International institutions are non-governmental institutions created in developed countries to provide various kinds of aid and development assistance to developing countries. Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are funded by their country of origin's government, but are not overseen or regulated by those governments. Clear examples of these international institutions are the International Monetary Fund, the International Red Cross, and the World Health Organization.
Some of the roles played by NGOs (or international institutions) and some of the challenges faced by developing countries that NGOs address are described in the United Nation's Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which include "combating HIV/AIDS," eliminating "extreme poverty and hunger," empowering women and promoting gender equality, and achieving "universal primary education" (UN Millennium Project). NGOs work in developing countries on challenges such as poverty, economic inequality, trade barriers, sustainable industry, education, human rights, health and disease, child mortality, agriculture, and economic growth.
The history of NGOs, such as the IMF and World Bank, shows NGOs, while interested in improving challenges in developing countries, are also interested in profits. Many NGOs have received a lot of criticism on their philosophies, plans, and actions, and this criticism has led to attempts to improve the focus and methods of NGOs. A significant point of criticism has been that NGO development projects give rise to new challenges that are detrimental to the growth of health, economies, human rights, and sustainable ecological development. Ecological degradation is one of the newly arising challenges caused by NGOs. The history of the Mobil oil pipeline (now Exxon Mobil) in Nigeria is a good illustration of how development projects funded by NGOs—in this case the World Bank—can result in serious new challenges.
NGO-funded development of cash crops, such as cotton, which are intended to increase a developing country's national income by exporting the crop to developed nations, illustrates how some challenges addressed by NGOs have not been resolved, while simultaneously giving rise to new challenges. Cash crop emphasis was a strategy to address the hunger associated with extreme poverty. Planting cash crops did increase national income and reduce poverty, but emphasizing cash crops monopolized limited agricultural lands. The cumulative result of the cash crop strategy is to trap the poorest people in continued hunger because the cash crop of the small, poor farmer displaces the sustenance food crops that would otherwise feed the farmers, their families, and their neighbors. In this way, the challenge of hunger was left unresolved while raising the new challenge of land degradation.