have an obligation and a legal duty to ensure the safe well-being of their volunteer and paid staff. Whether helping to administer medical facilities to fight ebola or constructing long-term education facilities, you are still protected. There may obviously be an array of different risks, depending upon your role and the country where you are stationed, but safety is still paramount.

To Conclude –

There are various ways in which you can begin a career in the international development sector. This may incorporate NGOs, international organisations or government ministries. While it is fair to say that these roles are few and far between compared to demand, there are still ways and means of obtaining the relevant experience. Experience goes a long way for those looking towards a long-term career in international development, often deemed more important than educational qualifications. However, those able to offer a mix of the two stand a far greater chance of breaking into the sector.