Development NGOs are in crisis. They are losing their capacity to engage in critical analysis and propose global solutions; to react to or seize the political initiative; or to situate themselves on the cutting edge of those social and political processes in which new approaches and potential solutions might be found. While some NGOs have sought to accommodate themselves around donors’ policies and projects that focus on reducing the negative effects of structural adjustment, the raison d’être of NGOs is to have the autonomy, initiative, and flexibility that non-governmental status confers upon them. A growing split between NGOs’ capacity to lobby and do research and their grassroots work reflects a deeper division that exists– both practical and theoretical –between the concept and process of development and the concept and process of democratisation. The author argues that human development and participatory and representative democracy are both mutually reinforcing and indivisible and that the challenge the NGOs face is to link–theoretically and practically–democracy with development.
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