Irish NGOs adopt Istanbul Principles to raise the bar on development effectiveness
The effectiveness and impact debate rolled into Ireland in a big way on 12 January, with Irish development NGOs thrashing out the merits and implications of the new global framework for CSO Development Effectiveness – and wondering what they now do with this beast in their work.
This national consultation exercise, hosted by Dóchas, was the Irish leg of a global dialogue about the approaches, practices and guidelines that civil society groups can use to ensure they are effective in their development work.
In an intensive morning session, participants wrestled with the principles underlying the draft framework. In the end, they decided that the Istanbul Principles endorsed internationally in September 2010 did offer a basis for continuing to improve their practice.
The discussions also brought out the message that a global, one-size-fits-all standard will not work. The hard work of ‘interpreting’ this global framework, and putting guidelines into practice, will have to be done country by country and within individual agencies.
For Ireland, civil society groups suggested that Dóchas (the national platform of development NGOs) should build on its existing NGO quality work by creating a formal development effectiveness programme. Key elements of that could include joint initiative on impact assessment, guidelines for partnership, and acting on lessons learned among Irish NGOs.
The Dublin meeting also wrestled with the long-term relevance and role of NGOs from developed countries in a changing context for international development. Some suggestions emerged around improved partnership agreements, especially with partners in developing countries, which could include better dialogue and grievance mechanisms, and funding flexibility and predictability.
An afternoon debate offered up some suggestions on the ‘enabling environment’ in Ireland for development NGOs in Ireland. These ideas ranged from improving the regulatory and policy-making environment to NGOs working more in alliance themselves, as well as suggesting the need for better two-way communication with the Irish public.
Inevitably, there was also a strong emphasis on the need to hold Ireland to its commitments on overseas aid, and to ensure flexibility and variety in funding lines (multi-annual, development education, humanitarian, etc) that can help Irish NGOs operate effectively.
It’s difficult and detailed work this global debate about civil society’s approach to effective development, especially when there’s so much variety in civil society groups, types and approaches within and across continents.
But it’s also exciting to think of civil society coming together around the world to build a consensus around commonly accepted principles to improve their effectiveness, whether they are formal NGOs, faith-based groups, trade union and solidarity groups, campaigning groups, or some other type of organisation working on overseas development.
Overall, there was strong support for Dóchas to continue and strengthen its work on NGO quality, effectiveness and impact. And Irish NGOs will keep an interested eye on the final version of the global framework in June and bring this back to Ireland to consider how it can be implemented here.
Meanwhile, they were happy to be part of this complex but colourful conga, and look forward to seeing the shape, form and feel of the final product …
More information on Development Effectiveness on our Resource page