Sie sind auf Seite 1von 349

Private Development Aid in Europe

EADI Global Development Series

Series Editors:
Maja Bucar, Vice-Dean and Associate Professor, Faculty of Social Sciences,
University of Ljubljana
Andy Mold, Senior Economist at the OECD Development Centre
The EADI Global Development series reflects the multi-disciplinary character of
EADI member institutes and the association at large. The series seeks to broaden
our understanding of the processes that advance or impede human develop-
ment, whether from a political, economic, sociological or anthropological
perspective. EADI’s mission is to inform students of development, international
relations, and area studies, the academic and policy research and teaching com-
munity, development administration, professional training and practice.
Development research is characterized by its interdisciplinary approach and its
interest in a strong link between theory, policy and practice. The series invites
book manuscripts emanating from EADI working group activities, EADI confer-
ences and EADI research projects, but is also open to external submissions.

Titles include:
Gabriela Dutrénit, Keun Lee, Richard Nelson, Alexandre Vera-Cruz and
Luc Soete (editors)
Paul Hoebink and Lau Schulpen
Foreign Aid between the Public and the Private Domain

EADI Global Development Series

Series Standing Order ISBN 978–1–137–01335–4 (hardback)
978–1137–01336–1 (paperback)

You can receive future titles in this series as they are published by placing a
standing order. Please contact your bookseller or, in case of difficulty, write to us
at the address below with your name and address, the title of the series and the
ISBN quoted above.
Customer Services Department, Macmillan Distribution Ltd, Houndmills,
Basingstoke, Hampshire RG21 6XS, England
Private Development Aid
in Europe
Foreign Aid between the Public and
the Private Domain

Edited by

Paul Hoebink
Extraordinary Professor at the Centre for International Development
Issues Nijmegen, Radboud University


Lau Schulpen
Senior Lecturer, Centre for International Development Issues Nijmegen,
Radboud University, the Netherlands
Selection, introduction and editorial matter © Paul Hoebink
and Lau Schulpen 2014
Individual chapters © Respective authors 2014
All rights reserved. No reproduction, copy or transmission of this
publication may be made without written permission.
No portion of this publication may be reproduced, copied or transmitted
save with written permission or in accordance with the provisions of the
Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988, or under the terms of any licence
permitting limited copying issued by the Copyright Licensing Agency,
Saffron House, 6–10 Kirby Street, London EC1N 8TS.
Any person who does any unauthorized act in relation to this publication
may be liable to criminal prosecution and civil claims for damages.
The authors have asserted their rights to be identified as the authors of this
work in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.
First published 2014 by
Palgrave Macmillan in the UK is an imprint of Macmillan Publishers Limited,
registered in England, company number 785998, of Houndmills, Basingstoke,
Hampshire RG21 6XS.
Palgrave Macmillan in the US is a division of St Martin’s Press LLC,
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010.
Palgrave Macmillan is the global academic imprint of the above companies
and has companies and representatives throughout the world.
Palgrave® and Macmillan® are registered trademarks in the United States,
the United Kingdom, Europe and other countries.
ISBN 978–1–137–00978–4
This book is printed on paper suitable for recycling and made from fully
managed and sustained forest sources. Logging, pulping and manufacturing
processes are expected to conform to the environmental regulations of the
country of origin.
A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library.
A catalog record for this book is available from the Library of Congress.

Typeset by MPS Limited, Chennai, India.


List of Figures, Tables and Boxes vii

Preface x
About the Authors xii
List of Abbreviations and Acronyms xv

1 Private Aid Agencies in the 21st Century:

An Introduction 1
Lau Schulpen and Paul Hoebink
2 Mapping the Belgian NGDO Landscape in Relation to
Development Cooperation: Dealing with Fragmentation and
Emerging Complexities 16
Nadia Molenaers, Leen Nijs and Huib Huyse
3 Corporatism and the Development of Private Aid
Organizations in Denmark 44
Lars Engberg-Pedersen and Neil Webster, with Adam Moe
Fejerskov and Torsten Geelan
4 Non-Governmental Organizations and Finland’s
Development Policy 71
Lauri Siitonen
5 Irish Development NGOs and the Official Aid Programme of
Ireland: A ‘Special’ Relationship? 108
Éamonn Casey and Helen O’Neill
6 From Favoritism via Abundance to Austerity –
NGDO-Government Relations in the Netherlands 173
Lau Schulpen and Paul Hoebink
7 Spanish Development NGOs and the State: A Continuously
Evolving Relationship 214
Christian Freres and Ignacio Martínez
8 Development Cooperation in New EU Member States:
The Role of Non-Governmental Organizations 257
Maja Bučar, Eva (Pliberšek) Nastav and Anija (Pukl) Mešič

vi Contents

9 From Plains and Mountains: Comparing European Private Aid

and Government Support for Private Aid Organizations 292
Paul Hoebink and Lau Schulpen

Index 320
List of Figures, Tables and Boxes


1.1 Funding of NGOs as % of bilateral ODA – with division

to and through NGOs (2009) 8
1.2 Core funding to/through national and international/local
NGOs (2000–2011; in million USD, constant 2011) 9
3.1 Year of establishment of 61 NGDOs 52
3.2 Countries receiving more than DKK 10 million (€1.34 million)
government subsidized NGDO aid in 2008 (in € million) 58
4.1 KEPA Membership, 1985–2011 74
5.1 Board activity of surveyed Irish NGDOs 123
5.2 Values motivating surveyed Irish NGDOs 124
5.3 NGDO allocation of staff 125
5.4 NGDO program sector focus 127
5.5 NGDO expenditure per sector 128
5.6 Accounting practices of surveyed NGDOs 129
5.7 NGDO expenditure per country 130
5.8 Irish not-for-profit subsectors as a percentage of total
income and of total organizations 133
5.9 Fundraised income by not-for-profit sub-sectors in Ireland 134
5.10 Division of management authority among surveyed NGDOs 146
5.11 NGDOs’ transparency on their websites 148
5.12 Percentage of Dóchas members that carry out
baseline studies and evaluations in their programs 161
6.1 Founding years of Dutch NGDOs (N = 188) 175
6.2 Salaries as % of total budget (2007) (Partos members,
absolute and in percentage, N = 90) 178
6.3 Grant schemes in the period 2003–2010 191
7.1 Evolution of public financing for Spanish NGDOs
(2000–2010, in € millions) 224
viii List of Figures, Tables and Boxes

7.2 Number of Coordinadora member NGDOs created by

year, 1864–2011 231
7.3 Evolution of Spanish ODA through NGDOs (total and as
% of net ODA, 1998–2012) 236
7.4 Spanish decentralized cooperation channeled through
NGDOs, 2004–2011 (€ millions and %) 241


1.1 Official development assistance and grants by NGOs (net

disbursements, in million USD) 6
1.2 Estimates of private aid (in billion USD) by several sources 7
2.1 Belgian ODA to NGDOs 18
2.2 2007 subsidies from official sources 19
A2.1 Budgets of 37 Flemish and national NGDOs (in € and
percentages) 38
A2.2 Twenty NGDOs with the largest federally subsidized
programs (2008–2010) 39
3.1 Fundraising by 12 NGDOs and 3 other private
organizations in Denmark in 2009 (in DDK, EUR and
percentage distribution of each organization’s total) 54
3.2 National fundraising campaigns 2007 57
3.3 Danida subsidies to Danish NGDO development projects 62
4.1 Official support to civic aid organizations, 2000–2010,
in Million Euro 89
A4.1 Eleven larger NGOs with the status of partner organization 102
5.1 Irish ODA, selected years 1974–2013 (EUR million
and per cent) 110
5.2 Typology of selected Irish NGDOs by size and activities
as of March 2009 120
5.3 NGDO organizational expenditure by country program
concentration 131
5.4 Total organizational income of surveyed NGDOs 136
5.5 Organizational income disparity among surveyed NGDOs 136
5.6 Number of public supporters of surveyed NGDOs 137
5.7 Distribution of income and supporters among
surveyed NGDOs 137
List of Figures, Tables and Boxes ix

5.8 Irish Aid funding from its CSO schemes to NGDOs

(EUR and per cent, 1993–2012) 141
5.9 Selected key challenges facing Irish NGDOs after 2009 167
6.1 Roles of NGDOs – a typology 177
6.2 The 30 largest Dutch NGDOs – total budget for 2008
(showing sources of funding) – in euros 180
6.3 Income of charity funds in the Netherlands
(in millions of euros) 181
6.4 Dutch foundations active in the field of development
cooperation 184
7.1 Summary of private organizations in Spain active in
development cooperation, 2008 221
7.2 Public financing of NGDOs, 2000–2012
(€ million and per cent) 222
7.3 Main Spanish NGDOs, by volume of resources (2009–2010) 229
7.4 Geographic distribution of Spanish non-governmental aid,
2004–2010 (€ million and per cent) 234
7.5 Main countries where Coordinadora members are active, 2010 235
7.6 Support for development education by Spanish
administrations, 2010–2012 (€) 245
A7.1 Number of organizations by type of activity, 2007 250
A7.2 Number of associations by main activity, 2007 250
A7.3 Foundations registered in various Spanish ministries 251
9.1 European NGDOs: typology 1 294
9.2 European NGDOs: typology 2 296
9.3 Some of the largest international private aid organizations 297
9.4 Landscapes of private aid in Europe 299
9.5 Government-NGO relations 309


3.1 The Danish revised civil society strategy 59

7.1 The challenge of identifying NGDOs in Spain
through various registries 219
9.1 Development NGOs in the UK 301
9.2 ‘Development NGOs in Germany 302

Private aid agencies have come to be very much in the center of the
debate around development cooperation in recent years for at least four
reasons. First, there is the growth of their budgets, or at least there is
increasing flow of private voluntary finance for development, mainly
due to the emergence of some very large foundations in the United
States of America. Second, there is the discussion of their role and the
way they are supposed to finance development: are they intermediar-
ies or direct financers or implementers of programs? Third, is the con-
sideration of their role next to donor governments (bilateral aid) and
international agencies (multilateral aid). Fourth and finally, there is the
ongoing discussion of results: are private aid organizations able to show
results, and if they are, can these be compared with their effectiveness
and impact in relation to other aid agencies?
All these questions are in the center of this volume, but we had first
to take a step back to consider: what sort of picture could we make of
the European private aid landscape? We envisaged sitting in an air-
plane with Yann Arthus-Bertrand trying to create pictures similar to his
famous La Terre Vue du Ciel, but not of the beautiful landscapes beneath
us, but of imaginary landscapes depicting citizens and organizations
coming together to support projects and programs in developing coun-
tries. Both small and large organizations, some aiming at a specific
country and others at a subject or theme; some amateurish, some highly
professional. These pictures would also reveal the financial support
they receive and the relations they have with their homeland govern-
ments. What would be hidden is their quest for results and impact, or
at least their efforts to demonstrate these results, fragmented as these
often are. Luckily there were some colleagues and friends boarding this
imaginary plane of ours. These friends came from a series of European
countries to participate in a workshop we had organized in the realm
of the European Association of Development Institutes’ (EADI) Working
Group 1 ‘Aid and Development Policy’, of which Paul Hoebink is con-
venor. These colleagues and friends presented us with a set of interest-
ing sketches and panoramas, but unfortunately our plane was grounded
for some time, because of changes in EADI arrangements. By the time
the plane finally took off our ambitious colleagues had come to us again
with new data and revised texts.

