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close this bookNGO Guidelines for Good Policy and Practice (Commonwealth Foundation)
View the document(introduction...)
close this folderPart I: NGOs: what they are and what they do
close this folder1. The rationale and purpose of this report
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View the document1.1 The origins and scope of this report
View the document1.2 An overview of the report
View the document1.3 The purpose of this report
View the document1.4 The importance of NGOs
View the document1.5 The global dimension
View the document1.6 The local dimension
View the document1.7 NGOs, government and civil society
close this folder2. The historical context
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View the document2.1 Care and welfare
View the document2.2 Change and development
View the document2.3 The historical evolution of NGO/government relationships
View the document2.4 Welfare pluralism
View the document2.5 The emergence of alternatives
View the document2.6 New concerns
close this folder3. NGOs defined
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View the document3.1 Diverse current ways of defining NGOs
View the document3.2 Defining ''NGO'' for the purposes of this report.
View the document3.3 Is ''NGO'' the right term?
close this folder4. NGO activities described
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View the document4.1 The spectrum of NGO activities
View the document4.2 Who and what
View the document4.3 How
View the document4.4 The diversity of NGO activities
close this folder5. A typology of NGOs
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View the document5.1 Why a typology is needed
View the document5.2 Component 1: A descriptive typology
View the document5.3 Organisational terms
View the document5.4 Main forms of control
View the document5.5 Location between government and civil society
View the document5.6 Level of operation
View the document5.7 Legal forms
View the document5.8 Links with parent and subsidiary bodies
View the document5.9 Links between NGOs
View the document5.10 Component 2: An organisational typology
View the document5.11 Organisations in civil society which engage in NGO-type activities
View the document5.12 Fraudulent NGOs
close this folder6. The governance and operation of NGOs
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View the document6.1 The accountability of NGOs
View the document6.2 Improving NGO governance and operations
View the document6.3 Management
View the document6.4 Human resource development (HRD) and training
View the document6.5 Reviewing, monitoring and evaluating
View the document6.6 Information
View the document6.7 Networking and alliance-building
close this folder7. The legal and institutional frameworks within which NGOs operate
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View the document7.1 Freedom to associate
View the document7.2 The political dimension
View the document7.3 The law
View the document7.4 Regulation
View the document7.5 Collective, external and self-regulation
close this folder8. The framework of relationships within which NGOs operate
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View the document8.1 A complex pattern of relationships
View the document8.2 Relationships with government: key issues
View the document8.3 Relationships with government: ways forward
View the document8.4 Relationships with funders: key issues
View the document8.5 Relationships with funders: ways forward
View the document8.6 Other strategies to strengthen relationships
close this folder9. The international dimension
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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
View the document10. Conclusion and introduction to the guidelines
close this folderPart II: Guidelines for Good Policy and Practice
View the document11. Guidelines for good policy and practice on the part of Governments
View the document12. Guidelines for good policy and practice on the part of NGOs
View the document13. Guidelines for good policy and practice on the part of funders
View the document14. Guidelines for good policy and practice on the part of ''North'' and international agencies
View the document15. Implementing the guidelines: A plan of action
close this folderPart III: References
View the documentAnnex 1: The process of research and consultation
View the documentAnnex 2: List of those submitting information, consulted, or responding
close this folderAnnexes
View the documentAnnex 1: The process of research and consultation
View the documentAnnex 2: List of those submitting information, consulted or responding

8.2 Relationships with government: key issues

As has been noted, NGO/government relationships are complex. They are also dynamic, changing as the nature and purposes of NGOs have evolved, and as the overall context of the work of both has been transformed.

It would be wrong to say that the result of such changes has been the end of the consensual and contractual NGO/government relationships which developed when welfare pluralism was at its height. Far from it: in many countries, and in many aspects of the meeting of human needs, such relationships remain. New approaches by both NGOs and governments to their tasks have added new forms of relationship between NGOs and governments rather than replaced the old ones. The result is that the relationships now include: those involved in contracted service delivery and resource mobilisation; and those involved in bringing about broader social and economic change.

The issues which arise are now discussed.

Insofar as the relationships between NGOs and governments in the arena of contracted service delivery and resource mobilisation are concerned, two major issues arise.

First, the work of NGOs for governments in this arena generally takes place within the context of working relationships which are often referred to as a 'partnership'.

In some countries NGOs devote a considerable part of their efforts and derive a considerable part of their finance from these contracts. Where this occurs they are held by some to have forfeited their right to regard and present themselves as true NGOs by virtue of losing their second characteristic, that of independence, and thus to have become Quango- or Gongo-like.

Second, some hold the view that contracted work for government can undermine the sustainability of NGOs:

"The current arrangements for the (provision of) public funds to the non-government sector...(for service-delivery) via a multiplicity of (government) programs, most of which carry with them substantial responsibilities...Implicit within these funding arrangements is the expectation that...the (community-managed) non- government sector - which draws its capacity from the available voluntary resources of the community - has the time and the expertise to undertake the necessary administrative, management and legal requirements of accounting for the operation of (government) funded services...Very little support (is) available to NGO sector management committees to undertake these obligations.

The stresses of this are posing a threat to the viability of...(NGOs).

What these issues amount to is that there is a need, in contracted service delivery arrangements, for both NGOs and governments to ask themselves and each other: what short and long term effects on the status and viability of the organisation is this contract having? To address this they need to communicate, not just on the specifics of contracts, but on the general issues which they raise.

Turning to NGO/government relationships in the arena of broader change and development activities, the major issues which arise are:

NGOs have often pioneered and promoted innovative programmes and policies subsequently supported or adopted by governments. Both history and current practice abound with examples. Gender and environmental issues have in recent years, for example, largely been moved from the back burner to the forefront of the political stage as a result of the work of NGOs.

These are illustrations of how there can be other forms of productive partnership between NGOs and governments, even though it may not appear to be so at first sight or when the relationship appears to be more that involved in the battleground than the debating chamber.

NGOs which have pioneered new forms of provision or service feel that in taking them over, governments tend to remove the innovative components and swallow them into existing public institutions. Their sense of achievement is thus sometimes tempered by one of failure.

Reciprocally, governments feel that it is unreasonable and may be undesirable for public policy to be shaped by the whims and experiments of NGOs.

Some NGOs feel that there are too few lines and means of communication available which enable them to share the results of their research and innovation with government or to make representations about policy changes. Reciprocally, some government officials feel that NGOs are often too secretive about their work and do not wish to share their findings, views and ideas. Some also feel that NGOs are too ready to share these in the public arena before attempting to communicate and discuss them with government.

Thus again the issues tend to come back to the need to communicate. In many countries the ways and means for this to happen appear limited.

The two sets of issues discussed above, arising from different aspects of NGO work and consequent NGO/government relationships are complemented by more general ones. A number of these arise from concerns about NGO governance and operations which were discussed in Chapter 6 and from concerns about regulation discussed in Chapter 7. They include:

Accountability: In theory both governments and NGOs are accountable to the public. But the more this is not evident in practice, the more each tends to be suspicious of the other. In extreme, for example, the relationship between a private NGO operating in a poorly regulated environment and the government of a society which is less than fully democratic will most likely be poor. Both governments and NGOs need therefore to ensure that their lines and processes of accountability are clear.

And both need to have good information and communication arrangements between each other and with the public.

The blurring of boundaries: As has been noted, the boundaries between the concerns and interests of governments and those of major sections of interest and activity in civil society have blurred. As a result, issues concerning the roles, rights and responsibilities of the various parties have arisen and will continue to arise, as this is still a fluid and changing situation. Again, only dialogue between the parties will improve understanding between them.