Strong and weak points of NGO's in development cooperation
Liaison Committee of Development NGO's to the European Communities
Conference of European NGO's
Conflict, Development and Military Intervention:
The role, position and Experience of NGO's
Brussels, 8-9 April 1994
Strong and weak points of NGO's
Contribution to the discussion by Henk Zomer,
director of Dutch Interchurch Aid and
vice-president of the Liaison Committee
* The strong points of NGO's are not necessarily at the same time weak points of other actors in the field of humanitarian aid. International agencies and (supra-)national governments have strong points different from NGO's, complementarity can be better exploited, differences should not lead to antagonisms.
* The strong points of NGO's can easily turn into weak points if not certain conditions are fulfilled, so they can also be weak points, the following list has to be seen in that perspective.
* Beware of generalisation, there are too many differences between NGO's. Not only between "good" and "bad", but also between:
Specialised and generalistic NGO's
NGO's with long term involvement and with "Hit and Run" policy
Fully expatriate staffed and locally rooted NGO's
isolated NGO's and NGO's integrated in a wider family
one-sided (ideological) and "neutral" NGO's
* Most NGO's have a policy of working on
Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation (Theme of the World Council of Churches), the strong points of NGO's are to be seen in the light of this mission statement.
Some additional remarks
Neutrality, Impartiality and Independence
* NGO's in general use this as a starting point for their policy, but not in the sense of international law but as a moral category.
Opting for the poor and the oppressed is often seen as a political choice and a deviation from neutrality.
* It is not always possible to work at both sides of the conflict, due to the character of the conflict or of (one of the) conflicting parties. This can be solved in good cooperation between several NGO's.
* The identity of an NGO (e.g. a church-related NGO) may not lead to discrimination on issues like race, ethnicity, nationality, political affiliation, religion, etc.; such discrimination would be conflict creation.
* Neutrality an impartiality may not be an excuse for silence in case of violation of human rights. It might however be necessary to pass information through in such a way that the continuity of the work is not put at risk, this can be done in a coordinated approach with other NGO's (division of labour).
Henk Zomer, Brussels, 8 april 1994