Preface xi

We are happy to finally present our set of pictures, refreshed and

updated. We would like to thank our colleagues and friends, who waited
so long (too long) for this volume to appear. We are also very grate-
ful to HIVOS (Humanist Institute for Development Cooperation, the
Netherlands) and Oxfam-Novib, two private aid organizations that are
always willing to invest in new roads of discovery and also invested in
this journey.
Nijmegen, August 2014
Paul Hoebink and Lau Schulpen
About the Authors

Eamonn Casey is a graduate in development studies of the Centre for

Development Studies in University College Dublin. He has been Project
Officer in Dochas, the umbrella organization of development NGOs in
Ireland. He is currently on leave of absence in Cambodia for the past
two years working on a variety of projects.

Lars Engberg-Pedersen is Senior Research and Head of Research Unit

on Politics and Development at the Danish Institute for International
Studies. He has a past in practical development work as International
Director in the Danish Association for Development Cooperation and as
Technical Advisor in the Ministry of Home Affairs in Burkina Faso. His
publications include: Endangering Development: Politics, projects and envi-
ronment in Burkina Faso (Westport, Connecticut: Praeger, 2003), and In
the Name of the Poor: Contesting political space for poverty reduction, edited
together with Neil Webster (London: Zed Books, 2002).

Christian Freres is a specialist on development policy and interna-

tional relations, with over 25 years of professional activity in Europe,
Latin America and the United States. He is currently Senior Expert on
Development Effectiveness at the Spanish aid agency (AECID), Madrid.
He is also Research Associate at the Instituto Complutense de Estudios
Internacionales and teaches in several post-graduate programs. Before
this he was Research Director at a Spanish institution, AIETI, for over a
decade. Christian Freres has published numerous articles, book chapters
and working papers and edited several books on issues of his specializa-
tion, and his most recent work focusses on South-South and triangular

Paul Hoebink is extra-ordinary professor in development coopera-

tion and director of the Centre for International Development Issues
Nijmegen (CIDIN) at the Radboud University Nijmegen. He haslectured
on development issues and development cooperation for more than
thirty years, including positions at European and African universities.
He has been a regular consultant for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in
the Netherlands, the European Commission and several private aid
agencies in the Netherlands, Belgium and Germany. He has authored
or edited nine books and written more than sixty articles and book
About the Authors xiii

Huib Huyse is head of the research group on sustainable development

at HIVA-KU Leuven. He has a doctorate in education from the Centre
for International Education (CIE) of Sussex University. He coordinates
research and evaluations and has published extensively on global trends
in development, global citizenship, civil society and development, and
monitoring and evaluation.

Ignacio Martínez is Head of the Research Department of Plataforma

2015 y mas (‘Platform for 2015 and beyond’, a coalition of Spanish
NGOs) and Associate Researcher at the Instituto Complutense de
Estudios Internacionales. He has a degree in Sociology and completed
a post-graduate program in Inequality, Development and Cooperation
at the Complutense University of Madrid. He has specialized in the
analysis of civil society and decentralized governments in cooperation
processes and their contribution to building a development agenda. He
has published widely on these issues. In 2008 he received the First Prize
for Quality Research on International Development Cooperation for
Human Development for his work on cooperation of Spanish NGOs in
Peru; and in 2011 a first mention for his research on the development
cooperation of the Community of Madrid, by the Conference of Rectors
of the Public Universities of Madrid.

Anija (Pukl) Mešič graduated in International Relations studies at the

University of Ljubljana, followed by a Masters degree in Management
of Non-profit Organizations. Her area of specialization is development
and innovation policy in the EU, and science-industry cooperation. She
works as an independent personal financial advisor.

Nadia Molenaers holds a PhD in Political Science (Free University

Brussels) and is a lecturer at the Institute of Development Policy and
Management (University of Antwerp). Her research interests relate to
the study of aid in its political dimensions, including the role of NGOs.

Eva (Pliberšek) Nastav holds a PhD in international relations, develop-

ment politics particularly. She works at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs,
directorate for international development cooperation and humanitar-
ian assistance, covering the area of humanitarian aid. Her research work
includes EU development policy, new donors, aid effectiveness and civil
society organizations.

Leen Nijs, political scientist, was a research assistant at the Institute

of Development Policy and Management (University of Antwerp) dur-
ing the writing of the chapter. At present she works at the Ministry of
Defense (Belgium) as a political analyst.
xiv About the Authors

Helen O’Neill is Professor Emeritus of Development Economics in

University College Dublin where she was founder-Director of its multi-
disciplinary Centre for Development Studies. She was a member of the
Irish Human Rights Commission from 2006 through 2011. She is also a
consultant to Irish Aid. She was President of the European Association
of Development Research and Training Institutes for two terms from
1993 to 1999. She has been a Visiting Professor in the University of
Zambia and other universities. She has carried out assignments and con-
sultancies for international organisations in Africa, Asia, Latin America
and the trans-Caucasus region. She is the author or editor of six books
and over 50 academic papers.

Lauri Siitonen (PhD Soc. Sc.) is research coordinator at Development

Studies, Department of Political and Economic Studies, University of
Helsinki. He has expertise on small donors’ aid policies, with a spe-
cial focus on Finland, as well as development policies in Nepal and
Tanzania. Lau Schulpen is senior researcher and lecturer at the Centre
for International Development Issues Nijmegen of Radboud University.
He has published extensively on Dutch development policy, NGDOs
and Private Initiatives.

Neil Webster is on leave from his position of senior researcher at

the Danish Institute for International Studies and working as Local
Governance and Decentralisation Adviser for UNDP and UNCDF in
Nepal. He has published extensively on development issues and aid
policies with a focus on South Asia, his most recent book is ‘Rethinking
Popular Representation’ (Palgrave Macmillan, 2009) co-edited with Olle
Tornquist and Kristian Stokke.

Lau Schulpen is senior researcher and lecturer at the Centre for

International Development Issues Nijmegen or Radboud University. He
has published extensively on Dutch development policy, NGDOs and
Private Initiatives.
List of Abbreviations and

ACFID Australian Council for International Development

ACTEC Association for Cultural, Technical & Educational
Cooperation (Belgium)
AECID Agencia Española de Cooperación Internacional para
el Desarrollo / Spanish Agency for International
Development Cooperation
AIV Adviesraad International Vraagstukken / Advisory Council
on International Affairs (Netherlands)
APSO Agency for Personal Service Overseas (Ireland)
AUSAID The Australian Government’s Overseas Aid Program
BMZ Bundesministerium für Wirtschaftliche Zusammenarbeit/
Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and
CARE Cooperative for Assistance and Relief Everywhere
CAT Convention against Torture
CEDAW Convention on the Elimination of all forms of
Discrimination against Women
CERD Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Racial
CERF Central Emergency Fund (of OCHA and the UN)
CIDSE Coopération Internationale pour le Développement et la
Solidarité / International Cooperation for Development
and Solidarity (European Umbrella Organization for
Catholic NGOs)
CONCORD European NGO Confederation for Relief and
Development (NGO umbrella organization)
CONGOOD Confederation of Non-Governmental Organizations
CRC Convention on the Rights of the Child
CRS Catholic Relief Services

xvi List of Abbreviations and Acronyms

CSO Civil Society Organization

DAC Development Assistance Committee (of the OECD)
DC Developing country
DEG Development Education Group (Ireland)
DEVCO Development Cooperation Organization (Ireland)
DGDC Directorate General for Development Cooperation
DFID Department for International Development
DMOS Dienst Missie Ontwikkelingssamenwerking / Mission
and Development Cooperation Agency (Belgium)
EC European Commission
EEC European Economic Community
EU European Union
FCA FinnChurch Aid
FCD Formation Coopération & Développement / Formation
Cooperation & Development (Belgium)
FLOW Funding Leadership and Opportunities for Women
FPP Fonds Politieke Partijen / Political Parties Fund
GDI gross domestic income
GDP gross domestic product
GNI gross national income
HIVOS Humanistisch Instituut voor Ontwikkelingssamen
-werking / Humanist Institute for Development
Cooperation (Netherlands)
HRD human rights and democratization
IARC Ireland Aid Review Committee
ICCO Interkerkelijke Coördinatie Commissie
Ontwikkelingssamenwerking / Interchurch Organization
for Development Cooperation (Netherlands)
ICCPR International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights
ICESCR International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural
List of Abbreviations and Acronyms xvii

IFRC International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent

INA Irish National Assembly
INGO international non-governmental organization
KADE Kerry Action for Development Education (Ireland)
Kepa Service Centre for Development Cooperation
Memisa Medische Missie Actie / Medical Mission Support
(Netherlands and Belgium)
MFA Ministry of Foreign Affairs
MFO Mede Fininacierings Organisatie / Co-Financing
Organization (Netherlands)
MFP Mede Financierings Programma / Co-Financing
Programme (Netherlands)
MFS Mede Financierings Stelsel / Co-Financing Scheme
MSF Médecins Sans Frontières / Doctors Without Borders
NCDE National Committee for Development Education
NCDO Nationale Commissie voor Duurzame Ontwikkeling /
National Commission for Sustainable Development
NDEGC National Development Education Grants Committee
NGDO non-governmental development organization
NGO non-governmental organization
NOVIB Nederlandse Organisatie voor Internationale Bijstand /
Netherlands Organization for International Assistance
(now Oxfam-Novib)
OCHA Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs of
the UN
ODA official development assistance
OECD Organization for Economic Cooperation and
PC program country
xviii List of Abbreviations and Acronyms

PROTOS Projectgroep voor Technische

Ontwikkelingssamenwerking / Project Group for
Technical Cooperation (Belgium)
PVO private voluntary organization
RRC Rapid Response Corps
RRI Rapid Response Initiative
SALIN Strategic Alliances with International NGDOs
SEF special emergency fund
SNV Stichting Nederlandse Vrijwilligers / Foundation Dutch
Volunteers / now: SNV Netherlands Development
TMF Thematisch Medefinancierings Programma / Thematic
Co-Financing Programme (Netherlands)
UHDR Universal Declaration of Human Rights
UN United Nations
UNICEF United Nations Children’s Fund
UPR Universal Periodic Review of the UN
VSI Voluntary Services International
VSO Voluntary Services Overseas
WUS World University Service
ZOA Zuid-Oost Azië Vluchtelingenzorg/ Southeast Asia Refugee
Aid (Netherlands)
Private Aid Agencies in the
21st Century: An Introduction
Lau Schulpen and Paul Hoebink

The 1980s have been dubbed the ‘golden age’ of Non Governmental
Organizations (NGOs) or the period when NGOs ‘started to lose the
“security of obscurity” and enter the realm of recognition and embrace
by the official aid system’ (Fowler, 2011, p. 45). Positioning themselves as
‘alternative’ to the work of their bilateral and multilateral peers, they have
become accepted as central actors in development, as donors, as a chan-
nel to transfer aid funds, and/or as recipients of the same. Moreover, they
managed to become part of international negotiations either as organiza-
tions with a consultative status or as participants in social movements
trying to influence such negotiations from the outside. As part of civil
society, they are thus considered to be ‘independent development actors
in their own right’ within present-day aid architecture (OECD, 2011a).
As with all actors in that architecture – and certainly those that are
heralded as ‘essential development partners’ (OECD, 2011b, p. 6) –
their position is not without critique. In fact, some (for instance, Banks
and Hulme, 2012) sincerely doubt whether NGOs (still) deserve being
regarded as a ‘central theme of development’. Central in this critique
are not only more and more ‘collective action problems’ (Severino and
Ray, 2009, 2010; Shafik, 2010) with an accompanying revival of the role
of the state and international organizations but also the emergence of a
large number of alternative actors particularly also in the private sphere.
Foundations are then among the most important and certainly among
the most visible of these alternative private actors. Although some of
them (for example, the Rockefeller, Kellogg and Ford Foundation) have
been active for a longer time already, a new group of philanthropists
has appeared on the scene who earned their money in the international
capital markets (George Soros, Warren Buffett), in software (Bill Gates)
or in hardware (William Hewlett, Gordon Moore, Michael Dell).
2 Lau Schulpen and Paul Hoebink

