A new profile for non-profit actors? : Tracing marketization in Médecins Sans Frontières

University essay from Uppsala universitet/Statsvetenskapliga institutionen

Abstract: This thesis engages in and contributes to the current debate of marketization on the potential consequences of the seemingly increasing marketization of non-governmental organizations and the emerge of for-profit actors in humanitarian work, focusing on one of the biggest actors in humanitarian aid; Médecines Sans Frontières (MSF). By interviewing three highly positioned representatives from the organization, examining a report on the matter as well as MSF website several aspects of marketization identified in the literature were searched for, such as: market language/concepts, commercialization, private sector funding and professionalization. The study shows that all these aspects of marketization can be traced in the work of MSF. Moreover, the study reveals that marketization appears to shape how MSF view and relate to other actors working with humanitarian aid, non-profit as well as for-profit actors. A fundamental difference that can be seen is that while MSF view for-profit actors in a very positive way and as partners of collaboration, non-profit actors (similar to themselves) are portrayed and seen as competition. Hence, the study suggest that the increasing marketization appears to foster increased competition between non-profit actors – potentially undermining coordination – while at the same time potentially increasing the potential for coordination between for-profit and non-profit actors. This study also suggests that more research should be conducted, analyzing other NGOs in a similar way as well as analyzing to what extent this competitive view affects a well functioning coordination in humanitarian actions on the ground.

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