This article seeks to contribute to the debate on collaboration between national and international NGOs. It argues that it is vital for the development of stable, independent, and viable civil societies that international NGOs promote a bottom-up approach in their support to and collaboration with local NGOs, especially among those emerging from situations of conflict or other profound social disruptions. From a study carried out in East Timor, the author concludes that there is a noticeable discrepancy between rhetoric and practice with regard to such support. The multiple challenges the international NGO community faces on this front persist despite the existence of abundant learning opportunities accumulated through years of development work. The author argues that such challenges are less a question of standards and rules than of basic approach, attitudes, and power relations. She maintains that if international NGOs and the wider international community do not alter their approach, they will suffocate rather than foster the development of a viable and autonomous civil society in the countries in which they operate.
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