It’s time for INGOs to stop living with their parents


  • Thomas Lay Save the Children



INGOs, Foucault, consolidated humanitarianism, United Nations, UN


Drawing on Michel Foucault’s philosophical theory of a power triangle, this paper explores the relational dynamics between International Non-Governmental Organisations (INGOs), the United Nations (UN), and sovereign states. It reflects on the emergence of multilateral aid after World War Two and how aid became institutionalised and professionalised, resulting in a relational dynamic between INGOs, the UN and Western governments that is akin to a parent and child. The paper then considers how different actors in humanitarianism occupy different power types, and the impact this will have on the relevance of INGOs in the future. It concludes with a proposition for repositioning and rethinking INGOs in the next era of aid, as part of a reidentification of their role in humanitarianism.


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Author Biography

  • Thomas Lay, Save the Children

    Thomas is the East and Southern Africa Humanitarian Director at Save the Children and has been working across East Africa for the last 10 years. For the last few years, he has focused on re-identifying humanitarian action in response to megatrends, including the climate crisis, in advance of the next era of humanitarianism.


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How to Cite

“It’s time for INGOs to stop living with their parents” (2023) The Humanitarian Leader, p. Working paper 036, June, 2023. doi:10.21153/thl2023art1808.