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The role of NGOs and civil society in development and poverty reduction

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  • Nicola Banks
  • David Hulme

Abstract

Abstract Since the late 1970s, NGOs have played an increasingly prominent role in the development sector, widely praised for their strengths as innovative and grassroots-driven organisations with the desire and capacity to pursue participatory and people-centred forms of development and to fill gaps left by the failure of states across the developing world in meeting the needs of their poorest citizens. While levels of funding for NGO programmes in service delivery and advocacy work have increased alongside the rising prevalence and prominence of NGOs, concerns regarding their legitimacy have also increased. There are ongoing questions of these comparative advantages, given their growing distance away from low-income people and communities and towards their donors. In addition, given the non-political arena in which they operate, NGOs have had little participation or impact in tackling the more structurally-entrenched causes and manifestations of poverty, such as social and political exclusion, instead effectively depoliticising poverty by treating it as a technical problem that can be ‘solved’. How, therefore, can NGOs ‘return to their roots’ and follow true participatory and experimental paths to empowerment? As this paper explores, increasingly, NGOs are recognised as only one, albeit important, actor in civil society. Success in this sphere will require a shift away from their role as service providers to that of facilitators and supporters of broader civil society organisations through which low-income communities themselves can engage in dialogue and negotiations to enhance their collective assets and capabilities.

Suggested Citation

  • Nicola Banks & David Hulme, 2012. "The role of NGOs and civil society in development and poverty reduction," Brooks World Poverty Institute Working Paper Series 17112, BWPI, The University of Manchester.
  • Handle: RePEc:bwp:bwppap:17112
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Barr, Abigail & Fafchamps, Marcel & Owens, Trudy, 2005. "The governance of non-governmental organizations in Uganda," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 33(4), pages 657-679, April.
    2. Burger, Ronelle & Owens, Trudy, 2010. "Promoting Transparency in the NGO Sector: Examining the Availability and Reliability of Self-Reported Data," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 38(9), pages 1263-1277, September.
    3. Gauri, Varun & Galef, Julia, 2005. "NGOs in Bangladesh: Activities, resources, and governance," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 33(12), pages 2045-2065, December.
    4. Gil S. Epstein & Ira N. Gang, 2006. "Contests, NGOs, and Decentralizing Aid," Review of Development Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 10(2), pages 285-296, May.
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    1. repec:bla:ijhplm:v:31:y:2016:i:4:p:488-510 is not listed on IDEAS
    2. Badru Bukenya, 2013. "Are service-delivery NGOs building state capacity in the global South? Experiences from HIV/AIDS programmes in rural Uganda," Brooks World Poverty Institute Working Paper Series esid-022-13, BWPI, The University of Manchester.
    3. Julia DOITCHINOVA & Darina ZAIMOVA, 2013. "The Third Sector importance: General perspectives and analysis for Bulgaria," CIRIEC Working Papers 1301, CIRIEC - Université de Liège.
    4. Banks, Nicola & Hulme, David & Edwards, Michael, 2015. "NGOs, States, and Donors Revisited: Still Too Close for Comfort?," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 66(C), pages 707-718.

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