Top German global development NGOs: A primer

By Rolf Rosenkranz 07 June 2011

The Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung is one of several prominent political foundations engaged in international development work. It is known for training and educating young professionals as well as offering opportunities for cultural exchange. Photo by: kellerabteil / CC BY-NC

Scattered across Germany is an impressive number of non-governmental organizations engaged in international development work.

Nonprofits such as Welthungerhilfe and Kindernothilfe are widely known, as are religious charities such as Caritas and Misereor and political foundations such as the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung and Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung, which fund cultural exchange and development work.

Venro serves as an umbrella organization for roughly 120 NGOs engaged in international development and humanitarian aid.

Here are some of Germany’s largest and most well-known development NGOs. For the latest vacancies in Germany and beyond, check the Devex website, which features the world’s most comprehensive international development jobs database.

ADRA Deutschland

Founded: 1986
Headquarters: Weiterstadt

The Adventist Development and Relief Agency helps people regardless of their religious or political beliefs. It focuses on refugees, seniors, women and children in more than 40 countries, including Ethiopia, India and Venezuela. Focus areas include food security, health, education, jobs and emergency relief.

Arbeitsgemeneinschaft für Entwicklungshilfe

Founded: 1959
Headquarters: Köln

AGEH provides staffing services to more than 150 aid organizations operating in Africa, Asia, Latin America and Eastern Europe. The Catholic organization also helps train aid workers; every year, up to 280 AGEH experts are active in roughly 60 countries.

Ärzte für die Dritte Welt

Founded: 1983
Headquarters: Frankfurt am Main

Doctors for the Third World has sent more than 2,800 doctors on an unpaid, volunteer basis to developing countries in order to treat patients, vaccinate children, and operate clinics.

AWO International

Founded: 1998
Headquarters: Berlin

Domestically, the Arbeiterwohlfahrt may be best known for organizing job training to professionals and vacation getaways for children. Internationally, AWO provides humanitarian aid in response to natural emergencies and crises.

Bonn International Center for Conversion

Founded: 1994
Headquarters: Bonn

BICC promotes and facilitates peace and development around the globe by providing training, outreach and research on, for instance, the nexus between natural resources and conflict or between migration in Africa and security.

Democracy Reporting International

Founded: 2006
Headquarters: Berlin

Through its network of governance and human rights experts, DRI promotes political participation of citizens, accountability of state bodies and the development of democratic institutions worldwide.

Deutsche Stiftung Weltbevölkerung

Founded: 1991
Headquarters: Hannover

This foundation operates offices in Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Berlin and Brussels, Belgium. It supports projects focused on sexual and reproductive health, HIV/AIDS and other issues.

Die Johanniter Auslandshilfe

Founded: 1952 (Johanniter-Unfall-Hilfe)
Headquarters: Berlin

Die Johanniter is a Christian organization that provides emergency relief, orthopedic and other health services in more than 20 countries in Africa and Asia, including Sudan, Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Evangelischer Entwicklungsdienst

Founded: 1999
Headquarters: Bonn

EVV is the development aid branch of Germany’s protestant churches; every year, it provides technical assistance and financial support to roughly 1,500 projects in Africa, Asia, Latin America, Oceania, Southeast Europe and the Caucasus region.

Heinrich Böll Stiftung

Founded: 1997 (previously Stiftungsverband Regenbogen)
Headquarters: Berlin

Named after the Nobel Prize-winning author, the Heinrich Böll Stiftung is part of the Green political movement and close to the German party Bündnis 90/Die Grünen. It promotes ecology and sustainability, democracy and human rights, self-determination and justice around the globe, with a particular focus on minorities, immigrants and women.

HELP – Hilfe zur Selbsthilfe

Founded: 1981
Headquarters: Bonn

HELP was founded in the refugee crisis in Afghanistan in the early 1980s. Today, HELP operates around the globe. It provides aid to needy people, regardless of their origin, religion or political affiliation. HELP’s goal is to help people help themselves, and it supports projects focusing on nutrition, health, the environment, water and football – Germany’s most popular sport.

Internationaler Hilfsfonds

Founded: 1990
Headquarters: Rosbach

The International Help Fund supports medical and rural development projects in Africa, Asia and Eastern Europe. The focus is on helping rural populations, the old and the sick, orphans, refugees, and minorities. Projects tackle, among other things, access to safe drinking water, irrigation, agriculture, vocational training for doctors, and desertification.


