Recent Development in Ngos

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NGOs & Philanthropy (Topics in Development)

Economic literature: papers , articles , software , chapters , books. NGOs and international development: A review of thirty-five years of scholarship. Longhofer, Wesley Robinson, Rachel S. Schnable, Allison. Since , the number of non-governmental organizations NGOs in developing countries has exploded. Published research on NGOs has paralleled this growth, yet there exists scant synthesis of the literature. This article presents a synthesis, while also introducing a collaborative research platform, the NGO Knowledge Collective. We ask four questions: first, who studies NGOs, and how do they study them?

Second, what issues, sectors and places are studied when NGOs are the focus? Third, what effect do NGO activities have on specific development outcomes? And fourth, what path should the NGO research agenda take? To answer these questions, we conduct a mixed-method systematic review of social science publications on NGOs, which includes computer-assisted content analysis of English-language journal articles — , alongside a close, qualitative analysis of randomly selected articles. We find, first, that interdisciplinary journals dominate NGO publishing, that research on NGOs is more qualitative than quantitative, and that practitioners publish, but Northern academics create most published knowledge.

Second, we find the literature is framed around six overarching questions regarding: the nature of NGOs; their emergence and development; how they conduct their work; their impacts; how they relate to other actors; and how they contribute to the re production of cultural dynamics. Third, we find that scholars generally report favorable effects of NGOs on health and governance outcomes. Fourth, we propose a research agenda calling for scholars to: address neglected sectors, geographies, and contextual conditions; increase author representativeness; improve research designs to include counterfactuals or comparison groups; and better share data and findings, including results from additional, focused NGO-related systematic reviews.


Implementing this agenda will help reduce bias in decisions by donors, governments, and other development actors, which should improve development outcomes. Corrections All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. In the late s some donors became frustrated with the often bureaucratic and ineffective government to government aid mechanism, found NGOs to be an alternative and more flexible funding channel which offered a higher chance of local level implementation and participation. Cernea argued that NGOs embodied a philosophy that recognizes the centrality of people in development policies and that this along with some other factors gave them certain comparative advantages over the public sector.

NGOs were seen as closer to marginalized people and it was also claimed that NGOs were operating at a much lower cost due to their use of voluntary community input. For other donors and some governments concerned with the need to liberalize and roll back the state as part of structural adjustment policies, NGOs were also seen as a cost effective and efficient alternative to public sector service delivery. Structural adjustment was a condition of many loans provided by the World Bank and International Monetary Fund from the late s onwards which obliged governments to reduce the role of the state in running the economy and social sectors, to open up the economy to foreign investment and reduce barriers to trade.

By the early s the international community was advocating for a new policy agenda of good governance which saw development outcomes as emerging from a balanced relationship between governments, markets and a third sector alongside continuing economic liberalization. Within this paradigm NGOs came to be seen as part of an emerging civil society. Development NGOs are committed to working towards economic, social or political development in developing countries.

However, it is important to bear in mind that in practice the boundaries between these categories rapidly become blurred. Potentially, NGOs can participate in all phases of the policy cycle and on all levels of the public sector; as contributors to policy discussion and formulation, advocates and lobbyists, service deliverers operators , monitors watchdogs of rights and of particular interests, and as innovators introducing new concepts and initiatives.

Some NGOs combine two or more of these activities, whereas others choose to focus on one.

The rise and role of NGOs in sustainable development | Working with NGOs

NGO action is often described as small scale, flexible, dynamic, adaptive, local, efficient and innovative. These are abilities that make them complementary to state action. NGOs are also perceived as being more flexible and dynamic while adapting easily to the specific political, economic and social context in a given country. As a result, it may be easier for NGOs to promote a needs-based, demand-led approach. While there have been many advocates for NGOs, they have also been subjected to a lot of criticism some of which seems to be justified.

The common obstacles associated with NGO interventions are linked to the difficulties in scaling-up and ensuring sustainability. This is often because NGO action is local, implemented on a small scale and project based. Many such projects have proved to be short- lived. There are some who feel that NGOs undermine the centrality of the state. Tvedt analyses the trend that saw the shift away from a focus on state institutions and towards a more privatized from of development which relies on NGOs as part of a transformation in NGO-state relations.

