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close this bookNGO Guidelines for Good Policy and Practice (Commonwealth Foundation)
close this folderPart I: NGOs: what they are and what they do
close this folder9. The international dimension
View the document(introduction...)
View the document9.1 Forms of international linkage
View the document9.2 Funding links
View the document9.3 Operational links
View the document9.4 Partnerships

9.3 Operational links

Much of the content of the previous section could equally well be applied to the operational links between North and South NGOs. Here, further criticisms are made by those working in the South.

Some North NGOs establish their own offices within countries in which they run or support projects and programmes. While some have long-standing policies for these offices to be staffed by citizens of the country itself, many still employ expatriates from the North, even where there is an abundance of suitably qualified and experienced national citizens. Some of these expatriate staff are young, inexperienced people, including some volunteers who are then in fact actually paid at higher rates than locally recruited staff. The local presence of North and international NGOs also has an impact on wage rates and lifestyles among local NGOs. It has sometimes influenced the movement of staff from local to external NGOs, in the search for higher salaries and better working conditions and facilities. Few, if any, northern agencies are perceived, by NGOs in the South, to have properly addressed such issues as equity, parity, representation and unionisation of staff working in different economic environments.

In addition, there is a perceived tendency among some of the North NGOs, like North funders, to determine work priorities on the basis of their own preconceptions, head office decisions or reports from consultants sent on 'fact-finding missions', rather than through consultation with local NGOs and networks. The content of media campaigns in the North to raise funds for supporting work in the South has also been criticised by South NGOs as well as by some staff working in the northern agencies.

On this particular matter at least networking among NGOs in the North is emerging as a response. In two countries, organisations of NGOs which operate and/or fund in South countries have drafted Codes of Ethics which deal with matters relating to their own governance, integrity and finances, with communications to the public and with implementation. On the question of messages one of the Codes states:

"An organisation's communications shall respect the dignity, values, history, religion and culture of the people supported by the programs. In particular, organisations should avoid...: messages which generalise and mask the diversity of situations; idyllic messages (which do not reflect reality, however unpleasant) or 'adventure' or exotic messages; messages which fuel prejudice; messages which foster a sense of Northern superiority; (and) apocalyptic or pathetic messages..."

On the question of relationships the other Code states that member agencies agree to:

build creative and trusting relationships with the people of the developing countries, treating their needs and interests as paramount; and affirm that development is a process in which people change their own lives by their own efforts and that the agency should facilitate this process by providing assistance that encourages self-help and self- reliance and avoids creating dependency...