Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Political Science

Committee Chair

Ann M. Clark

Committee Member 1

Thomas Mustillo

Committee Member 2

S. Laurel Weldon

Committee Member 3

Jeong-Nam Kim


Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have become increasingly important as a political group of actors in international politics since the 1990s. Above all, the NGOs engaging in economic aid have greatly contributed to foreign aid to developing countries. The significance of this study is placed on the transition of NGOs from aid providers to human rights advocates. The transition to human rights advocates signifies that charity organizations have now become a major form of political actor. The research question is why some aid NGOs engage in human rights issues, while others do not. I argue that contact with human rights norms is the primary factor driving these NGOs to engage in human rights issues. When an aid NGO is strongly connected to international society, the organization is more responsive to the need to embrace human rights standards. Aid NGOs have been considered as charitable organizations to deliver welfare services, which emphasize the increasing economic benefits that recipients receive. They have been actors who seek economic growth, but now they are engaging in human rights activities, which seem to be distinct from economic benefits. This study examines 561 international aid NGOs based in seven developed countries using generalized linear models. This large-N analysis discerns a general pattern illuminating how aid NGOs engage in human rights issues. It also shows how citizen political participation affects an aid NGO’s human rights activities, and another example of what is different about their human rights activities where the human rights situation is at its worst.