Decoding NGO Action: How the role of NGOs Propagates Conflict between Refugee Groups and Host Communities

Abby L Ragan


While the 2016 Edelman Trust barometer shows that the Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) is the most trusted institution globally, even a very trusted institution can have room for improvement. How do the actions of NGOs impact the tensions between refugee and host groups in the context of present-day Jordanians and Syrian refugees? The research determined that short-term success for the refugee group occurs at the expense of long-term consequences for intergroup dynamics due to the polarizing practices of NGO groups, which target either refugees or hosts. Intergroup relationships are vital to the eventual viability of evolving communities as integrated economies given that most modern refugees are unlikely to repatriate in the near future. Drawing on a single case study in Jordan, the methods include a dual discourse analysis as well as supplemental interviews with NGO professionals. The discourse analysis follows Roxanne Doty’s “discursive practices” approach by examining the most popular Jordanian newspaper, Jordan Times, for predication, presupposition, and subject positioning in the newspaper’s references to refugees from June 30, 2015, through June 30, 2016, to determine shifting attitudes toward refugees. Additionally, the semi-structured interviews are employed for data collection from NGO workers, both in refugee and Jordanian host member- serving organizations, adding to and supporting the conclusions of the discourse analysis. Ultimately, the analysis shows that the most common NGO actions have a negative impact on intergroup relationships although the intended impact on the targeted group may be positive. However, some NGOs have taken specific actions, such as providing open childcare to working parents, that have a positive impact on intergroup relationships and these are highlighted as showing a way forward that all NGOs should consider.


NGO; refugee; Middle East

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