Tag Archives: NGO

TI: how to prevent corruption in humanitarian assistance

Thanks to The 8th Circle

A really fascinating Transparency International (TI) report for those in the NGO industry, but also governments and corporations that provide humanitarian assistance, has just been released. The report’s findings, however, can be applied to non-humanitarian assistance scenarios as well, especially those where large sums of money are allocated.

Below is part of the intro, and the rest is available on TI’s site.

Humanitarian assistance is a lifeline that brings food, shelter and other basic services to millions of people caught in the worst of circumstances through war, famine or natural disaster. However, it often takes place in challenging environments which may include endemic corruption. The sudden injection of large amounts of resources and the urgency of a crisis also create risks of corruption in the delivery of humanitarian aid…Detecting and preventing corruption in relief processes is an urgent priority in order to maximise relief efforts and truly help those in dire need.

If you’re interested in specific anticorruption mechanisms, here is a bullet point summary:

  • Whistleblower mechanisms
  • Codes of conduct that address values, sexual exploitation
  • Strengthening surge capacity
  • Specific policies for human resources, procurement, audits
  • Guidelines for emergency process “overrides”
  • Resource tracking and supply chain management
  • Improving downward accountability

See the press release; full report in PDF.

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Filed under corruption, Disaster Management

Karachi Calling – Urban notes from NPR

 “Does Karachi need a golf course for God sakes? … This is madness. I don’t have drinking water and I’m going to be watering the turf?”Amber Alibhai, general secretary of the public interest group Shehri, spends her days fighting with the city of Karachi about new development.

[Photo below – Junaid Bahadur Khan for NPR]

Amber Alibhai stands in her Karachi office.

Essay: Karachi Calling!

Morning Edition host Steve Inskeep writes about the contradictions of Karachi. As many as half of the Pakistani city’s 15 million or so residents live in squatter homes, even as foreign firms pour money into luxury developments.
The Urban Frontier: About the Series

This year, according to the U.N., half the world’s population lives in cities and the proportion will only increase. Morning Edition begins an occasional examination of the world’s cities with a series of profiles from Karachi, Pakistan’s economic powerhouse.


Morning Edition, June 4, 2008 · Karachi, one of the world’s most crowded cities, is debating its future. And those political debates keep returning to one subject: real estate. Developers are flocking to the Pakistani city, which has been profiled this week on Morning Edition as part of a series called “The Urban Frontier” about the world’s expanding cities.

Foreign developers are drawn to Karachi for at least two reasons. The first is demand. Pakistan may be a poor country, but many of it citizens are well off and developers believe they will pay a lot of money for expensive waterfront condos.

The second factor is a ready supply of investment capital in the Persian Gulf. To Dubai developers, for example, Karachi seems like a great investment.

A video from a Dubai development company features plans for a new city beside the old, with a new harbor, new parks and a nearly 2,000-foot tower that commemorates the year of Pakistan’s independence.

When the company brought its proposal to Pakistan, there was a meeting in the capital city of Islamabad. Word leaked out to Amber Alibhai, a public interest lawyer who is general secretary of an environmentalist group called Shehri. Continue reading

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Filed under Development, Pakistan, South Asia, Urban

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

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