After 50 years of spectacularly successful work (particularly in raising the equity stakes, improving the quality of overseas development aid, fostering Southern NGO work at the international level and organising quick and effective humanitarian assistance), Northern development NGOs have come to a crossroads. The author argues that the history of the NGO ‘occupational category’, coupled with a changing political and economic environment (the end of the Cold War, rising international investment, declining overseas development aid, and vastly heightened Southern NGO capacity), means that most Northern NGOs should close up shop. Instead, a kaleidoscopic rebirth is envisaged, where four key functions remain for Northerners–as humanitarian agents, economic policy watchers, North-South brokers, and corporate responsibility advocates. This change of job is heralded as good news: evidence that the project of global social justice has moved dramatically forwards.
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