It is, however, not only such alternative actors that are rocking the
boat of NGOs by demanding new relations among a growing diversity
of development actors. NGOs are also plagued by questions about their
legitimacy (Tujan, 2012). They suffer from increased questioning of
their moral and ethical legitimacy referring to their recognition ‘as rep-
resenting the people, or a group of people, which comprises their con-
stituency’ (Tujan, 2012, p. 32). Generally, these claims are questioned
by many when asking in whose name NGOs are actually talking. Such
critical questions are not only asked by those outside of civil society.
Even CIVICUS (2013, p. 20) notes that – because of changes in the
‘understanding of what civil society is and does’ – it is pertinent to ask
to what extent these private actors are ‘accredited to multilateral meet-
ings, such as those of international financial institutions, representative
of the breadth and depth of civil society?’ and ‘whose interests can they
claim to represent?’.
This discussion is particularly clear on the international stage where,
Smith (2012) and Paul (2012) point out, the intense exchange between
NGOs and the UN that was clear at various global UN conferences
‘today has drastically diminished’. Paul (2012) adds that those who
predicted ‘a steady upward path of civil society influence at the UN
proved to be wrong’. In fact states have ‘become less tolerant of civil
society’ and ‘increasingly wary [of its] activism’. This process had started
already in the 1990s but really took off after 2000. It should be noted,
however, that the legitimacy of the UN system itself is also under attack.
CIVICUS (2013, p. 11), for instance, in expressing its dissatisfaction
with the Rio+20 negotiations felt that these tell us ‘definitively that the
multilateral system as it stands is no longer fit for purpose, and needs a
major overhaul’. The same sentiments have been expressed elsewhere if
only because of the changing geo-political situation.
Besides questions about the moral and ethical legitimacy of NGOs,
also their ‘relative legitimacy’ or the extent to which they act ‘in
solidarity with [their] constituency, in representing their interest,
in acting on their welfare, in being enablers for the people to claim
their rights’ is under examination. Essentially, this refers to their
effectiveness (although not necessarily in terms of the ‘bang for a
buck’ ideas that are central to development cooperation). In that
sense, it is correct to point out the specific limitations of NGOs as
development actors. The AIV (2010) mentions three such limitations:
(1) some problems are way beyond the scope of what NGOs can
address; (2) their accountability structure is diverse, some NGOs are
not sufficiently transparent and are thus not automatically accepted
Private Aid Agencies in the 21st Century 3

as legitimate representatives or interlocutors; and (3) they deal with

limited, unpredictable financing while their dependence on private
funding and subsidies of their home governments can come at the
expense of independence.
In addition, Banks and Hulme (2012) bring together several critiques
on NGOs and conclude that they have major problems living up to
their ascribed grassroots orientation, because they have been taken up
in the international aid chain making them ‘too close to the powerful,
and too far from the powerless’, moving them away from ‘broader goals
of empowerment’ to ‘measurable outputs’, making them accountable
to their donors and less to their constituencies, and making them more
concerned with the sustainability of their own organization than with
the sustainability of outcomes. Besides, there is still little empirical evi-
dence for their presumed innovative power.
That the Accra Agenda for Action recognizes civil society organiza-
tions (CSOs – and thus also NGOs) as ‘actors in their own right’ and
many (including Development Assistance Committee (DAC) members)
see CSOs as essential development partners should thus not distract us
from the fact that particularly those private aid organizations that have
been central to the world of international cooperation up to now are
not necessarily the favored ones anymore. Already in 2005, Lewis stated
that with more prominence ‘to wider concepts of public action […] it
is now more widely recognized that NGOs play a part, but no longer
form the central theme of development’ (Banks and Hulme, 2012,
p. 25). Besides, it should be acknowledged that there have been ups
and downs in the importance attached to NGOs and that at present the
overall picture is more ‘down’ than ‘up’.
Apart from the discussion on whether such changes in the impor-
tance attached to NGOs are indeed true, the discussion is much broader
and essentially also more rudimentary. Considering the wide diversity
within this private aid group, this starts with the questions of what
NGOs actually are and how many there are. Connected to this is the
ongoing discussion about their roles, their funding, their relationship
with other development actors and in particular governments, and
their role in creating, strengthening or broadening public (and politi-
cal) support for international cooperation. These in turn are the issues
central to this book. With a focus on a selection of European countries
(Belgium, Denmark, Finland, Ireland, the Netherlands, Spain and the
‘new EU members states’ of the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Slovenia)
the different chapters paint a historical picture of the NGO sector in
these countries, government policy and funding of NGOs, their role in
4 Lau Schulpen and Paul Hoebink

public support for development cooperation, and what is known about

the effectiveness of NGOs.

1.1 NGOs: what’s in a name?

Although official donors slowly move away from equating civil soci-
ety with NGOs (Giffen and Judge, 2010), the terms are still often
used interchangeably. Incorrectly so, considering the overall accepted
idea that NGOs are essentially a subset of the much broader concept
of civil society defined as ‘the arena – outside of the family, the
state, and the market – which is created by individual and collective
actions, organizations and institutions to advance shared interests’
(CIVICUS, 2011). The definitional discussion on the concept of NGOs
seems to be a never-ending one meaning as well that Fowler (2011,
p. 43) is quite correct in stating that ‘there remains no universal
definition, nor a robust or uncontested “positive” characterization of
what NGOs or NGDOs are, what they do, and why they exist across
the world’. It is not our intention to solve this here or to come up
with an all-encompassing definition. Instead we follow a more prag-
matic approach by using as a starting point Vakil (1997) who broadly
described NGOs as ‘self governing, private, not-for-profit organiza-
tions that are geared to improving the quality of life for disadvan-
taged people’. Important to add then is that we are mainly concerned
with NGDOs – that is, those NGOs that are active in ‘development’
and particularly those that ‘acclaim and utilize the tenets of inter-
national aid as a substantive basis for their existence’ (Fowler, 2011,
p. 45). Finally, we principally (but not exclusively) are concerned with
Northern NGDOs; those that reside in European countries and are
still the main receivers of official aid from the respective European
donors going to private aid agencies.
Even with narrowing down our focus to Northern NGDOs it is impos-
sible to be certain about the number of such private organizations. Two
earlier studies (Smillie and Helmich, 1993; Hulme and Edwards, 1997)
pointed at the rapid growth of NGO-sector in the North in the 1980s,
with a 50 per cent growth in the number of organizations. Meanwhile,
de Haan (2009, p. 49) in citing Desai states that ‘in 1989 four thousand
organizations existed in OECD countries alone devoted to international
development’. Getting an understanding of the magnitude of the
NGDO-sector as well as its growth is then one of the first tasks taken up
by the authors in this book for their respective country. They add to this
a perspective on the funds this (presumably) growing group of private
Private Aid Agencies in the 21st Century 5

aid organizations has at its disposal and the role of their governments
in providing (part of) this funding.

1.2 On NGO finances and funding

Overall, getting a grip on the financial contribution to development

from NGOs (or private agencies more generally) remains as elusive as
finding hard data on their number. International statistics on private
aid provided by the DAC are amongst the few data sources available.
However, they are far from reliable which is already clear from two
guestimates from 1993 using that same database with one estimating
the volume of private aid at between USD9 to 10 billion (Smillie and
Helmich, 1993) and the other at US$5.7 billion (Hulme and Edwards,
1997). The unreliability is mainly due to governments reporting only
fractions of or haphazardly on private aid. Some DAC-members, like
Norway, France and Spain, do not report aid by private aid agencies at
all, or only in some years. Despite all this, the DAC statistics still might
give us a first view on the flows of private aid and its growing impor-
tance in relation to Official Development Assistance (ODA).
Table 1.1 then shows private aid to have grown fast in the last decade
(from around USD5.5–6 billion during the 1990s it tripled to more than
USD18.3 billion in 2007, quadrupled to USD$23.6 billion in 2008 and
grew further to USD30.6 billion in 2011). In percentages of total ODA
it now stands at about 6–7 per cent. Looking at specific countries, and
keeping in mind that these figures are not very reliable, the United
States clearly stand out as the major ‘grants by NGOs’-provider with
some USD17 billion in 2008. The latter, however, is a far cry from the
estimated total charitable giving in the US of more than USD300 billion
in the same year (Giving USA Foundation, 2010). This figure, however,
includes individual giving (for example bequests) as well as giving from
corporations and foundations (with the latter contributing the lion’s
share to the reported growth in private giving in the United States over
the last decade).
Over that last decade, several authors have come up with wildly
different figures on private aid as is shown in Table 1.2. Partly this
divergence in data is due to the fact that some only include specific
organizations while others add foundations, individual giving or even
volunteering. More important, however, is that there is no reliable data-
base that provides a clear answer to the question of what NGOs add in
financial terms to development assistance flows. All in all, it shows that
data on annual international aid flows (whether classified as ODA or
Table 1.1 Official development assistance and grants by NGOs (net disbursements, in million USD)

1995–1996 2000–2001 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011

average average

Total ODA 57.415 53.324 104.206 121.954 119.787 128.466 134.038

Net grants by NGOs 5.879 7.143 18.352 23.787 22.047 30.775 30.597
Net NGO grants % total ODA 3% 6% 4% 9% 7% 6% 6%

Source: Development Assistance Committee, OECD, several years.

