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Undermining Development: The Absence of Power Among Local NGO'S in Africa

By: Sarah Michael

206 pages, no illustrations

James Currey

Paperback | Dec 2004 | #152103 | ISBN: 0852554397
Availability: Usually dispatched within 6 days Details
NHBS Price: £14.99 $18/€17 approx

About this book

How does power impact on sustainable development? The experience of many South Asian and Latin American countries demonstrates that the power of local NGOs can contribute to improving the quality of development services throughout the developing world. Are local NGOs in Africa able to wield power in development? Local NGOs in Africa are lagging behind their counterparts in South Asia and Latin America in terms of developing power. How can African NGOs remedy their absence of power? Local NGOs will have to create their own development space, achieve a degree of financial independence from donors, build solid links to the international development community and have a willingness to engage with the political aspects of development work. Why should donors and international NGOs promote local NGO power? Local NGO power aids NGO sustainability, a common goal of donors, NGOs and beneficiary communities alike.

'This is a fascinating book for those interested in the tactics of how non-governmental organisations (NGOs) become powerful. 'It can help African NGO leaders to analyse their relationship to governments, donors and other NGOs: the key is in understanding that these actors also have needs and constraints, and in working with these in every situation. 'Achieving power in Africa will not be easy. For, while African NGOs seem to be able to work well with each other, they face stiff competition from strong international NGOs. Their governments do not allow them stable space and they buckle under often unfair "rules of the game" set by donor agencies, such as refusals to pay for core costs. 'But there are some clear routes to follow. Michael recommends that NGOs focus on and capture a niche in which to excel, and that they develop professional organisation and staff. They should publicise their work - also internationally - and combine it with high-quality research. NGOs should generate their own revenue. They should build a strong and well-connected leadership, and increase engagement with the political aspects of development work. And they should learn how to play the spaces that open up between African governmental tactics towards civil society at home and in international forums.' - Victor Munnik in New Agenda: South African Journal of Social & Economic Policy 'The reviewer is heartened to find a sound comparative study of African NGOs and hopes it will be followed by more. Very useful are the distinctions between local NGOs, co-ordinating councils of NGOs with varying degrees of government influence, community-based organisations that may not have formal government recognition and international NGOs.' Scott Brunger in African Studies Review 'In spite of some shortcomings, this book, offering as it does a sound and useful critical bibliography and an immaculate index makes a valuable contribution to the world of development and NGOs (in spite of the extreme diversity that the term covers) and is a major work. It will thoroughly enhance debate and reflection.' Philippe Ryfman, Politique Africaine Vol. 99, Oct. 2005 'Sarah Michael's 'Undermining Development': The Absence of Power among Local NGOs in Africa' is exemplary for current criticism...' - Development and Change


The powerful and the powerless: understanding NGOs in development - NGO power - The power of local NGOs in Zimbabwe - The power of local NGOs in Tanzania - The power of local NGOs in Senegal - Why power is crucial to NGOs - Powerful NGOs, sustainable NGOs - Helping local NGOs in Africa to develop power.

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Sarah Michael is a Research Fellow at the Global Equity Initiative, Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University.

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