Academic journal article Polish Sociological Review

The Rise and Stall of Non-Governmental Organizations in Development

Academic journal article Polish Sociological Review

The Rise and Stall of Non-Governmental Organizations in Development

Article excerpt

The aim of this paper is to critically discuss the circumstances that triggered the evolution of both national and international non-governmental organizations' (NGOs) role in international development cooperation and the growing reticence towards these entities following the attacks on the World Trade Center in 2001. The change of the role of NGOs is an issue both topical and relevant, having in mind the professed importance of NGOs for democratization processes. Unlike most existing literature's focus on the capacity of NGOs to fulfill their mission, this paper will pay closer attention to exogenous factors that may in fact limit these societal actors' ability to remedy the shortcomings of the state and the market in national and international affairs alike.

Thus both the external and intra-organizational circumstances conditioning the performance of NGOs in development will be analyzed. This paper would also endeavor to test a thesis endorsed by one of the ardent critics of contemporary international development cooperation. In his seminal book White Man's Burden William Easterly' argued for the inclusion of a wider scope of social entrepreneurs (NGOs as well as local businesses and "decently functioning" local governments) in the design and implementation of development policies and programmes (Easterly 2008: 303).

To understand the evolution of INGOs from marginal to significant actors in international affairs and to explain the observed backlash towards these organizations following the conflation of security with development, it is important to briefly present their history.

Short history of INGOs

Since the XIX century, when the first NGOs operating in more than one country were established, INGOs have reportedly grown into fully-fledged "global actors" (Anheier and Themudo 2005: 185). According to the 2000 edition of the Yearbook of International Organizations, in the beginning of the XXI century there were 1839 active inter-governmental organizations (IGOs) and 18916 active INGOs (in Los-Nowak 2004: 31). According to other researchers, since 1850 more than 35000 INGOs have "debuted on the world stage" (Boli and Thomas 1999: 20). The word "debuted" is important here, because-just like domestic NGOs-international NGOs have no obligation to inform other institutions when they disband. Before briefly presenting the statistical dimensions of the development of the INGO sector since its inception, it is necessary to highlight the most relevant circumstances that gave rise to the growth of the INGO population. As Akira Iriye argues, "the number and functioning of [international] organizations may be taken as a good measure of the degree of 'globality' at a given moment in time" (Iriye 2002: 9). Indeed, the emergence and development of INGOs and IGOs alike have unquestionably been part and parcel of the process of globalization. As Michael Schechter persuasively argues, "globalization has simultaneously contributed to the weakening of states' and intergovernmental organizations' abilities to govern, especially in the economic sphere, while strengthening civil society in many countries in the world and planting the seeds for an evolving global civil society" (Schechter 1999: 61). Globalization has brought to the door of developed and developing countries alike the awareness that we live in an interconnected world and therefore we have the moral responsibility but also the self-interest to engage in activities aiming at leveling the disparities between the more advanced and less developed regions in the world. Having in mind the abundance of literature concerning globalization, here it is only necessary to limit oneself to briefly mentioning the most important dimensions of this phenomenon, i.e. those on which the development of the INGO sector seems to be a corollary of.

Clive Archer has identified four major types of global interaction: communication, transportation, finance and travel (Archer 1992). …

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