Category Archives: NGOs

Arundhati Roy on NGOs

Arundhati Roy’s position on NGOs from here:

A SECOND hazard facing mass movements is the NGO-ization of resistance. It will be easy to twist what I’m about to say into an indictment of all NGOs. That would be a falsehood. In the murky waters of fake NGOs set up or to siphon off grant money or as tax dodges (in states like Bihar, they are given as dowry), of course, there are NGOs doing valuable work. But it’s important to consider the NGO phenomenon in a broader political context. In India, for instance, the funded NGO boom began in the late 1980s and 1990s. It coincided with the opening of India’s markets to neoliberalism. Continue reading



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Development: Can NGOs deliver development?

—Syed Mohammad Ali

Engaging in a debate about the role of NGOs should not be confined to questioning their credibility, but also their ability to deliver services efficiently and in a sustained manner

A landmark Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness was put forth in 2005 which acknowledged that international development aid needs to respect the priorities of recipient countries and that donor organisations must begin to coordinate their activities with one another. In development terms, this understanding implied the need for donor alignment to improve the harmonisation of aid.

Three years have passed since this declaration was signed, yet the overall ineffectiveness of development assistance continues to evoke much criticism. International non-governmental organisations perhaps remain the harshest critics of aid effectiveness. But what about the effectiveness of these NGOs in utilising aid for development purposes themselves? Continue reading


Filed under International Aid, International NGOs, NGOs

Have NGOs Made a Difference?

Source: Michael Edwards, who recently stepped down as director of the Governance and Civil Society Program at the Ford Foundation, explores similar issues in “Have NGOs Made a Difference?”*

He finds that development NGOs have been influential in getting the mainstream to address the negative aspects of globalization, commit to participation and human rights as basic principles of development, and grapple with the implications of critical global issues like climate change and poverty in Africa.

Yet he views their performance wanting on several fronts – mainly that they have not been innovative enough to fundamentally influence the political structures that perpetuate poverty and human rights abuses, nor change the power relations that define class, gender, and race. Continue reading

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Filed under Development, International NGOs, NGOs

Ethiopia aid laws raise concerns

Addis Ababa – Heavily aid-reliant Ethiopia is drafting a bill to provide a legal framework for the activities of foreign aid groups, sparking concern among aid workers and threatening to antagonise creditors.

“We can understand that the Ethiopian government would want to bring in legislation on NGOs to create a proper legal framework and more financial transparency,” said one official representing a donor country.

“But the text in its current form would make it impossible for NGOs to function,” he told AFP on condition of anonymity.

The bill, a copy of which was obtained by AFP, comprises 12 sections and is to be submitted to parliament soon.

According to the draft bill, any NGO drawing on foreign sources for more than 10 percent of its funding will be considered a foreign organisation. The new law would bring several existing local NGOs into that category. Continue reading

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Filed under Africa, Aid, laws, NGOs

Blogging for governance: on countries and governments

Kauffman writes on here on blogging and its importance for making governments and their actions more transparent and accountable to their citizens….

 Notwithstanding the reality that the positive impact of blogs to promote improved accountability, governance and transparency far outweigh some of its negatives, the question of when blogging does cross the line cannot be begged — and figuring out what is the appropriate response when such line is crossed.  Does the (demand-driven) market test suffice and the more responsible blogs end up dominating, so that the system is self-correcting?  Or, to fend off unwarranted calls for outright ban (or closing down of sites), editorial accountability or some degree of filtering is at times needed?

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Filed under Africa, blogging, Development, governance, NGOs, Poverty

The myth of NGO superiority – debunked


Recent research suggests that non-governmental organisations (NGOs) from donor countries do not provide better targeted or more efficient aid than state-run development agencies. They do not seem to even try to outperform the latter by focussing on the neediest or by working in particularly difficult environments.

[ By Peter Nunnenkamp ]
It is easy to lament the stinginess and selfishness of official donors, as Kishore Mahbubani did in D+C/E+Z 2/2008. Those donors provide critics with the data needed to expose the flaws of official development assistance (ODA). It is different with non-governmental organisations (NGOs). NGO aid is certainly relevant, but its allocation has hardly been mapped, let alone explained. The main reason is that sufficiently detailed data are hard to come by. After all, NGOs probably do not want critical analysis to tarnish their image of being superior donors.

NGOs are often believed to provide well-targeted aid. They are said to be particularly close to the poor, as many of them directly cooperate with local target groups, circumventing recipient governments with a reputation of corruption. Accordingly, the argument goes, they are better aligned to poor people’s needs, and suffer from less leakage. Moreover, it is said that NGO aid is less distorted by donor governments’ commercial and political interests, such as export promotion or political alliances.

Donor governments seem to share that favourable view. To a large extent, they channel ODA through NGOs. In some donor countries, the share of such ODA is as high as 20 %. The total of aid granted by NGOs from OECD nations amounted to almost $ 15 billion per annum in 2005 and 2006. That sum exceeded bilateral ODA from every individual donor country except for the USA.

Some critics, however, suspect that the case for NGO aid largely rests on ideological grounds. The view that NGOs have a clear focus on the poor first came under attack in the 1990s. Critics believe that NGOs probably prefer the quiet life of implementing their national governments’ agendas to risking failure in attempts to outperform state agencies. This seems all the more likely as some NGOs financially depend on official “backdonors”.

The cases of Sweden and Switzerland

Such criticism is hardly supported by empirical research so far; and that is something it has in common with the wide-spread faith in high NGO performance. NGOs only rarely support scholars who collect data. Doing research on German NGOs, for instance, therefore tends to be frustrating. By contrast, two relatively small donors – Sweden and Switzerland – offer reasonable data to compare NGOs and state agencies by analysing the following three questions:
– Do NGOs focus more strongly than ODA on those countries where need is most pressing?
– Do NGOs engage in particular where the policy environment is difficult, so government-to-government transfers are unlikely to work?
– Do NGOs behave more altruistically than state aid agencies, which may be pursuing hidden agendas?

Research done at the Kiel Institute for the World Economy in cooperation with the KOF Swiss Economic Institute in Zurich and the Radboud University in Nijmegen has led to only preliminary results so far, but they do reinforce the sceptics’ view on NGO aid. The answer to the first question is clearly “no” if one judges recipients’ need for aid by average per-capita incomes. The increase in Swiss NGO aid for countries with lower average income, for instance, was slightly less pronounced than the increase in Swiss ODA. In striking contrast to Swedish ODA, Swedish NGOs completely ignored the income position of recipients, spreading their aid almost equally over low and middle-income countries. The poorest 25 % only received 27 % of Swedish NGO funds, whereas the wealthiest 25 % received 22 %. The picture is more favourable for Swiss NGOs if need is measured in terms of absolute poverty (share of the population living on less than one or two dollars per day). Swedish NGOs hardly differ from state agencies in this respect.

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Filed under Aid, International Aid, International NGOs, NGOs, Results, World