Some critics view this shift as a de facto privatization through contracting out of public services. There are also strong critiques that centre on the accountability problems of NGOs. Some of these criticisms have been buttressed by the fact that there is very little to show for the huge amounts of money invested in local pro-democracy groups in Zimbabwe for example over the years, according to a western envoy, who added that the NGO sector has become as corrupt as the regime whose ouster it sought.

There has been no, or very little, change in the democracy situation in the country despite civil society having been well resourced financially, a diplomat who heads one of the western donor organisations in the country told NewZimbabwe. After the West imposed sanctions to punish the Zimbabwean government for electoral fraud and gross human rights abuses 15 years ago, western donors also increased funding for pro-democracy groups to help upscale pressure on the government. Some NGOs also benefitted from a decision by the donors to stop directing humanitarian assistance to the country through the government, opting instead to work with the non-state sector.

Among other things, NGOs secured funding for programmes that included civic education. But 15 years later with millions having been spent nothing seems to have changed with regards to the democratic situation in the country. If you take a closer look and analyze what happened in the elections and juxtapose it with the level of engagement and the number of NGOs who were educating citizens on democracy and the right to vote, you will agree that civic education contributed nothing to the situation said the diplomat who asked not to be named for professional reasons, according to NewZimbabwe.

The envoy also lamented the rampant corruption in the civil society sector in Zimbabwe saying graft had contributed immensely to derailing the pro-democracy agenda. Corruption is everywhere in Zimbabwe, including the civil society sector, although not as rampant as it is in the public sector said the diplomat. Since when Zimbabwe was slapped with sanctions by the West for alleged human rights abuses and electoral fraud, the Zimbabwean government has regularly attacked NGOs claiming they were aiding efforts by the United States and Britain to remove them from power.

The Zimbabwean government has previously threatened to cancel operating licenses for NGOs which operate in rural areas, accusing them of working with the opposition. Villagers have in the recent past been told to disassociate themselves from NGOs. According to NewZimbabwe. In , the government banned NGOs which were distributing food aid in the rural areas, accusing them of helping the opposition to campaign.

Some critics however argue that the government should be thankful to the donor community for providing humanitarian assistance to the country as NGOs have carried the nation in terms of humanitarian support in areas that include the health and reproductive sector, food security sector, human rights and others. NGOs have also been accused of imposing their own agendas and being self-interested actors at the expense of the people they are in theory supporting. Critics such as Tandon point to the ways in which NGOs have helped to sustain and extend neo-colonial relations in Africa.

In the s the dominant view of NGOs was essentially one of heroic organisations seeking to do good in difficult circumstances. The fact that NGOs have now become the focus of criticism from many different perspectives is also a reflection of the wide diversity of NGO types and roles.

An important reason why these debates have continued between NGO supporters and critics is that there is surprisingly very little data available as would be expected relating to the performance and effectiveness of NGOs in development and emergency work. Some of the criticisms levelled against NGOs are however ungrounded and lack firm evidence while others are primarily ideological in nature. Some criticisms are however perfectly reasonable. Edwards writes that few NGOs have developed structures that genuinely respond to grassroots demands.

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Although NGOs talk of partnership, control over funds and decision making remains highly unequal. According to Hulme and Edwards , the idea of NGOs as a straightforward magic bullet that would help re-orient development efforts and make them more successful has since passed.

In spite of their weaknesses, NGOs however play increasingly important roles in the development landscape.

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They receive higher levels of public exposure and scrutiny than ever before, speaking to their continuing importance. NGOs provide alternatives to the status quo, providing a platform for participation, alternative practices and outcomes. The relationship of NGOs to the development landscape therefore takes many forms and their diversity cannot be overemphasized. For some NGOs are useful actors because they can provide cost effective services in flexible ways, while for others they are campaigners fighting for change or generating new ideas and approaches to development problems.