Founded: 1980
Headquarters: Roxheim

An association that relies on donations and volunteers to provide health services in Africa, Asia and Latin America. It has 12 offices in Germany; members include doctors and nurses eager to work abroad.

Jugend dritte Welt

Founded: 1980
Headquarters: Bonn

Third World Youth supports young people in more than 132 countries in Africa, Latin America, Asia and Eastern Europe. Activities include schooling, vocational training, and work with street children.


Founded: 1959
Headquarters: Duisburg

Through its partners, Kindernothilfe says it supports more than 500,000 children each year, with hundreds of projects in Africa, Asia, Latin America and Eastern Europe. It focuses on child labor, child prostitution, child soldiers and children with disabilities.


Founded: 1969
Headquarters: Berlin

KAS hosts more than 200 projects in 120 countries through 81 field offices to foster democracy and the rule of law, implement social and market-economic structures and promote human rights. The foundation, which is close to the Christian Democratic Union, a center-conservative political party, trains and educates young professionals and offers opportunities for cultural exchange.

Malteser Hilfsdienst

Founded: 1953
Headquarters: Köln

Founded by the Order of Malta and the German Caritas, this is a Catholic charity that helps to provide disaster relief, first aid training and sanitation around the globe. The Malteser Hilfsdienst relies mostly on part-time volunteers, which number around 35,000, compared to roughly 3,000 full-time staff. The group went global in 2005, when Malteser International (based in Köln) and the Order of Malta Worldwide relief – Malteser International Americas (based in Washington, D.C.) were created. Today, there are 23 national chapters.

Medica Monidiale

Founded: 1993
Headquarters: Köln

Medica Monidiale supports women and girls in war and crisis regions around the globe, providing medical, psychological and legal help to victims of sexual violence, for instance.

Medico International

Founded: 1968
Headquarters: Frankfurt am Main

“Medico adheres to the principle of context-oriented assistance, even though the media at present publicly celebrates mostly direct hands-on support that does not dwell on political issues before getting started,” says the organization, which works on human rights, health, war and violence, emergency relief and psychosocial issues. “The aim of our efforts is not simply targeted at alleviating humanitarian crises, but at overcoming them permanently.”


Founded: 1962
Headquarters: Aachen

MISEREOR is the German Catholic Bishops’ Organization for Development Cooperation. It is committed to fighting poverty in Africa, Asia and Latin America, helping people regardless of their religion, ethnicity or gender. Two-thirds of its funds come from the German government.


Founded: 1993
Headquarters: Freising

Renovabis is a solidarity initiative of German Catholics with people living in Central and Eastern Europe. Since its establishment, Renovabis says it has executed more than 14,000 projects in 28 countries, focusing on youth, families, and people in jail, among others.

Sparkassenstiftung für internationale Kooperation

Founded: 1992
Headquarters: Bonn

The Sparkassenstiftung aims to share the experience of Germany’s public financial institutions in developing countries, mainly through training and other capacity building initiatives.

Stiftung Deutsche Welthungerhilfe

Founded: 1967
Headquarters: Bonn

Germany’s contribution to the worldwide “Freedom From Hunger” campaign kick-started by Food and Agriculture Organization Secretary-General Binay Ranjan Sen, the Welthungerhilfe focuses on nutrition, food security and agricultural development as well as on humanitarian aid. It engages civil society and the youth in Africa, Asia and Latin America.

Transparency International

Founded: 1993
Headquarters: Berlin

Transparency International operates in more than 90 countries to fight corruption through lobbying, media outreach and partnership building. The association’s secretariat is based in Berlin.


Founded: 1958
Headquarters: Berlin

The World Peace Service was created after World War II to boost peace, justice and development in the Global South as well as the North. It works on human rights, the environment, women and development, HIV/AIDS and education programs, including education for the elderly, for instance.

Other notable German NGOs engaged in international development work

Did we forget any major aid NGO based in Germany? Please let us know by placing your comments below.

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About the author

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Rolf RosenkranzRolfRosenkranz

Rolf Rosenkranz oversees a talented team of in-house journalists, correspondents and guest contributors located around the globe. Since joining Devex in early 2008, Rolf has been instrumental in growing its fledgling news operation into the leading online source for global development news and analysis. Previously, Rolf was managing editor at Inside Health Policy, a subscription-based news service in Washington. He has reported from Africa for the Johannesburg-based Star and its publisher, Independent News & Media, as well as the Westdeutsche Allgemeine Zeitung, a German daily.

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