Understanding Different Paths in the Development Sector

Understanding Different Paths in the Development Sector: NGO, Government, and Multilateral Organizations

The development sector is a landscape of various entities with crucial roles in addressing global challenges. It plays a vital role in the global efforts to reduce poverty, promote social and economic progress, and enhance the well-being of millions worldwide. The sector is a multifaceted and complex domain, encompassing a wide range of organizations and stakeholders in pursuit of shared objectives. 

Among these, three of the most prominent types of organizations in the development sector are non-government organizations (NGOs), government agencies, and multilateral organizations. Each organization has unique approaches and perspectives toward achieving developmental goals, with different strengths and weaknesses. Therefore, understanding the roles of each type of organization will help future development professionals to determine their desired career path.. 

Non-government Organizations (NGOs)

Non-governmental organizations or NGOs are independent entities separate from the government, dedicated to enhancing social conditions. Often referred to as civil society organizations, they operate at local, national, and international levels. Most of the time, NGOs work towards various social or political objectives such as supporting humanitarian causes or safeguarding the environment (Folger, 2024)

They are frequently grassroots organizations deeply connected to their supported communities.  Known for their adaptability, innovation, and capacity to swiftly address emerging needs, NGOs often collaborate with local communities, governments, and other entities to execute initiatives tackling specific development challenges.

Despite their independent nature and agility to respond to needs, NGOs face significant challenges that often restrict their project implementation and limit their capacity to access more beneficiaries. These limitations include lack of funds, human resources, limited capacity, and government procedures (Kermani & Reandi, 2023; Bodi, 2024; Sharma, 2023; Tajdid Iraq, 2023), with lack of funds being the most mentioned challenge faced by NGOs.


On the other hand, the government holds the greatest capacity to deliver programs and formulate policies to improve the well-being of its populace.  As the entity responsible for executing national development policies and programs, it is often the largest and most well-resourced organization in the development sector. This enables them to become a pivotal actor in driving extensive and long-term development initiatives. Moreover, they can collaborate with other governmental entities and actors to ensure that their endeavors are aligned with national priorities and aspirations.

However, similar to NGOs, governments also face challenges. They are hindered by bureaucratic inefficiencies, political instability, and corruption which can be a setback in pursuing development efforts. These challenges can hinder the effectiveness of government-led interventions and can potentially lead to gaps and discrepancies in service delivery..

Multilateral Organizations

Coppola (2015) defined multilateral organizations as consisting of sovereign governments that can be regional, global, or focused on a particular issue. They are also referred to as intergovernmental or international organizations. Under international law, multilateral organizations are acknowledged to have legal relevance. A prominent example is the United Nations being one of the largest and most recognized in this category. Other examples include the World Bank, and the International Monetary Fund. 

These organizations play a role in helping countries work together, exchange knowledge, and gather funds to address pressing global issues. They leverage the organization’s collective expertise and member states’ financial contributions to provide technical assistance, facilitate policy dialogues, and utilize investments in various developmental areas such as infrastructure, healthcare, education, and so on.

Generally, multilateral organizations also face significant problems that affect how they contribute to development, including funding problems, reliance on member states to execute their mandates, and vulnerability to pressure, influence, and manipulation from member states (Shai, Langa, Maphoto, Ngoepe, Rapanye & Ravhutulu, 2019). 


In conclusion, the development sector plays a crucial role in addressing global challenges and improving the lives of millions worldwide. Non-governmental organizations (NGOs), government agencies, and multilateral organizations each offer unique approaches and perspectives toward achieving developmental goals. Despite their differences, the collaborative efforts of these entities are crucial for advancing sustainable development and maximizing the impact. Hence, aspiring development professionals must understand these organizations’ nature, strengths, and weaknesses to chart their path towards contributing to global progress and addressing pressing societal needs.


  • Bódi, D. C. (2023). Challenges and Opportunities of Non-governmental Organizations. Bulletin of the Transilvania University of Braşov, Series VII: Social Sciences and Law, 16(2), 223-230.
  • Coppola, D. P. (2015). Participants–Multilateral Organizations and International Financial Institutions. Introduction to International Disaster Management, 588.
  • Folger, J. (2024, February 23). Non-Governmental Organization (NGO): Definition, Example, and How It Works. Investopedia. https://www.investopedia.com/ask/answers/13/what-is-non-government-organization.asp 
  • Kermani, F., & Reandi, S. T. A. (2023). Exploring the Funding Challenges Faced by Small NGOs: Perspectives from an Organization with Practical Experience of Working in Rural Malawi. Research and Reports in Tropical Medicine, 99-110.
  • Ngoepe, C. C., Shai, K. B., Maphoto, T. E., Langa, N., Rapanyane, M. B., & Ravhutulu, K. (2019). A critical analysis of the difficulties faced by international organisations within the context of the role of the United Nations. Africa’s Public Service Delivery and Performance Review, 7(1), 1-5.
  • Sharma, A. (2023, July 15). Challenges faced by NGOs and what are the solutions. Medium. https://medium.com/@anushkasharmamain/challenges-faced-by-ngos-and-what-are-the-solutions-b82702699bc2
  • Tajdid Iraq. (2023, February 28). What Challenges Facing NGOs. LinkedIn. https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/what-challenges-facing-ngo-tajdid

Published on May 20, 2024.
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