Edited by Rebecca Surender and Robert Walker
Chapter 4: Building the welfare mix or sidelining the state? Non-governmental organizations in developing countries as social policy actors
When almost half a century ago Arthur Livingstone (1969, pp. 60–61) noted that the ‘voluntary worker’ was a key figure in community-level work in developing countries in his review of social policy and development, he was perhaps a little ahead of his time: ‘Not for many years to come will many developing countries possess even the rudimentary professional services to make comprehensive welfare programmes effective. In the meantime, assistance to the present skeleton staff of specialists must be provided by either voluntary or partly qualified assistants.’ Today, both local and international non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have come to be regarded as key players in international development and poverty reduction work across the world. They play roles in what has sometimes been termed ‘big D’ development in terms of projects and programmes, as well as in ‘little d’ development as diverse actors within wider processes of capitalist change and transformation (Bebbington et al. 2008). An estimated 10 per cent of total overseas development assistance is channelled through NGOs, and international NGOs based in developing countries raise an estimated USD 20 billion–25 billion annually in the form of additional development assistance to low-income countries (OECD 2009). Some NGOs remain voluntaristic and small-scale in forms that Livingstone might still recognize, while others have grown to become highly professionalized, even corporate, entities. Still, questions remain as to the effectiveness of these organizations, and whether NGOs complement or substitute for governments.
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