Engaging in a debate about the role of NGOs should not be confined to questioning their credibility, but also their ability to deliver services efficiently and in a sustained manner
A landmark Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness was put forth in 2005 which acknowledged that international development aid needs to respect the priorities of recipient countries and that donor organisations must begin to coordinate their activities with one another. In development terms, this understanding implied the need for donor alignment to improve the harmonisation of aid.
Three years have passed since this declaration was signed, yet the overall ineffectiveness of development assistance continues to evoke much criticism. International non-governmental organisations perhaps remain the harshest critics of aid effectiveness. But what about the effectiveness of these NGOs in utilising aid for development purposes themselves?
After all, international NGOs receive large shares of aid from donors, which adds to the funding generated by them privately and amounts to a significant sum. In some donor countries, the share of NGOs in the expenditure of official development aid is as high as 20 percent. The aid granted by NGOs from OECD nations alone amounted to a total of to almost $15 billion in 2005. A similar amount was given to them in 2006.
Some of the larger NGOs now have budgets bigger than longstanding government donors. The overall budget of ‘World Vision International’, for example, exceeds the aid budget of Italy. The ‘Save the Children Alliance’ spends more money on development than Finland.
Given the enormity of funds involved, a closer look is needed over how NGOs are spending this money meant to assist developing countries. Some recent research in this regard indicates that there is due basis for concern.
Generally, international NGOs are considered to be able to target aid more effectively than state-run development agencies. This confidence is based on the assumption that such entities are more aware of the needs of poor people – since most of them directly cooperate with local level civil society groups, enabling them to circumvent corrupt governments. It is also claimed that international NGOs are less influenced by donor governments’ commercial and political interests, and more responsive to on-ground needs.
However a look at cumulative NGO activities indicates that like official donors, international NGOs are also very subjective in where they chose to spend their money. Ethiopia, for example, has been found to host 5 separate affiliates of World Vision, 7 Oxfam agencies, 6 Care International and 12 Save the Children offices.
Similarly, in other relatively small countries such as Guatemala, Sri Lanka and Zimbabwe, more than 40 of the 60 largest NGOs have a presence. This is in stark contrast with other deserving countries like Congo, Yemen and the Central African Republic, where only a handful of these international NGOs operate. Therefore, like official donors, NGOs also ignore the income position of recipient countries and their genuine requirement for aid.
Partially at least, the evident concentration of NGO presence in selected countries is explained by their dependence on government donor priorities, which earmarks official assistance for specific countries. But then if NGOs from donor countries have a tendency to replicate the aid allocation of official donors, surely it must also limit their independence in terms of decision-making.
There are also other indications illustrating that international NGOs lack serious resolve in making their programmes more responsive to needs felt on the ground. For instance, there is little evidence that NGOs are better at respecting the priorities of their local counterparts than of official donors.
In the directorial boards of 55 of the world’s largest development NGOs, only 6 per cent of members have been found to belong to developing countries. This power differential is compounded by the fact that local NGOs themselves lack direct access to international aid, since most official donors restrict their funding for NGOs to organisations based within their own countries, instead of routing this aid directly to NGOs in developing countries.
It is interesting to note that the Global Accountability Report for 2006 found that the World Bank and even the corporate sector have better procedures for managing complaints than international NGOs.
It is about time that international NGOs take a critical look at their own activities instead of using most of their energy to convince donor nations to abide by the principles of aid effectiveness. Engaging in a debate about the role of NGOs should not be confined to questioning their credibility, but also their ability to deliver services efficiently and in a sustained manner.
This ambiguity concerning the effectiveness of NGOs working at the international level has also percolated down to the national level. There is a growing undercurrent of scepticism in the general public about the role of all types of NGOs. In the case of Pakistan for instance, the entire sector is often seen as attempting to propagate and impose the values of a foreign donor agency on an unsuspecting local populace.
While development practitioners must acknowledge that some problems do exist within this sector, and that the efficacy or design of many initiatives can be questioned, the entire sector however cannot be written off as being corrupt, bureaucratic or inefficient.