Private Aid Agencies in the 21st Century 7

Table 1.2 Estimates of private aid (in billion USD) by several sources

Year Amount Source

2005 26.9 (NGDO aid only) Prada et al. (2010)

2008 49.0 Worthington and Pipa (2010)
2009 23.0 Greenhill et al. (2013)
2010 39.0 (US only) Hudson Institute (2012)
2010 16.9 (14 OECD-DAC members – US Hudson Institute (2012)
2012 27.2 (average 2008–2011) OECD (2013)

Source: Hoebink et al. (2013, p. 16).

not) are by definition estimates or, more precisely, wild guesses. That is
not to say that nothing more can be said on this, particularly not when
focusing on that part of official aid (ODA) that is channeled via NGDOs.
Greenhill et al. (2013) are correct in netting out NGO flows funded
directly by ODA from their estimate on what they call ‘philanthropic
and institutional giving’.
For getting an understanding of these ‘NGO flows funded directly
by ODA’ we again have to turn to the DAC database (and we have to
add the same reliability warning as we did for grants by NGOs above).
A 2011 report by the OECD shows that ‘all DAC members work with and
allocate ODA to NGOs’ and that in 2009 they allocated USD15.5 billion
via these private organizations or 13 per cent of total aid disbursements
(up from less than USD13 billion in 2008) (OECD, 2011b, p. 7). There
are huge differences between donors (as the stories in this book will also
show in more detail) with funding of NGOs ranging from 1 per cent of
bilateral ODA in 2009 (France) to 37 per cent (Ireland). Figure 1.1 pro-
vides an overview of NGO funding by the different DAC donors over
2009 based on DAC data.
In strengthening our grip on these ODA flows via NGOs it is impor-
tant to differentiate between aid through and to NGOs as well as between
funding national or international (including Southern) NGOs. To and
through essentially refer to the difference between funds provided to
NGOs for programs developed by the NGOs themselves and which they
implement on their own authority and responsibility’ (i.e., aid to NGOs)
and for programs developed by the ‘official sector’ and for which that
same official sector is ‘ultimately responsible’ (i.e., aid through NGOs). Of
the total allocation of USD15.5 billion in 2009, the largest part (85.7 per
cent) is provided through NGOs (see Table 2.3 for the division per DAC
8 Lau Schulpen and Paul Hoebink

Aid through NGOs Aid to NGOs



United Kingdom

United States







New Zealand

Figure 1.1 Funding of NGOs as % of bilateral ODA – with division to and

through NGOs (2009)
Notes: Data for the United States on ODA through NGOs are incomplete; for Denmark 25
per cent of channel codes are blank/not completed.
Source: OECD, 2011b, p. 57.

member). In effect, DAC donors have a strong preference for earmarked

funding instead of core funding (i.e., funding to NGOs). This implies as
well that ‘DAC members use non-governmental organizations mostly as
implementing partners or contractors’ (OECD, 2013, p. 5).
At the same time, and despite the fact that also here there are differ-
ences between donor countries, DAC donors overall prefer funding their
own national NGOs. In fact, ‘in 2009 [DAC donors] provided around
five times more aid to NGOs based in their countries (national NGOs)
than to international NGOs and local NGOs in developing countries’
(OECD, 2011b, p. 19). The majority of NGO funding schemes of DAC
donors are thus restricted to national NGOs. This is not to say that there
is nothing left for international NGOs and/or NGOs from developing
countries (local NGOs). As Figure 1.2 shows, almost all donor countries
also report on funding of such non-national NGOs although the data
does not allow for a distinction between international and local NGOs.
Generally, funding of national and international NGOs is called
indirect funding (i.e., these NGOs are used as an intermediary channel
Private Aid Agencies in the 21st Century 9

National NGOs International/local NGOs






New Zealand
United Kingdom
Figure 1.2 Core funding to/through national and international/local NGOs
(2000–2011; in million USD, constant 2011)
Source: Own calculation based on CRS database.

between the official donor and local implementing NGOs in the South).
The amount of direct funding (i.e., funds going directly from official
donors to local NGOs – in most cases through embassies or local offices
of official donors in developing countries) is not known although the
2011 survey of the OECD learns that twenty DAC donors ‘allocate
between 1% and 30% of their support to NGOs to local organizations’
(OECD, 2011b, p. 19).
Understanding such funding schemes is central to the chapters in
this book. Authors thus set out to provide an answer to such questions
as what are the major changes in the level of subsidies to private aid
organizations, what subsidy arrangements are there, and are there dif-
ferent ones for national, international and local NGOs, what are the
assessment procedures and criteria of these arrangements and how
do NGOs themselves regard them. Such funding structures do not of
course come out of the blue. In fact, it is assumed that ‘donors’ support
models depend […] on what they wish to achieve through working with
[NGOs]’ (Nijs and Renard, 2009). This in turn then raises the question
as to the vision of donors on NGOs – and particularly how they analyze
the position and special place of private aid organizations. Authors
10 Lau Schulpen and Paul Hoebink

thus also include (changes in) these government visions and thereby
they simultaneously analyze the government perspective on the roles
of NGOs.

1.3 The roles of NGOs

Many authors have shed light on the roles that NGOs perform (or, in
many cases more correctly, should perform). Riddell (2007), for exam-
ple, distinguishes between ‘discrete interventions (projects) in the South
aimed at particular groups’, ‘strengthening of southern NGOs or CSOs’,
and ‘lobby and advocacy’. To this he adds strengthening ‘public sup-
port’ and networks (see also Grotenhuis, 2008). Lewis and Kanji (2009)
make a distinction between three roles and see NGOs as (1) service
providers, (2) catalysts (advocacy, innovation and their watchdog func-
tion) and/or (3) partners (for instance to governments or the corporate
sector). The OECD (2011b) shows in a survey of bilateral donors that
the reasons they work with NGOs should primarily be sought in the
idea that NGOs can provide certain services, that they contribute to
democratization processes and that they raise awareness at home. In an
earlier report of the OECD-DAC Advisory Group on Civil Society and
Aid Effectiveness, six ‘added values’ of International CSOs were distin-
guished. Next to the catalyzing role they play in connecting civil society
in northern and southern countries, these include creating awareness in
the North, facilitating global movements and international solidarity,
and creating political changes in the North needed for righteous and
peaceful international relations (Lingán, 2011).
Others maintain a simple division into two categories, seeing CSOs
as playing the role of service providers (replacing, for example, the gov-
ernment) and/or of political watchdogs keeping watch on other actors,
especially governments and businesses. This does not mean to say
that CSOs themselves always speak in these terms, as Barr et al. (2005,
p. 675) make clear in the case of Uganda: ‘Surveyed NGOs do not see
themselves as service providers, but rather as holistic organizations,
preferring to describe their activities in general terms such as “commu-
nity development”’. It must be acknowledged that every form of role
classification serves to obscure reality as NGOs quite often fulfill a com-
bination of roles and these roles are not static (Lister and Nyamugasira,
2003; De Wal, 2009; Batley and Rose, 2010; Tujan, 2012).
The discussion on roles – and how broad they should be – also shows
that expectations of CSOs are high, notwithstanding the increasing
requirements relating to accountability, effectiveness and efficiency
Private Aid Agencies in the 21st Century 11

within the international cooperation system. Gauri and Galef (2005),

for example, state that civil society organizations ‘are supposed to com-
bine the best characteristics of business, governments, and charities’.
The OECD study (2011b) shows a similar pattern of expectations, while
Tomlinson and Macpherson (2007) produce a list of NGO activities:
‘delivery of […] services, particularly in remote areas and to margin-
alised groups’, ‘participating in the policy process’, ‘identifying gaps
in the quality of government provision’, ‘analysing the problems of
society’, ‘articulating the needs of society’ and ‘linking what happens
at the micro-level to the meso and macro-levels’.
It is, however, not only ‘outsiders’ that attribute a plethora of roles to
CSOs. CSOs themselves do exactly the same as is evident from the ten
roles that the Open Forum for CSO Development Effectiveness (2011,
p. 28) distinguishes. These range from ‘direct engagement and support
for communities’ to ‘connect and network CSOs within and between
civil societies’ and from engaging ‘communities, civil society, the pri-
vate sector, local government authorities and other development actors
to collaborate’ to ‘encouraging domestic and international volunteering
engagement’. Although this list is undoubtedly not meant as a guide
for every single CSO, the diversity of roles only adds to the idea of high
expectations about what CSOs (can) do in/for development.
Central to the discussion of roles is what civil society organizations
‘are in this world for’ and therefore which role is (or should be) most
prominent. For some this question is relatively easy to answer, though
the answers are worded differently. For Bebbington et al. (2008) the
core of the matter lies in the search for alternatives to the existing insti-
tutional system (and therefore in changing the system that maintains
inequality and poverty). Riddell (2007, pp. 262, 301) describes the basic
idea of civil society organizations as follows:

‘Poverty and deprivation are intricately linked to a lack of power,

voice and influence. Poverty is caused not only by a shortage of
assets, skills and basic services, but by structures, institutions, policies
and processes which marginalise poor people, particularly women
and girls, and which maintain or increase vulnerabilities and limit
opportunities of both individuals and communities, restricting the
development and expansion of core capabilities. From this perspec-
tive, their main role lies in ‘influencing institutions, policies and
processes that are central to and underpin civic life, enhancing the
governance of poor countries, which is increasingly seen as central
to development and poverty eradication’.
12 Lau Schulpen and Paul Hoebink

The centrality of such an increased political role for CSOs is widely rec-
ognized by certain groups, yet strongly opposed by others. Within the
latter group are those southern governments that over the last couple
of years have restricted the room to maneuver for NGOs and particu-
larly for those organizations with a more political agenda and actions
(Bebbington, 2010; ICNL, 2011; ActAlliance, 2011; Paul, 2012; Banks
and Hulme, 2012; Okumu, 2011; World Movement for Democracy,
2012). Within the former group falls the UNDP (2010) speaking of
private organizations as ‘policy interlocutors and intermediaries that
promote civic participation and representation of minorities and dis-
advantaged groups in decision-making processes’. At the same time,
Tomlinson and Macpherson (2007) make it clear that, for multilateral,
bilateral and civilateral actors, ‘the primary role for civil society is advo-
cacy through monitoring and policy engagement’, while others show
that the perspective of bilateral actors in particular is a mix of political
and service-providing roles (Giffen and Judge, 2010; OECD, 2011b). It
would therefore be better, in the case of these latter actors, to speak of
NGOs as being primarily focused on a more political role while also
playing a (limited) role in service provision.
Interestingly, the role that receives little (if any) attention in this
discussion is that concerning strengthening, broadening or deepening
of public support in the North itself. Interesting because the point of
departure of Paxton and Knack (2008, p. 1) that ‘the supply of foreign
aid to recipients is influenced by public opinion in the donor countries’
is widely seen as accurate. In that sense, one could argue that public
support matters a great deal particularly at a time when development
cooperation seems to be under threat due to the economic crisis. Apart
from a broader discussion about roles, all country studies in this volume
thus also pay specific attention to the role of private aid organizations
in raising public awareness on development problems and support for
development cooperation. Do these organizations see a specific task for
themselves in this field?

1.4 Outline of the book

What follows is a series of six country studies in alphabetical order

and then a study on the New Member States of the EU. In all these
chapters the authors try to sketch the landscape of private aid organi-
zations in their country, the differences between these organizations,
their history and the place they have in the local ‘charity market’.
Simultaneously, they analyze the relation between government and
Private Aid Agencies in the 21st Century 13

private aid organizations in terms of how both partners look at each

other, what kind of arrangements they have and how these arrange-
ments and visions developed over the years. In particular the subsidy
arrangements between governments and private aid organizations
are analyzed. Finally, the authors look at evaluation systems (or the
absence of evaluation) and the way subsidy arrangements try to pro-
mote or organize systematical evaluation. In the final chapter we try to
make some comparisons of the differences in landscapes and relations
between European governments and private aid organizations and
look at differences in societal backgrounds and political systems in an
attempt to explain some of the differences observed.
Writing a kind of historical state-of-the-art book on individual
European countries’ NGO populations and policies on NGOs is a haz-
ardous job. Not only because these stories by definition are ‘corrupted’
by the choices individual authors make and the seemingly endless dif-
ferences between European countries’ NGO landscapes, but also because
time sometimes catches up fast. This certainly holds for academic work
that generally takes a long time to materialize in print. Undoubtedly
then, new additions to what is being explored here can be made if only
because development cooperation (and thus also the way in which
governments look at and deal with NGOs) is quickly changing due to
increasing pressure from the economic crisis, the continuing debate
about what aid should look like in the future, and the relatively new
debate about the need for a rejuvenation of, particularly, private aid
agencies in a rapidly changing world order and aid architecture. Still, we
are convinced that the authors have managed to provide a clear overview
of some of the major changes and challenges that NGOs experience.

