Partnerships and Room for Maneouvre. International Development Organisations and Sierra Leonean NGOs

Type Thesis or Dissertation - Master thesis
Title Partnerships and Room for Maneouvre. International Development Organisations and Sierra Leonean NGOs
Publication (Day/Month/Year) 2010
Civil society has been characterised as the answer to a wide range of challenges within development. This includes what is perceived to be one of the main culprits to blame for lack of development on the African continent: the corrupt and over-dimensionalised states. Engaging with civil society is seen as a way of ensuring local ownership and creating pluralist democracies. In practice donor support to civil society is operationalised as engaging in partnerships‘ with local CSOs and building their =capacity‘. Sierra Leone is one of the world‘s poorest countries, receiving one of the world‘s largest amounts of foreign aid, a large share of which is directed through civil society. It is thus interesting to study the interplay between donor assumptions, local perceptions and practice. International development organisations (IDOs) describe civil society in Sierra Leone as =weak‘, yet holding opportunities to play a leading role in development. The ideal civil society which IDOs aim to build is portrayed as a democratic counterbalance to the state, but at the same time playing an active supplementary role to state functions, in terms of service delivery. It is autonomous from the state and does not have religious affiliations. It is assumed that by building and collaborating with such a civil society, the development process is brought closer to the people and power in the country is diversified. Our findings show that the local organisations that live up to the requirements of political and religious independence, to a large extent form themselves to fit the donor ideals, either by establishing organisations that fit ideals of a civil society, or by adapting existing organisations to appeal to IDOs in order to access funds. As skilled navigators in the world of development aid, they take names reflecting donor ideals, adopt development language and engage in partnerships with IDOs, while still working to pursue their own agenda. The IDOs describe the partnerships as striving for ideals of mutual commitment and accountability as well as shared responsibilities. Furthermore the ideal partnership pursued by IDOs is characterised by trust and ownership. In practice however, power relations remain unequal and the relations reflect lack of trust and confidence in the local organisations by the IDOs. The goals of the local organisation are not a high priority in the partnerships and the ideals of local ownership and leadership in the development process do not seem to guide the development interventions undertaken.

Related studies