Moreover, not all local NGOs are recipients of international aid. According to research done by the Pakistan Centre for Philanthropy some years ago for instance, Pakistanis themselves were found to have given five times more funds to non-profit organisations than what these organisations had received in grants. Nonetheless, the need to bridge the credibility gap concerning internal governance, financial accountability and the participatory approach of NGOs is vital if they want to remain legitimate stakeholders in the process of international development.
A voluntary NGO certification programme has been initiated in several developing countries, including our own, which is a good thing. Scrutiny of international NGOs at a broader level through aid effectiveness forums is also a welcome move.
Ultimately, NGOs must be able to fulfil the needs of the local communities more responsively and expediently than larger international development agencies, or else there is be no real justification for their profusion.
Tag Archives: cooperation
Engaging in a debate about the role of NGOs should not be confined to questioning their credibility, but also their ability to deliver services efficiently and in a sustained manner
I remember with joy when we collaborated in 2006 with your NGO in planning new methods to increase quality education in the schools you are supporting in Kavre District. My friends in TU and me were very sad to know of changing programs and management occurred from 2007 in CCS Italy INGO which stopped our projects and some of yours.
As we agreed, your fundamental work to improve educational structures in Timal, building and restoring schools could not be completed without an efforts in improving the way and quality of studying as several works suggest.
At that time you and TU (Tribhuvan University) team were engaged to create a new sample of training methods for teachers and principals in order to establish new relations among students and teachers and new ways of teachings.
Remembering those discussion and positive ideas, which are still on date, I should like to share with you some suggestions coming form a study on education in India, hoping that our government too start to consider education and its quality a priority in political agenda.
In India as in Nepal enrolment has increased tremendously in the past couple of decades and today parents largely see it as a bounden duty.
In India some data are really impressive: The number of students enrolled in elementary education (classes 1 to 8) was about 1.9 crore in 1951. It is now estimated at over 13 crore, about seven times more.
The proportion of students enrolled for class 1 to 5 in the total number of children in the 6-11 years age group, called the Gross Enrolment Ratio (GER) for that age group, is about 107%. That means virtually all children in this age group and some who are older but in these classes are enrolled in schools.
But as in Nepal, for class 6 to 8, this proportion, for the age group 11-14 years, falls to about 70%. It continues falling in the next stage of class 9 to 12 also – just about touching 40%. By the time we reach higher education, the proportion of students has fallen to an abysmal 10%.
This data, as you know, are similar to Nepal and we discussed the way to avoid the drop-out. You implemented the project to establish an higher secondary school (10+2) in Timal to assure high education opportunity for poor and remote students. That was a way to reduce the drop-out and it is very negative that CCS Italy INGO suspended the support to this project.
No opportunity to access to higher education create and perpetuate endemic divisions that make one section of people disadvantaged or under-privileged especially in remote areas. This comment means that in both countries a large amount of young people are out of the system and without education.
This is represented in India by the rural-urban chasm. Back in 1951, 35% of urban residents were literate, but only 12% of rural people. In 2006, 80% of urbanites were literate but in rural areas the literacy rate was still far behind – at 59%. The gap is almost of the same order as in 1951. The same data is found in Nepal.
Another persistent division leaves the most socio-economically backward castes and tribal communities at a disadvantage. Among scheduled castes, the literacy rate was 55%, while among scheduled tribes it was 47% in 2006. These are way behind ‘other backward classes’, which have a literacy rate of about 66%, and all the remaining castes, which have the highest literacy at over 78%.
We appreciated, in fact, your work in Timal and your attention to alleviated the burden of education (through distribution of materials to students, coaching classes, and teacher salaries in community schools) to the poorest family which belong to Tamang, Magar and Dalit groups. According to an ASSOCHAM India survey, the costs of sending a child to school have risen by 160% in the last 8 years and without support to family the drop-out rate is going to increase as you showed in your study which compare the state of education in some Timal VDCs before your project and after. So it is really a shame CCS Italy INGO decided to stop books distribution to children in Timal with the new italian management.
In fact, the Indian survey states, there is the rich-poor divide. Among the poorest third of our society, literacy is only about 46%. In the middle third it improves to 65%, while among the richest third of the population, it is over 72%.
In India they did:
-The high rates of enrolment at the primary stages across the country, and their continued stability, has a ready explanation – the mid-day meal scheme, launched by the government in its present form after a Supreme Court order in 2001. As unfortunately you did in Timal before it was cut by CCS Italy INGO.
-Another event that will have a long-term effect is the inclusion of the right to education as a fundamental right in 2002. The provision, in its final form was restricted to children in the age group 6-14 years This has led to the government dragging its feet in getting it off the ground. Implementation would mean that the government would be accountable to the courts if children were left out
Thanks to these general provisions India was able to improve quantitatively its education system. But some data suggests that quality in education is still low. Then there is the question of relevance of education – after all it is being sought primarily to get a good job. A recent National Sample Survey report found that unemployment among youth was highest among graduates, post-graduates and technical diploma or certificate holders – in the range of 19-20%. This is way above the current unemployment rate of about 6% for this age group. The reasons for this are that in most cases the educational qualifications and job requirements don’t match.
This is the reason it would have been wise to work on our project on quality education. I hope the new appointed and too much paid officers of Centro Cooperazione Sviluppo INGO sleeping in Kathmandu office begin to learn how to be useful for people and not only for themeselves.
Dr. Satish Koirala
at the end of September people of Centro Cooperazione Sviluppo INGO came to our village and we told them we dont give sponsorship letters from around 300 students because the support to secondary students, teachers, and 10+2 (high secondary) has been cut. The same happened for distribution of copy-books, pens, pencils, and other materials to all the children (around 6000) in Thimal. Some schools decided dont give letters.
We ask the italian but he told us that the responsibility of this cutting on the activities is due to the new Country Director of Centro Cooperazione Sviluppo INGO, Mrs. Chanda Rai. But this lady has never came to our village and she cannot understand our needs.
The sample is the new Children Clubs which are not very useful for our community and they were simple copied from some other INGO. Time and money used for this activities could be used to reinforce our Bal Bikas Kendra (ECDs) and to distribute materials to our children in order to alleviate the education cost burden to the poorest family.
Months ago we sent letters to Centro Cooperazione Sviluppo INGO nepal and HQ asking better management of the projects but they were without answer. Now we still ask you as local NGO always working in close cooperation with community to appeal to Centro Cooperazione Sviluppo INGO to resume these activities. You perfectly know how they gave benefits to students and family which cannot afford many money to educate children.
Saila Tamang, Dhane Bahadur Dong, Raj Magar, Krishna Mainali and others.
During the past year we asked them several times to implement all projects which have been cut from the second half of 2007, like didacticl material distributions and 10+2 support. As you know we started these projects since 2003 with full cooperation of the community, teachers, people and schools.
From 2007 many changes happened in italian Head Quarter and in nepali office, new people arrived and some activities have been cancelled. Some priority is going to be done to new projects in Kathmandu which are more easily managed by the INGO office.
Contrarily to the past, we have no voice in deciding the strategies of the INGO and they declared, also in your village, their budget declined in 2007 and 2008.
In June 2008, they published 2007 Budget on http://www.ccsit.org (in the past it was also in english now only in italian), translated it appears:
-Amount of fund collected from italian sponsors: euro 35,078,60 (-16% compared to 2006)
-Amount distributed to supported countries : euro 19, 485,82 (55,55% of total collected. In 2006 the amount was 68,81%)
-Amount used in Italy for office running expenses : euro 15,592,78 (44,45% in 2006 it was 31,19%)
-Amount for Nepal Projects and running expenses (3558 children sponsored): euro 3,563,38 (-2% compared to 2006)
-Amount used for projects (Kathmandu Chitwan, Kavre): euro 2,175, 58 (60,9%)
-Amount used for running office expenses CCS Italy IMGO: euro 1,387,80 (39,1%)
The huge increasing of administrative expenses in italian HQ and in the INGO Kathmandu Office (compared to the previous years) is due to the strategy to enlarge the number of officers (in Nepal from 4 to 22) in order to assure a better projects management. It should be noticed, around 40% of the projects budget has been spent in Kathmandu and Chitwan projects.
Of course our NGO received less than 60% of the 2006 amount and following the decisions of Centro Cooperazione Sviluppo INGO Nepal office (enlarge the office, new projects in Kathmandu, etc.) we were obliged to cut many programmed activities in spite of project agreements signed.
It is worth to note that the majority of sponsored children (around 3200) are located in Kavre but we didn’t receive an equivalent percentage of funds.
We believe that our first reference has to be the people where projects are implemented. With them we must share our ideas, together we have to study and implement projects and activities. We must permitted to them to be involved in monitoring and control how the activities have been implemented.
In all activities in the field as well in central office we sought to include people from projects area instead to recruit from other NGO or INGO. This is our rule and methods.
At the same time we developed partnership with other organizations to enlarge our capacities and operational area instead to increase our staff and expenditures. Dhulikel Hospital, Tribhuvan University, Little Flower Society and many other ONGs and technical providers worked with us.
We signed in 2004 an agreement with DEO (District Education Office) in order to coordinate with them our activities and avoiding duplications.
In the beginning of 2008 we were promoter of a national Medical Institutes workshop to coordinate and share community health and schools activities.
The project agreements signed with Centro Cooperazione Sviluppo ONLUS (2005 and 2006) has been not fully implemented by them since 2007 but agreements have been registered in SWC (Social Welfare Council) as Nepali rule.
With national institutions we coordinate our activities and we held Projects Advisor Committees at the end of 2006 in order to evaluate with all stakeholders (partners, Ministry of Education, Ministry of Health, Ministry of Social Welfare, Department of Education, and others) the implementation of the projects.
Our organization has been audited since the foundation.
Progressively, in 2005 and 2006 we extended our support to secondary schools. We answered to a request coming from people which desired to give better education to their children. Furthermore foreign sponsors give help to children form ECDs to primary and they requested to go on with educational support to them. At the end of 2006 we had 11 teachers sponsored by us (with community contribution) in lower and secondary schools.
We provided text books and other school materials to 321 students to avoid drop out for expenditures which could not be sustained by family.
We organized coaching classes twice at year for more than 127 students to help them in overpass examinations.
During our community meetings, most of the people and teachers requested help to establish the first high secondary school (10+2) in the area to permit local and poorest students to follow studies. Before only few family can afford to support courses in Kathmandu for their children. The new school was inaugurated in december 2006.
We agreed with local stakeholders to assure a quota from underprivileged students and girls throughout sponsorship.
People collected several hundred thousand of rupies to register the school in Ministry of Education and to contribute to the new building. Members of the local committee ask former residents in the villages, now living in Kathmandu or abroad, to contribute to the project.
The day of inauguration a long banner with thousand names of contributors showed the committment of the people. Some of them gave only few rupies other thousands. The implementation of this project (10+2) showed how is possible mobilize people for a common goal and how NGO could help to manage and support community needs. From the middle of 2007, these projects have been cancelled by Centro Cooperazione Sviluppo ONLUS due to the diminishing of funds, they declared to the stakeholders.
During our work we have also discovered than buildings and materials, are not the answer to everything. What is most important for development is commitment at the community level. In most activities in our projects community are deeply involved partecipating in expenditures and works.
It means to work with people and people need to see they have the power to change their lives.
In education we operate to improve the quality of education from ECDs to Secondary Schools.
But we believe this work is not enough if we will be not able to find out new ways and methods for trainings which must be directed to improve the relation between teachers and pupils in order to make teaching more effective.
During the conflict we were able to improve the capacity of SMCs members organizing educational law trainings for around 350 people.
Periodical Community meetings and auditings are another way to involve people and to contribute in enforcing human capital. At the end of 2006 we published and distributed to all community our magazine Namuna (Example) in nepali.