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The Role of NGOs and Civil Society in Development and Poverty Reduction


Nicola Banks


University of Manchester - Brooks World Poverty Institute

David Hulme


University of Manchester - Institute for Development Policy and Management (IDPM)

June 1, 2012

Brooks World Poverty Institute Working Paper No. 171

Abstract:     
Since the late 1970s, NGOs have played an increasingly prominent role in the development sector, widely praised for their strengths as innovative and grassroots-driven organisations with the desire and capacity to pursue participatory and people-centred forms of development and to fill gaps left by the failure of states across the developing world in meeting the needs of their poorest citizens. While levels of funding for NGO programmes in service delivery and advocacy work have increased alongside the rising prevalence and prominence of NGOs, concerns regarding their legitimacy have also increased. There are ongoing questions of these comparative advantages, given their growing distance away from low-income people and communities and towards their donors. In addition, given the non-political arena in which they operate, NGOs have had little participation or impact in tackling the more structurally-entrenched causes and manifestations of poverty, such as social and political exclusion, instead effectively depoliticising poverty by treating it as a technical problem that can be ‘solved.’ How, therefore, can NGOs ‘return to their roots’ and follow true participatory and experimental paths to empowerment? As this paper explores, increasingly, NGOs are recognised as only one, albeit important, actor in civil society. Success in this sphere will require a shift away from their role as service providers to that of facilitators and supporters of broader civil society organisations through which low-income communities themselves can engage in dialogue and negotiations to enhance their collective assets and capabilities.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 39

Keywords: NGOs, civil society, poverty reduction

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Date posted: June 1, 2012  

Suggested Citation

Banks, Nicola and Hulme, David, The Role of NGOs and Civil Society in Development and Poverty Reduction (June 1, 2012). Brooks World Poverty Institute Working Paper No. 171. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=2072157 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2072157

Contact Information

Nicola Banks (Contact Author)
University of Manchester - Brooks World Poverty Institute ( email )
Humanities Bridgeford Street Building
Oxford Road
Manchester, M13 9PL
United Kingdom
David Hulme
University of Manchester - Institute for Development Policy and Management (IDPM) ( email )
Manchester M13 9GH
United Kingdom
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