The rapid expansion of the international humanitarian NGO community in the long 1970s brought with it much soul-searching on how NGOs could move beyond charity and towards genuine solidarity with the Third World. Drawing on evidence from non-governmental organizations in Britain and Ireland, this article examines the role played by the NIEO and the pursuit of global economic and political reform in shaping those debates. It argues for the enduring importance of the liberal economic paradigm in shaping Western attitudes to justice, but concludes that we should pay more attention to the role of the Third World and the Christian churches in shaping the worldview of humanitarian NGOs.