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There is a widespread perception that Southern non-governmental organizations (NGOs) best represent the authentic voices of the Southern poor. This article challenges this perception, arguing that poor people in general, and children and women in particular, continue to be disenfranchised, while NGOs-both Northern and Southern-offer a poor imitation of their voices. It argues that what is needed, given the current global economic paradigm, is an authentic ‘joint venture’ between NGOs in the North and the South and the authentic voices of poor people themselves, that would bring the poor into the mainstream; and a new approach to capacity-building that would seek to empower them better to advocate for themselves. It concludes that, to achieve this, economic advocacy should perhaps take greater precedence over political advocacy.

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