Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Less "professional" Western aid would be more effective

PhD thesis by Jelmer Kamstra at Radboud University, Nijmegen (Netherlands)
26 August 2014
“Promoting Civil Society and Democracy”

A little less “professional” would make Western aid more effective

What we suppose:

1.    NGO’s involve local community & hold government accountable
2.    They can do this thanks to local roots & ties
3.    Therefore it’s good to support NGO’s internationally to strengthen good governance

Why is that wrong?

1. Their constituency not always clear: therefore difficult to represent the people
2. Top-down management by western academic elite
3. Too close to government to criticize it (risky!)

Why is this a problem?

Western support asks professionalization in return, which goes at the expense of activism. The academician sees problem/solution/strategy differently from farmers: sets up a commission while farmers would rather mobilize community. Consequence: NGO’s language increasingly framed in Western donor language and they estrange from local situation & dynamics.


Involve other, smaller local organizations and adapt your goals. Be careful not to inflate the NGO’s and not to overprofessionalize them. Distribute the funds amongst different organizations who can navigate between people & government. Example in Ghana: street protests by NGO for handicapped became constructive lobby via Center for Democracy and Development. One NGO mobilizes community, other helps them further thanks to relations with government.


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