Irish NGOs: working with each other, and with Government

28/06/2010 at 1:29 pm 1 comment

The global “aid effectiveness” debate has thrown new light on the role of NGOs and other civil society organisations in development cooperation.

While many UN agencies and donor governments are unsure about their motives for working with civil society organisations, parts of the Paris Declaration clearly aspire to apply to NGOs. Civil society groups, for their part have decided that it is time to come up with an alternative vision of “Development Effectiveness“.

Amidst the confusion, there may be positive lessons to be drawn from the Irish Government’s approach of working with structures set up by civil society itself.

Inspired by its White Paper on Supporting Voluntary Activity, published in 2000, and the2002 European Commission presented a “Communication” on “Non-State Actors” in EC Development policy-making, the Irish Government set out its vision of the role of civil society in a comprehensive policy paper in 2008.

In those documents, the European Commission and Irish Aid acknowledged that over the last decades civil society organisations have increasingly become key partners in development policy. In fact, most other donors and inter-governmental organisations see a positive role for civil society either as deliverers of essential services, or as facilitators that can demand efficient public services and hold developing country Governments accountable. Some donors also acknowledge a role for NGOs in influencing government policy and lobbying for change.

In recent years, most UN and donor organisations have begun to look critically at their engagement with NGOs, mainly in light of renewed emphasis on large-scale donor-led programmes, often managed on the basis of public tendering procedures open to NGOs and for-profits alike.

The donor community thus is in two minds about the role of civil society. On the one hand, it recognises that the development of an effective civil society with space for critical reflection and debate is crucial for poverty reduction. On the other hand, the focus on effectiveness means that many UN agencies and donor Governments see NGOs first and foremost as providers of services.

In reality, most Governments’ understanding of the role of civil society is less than black-and-white. They recognise the vital role of NGOs to (in the words of the World Bank) “give voice to stakeholders – particularly poor and marginalised populations – and help ensure that their views are factored into policy and program decisions.” Those Governments have taken steps to facilitate dialogue and partnership with civil society organisations and their representative structures and emphasise the need for special consideration of NGOs as a key element of civil society.

In Ireland, the Government has long recognised the added value of NGOs, and this has translated into a number of measures, such as:

  • the shaping of a strategic relationship with Dóchas, the national umbrella organisation of Development NGOs;
  • strategic, multi-annual funding relationships with individual Irish NGOs; and
  • support for NGO capacity building and training in Ireland.

A central element in this strategy is the role played by structures set up by NGOs themselves – structures such as Dóchas. As a membership-driven organisation, Dóchas’ role is first and foremost to stimulate cooperation among the Irish Development NGOs. Through Dóchas, the 45 members of the network exchange experiences and standards of good practice, and formulate common responses to the challenges they face in their work.

To date, Dóchas has adopted two Codes of Conduct and developed a series of guidelines on issues such as HIV/AIDS, gender and rights-based approaches to development. Dóchas acts as a focal point for information and dialogue on policy and practice in the Irish development NGO sector and a catalyst for debate. By building strategic partnerships with Government, academia and media, Dóchas fosters an enabling environment in which its member organisations can further develop their organisational and institutional capacities. By linking in with the CONCORD network, Dóchas ensures a flow of information and experience among the hundreds of Development NGOs in the 27 member countries of the EU.

Dóchas’ member organisations are committed to working with each other and with others, seeking collective strength, mutual learning and increased impact. And most critically, they do this in partnership with their Government, so that the learning generated also informs Irish official development assistance.

More than contractors or service deliverers, Irish NGOs see themselves as “partners” in Development. And so does their Government.

Entry filed under: Development Effectiveness, Government, NGOs, Overseas aid. Tags: , , , , , , , , .

Leinster House must Act Now on 2015 Haiku and Global Poverty: Dóchas poetry competition launched.

1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. Nature of NGOs | Pearltrees  |  10/08/2012 at 7:54 am

    […] NGOs working with Government <i>28/06/2010 at 1:29 pm </i> The global “aid effectiveness” debate has thrown new light on the role of NGOs and other civil society organisations in development cooperation. Aid to government, aid to NGOs – both working in different ways The UK Department for International Development is to be commended for encouraging some of its staff to maintain a blog to explain to the public what they do. […]


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Trackback this post  |  Subscribe to the comments via RSS Feed

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 211 other followers


Dóchas on Twitter

The World's Best News - images

One of the most important graphs. Ever. Today is World Food Day.

A day to celebrate that the days of truly enormous famines are over: Meet "Chocolate Mamas", producers of chocolate in #Tanzania, creating Tanzanian jobs. 
While #cocoa is grown in West Africa and Asia,
most #chocolate (the finished product) is made in Europe or the USA.

Meet Jaki Kweka, who is trying to change that. By creating protected areas and national parks and by limiting the spread of soy bean cultivation, Brazil has managed to drastically reduce the amount of rain forest being cleared. Costa Rica, #Afghanistan, China, #India and Albania are all embracing renewable energy sources. Social change needs empowered citizens, and empowered citizens need occasional encouragement.

Great to hear that we're not the only ones who believe in the power of positive news! 50,000 rice farmers in #IvoryCoast are now working with better seeds, improving food security in the West African country.

As a result, harvests have increased.

Source: World Bank, photo: Jbdodane / CC BY Sub-Saharan Africa’s first light rail system starts operations. 
As Ethiopians celebrate their New Year, they also prepare to mark the beginning of operations of a tram system in the #Ethiopian capital #AddisAbaba. 
Read more: Going Mobile in #Malawi”. A mobile phone information service established last year to provide timely information to rural poor farmers in a southern African country, has been used nearly half a million times since its launch.

Established in Malawi by Gorta-Self Help Africa last year, the ‘321’ voice-activated service provides subscribers to the country’s largest mobile phone network with farm information and advice that they can access at the push of a button. And it’s all free. Read more at 10,000 copies of "The World's Best News" were distributed all over #ireland today!

See how The Irish Times described our newspaper, and click the link to read all the articles online!

Visitors Map


Dóchas Photos



More Photos


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 211 other followers

%d bloggers like this: