|NGO Guidelines for Good Policy and Practice (Commonwealth Foundation)|
|Part I: NGOs: what they are and what they do|
|9. The international dimension|
There is a widespread concern among South NGOs about how general funder fads and paternalism discussed generally in the previous chapter appear specifically in the North-South funding context. This concern is shared by some people within North funders, as these observations illustrate, since they both originate from North NGO funder staff:
"Some international NGO activities or initiatives are breathtaking in their neo-colonial style and approach..." s
"...when it comes to Northern NGOs funding Southern NGOs, rarely are funds released for southern partners to allocate as they see fit. Instead a 'project obsession' comes into play - money must be earmarked for a neatly packaged project, so that the Northern NGO can market it for fundraising purposes..."
In southern NGOs, experiences abound which reiterate and elaborate on such observations. North funders are often accused of:
regarding the southern NGO as inexpert or inexperienced;
undermining co-operative networking among southern NGOs by encouraging rivalry and competition among them;
in the aftermath of the fall of the "iron curtain", faddishly switching funding priorities to Eastern Europe as if needs in the South had suddenly disappeared;
surrounding funding with onerous or complex conditions about accounting (even to the extent of insisting the funders' own accounting systems of hard- and soft-ware and practices were faithfully repeated in the NGO in one case);
constantly demanding reports or making demands about their format (one very large North funder brought staff from funded projects in one country together for a 3-day training course so as to ensure that all funded projects presented their reports in the format prescribed by the funder); and
sending in external consultants and evaluators (some funders insist on appointing their own consultants and evaluators), often lacking knowledge of local circumstances, without any consultation with or reference to the South NGO.
Southern NGOs also point to failures on the part of northern funders to gather information and consult with NGOs and their networks before making decisions on priorities, interests, policies and funding. The result is that some resources end up in the hands of fraudulent operators, or at best, certain favoured organisations receive the greater part of the available resources year after year. This undermines NGO networking, as organisations see themselves as either competing with one another, or failing to secure resources. Allied to lack of information from funders about their objectives, priorities and current interests, this has led to a good deal of disillusionment, mistrust and scepticism among southern NGOs. Many feel unable to raise their concerns with the funders, on whom they are after all dependent, especially in countries where local funding sources are few in number or non-existent.
While many governments welcome the resources they contribute (in some countries resources contributed by external funders represent a significant proportion of gross domestic product), some have become mistrustful of northern funders. Others have special registration and regulatory procedures which enable foreign funding to local NGOs to be monitored closely. Some NGOs feel that the effect of this is to penalise them for the secrecy and other inadequacies of funders which caused the regulations to be introduced by the government.
Dependence among South NGOs upon North NGO funders is, in poor countries, inevitable, because of the nature of the global economy and trade system, historical atrocities such as slavery and apartheid, and the legacies of colonialism. All these have left an entrenched inequality between developed and less developed countries. If the kinds of practices which many South NGOs report are to be modified it is clear that to a large extent it is incumbent on the funders themselves to put their houses in order. But South NGOs recognise that there are steps they must take themselves. A large NGO in a Southern African country has published what it expects from its donors and other development partners, and these have improved its relationships with them. Networking and collaboration among South NGOs is growing and can also help deal with some of these problems, as discussed in the previous chapter.