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The Role of Think Tanks and NGOs

Who Makes U.S. Foreign Policy?


Think tanks are usually thought of as places devoted to devising and promoting policy recommendations (short and long term) to governments and multilateral organizations. And many think tanks work in the foreign policy field.

Nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) can play this role as well, but they can also play roles as service providers, activists and educators.

Taken together, the advice and influence generated by think tanks and NGOs can have a considerable impact on U.S. foreign policy.

The most influential think tanks in foreign policy contain policymakers and scholars who have previously served in government positions including former State Department officials, ambassadors, military officers, and members of Congress. Think tank officials, whether they have served in government previously or not, are often likely candidates for service when new administrations come to power in Washington.

Among the largest and most influential groups are:

Depending on circumstances, the reports and recommendations from these groups regularly shape debates and decisions regarding how the United States interacts with the rest of the world.

Important NGOs provide services around the world like the Red Cross and Oxfam. These groups sometimes have access to countries and people unreachable by governments.

Other NGOs represent significant memberships in the United States with interests in world affairs. These include:

These groups keep their members up to date on issues vital to their missions. And they can mobilize those members to call or write government officials when needed.

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