NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Expanding Role of NGOs in Foreign Aid

March 22, 2002

Private groups, known as nongovernmental organizations -- or NGOs -- are playing a steadily growing part in furnishing aid to poorer nations, international observers report. Their presence is particularly noticeable in Africa.

To supporters, the groups are essential to Africa -- giving communities the money and power to take part in their own development and circumvent ineffective and corrupt governments. But to their detractors, they are new colonialists -- instilling dependency among Africans.

  • An estimated 25,000 NGOs operate around the world.
  • Experts report that five years ago, 50 percent of World Bank projects had NGO involvement -- a figure that has shot up to about 70 percent participation today.
  • Since last year, the organizations have assumed an important policy-making role in 32 developing countries that have qualified for debt reduction -- and those countries have agreed to consult with private aid groups on how to use money freed up from the debt reductions.
  • Most of the organizations involved in those efforts are local, not branches of international ones, according to William Reuben, coordinator of the World Bank's NGO and civil society section.

He adds that western donors are increasingly financing local groups directly -- instead of going through international structures.

Foreign NGOs are respected for their skills in carrying out development projects that actually benefit ordinary Africans. The private groups also form the foundation of a civil society necessary for democracy.

For example, when the Mali government was unable or unwilling to build schools, many communities constructed their own -- with the help of private aid groups.

Source: Norimitsu Onishi, "Nongovernmental Organizations Show Their Growing Power," New York Times, March 22, 2002.


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