ActAlliance (2011) Changing political spaces of Civil Society Organizations (Geneva:
AIV (2010) Cohesion in International Cooperation – response to the WRR report ‘Less
Pretension, More Ambition’ (The Hague: AIV-Advisory Council on International
Banks, N. and Hulme, D. (2012) The role of NGOs and civil society in development
and poverty reduction (Manchester: Brooks World Poverty Institute) (BWPI
Working Paper 171) (June).
Barr, A., Fafchamps, M. and Owens, T. (2005) ‘The governance of Non-
Governmental Organizations in Uganda’, World Development, 33 (4), 657–79.
Batley, R. and Rose, P. (2010) ‘Collaboration in delivering education: Relations
between governments and NGOs in South Asia’, Development in Practice,
20 (4), 579–85.
14 Lau Schulpen and Paul Hoebink

Bebbington, A. (2010) Social movements and poverty in developing countries (Geneva:

UNRISD) (Poverty Reduction and Policy Regimes – Thematic Paper no. 32).
Bebbington, A., Hickey, S. and Mitlin, D. (eds) (2008) Can NGOs make a difference –
the challenge of development alternatives (London: Zed Books).
CIVICUS (2011) Bridging the gaps: Citizens, organisations and dissociation – Civil
Society Index summary report: 2008–2011 (Johannesburg: CIVICUS).
CIVICUS (2013) State of civil society 2013: Creating an enabling environment
(Johannesburg: CIVICUS).
Fowler, A. (2011) ‘Development NGOs’ in M. Edwards (ed.) The Oxford Handbook
of Civil Society (Oxford: Oxford University Press), 42–54.
Gauri, V. and Galef, J. (2005) ‘NGOs in Bangladesh: Activities, resources, and
governance’, World Development, 33 (12), 2045–65.
Giffen, J. and Judge, R. (2010) Civil society policy and practices in donor agencies – an
overview report commissioned by DFID (London: INTRAC) (May).
Giving USA Foundation (2010) Giving USA 2010 – the annual report on Philanthropy
for the year 2009 (Indianapolis: The Center on Philanthropy).
Greenhill, R. Prizzon, A. and Rogerson, A. (2013) The age of choice – how are devel-
oping countries managing the new aid landscape? (London: ODI) (March).
Grotenhuis, R. (2008) Geloven dat het kan – nieuwe perspectieven op ontwik-
keling, macht en verandering (Kampen: Uitgeverij Ten Have).
Haan, A. de (2009) How the aid industry works – an introduction to International
Development (Sterling: Kumarian Press).
Hoebink, P., Breugel, L. and Habraken, R. (2013) From Development co-operation
to international cooperation 2.0 – looking at international aid systems towards
2015, a report commissioned by HIVOS (Nijmegen: CIDIN).
Hudson Institute (2012) The Index of Global Philanthropy and Remittances 2012
(Washington DC: Hudson Institute – Center for Global Prosperity).
Hulme, D. and Edwards, M. (eds) (1997) NGOs, States and Donors. Too Close for
Comfort? (London: Earthscan).
ICNL (2011) ‘NGO laws in Sub-Saharan Africa’ in Global trends in NGO Law – a
quarterly review of NGO legal trends around the world, 3 (3), 1–12.
Lewis, D. and Kanji, N. (2009) Non-Governmental Organizations and Development
(London: Routledge).
Lingán, J. (2011) Development effectiveness of international civil society organizations
(Brussels: Open Forum for CSO Development Effectiveness).
Lister, S. and Nyamugasira, W. (2003) ‘Design contradictions in the “new archi-
tecture of aid”? Reflections from Uganda on the role of civil society organiza-
tions’ in Development Policy Review, 21 (1), 93–106.
Nijs, L. and Renard, R. (2009) Reforming government funding of development NGOs –
a comparative analysis of eight European donors (Antwerp: IOB) (Working
OECD (2011a) Busan Partnership for Effective Development Cooperation (Paris:
OECD (2011b) How DAC members work with civil society organizations: An overview
(Paris:OECD/DAC) (June).
OECD (2013) Aid for CSOs (Paris: OECD).
Open Forum for CSO Development Effectiveness (2011) The Siem Reap CSO con-
sensus on the international framework for CSO development effectiveness (Brussels:
Open Forum for CSO Development Effectiveness).
Private Aid Agencies in the 21st Century 15

Okumu, P. (2011) Democracy, AID and Disenabling Environment: motivation and

impact of disenabling environment on development work in Africa – an analysis
based on studies and discussions in 40 African countries (Nairobi: ACPPP) (June).
Paul, J. (2012) ‘Civil society and the United Nations’ in H. Moksnes and M. Melin
(eds) Global Civil Society: shifting powers in a shifting world (Uppsala: Uppsala
Centre for Sustainable Development), 63–82.
Paxton, P. and Knack, S. (2008) Individual and Country-Level Factors Affecting
Support for Foreign Aid Policy Research Working Paper 4714 (Washington DC:
World Bank).
Prada, F., Casabonne, U. and Bezanson, K. (2010) Supplementary Study on
Development Resources beyond the Current Reach of the Paris Declaration
(Copenhagen: DIIS).
Riddell, R.C. (2007) Does foreign aid really work? (Oxford: Oxford University Press).
Severino, J.-M. and Ray, O. (2009) The End of ODA: Death and Rebirth of a Global
Public Policy (Washington DC: Center for Global Development) (Working Paper
167) (March).
Severino, J.-M. & Ray, O. (2010) The End of ODA (II): The Birth of Hypercollective
Action (Washington DC: Center for Global Development) (Working Paper 218)
Shafik, N. (2010) The Future of Aid (eighth Luca d’Agliano Lecture in Development
Economics) (…: Centro Studi Luca D’Agliano) (December).
Smillie, I. and Helmich, H. (1993) Non-Governmental Organizations and
Governments: Stakeholders for Development (Paris: OECD Development Centre).
Smith, J. (2012) ‘Transnational activism and global social change’, in H. Moksnes
and M. Melin (eds) Global Civil Society: shifting powers in a shifting world
(Uppsala: Uppsala Centre for Sustainable Development), 9–26.
Tomlinson, K. and Macpherson, I. (2007) Funding change: sustaining civil society
advocacy in education (London: Commonwealth Education Fund).
Tujan, T. (2012) ‘Civil society – new power in aid and development?’ in H.
Moksnes and M. Melin (eds) Global Civil Society: shifting powers in a shifting
world (Uppsala: Uppsala Centre for Sustainable Development), 27–42.
UNDP (2010) Civil society assessments: a user’s guide (draft) (Oslo: UNDP/Oslo
Governance Centre, Bureau for Development Policy and Civil Society Division,
Partnerships Bureau).
Vakil, A.C. (1997) ‘Confronting the classification problem: toward a taxonomy
of NGOs’ in World Development, 25(12), 2057–70.
Wal, M. de (2009) Een sector onder vuur- ontwikkelingssamenwerkingsorganisaties en
hun strategieën in een veranderende wereld (Utrecht: Berenschot).
World Movement for Democracy (2012) Defending civil society report (Washington
DC: World Movement for Democracy/International Center for Not-for-Profit
Worthington, S.A. and Pipa, T. (2010) ‘International NGOs and Foundations:
essential partners in creating effective architecture for aid’ in Brookings (2010)
Making development aid more effective – the 2010 Brookings Blum roundtable policy
briefs (Washington DC: Brookings), 28–36.
Mapping the Belgian NGDO
Landscape in Relation to
Development Cooperation:
Dealing with Fragmentation and
Emerging Complexities
Nadia Molenaers, Leen Nijs and Huib Huyse

2.1 Introduction

This chapter aims to provide a general overview of the Belgian non-

governmental development organization (NGDO) landscape and the
challenges it faces within the development cooperation framework.
Belgium with its consociational federal state, historically characterized
by deep linguistic, regional and ideological cleavages, has a NGDO
landscape that bears similar traits. To a large extent segmented into
ideological pillars (catholic, social democratic, liberal), divided into
Walloon or Flemish regions, yet increasingly linked to international
networks, the NGDO landscape is fascinatingly fragmented. Subsequent
reforms in co-funding systems have attempted, with limited success,
to partially fix the fragmentation problem. Today, fragmentation once
more figures high on the agenda as a problem, because the recent aid
effectiveness debate has put more international pressure on donors
(bilateral, multilateral but also indirect actors) to harmonize, manage
for results, professionalize, concentrate, specialize and become more
effective in delivering aid. In Belgium, on the sides of both the govern-
ment and the NGDO sector itself, there is a genuine concern to deal
with these challenges and to improve the quality of the NGDO sector.
Yet there is also resistance toward these new tendencies. Resistance is in
part fed by the success of a huge number of locally embedded particular
non-professional development initiatives and small organizations, part
of the so-called ‘fourth pillar’1 – which do not necessarily follow the
recommendations of the international aid effectiveness debate, yet they
compete with professional non-governmental development actors for
Mapping the Belgian NGDO landscape 17

private donations and are very successful in doing so. Added to that,
recently an increasing number of international NGDOs are also find-
ing their way to Belgium and competing with existing initiatives. The
attempt to deal with fragmentation thus meets new emerging complexi-
ties since all these organizations compete for public as well as private
funding to implement their projects and programs. The apparent trade-
off between professionalization and popular support seems – more than
ever – the most fundamental challenge for the NGDO sector in Belgium
First we sketch the degree of fragmentation of the NGDO landscape.
Secondly, we briefly point out the historic and systemic dynamics
underlying this fragmentation. A following section illustrates how both
the government and NGDOs have tried to diminish fragmentation and
increase professionalization through reforming the co-funding system.
This section highlights the gains but also the ever-increasing pressure
exerted by changes in the aid architecture and the principles underlying
the Paris Declaration which push towards a re-interpretation of the roles
of indirect actors in aid. These new tendencies are to a certain extent
perceived to be challenged by the overwhelming success of the fourth
pillar. We conclude by pointing out the most important challenges the
NGDO sector in Belgium is facing today.
It is important to mention that in this chapter we mainly address
those NGDOs that are legally recognized by the state and that figure as
indirect actors in channeling development aid. We also mainly focus
on those NGDOs that are spending a large part of their budget in the
This study draws on existing research on the Belgian non-governmen-
tal aid channel, policy documents and reports of the federal and regional
development agencies, information from the NGDOs themselves2 and
interviews with representatives from the Flemish and Francophone
federations and umbrellas and the DGDC (Directorate General for
Development Cooperation).3 Information on Belgian NGDOs is quite
scarce and since it was crucial to ascertain the sector’s view on certain
evolutions, we launched a web survey which probed NGDOs’ opinions
on several themes of this article and gathered data on their composition
and activities.4

