Getting ready for Busan: NGOs, civil society and an “enabling environment”

29/03/2011 at 9:54 pm 3 comments

In a number of previous blog posts, we have written about the need for greater donor-awareness of, and greater NGO investment in, the quality of aid work.

We have argued that NGOs must set out clear criteria for determining what makes good Development work, and that people who want to donate to “charities” should make sure to ask the right questions, to make sure the organisation of their choice we works in a smart, strategic way, addressing the causes – not the symptoms – of poverty.

And we have argued that Governments should be open and upfront about why and how they fund NGO work.

The Irish Government has an excellent Civil Society Policy – and it would need to, as a forthcoming OECD study shows that Ireland channels more of its overseas aid funding through NGOs than any other donor country: Over one-third of Ireland’s bilateral aid programme goes through NGOs.

(See also our analysis of trends in Irish Aid funding)

The OECD distinguishes between aid channelled “through” NGOs and aid “to” NGOs. OECD member countries channel more aid through NGOs (earmarked for donor-initiated projects implemented by NGOs – $ 6.3 billion in 2008) than aid given to NGOs (core aid, used to fund NGOs’ own projects – $ 2.7 billion in 2008).

Importantly, though, Governments have greatly varying reasons for working with civil society groups, and the mechanisms they have for supporting NGOs aren’t always transparent or supportive for NGOs. And many Governments, despite saying they support NGOs for their role in holding Governments to account, don’t actually put their money where their mouths are, and prefer to fund NGOs for their service delivery role, not their accountability roles. And few Governments go out of their way to ensure that civil society groups in developing countries are given the space to do what civil society groups are meant to do: empower ordinary people to work together to claim their rights.

In too many countries, the space for civil society is actually shrinking.

So while NGOs have a lot of work to do in terms of the quality of their own work, they will also continue to remind Governments that “Development Effectiveness” is more than being good, or efficient, at what you do:

  • Development Effectiveness is about doing things right, and doing the right thing.
  • Development Effectiveness is more than Aid Effectiveness.
  • Development Effectiveness requires an “enabling environment” for Civil Society.
  • An “enabling environment” is so much more than funding.
  • Civil Society is so much more than NGOs.

As Governments and civil society groups prepare for the next big event in the “Development Effectiveness” discussions (the “High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness” in Busan, South Korea, in November), they would do well to remember the multiple dimensions of good development practice.



Related posts:

What does the future hold for Irish NGOs?

The NGO of the future


Entry filed under: Development Effectiveness, Government, MDGs, NGOs. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , .

What does the future hold for Irish NGOs? Tracking Ireland’s funding commitment on HIV & AIDS and communicable diseases

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