In light of the foregoing, government attitudes to NGOs vary considerably from place to place and tend to change with successive regimes. They range from active hostility in which governments may seek to intervene in the affairs of NGOs or even dissolve them, with or without good reason, to periods of acute courtship and partnership as governments and donors may alternatively seek to incorporate NGOs into development policy and intervention processes. Governments legitimately claim that they need to ensure that NGO governance and finances are monitored in order to ensure probity and that there is proper coordination of activities between government and NGOs as well as among NGOs themselves.

As a result NGO-state relations are often tense and unstable. Furthermore, governments tend to feel threatened if they perceive that international resources, previously provided as bilateral aid are now being given to NGOs instead. The result may be that government tries to take credit for successful NGO work.

Many NGOs find themselves caught between a rock and a hard place in terms of donor and state pressures. NGOs are faced with constant challenges of understanding donor preoccupations and requirements and then interpreting these to their constituents and trying to offset the efforts of state control or obstruction of their work especially in contexts where NGOs and the state are competing for the same donor resources. Accountability is a complex challenge for NGOs because they have multiple constituents and need to be accountable in different ways to a variety of different groups and interests.

However the prevalence of NGOs is often considered a sign of a well-functioning civil society as they are expected to contribute to democracy and the building of democratic aid structures. Without doubt the role of civil society as a watchdog increases transparency and the participation of society in the development process. NGO discourse on development reflects their desire to be considered as a relevant stakeholder by all actors involved, to engage with decision-makers, and to become active participants in and of development. This normative discourse helps integrate NGO action into the social and political aid system.

NGOs are no longer small-scale actors, simply interested in filling up the vacuum left by government. They have grown into powerful voices of civil society. NGOs play a key role in the drafting and implementation of poverty reduction strategies and such a role represents a fundamental change compared to earlier periods where NGO involvement was strictly limited to service provision, an activity that has led to resistance from some governments.

Governments have largely recognized the important role of NGOs, especially concerning service provision to the socially excluded. They are slowly but surely realizing that development goals cannot be reached without the active participation of NGOs. In addition to pure service provision, NGO participation is seen as strengthening the legitimacy of public and social policy. As a result, NGO involvement can improve both upward and downward accountability. Upward accountability is improved by augmenting the chances of reaching internationally set goals, while downward accountability is improved by ensuring civil society representation.

NGOs and Socioeconomic Development

NGO state relations are a fragile and context-specific partnership in constant evolution. Many NGOs have had to deal with local authorities, with government officers or local institutions when engaging in activities. According to research, democratic regimes are strongly correlated with openness towards NGOs. In Nepal, for example, NGOs have been present since the s, when the feudal regime was officially abolished. When the development sector became more centrally controlled in , the role and impact of civil society decreased.

However, a new space for civil society opened up parallel to the democratization and liberalization of the country in the s UNESCO, The scope and nature of NGO work is determined largely by the political culture — whether there is a tradition of well-functioning civil society organizations or not.

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  6. South Asia, for example, has a long history of indigenous NGOs working in the development sector. As a result, in recent years, government has been incorporating NGOs into various committees with other line ministries from unions to the national levels and sharing and learning from the experience of NGOs in different sectors.

    Nevertheless, in some countries, NGOs are not perceived as legitimately representing national or local civil society. In some countries, faith-based organizations might be more representative of a given community and might thus be more successful in creating partnerships with the government. In other countries, the legislation has established a strong regulative framework for NGOs, restricting their activities and the possibilities for scaling up. Such regulation may actually be to the benefit of NGOs.

    When state capacity is weak, a government rarely interferes in the work of NGOs, especially at the micro level because they do not have the capacity to do so. In conclusion, this article has been explored with one main question in mind: has NGO action evolved from replacing the state on the ground? Their gap-filling role and independence from government has allowed them to implement innovative approaches that can serve as models for government.

    In this sense, NGOs should continue doing what they already do best. Mainstreaming such successful innovations in cooperation with government and the private sector thus becomes a development process par excellence.