2.2 Snapshot of the landscape

There are 115 officially recognized NGDOs in Belgium, which act as

indirect actors in channeling part of the ODA. The portion of Belgian
18 Nadia Molenaers, Leen Nijs and Huib Huyse

federal ODA allocated to Belgian NGDOs has been at an average of 7.7

per cent between 2003 and 2007, oscillating between 6.4 and 8.4 per
cent (Table 2.1).
Since 1976, the Belgian state has been co-financing NGDOs’ activi-
ties in the South.5 The most important underlying principle of the
federal subsidization system is that NGDOs have the right of initia-
tive hence they largely have the freedom to define their activities.
The government finances them on the basis of the private gifts the
NGDOs are able to collect. Since 2005 two registration levels exist
for NGDOs in the co-funding system: project funding and program
funding. Project funding has a maximum duration of two years, with
an annual grant of subsidy. Program funding is valid for ten years,
making it possible for an NGDO to set up and receive financing
for a three-year program (which must include a component in the
North and in the South). In Belgium we have 58 program NGOs and
57 project NGOs. Both projects and programs are subsidized to about
80 per cent.
Beyond federal funding, Belgian NGDOs can receive subsidies from
at least four different sources: 1) the European Union, 2) the Belgian
regional governments 3) the provinces and 4) the communes. Table A2.1
(Annex), which gives information about the composition of the
budgets of 37 large Belgian NGDOs, gives a first indication of their
high dependency on official funding. In 2007, on average 54 per cent
of NGDO revenues came from government funding (national, inter-
national, regional or local) while 45 per cent were generated by the

Table 2.1 Belgian ODA to NGDOs

ODA ODA (per- Funding to Direct funding Funding

(€ centage Belgian NGDOs to Southern to international
million) of GNI) NGDOs NGDOs

€ Per- € Per- € Per-

million centage million centage million centage
of ODA of ODA of ODA

2003 1.591 0.6 101.2 6.4 0.11 0.01 3.98 0.3

2004 1.176 0.4 99.3 8.4 0.72 0.1 6.10 0.5
2005 1.575 0.5 102.4 6.5 3.98 0.3 5.02 0.3
2006 1.575 0.5 108.9 6.9 6.89 0.4 6.36 0.4
2007 1.426 0.4 112.5 7.9 5.07 0.4 5.21 0.04

Source: DGDC, 2009.

Mapping the Belgian NGDO landscape 19

NGDOs through private gifts and transfers (

Roughly 66 per cent of NGDO’s are subsidized by either federal or
regional governments. About 60% of all recognized NGDOs are funded
by both federal and regional governments. The subsidy amount organi-
zations on average receive from the regions only constitutes 1/25th
of the financing they receive from the DGDC. Federal NGO funding
in 2007 for Belgian NGOs amounted to EUR112.5 million (DGDC,
2007), Flemish regional funding reached EUR5.2 million (DIV, 2008)
and Francophone support to NGOs totaled EUR2.5 million (CGRI-DRI,
2008). In the rest of the paper we focus on the federal subsidization of
Belgian NGDOs as, in volume, it far exceeds the regional funding and
at NGDO level also strongly outweighs the subsidies from other actors.
It is therefore the most influential factor when considering how the co-
funding structure of Belgian NGDOs relates to their activities (Table 2.2).
About 58 per cent of the Belgian population sometimes donates
money for development cooperation through an NGDO. NGDOs
seem to enjoy more legitimacy than other Belgian development
actors: not only are they better known, they are found to be the actors
most suited to play a role in development cooperation. They are per-
ceived to be an adequate aid channel by 89.6 per cent of respondents.
The government and individual persons were found to be suitable by
79 per cent, the UN organizations by 83.9 per cent. At the same time
however, NGDOs are suffering a legitimacy crisis. Criticisms about
their transparency, effectiveness, results-orientedness are increasingly
It is an often heard complaint from the Belgian development aid
agency Directorate-General for Development Cooperation (DGDC),

Table 2.2 2007 subsidies from official sources

Subsidy channel Percentage of total Average subsidy Percentage of

official subsidies amount per NGOs subsidized
organization by the channel

European Union 9.1 €711.408 35

DGDC 68.9 €2.785.852 67
Regions 2.1 €109.551 51
Provinces 1.4 €75.978 49
Communes 0.4 €22.271 46

* 18.2 per cent is covered by other subsidies.

20 Nadia Molenaers, Leen Nijs and Huib Huyse

frequently concurred by larger NGDOs, that in Belgium there are ‘too

many small development organizations that do not cooperate enough’.
It is difficult to fully substantiate this claim with a complete overview
of the number and sizes of Belgian NGDOs because there is no central
organization or database with information on all the organizations. The
data that exist, however, show a quite fragmented NGDO landscape.
This fragmentation is visible on two levels: in Belgium itself, but also
outside Belgsium when it concerns the countries/partners to which
these indirect actors channel funds.

2.2.1 Internal fragmentation

First, when looking inside Belgium, two remarkable features stand out:
the links with societal pillars and the regional split. To start with the first,
Stangherlin (2001), using data from 1976–1998, found most of the larger
NGDOs to be linked to the societal pillars, either through their link to
Catholic structures or to the main political parties. Table A2.2 (Annex)
ranks the twenty NGDOs with the largest 2008–2010 programs. This table
clearly shows the continued strength of the organizations with Catholic
roots (half of the organizations) but also the preponderance of bigger,
technical (mainly medical) and even humanitarian NGDOs, which are
often part of a bigger international organization. One effect of NGDOs’
connection to the societal pillars is their strong link to politicians, politi-
cal parties and the parliament. Some federal and regional parliamentar-
ians were at some time or still are active in a NGDO, for example as a
member of the Board. Through these contacts and networks, NGDOs are
known to have fairly strong lobbying power when it comes to defending
their interests, including through parliamentary questions.
Apart from being composed of organizations from different societal
pillars, the Belgian NGDO landscape also encompasses NGDOs from
different regional groups. It is difficult to categorize NGDOs by regional
identity, and generally NGDOs do not define themselves as ‘national’
or ‘regional’, but we can do this on the basis of where NGDO’s imple-
ment their northern activities. There are three regional groups: 1)
national (active on the whole Belgian territory), 2) Flemish (mainly
active in Flanders and Brussels), and 3) Francophone (mainly active in
Wallonia, Brussels and including a small fraction of organizations from
the German community). A remarkable feature is that very little coop-
eration and coordination takes place between organizations originating
from the different regions.
About 80 per cent of all NGDOs are members of at least one of the
four coordinating NGDO organizations. Two umbrella organizations: the
Mapping the Belgian NGDO landscape 21

Flemish organization 11.11.11. (named after the date (11th of November)

and time (11 o´clock) of the first mass mobilation (in 1966) to call for
more international solidarity) and the Walloon organization CNCD
work towards equitable North-South relations and increased awareness
of development issues among the Belgian public, which translates itself
into lobbying and advocacy, support of partner organizations (umbrellas)
in the South, coordination of Belgian NGDOs, and the organization of a
big coordinated yearly campaign.6 The federations Coprogram (Flemish)
and Acodev (Walloon) have the double role of inducing quality improve-
ment and professionalization in NGDOs’ work, and at the same time
defending these organizations’ interests vis-à-vis the DGDC.
The general impression is that in Belgium, Francophone NGDOs
are on average smaller than Flemish ones (Doligez et al., 2005). This
is confirmed by a study on the federations and umbrellas (Lambert
and de Smedt, 2006) which indicated that the NGDOs which are a
members of the Flemish federation on average received larger federal
subsidy amounts (63 per cent more than EUR500,000) than those who
were members of the Francophone federation (42 per cent more than
EUR500,000).7 It would, however, be inaccurate to say that the Flemish
NGDO landscape, in contrast with the Francophone one, is not frag-
mented. Most Flemish NGDOs are also fairly small. The top six Flemish
NGDOs generate 50 per cent of the total Flemish NGDO budget, and
the top twelve 73 per cent.8 The remaining 27 per cent of the budget,
which amounts to EUR52 million, is divided among 27 organizations
(, 2007 data).

2.2.2 External fragmentation

An often heard critique of the work of Belgian NGDOs is that their way
of working entails an ineffective dispersal or fragmentation of Belgian
aid. Recently, the federal government published a discussion note
(Cabinet of the Minister of Development Cooperation, 2008) in which
it stated that fragmentation undermines follow-up and the added value
and sustainability of NGDO activities. Some figures on the budgets and
areas of activity were given to illustrate this fragmentation. For the
period 2008–2010 DGDC funded NGDO programs allocated to 62 coun-
tries. In most countries only three Belgian NGDOs are active (Cabinet of
the Minister of Development Cooperation, 2008). There are 19 Belgian
NGDOs active in more than six countries, ten are active in more than
ten countries, and five in more than 15 countries.9 However, on aver-
age the yearly budget per NGDO per country is only EUR360,000. This
demonstrates that many modest budgets are spread thinly over a high
22 Nadia Molenaers, Leen Nijs and Huib Huyse

number of countries and activities. Added to that, most NGDOs also

have different partners within one country and this also implies a fur-
ther scattering of funds per country.
The problem of a fragmented landscape is furthermore linked to the
lack of synergy between bilateral and indirect Belgian aid. The discus-
sion note from the Ministry (Cabinet of the Minister of Development
Cooperation, 2008) complains that only 52 per cent of funded NGDO
activities take place in bilateral partner countries, which limits potential
exchange of knowledge, and diminishes coordination between indirect
and bilateral actors. It also makes it more difficult for the administration
to follow up the subsidized projects and programs (Cabinet of the Minister
of Development Cooperation, 2008). Several evaluations confirm this lack
of communication and coordination with other actors of Belgian develop-
ment cooperation in the field (Acodev, 2007). Another resulted from our
survey suggested that the attachés of Belgian bilateral cooperation are
the actors (except for attachés from other countries) with whom NGOs
are less likely to cooperate or coordinate: 35 per cent of the respondents
indicated that no structured Belgian bilateral coordination existed in the
field. Only 19 per cent actively coordinated with Belgian bilateral atta-
chés (through mapping of activities and identification of possibilities for
cooperation) while half of the respondents indicated that they exchange
information with these actors. Consequently it has often been suggested
that the development attaché should play a bigger role in the indirect
cooperation, for example in the evaluation of funding proposals (Acodev,
2007). In 2008, the DGDC experimented by involving Belgian NGDOs
in the preparation of the bilateral aid programs in a couple of countries.
A very strong argument against the above-mentioned idea of Belgian
coordination or synergies would be that it is not internal Belgian syn-
ergy that matters but synergy between the relevant actors in the field.
This argument has been repeatedly voiced by NGDOs claiming that,
compared to bilateral aid, NGDOs do different things and they do
things differently. Coordinating closely with the bilateral aid strategy,
so they argue, might be too close for comfort. Another, related argument
to this is that Belgian coordination might not result in the coordination
that actually matters, namely coordination in the field. The whole idea
of coordination is partially linked to the objective of reducing transac-
tion costs for the recipient. A tighter Belgian coordination does not
guarantee and might even hamper donor coordination in the field.
Unfortunately little to no data exist on these forms of cooperation. This
being said, it seems that both forms of coordination and cooperation
need not be mutually exclusive. Where possible and relevant, at least
some attempts should be made to coordinate and actively look for
Mapping the Belgian NGDO landscape 23

synergies between organizations, but also between direct (bilateral) and

indirect actors. This of course raises some questions with regard to the
effectiveness of aid. But before dealing with these questions we dig into
some of the dynamics that lie at the roots of this fragmentation.

