What role should iNGOs have in fragile states?

People wait for aid distribution in Dadaab camp for internally displaced persons in Somalia. What role do international NGOs have in fragile states? Photo by: Oxfam International / CC BY-NC-ND

The development landscape in fragile states is often one of governments, donors and local civil society vying for influence and claiming roles in an attempt to address the problems that derive from fragility itself.

So where do international nongovernmental organizations fit into the equation?

This question was discussed Friday by researchers as well as representatives from international NGOs and donors during a closed-door session at the Brookings Institution, following the publication of a new policy paper for engagement in fragile states.

The document, titled “Implementing The New Deal for Fragile States,” assesses how well g7+ pilot countries have implemented initiatives to address the New Deal for Engagement in Fragile States, an ambitious framework adopted at the 2011 High-Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness in Busan with a triple focus: using peace- and state-building goals to work in fragile states; supporting inclusive, country-led transitions out of fragility; and building mutual trust and strong partnerships. The paper laments the lack of dialogue between governments and civil society in many of these countries and stressed that both need an equal voice in order to bring viable solutions to fragility.

Some iNGO representatives felt their organizations were left out of the New Deal. They went as far as suggesting that if provided more space in the framework, iNGOs could play a critical role in facilitating a dialogue between civil society and government — a key issue the new report reveals. With their local staff on the ground in many of these countries, the representatives said, iNGO influence is seamless and it doesn’t make sense to cut off the international presence from the local one.

Authors of the Brookings paper were quick to point out how a locally driven approach, directed wholeheartedly by g7+ governments with the help of local civil society, is critical to overcoming fragility. Heavy iNGO influence, they said, risks undermining such a concept. External actors — regardless of their intent — could do more harm than good, they added.

What do you think should be the role of iNGOs in fragile states? Please let us know by sending an email to news@devex.com, joining our LinkedIn discussion or leaving a comment below.

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About the author

  • Jeff Tyson

    Jeff is a former global development reporter for Devex. Based in Washington, D.C., he covers multilateral affairs, U.S. aid, and international development trends. He has worked with human rights organizations in both Senegal and the U.S., and prior to joining Devex worked as a production assistant at National Public Radio. He holds a master's degree in journalism from Columbia University and a bachelor’s degree in international relations and French from the University of Rochester.