Rethinking Civil Society Role in Local Development

Of international NGOs, most would opine that the money is given in charity or out of personal philanthropy. They’re correct but in reality the donations are more economic and in a way political in nature than just charity.

At the organizational level, the heart of international sponsorship of local communities is the redistribution of wealth from citizens in developed (sponsoring or donor) countries to citizens and communities in less wealthy nations. As with the objective in taxation, inflows from the international community are redistributed as investments in local development (e.g. education, health, disaster risk reduction) including capacity building for local government. In turn, local citizens are informed of this, not for them to be overly grateful though naturally they would be, with the intention that it would “open” them toward recognition of the fact that they are active participants (as opposed to passive recipients) of the redistribution process; by making their voices heard in the decision-making process they become active participants. For example, in true bottoms-up fashion, situational analysis with communities should yield the gaps needing address by the international community.

But how come, and this is also the conundrum within the international development community, despite decades of local aid and development support poverty (in its broadest sense, deprivation of freedom, according to economist Amartya Sen) has not leapfrogged itself out of its sinkhole? Similarly, how come with the hundreds of local NGOs and inflows the community receives out of international funds poverty has not been significantly reduced or alleviated? How come we have government (taxes) and thousands of NGOs (financial flows from international) and yet poverty seems unfazed by all these? What is with poverty in this country that even powerful structures with their gazillions can’t seem to shake out from its hole?


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