Submission Date


Document Type



International Relations


Johannes Karreth

Committee Member

Christian Rice

Committee Member

Ann Karreth

Department Chair

Rebecca Evans

External Reviewer

Amanda Murdie

Distinguished Honors

This paper has met the requirements for Distinguished Honors.

Project Description

Why do some international non-governmental organizations (INGOs) continue work in conflict settings while others leave? Understanding the motivations influencing INGO behavior in fragile and conflict settings is important for scholars and practitioners: INGOs are a major part of the network of international third-party actors in conflict and fragile settings and provide much of the services funded by third-party state donors. While previous literature investigates the selflessness of INGOs, or lack thereof, and the behavior of INGOs within specific sectors, this thesis proposes a comprehensive analysis of the factors that impact INGO behavior in conflict settings at multiple levels. Drawing on prior literature, I investigate the international, interactive, and institutional conditions that dictate INGO behavior in conflict settings. The factors I hypothesize to be important are the size of INGOs, INGO sector, local employment of aid workers, presence of strong INGO networks, population density, risk levels and violence, accessibility of regions, financial support structures, relationships between INGOs and conflict groups, and presence of military and/or peacekeeping interventions. To test each hypothesis, I then combine a quantitative analysis of INGO activities in a conflict setting, Afghanistan, with qualitative evidence of insiders’ views on INGO decision-making. The results show a more nuanced picture of INGO behavior beyond pure altruistic or selfish motivations. The study can inform future research on the role of INGOs in conflict settings, their effectiveness, and reasons why INGO neglect some regions but not others.