2.3 Understanding fragmenting dynamics

2.3.1 History: four NGDO generations

Belgium’s colonial background in the Great Lakes region, its segmenta-
tion into societal pillars10 and progressive federalization have strongly
determined the Belgian NGDO-landscape and continue to influence
certain NGDO dynamics today. Evolutions at the international level
have also had an effect on the creation and focus of NGDOs.
Stangherlin (2001) distinguishes four Belgian NGDO generations. The
first generation of Belgian non-governmental development organizations
can be traced back to the universities and the Catholic pillar from the
1930s onwards. These created NGDOs to send out volunteers to the
colonial areas for work in community development projects or as tech-
nical assistants in the education or health sector. The two World Wars
and the civil war in Spain also instigated the founding of numerous
humanitarian organizations, which during the 1960s redirected their
focus to the developing world.
The second generation of NGDOs emerged after the independence of the
colonial territories in the early 1960s. Many new NGDOs originated in
the Catholic pillar and from pre-existing personal and societal links with
the former colonial areas. Other NGDOs sprung from international cam-
paigns, for example the FAO campaign against hunger, or were created
by political parties or their associated labor movements. For example the
different social movements in Belgium, situated at different ends of the
ideological spectrum and closely associated with respective political par-
ties, started to deploy charitable activities to support their counterparts
in and/or target groups in developing countries. Two other developments
of this era are important. Firstly, the creation of federation (1964) and
umbrella (1966) organizations11 and secondly, the establishment of a
financing system for NGDO expatriate work (1964) by the Belgian state.
In 1976 the project co-financing system was also launched by the govern-
ment. In terms of development activities, Belgian NGDOs’ work focused
on the transfer of technical and professional resources and organizations
were mainly involved in the agricultural, education and health sectors.
The third generation of NGDOs increasingly started to embody the
‘tiers-mondist’ paradigm. Emerging around 1968, rooted in student
movements, in radicalized parts of the Catholic Church, and also
24 Nadia Molenaers, Leen Nijs and Huib Huyse

outside of the common institutional structures, these organizations

were critical of the traditional aid delivered by Belgian NGDOs. The
new organizations carried out work that was less charitable and more
political in nature, founded in a structural socio-economic analysis of
development instead of one based on a resource imbalance. This was of
course in part fuelled by the heightened intensity of the Cold War, the
oil crises and the famines in certain parts of the world. Organizations
also became increasingly aware that development education for a
broader public was an important feature to maintain broader support
for development cooperation. The Belgian state encouraged this by
starting to fund these activities after 1980, which led to certain NGDOs
focusing exclusively on educational work in Belgium.
Lastly, the fourth generation emerged more or less after the end of
the Cold War. With the victory of democracy and the demise of com-
munism, some NGDOs redirected themselves from the political to
the technical. Furthermore, humanitarian aid gained prominence in
the face of devastating wars and natural disasters. The focus of these
new NGDOs lay in technique and pragmatism instead of ideology and
politics. Numerous increasingly professional and technically specialized
NGDOs started managing large projects and programs in the agriculture
and health sectors, while some of the already longer-established organi-
zations turned to these activities. Micro-finance activities and other
support to local economies, financially supported by the Belgian state
since 1997, also became en vogue during this period.

2.3.2 Systemic evolutions: pillars, regions and the role of DGDC

As stated in the first section, some NGDOs are linked to the main societal
pillars. Although the gradual depillarization in the nineties of Belgian
society has blurred many distinctions between organizations of the differ-
ent pillars, there is still some path dependence which remains important.
It has for example had an impact on geographical focus. NGDOs which
are linked to socialist or liberal parties and unions or to the Third World
movement in the 1960s and 1970s started out their activities in the politi-
cal hotbeds of that time, which include many countries in Latin America
that were not and are not partner countries of Belgian bilateral aid.12
Depillarization led to decreasing traditional associational member-
ship and thus a decreasing capacity to mobilize resources and support
(Stangherlin, 2001). Added to this, increased activism outside the
traditional structures, led to new, not pillarized, organizations which
has recently started to translate itself into an accelerated growth of
the fourth pillar which includes all development cooperation or aid
Mapping the Belgian NGDO landscape 25

initiatives taken by actors that do not belong to the recognized gov-

ernmental (bilateral aid or first pillar), intergovernmental (multilateral
aid or second pillar) and non-governmental (third pillar) development
agencies or organizations. The fourth pillar thus encompasses a very
heterogeneous group of individuals and organizations, such as schools,
foundations, companies, groups of friends, migrant organizations,
organizations of professionals, private (voluntary) development organi-
zations, missionaries, that in some way implement projects or programs
in development countries. These individuals and organizations may,
but often do not, have development cooperation as the primary focus
of their daily activities. A 2007 study (Develtere and Stessens, 2007)
estimated that this pillar might consist of more than 1100 initiatives in
Flanders and is gaining prominence. Unfortunately, similar data are not
yet available in the French-speaking regions of Belgium.
Turning to the role of DGDC, there is some complaint that it lacks
vision with regards to the role of indirect actors in aid. The guiding prin-
ciples in dealing with the indirect actors has been ‘the right of initiative’
and ‘autonomy’. This freedom has always been strongly revindicated
by the organizations, but is in fact not an official government policy.
Actually, in contrast with other European countries, no NGO policy or
strategy, operational objectives or specific connection with bilateral aid
objectives exists. Without guidelines or vision in place, the DGDC var-
ies between subsidizing activities fully freely conceived by the NGDOs,
and trying to gain some grip on NGDO programs and projects, more
recently by trying to push for guarantees on their coherence and com-
plementarity with the bilateral aid policy (a strategy strongly objected
to by the NGDO sector out of fear of ‘instrumentalization’). In any case,
the DGDC’s and the organizations’ views on the role of the subsidized
non-governmental aid channels diverge, which has implications for
indirect cooperation as a whole (Acodev, 2007).
The weakness of DGDC in terms of a vision on the role of indirect
actors in aid, is a symptom of a more general weakness. Belgian aid is in
and by itself fragmented and this is shown in four dimensions. Firstly,
DGDC is integrated in the Ministry of Foreign affairs and its political
head (sometimes a minister, sometimes a state-secretary) is often over-
ruled by the minister of foreign affairs. Recurring tensions between both
departments have resulted in weak coherence and weak coordination
between the agendas of foreign affairs and development cooperation.
Secondly, Belgium has a list of 18 partner countries that, with every new
minister, tends to change. Belgium also scatters its aid over a multitude
of projects and sectors. Little to no focus can be found in Belgian ODA,
26 Nadia Molenaers, Leen Nijs and Huib Huyse

although attempts are being undertaken to increase concentration and

specialization. Thirdly, the policies of DGDC are implemented by a
separate aid agency: the Belgian Technical Cooperation which is spe-
cialized in implementing projects and programs in the field. This often
creates confusion in the field for the recipient government because their
respective roles are not always clear for the recipient, and because of the
often recurring tensions between both organizations. In other words the
organizational split up between policy making and implementation is
already a form of fragmentation. Fourth and lastly, DGDC’s funding
channels are themselves fragmented. Currently, the Belgian government
funds development NGDOs through five different budget lines (DGDC,
n.d.), of which the bulk is the co-funding of the projects and programs
of Belgian NGDOs. In addition, the ‘Belgian Survival Fund’ subsidizes
NGDOs’ long-term programs on food security in Sub-Sahara Africa,
while Belgian and international NGDOs can also receive financing for
emergency aid, rehabilitation and food aid activities. Specific funding
for Belgian and international NGDOs is also available for projects and
programs that focus on conflict prevention, peace consolidation and
human rights. Lastly, Belgian embassies directly fund Southern NGDOs.

2.4 Attempts to fix fragmentation: opportunities of the

past and present

2.4.1 Co-funding reforms: gains and missed opportunities

On both the government and the NGDO sides there is a consensus that
Belgian NGDOs have made substantial progress over recent years in
terms of professionalization, results-orientedness and the coherence of
their activities. It is also clear that subsequent changes in the subsidiza-
tion system have helped in pushing this professionalization (Acodev,
2007). DGDC has reformed the NGDO co-funding system three times
(1991, 1997, 2005), each time trying to move more towards program
approaches and away from project approaches.
The first reform of the subsidy system in 1991 and the second one in
1997, attempted to counteract the fragmentation of the Belgian NGDO
landscape through encouraging merging and specialization of organi-
zations. From 1991 onwards the Belgian government started defining
stricter criteria by demanding proof of NGDOs’ professionalism and expe-
rience. It also created a differentiation between project funding and pro-
gram funding, with program funding (programs defined as a collection
of projects) over five years reserved for the largest and most professional
Mapping the Belgian NGDO landscape 27

NGDOs. This arrangement was intended to incentivize organizations to

collaborate and concentrate their efforts in terms of countries and sectors.
Although the new arrangement did have the effect of reducing the num-
ber of registered NGDOs from 221 in 1989 to 85 in 1991, it also generated
a significant amount of criticism from the organizations themselves, espe-
cially the smaller and less professionalized Francophone ones.
In 1997, a new reform (often called the ‘Moreels reform’, for the devel-
opment minister who launched it) was introduced, again hoping to
reduce the administrative burden of the co-funding system and increase
specialization, professionalization and collaboration between NGDOs.
The new regulation introduced a redefinition of the concept of the five-
year program. The program now embodied the strategic framework that
specifies the goals of the NGDO on the medium-long term. The subsi-
dies were allocated based on the annual submission of an action plan,
which concretizes the program for that year. Activities could be financed
for 75 per cent or 85 per cent, depending on organization’s size and
specialization. In 1997, organizations with a budget lower than EUR2
million could only be co-financed for 75 per cent, while those exceed-
ing that number could get funded for 85 per cent of their projects and
programs. As a result of these efforts, the number of registered NGDOs
has decreased from 151 in 1997 (Stangherlin, 2001) to 115 in 2008.
In 1998, DGDC attempted to introduce and institutionalize the
practice of evaluation. Up until then external evaluations of projects
and programs of Belgian NGO’s were very limited in numbers and
organized on an ad-hoc basis. The 1998 funding regulation with its 1
per cent rule13 stipulated that NGOs had to allocate a minimum amount
to evaluation, and commission independent evaluators to execute these
evaluations. This led to a significant increase of evaluations, amounting
to about 500 over the period 1998–2003. A screening of the ‘1 per cent
evaluations’ commissioned by the Belgian Ministry of Foreign Affairs
(Doligez et al., 2005). identified a growing evaluation culture within
the Belgian NGO community and the Federal funding agency, but high-
lighted at the same time several quality problems, such as weak evalu-
ation methodologies, an exclusive focus on evaluations at the project
and program level, the lack of feedback of evaluation findings into new
programming by the NGOs, and the indistinctness around the final aim
of the evaluations (creating confusion around the learning objectives
and the demands for accountability). The 1 per cent rule was continued
in the 2003–2007 program period, during which a number of Belgian
NGOs started experimenting with more strategic approaches to external
evaluation, with long-term contracts with evaluation units, and more
28 Nadia Molenaers, Leen Nijs and Huib Huyse

program-level, and thematic and transversal evaluations. In the latest

program period (2008–2010), funding regulations with regards to evalu-
ation have been relaxed, and it remains unclear if the fragile evaluation
culture amongst NGOs has been sufficiently nurtured to achieve insti-
tutional sustainability.
The DGDC nor the NGDOs were satisfied by the Moreels reform. It
totally distorted the program logic by basing subsidization and evalu-
ation on a yearly action plan. A full revision of the NGDO funding
scheme took place in 2005. The latest reform of the subsidy system
introduced a tiered financing system and aimed to give more flexible
and programmatic funding to organizations with sufficient capacity.
In theory, this arrangement would make it possible for the DGDC
to screen organizations ex-ante on their organizational capacity and
financial management, which lowers the burden of detailed ex-post
financial control. For the first time, yearly funding proposals and
evaluations would not be necessary (programs are funded for three
years) and space would be opened up for a more substantial dialogue
between the ‘program’ NGDOs and the administration. NGDOs hope
that annual financial control could be replaced by impact studies and
evaluations. It is still too early to assess the functioning of this financing
system, as the first programs started in 2008. Unfortunately, concrete
implementation already again seems to undermine the spirit of the
reform. 76 NGDOs applied for the program registration. Of those, 58
organizations, more than half of all Belgian NGDOs, effectively passed
the PriceWaterhouseCoopers (PWC) (Price Waterhouse Coopers, 2007)
screening. Apparently, the relative leniency of the screening was related
to the fact that if the criteria were not lowered, the balance between
Flemish and Francophone organizations that received the more flexible
funding would be distorted. In any case the group of ‘program’ NGDOs
is now composed of very diverse organizations, including many small
players with weaker organizational capacities. As a result, the DGDC has
resorted to its old ways, which means heavy administrative and finan-
cial control and a focus on inputs and activities.14 The assessment of
funding proposals, ex-post evaluations and financial controls on the use
of subsidies entail high transaction costs for all involved parties. Heavy
administrative prerequisites are transferred down the aid chain, with
the danger of Southern partners being chosen because of their capabil-
ity to handle all the administrative issues. Furthermore, Belgian NGDOs
feel that the huge paperwork burden might reduce their role to that of
a financial channel, as it limits the investments they can make into the
more qualitative aspects of their partnership relations (Acodev, 2007).
Mapping the Belgian NGDO landscape 29

Notwithstanding all the above-mentioned reforms, there is an overall

feeling of dissatisfaction among all stakeholders (although each partner
has different emphases) that progress towards the goals of profession-
alization, results-orientedness, coherence and administrative simplifica-
tion has not been adequate.

2.4.2 A renewed push for reform? The role of the changing

aid architecture
The Paris Declaration (2005) on aid effectiveness advances the prin-
ciples of respecting recipient ownership, increasing donor harmoni-
zation, striving toward alignment, results-orientedness and mutual
accountability between donors and recipients. These principles have
fuelled an international debate on – among other things – the role of
NGDOs as deliverers of aid and the focus of the activities of civil society.
To start with the focus of the activities of civil society, the new aid
approach (NAA), launched around the turn of the millennium with
the PRSPs, endorsed by the Paris Declaration (2005) (OECD, 2005) and
followed up by the Accra Agenda for Action (OECD, 2008), aims at
strengthening the recipient state to better take up its responsibilities in
freeing citizens from want and need. A strong civil society is considered
crucial in this endeavor because it can play different roles in pushing
the good governance agenda: representing the voice from below, articu-
lating demands and interests of the poor and vulnerable, pushing the
government towards more transparency, responsiveness, accountability
and improved performance, forming a counterweight to authoritarian
tendencies, and so forth (Fowler, 2000). Civil society organizations are
thus no longer expected exclusively to channel resources and services
direct to beneficiaries, something they have been doing a lot the last
three decades, in part because donors invited them to do so. Today,
there is a growing consensus that non-state actors should not substi-
tute the state in the provisions of services. Organizations are therefore
supposed to move toward policy influencing, monitoring and evalua-
tion, lobbying and advocacy, playing a watchdog role. Cornwall and
Gaventa (2000) rightly state that today civil society in the South is
increasingly expected to move its focus of attention from micro to
macro, from projects to policies, from beneficiaries to citizens. This is
not to say that organizations should completely drop service delivery,
but it is ideally a (temporary) role for non-state actors limited to those
cases were the state structures are totally missing, or for trying out
innovative approaches to service delivery, which if well coordinated
can afterwards be scaled-up by state actors (Riddell, 2007). This is also
30 Nadia Molenaers, Leen Nijs and Huib Huyse

not to say that all services should be delivered by the state, but the state
should – when non-state actors take up this responsibility – at least play
a regulating role.
This emphasis on more political roles for civil society also challenges
NGDOs in the North. The institutional strengthening of southern civil
society partners so that they can take up these new challenges, while
exiting the exclusive focus on funding or implementation of hands-on
projects and programs which deal with beneficiaries directly, is now the
new guiding action scheme. In the North, NGDOs are also supposed to
do more political work: holding their own governments accountable for
the set-up and results of donor aid policies, but also sensitizing public
opinion on the need for, and the complexity of, aid for development.
Important to mention is that the underlying rationale of this NAA
departs from the idea that development is a is not something one can
fix with short term technical interventions, but a long term process of
political, institutional, economic changes. External actors (like donors)
must therefore support these deep and complex processes by tapping
in on local reform drives, identifying drivers of change and smartly
supporting these are considered more sustainable (though slow) strate-
gies than say financing service delivery projects which show visible and
tangible results, but do not necessarily change the structural (hence)
causal conditions of poverty and exclusion.
This international tendency has implications on various levels: the
articulation of direct and indirect aid, the re-positioning of the NGDO
landscape itself, and, the rethinking of the co-funding system.
Firstly, donors are starting to look at (international) civil society as
allies in trying to use aid as a leverage for change. Harmonization as a
concept can thus be stretched. It is used by some donors as a justifica-
tion to rethink coherence, synergy of the different aid agencies, aid
actors, and aid channels within one donor. With this in mind, DGDC
is starting to question the ‘right of initiative’ of NGDOs and argues that
the channeling of aid through indirect actors should follow the same
logic as bilateral aid (that is indirect aid should go to partner countries
and be coherent with bilateral aid objectives). Although the NGDOs
themselves recognize as one of their limitations weak cooperation
with other Belgian agents in the field, especially in bilateral coopera-
tion (NGO Delegation to the steering committee, 2008), they strongly
reject the analysis that improving synergy means working more in and
under bilateral aid strategies. According to the NGDOs this is ‘instru-
mentalization’. Belgian NGDOs claim specificity of their roles (motor
for innovation, watchdog, focus on ‘forgotten’ groups and inequality)
Mapping the Belgian NGDO landscape 31

and respect for the diversity of the NGDO sector which impedes align-
ment of NGDOs geographic/strategic choices with those of the bilateral
cooperation (11.11.11., 2008) NGDOs therefore argue that it is coopera-
tion – and harmonization – with organizations (not necessarily Belgian)
that specialize in the same themes and support similar types of partners
that should be pursued (ibid.). They therefore argue that the main goal
is to increase specialization and task division within the Belgian NGDO
sector and that this means that in the South, NGDOs or bilateral agen-
cies from other countries or multilateral agencies might be the most
appropriate cooperation partners, rather than a forced and exclusive
coordination effort with Belgian bilateral aid.
Secondly, the increasing importance of political roles also brings
forward a set of new challenges. Many Belgian NGDOs are considered
still to be focusing too much on the implementation of service delivery
projects in the traditional sectors with political research, lobbying and
advocacy continuing to play second fiddle. As an illustration, it is inter-
esting to mention that 11.11.11. has established that among all Flemish
NGDOs, there are only nine people fully employed to do political work.
In our survey NGDOs were asked to give their view on the evolution
of their roles. Three-quarters of respondent NGDOs are of the opinion
that the Belgian NGDO sector should continue equally to develop both
projects and programs in the South and awareness and lobbying in the
North. Only a few (10 per cent) NGDOs viewed their activities and pres-
ence in the South as the central focus of Belgian NGDOs in the future,
but what is striking is that these were all very small organizations.15
More than 50 per cent of respondents, including half of the small
organizations, also agreed to the statement that ‘Political lobbying/
advocacy is mainly something for the large NGDOs and the networks’.
Furthermore, half of the respondents felt that ‘Belgian NGDOs should
be a lot more present in the field in the South’. These results show that,
especially for many small organizations, implementation of their own
projects and programs in the South continues to be a central activity
for Belgian NGDOs. It also shows that smaller organizations are often
viewed to be lacking the potential for more political work and self-
renewal. Important to mention, however, is that smaller NGDOs have
more limited staff and organizational capacity, but receive substantial
(some would even say disproportional) subsidy amounts. The admin-
istrative costs of these small NGDOs are proportionally higher than
those of the larger organizations and many of them are extremely busy
with the management of their budgets and projects. Big portions of
their yearly cycle are dedicated to the preparation of funding proposals
32 Nadia Molenaers, Leen Nijs and Huib Huyse

and yearly reporting. It is therefore difficult for them to become fully

engaged in the debates and reflections that go on in within the sector,
as they often do not have enough time or human resources available to
attend trainings or debates on policy or quality. This lack of resources
and time for coordination and reflection means that these NGDOs are
also less connected at the international level.16
Thirdly, it questions the whole co-funding system and the incentives
it produces. First of all, today in Belgium, funds are not allocated on
a really competitive basis, and the dialogue with the DGDC is more
about the financial accountability of NGDOs than about their strate-
gies or roles. The DGDC consequently does not push them strongly to
adapt their policies or undertake certain risks. Especially organizations
which are highly dependent on official funding, without really hav-
ing to engage in strong competition with other organizations on the
private market, are in a relatively comfortable position. They are not
confronted with strong demands to rethink their roles and thus have
few incentives to engage in a costly, potentially painful, process of self-
reinvention. Secondly, the more political roles for NGDOs challenge
the current assessment set-up of DGDC. Small, concrete service delivery
projects that straightforwardly show local, tangible results are easier for
the DGDC to assess. Some voices in the NGDO sector complain that
organizations that implement these kind of projects therefore get fund-
ing proposals approved more easily and receive more positive evalua-
tions than those NGDOs that try to work towards long-term change at
higher levels through more diffuse – political – work. The co-financing
system is not designed to reward innovation or non-traditional
approaches and a lot of NGDOs do not have enough own funding to
play the forward-thinking role they used to.

2.4.3 Towards a new landscape?

Since mid-2008, and linked to the debate fuelled by the Paris Declaration,
the DGDC, the cabinet of Minister of Development Charles Michel and
the Belgian NGDO sector have been involved in intense consultations
on the aid effectiveness of indirect cooperation.17 These discussions
evolve around the above-mentioned topics and they should result in a
‘pact’ with reciprocal engagements by the end of this year.
The DGDC and the coordinating NGDOs agree that a more policy-
based relationship between the administration and the sector is
urgently required. The DGDC has already agreed to only effectuate one
financial control per program, which means every three years instead
of annually. It has also agreed with the NGDO sector that it would be
interesting to consider awarding different levels of ‘quality certificates’
Mapping the Belgian NGDO landscape 33

to NGDOs (after a screening of their internal management systems).

On the basis of this certificate, the frequency and intensity of financial
controls could be adapted (DGDC, 2009). In general, many NGDOs feel
that their relationship with the DGDC does not resemble a partnership,
but is too hierarchical and heavily based on the financing relationship.
Discussions often center more around financial control of subsidized
activities and details of activities and less on policy and strategic choices.
File administrators are themselves overburdened with the administra-
tive handling of enormous dossiers, only seldom go into the field, often
lack the specific expertise to thoroughly understand NGDOs’ programs
(Acodev, 2007) and are frequently replaced. They also enjoy a rather
large degree of autonomy and not all of them interpret the DGDC’s task
in the same way: some focus strictly on financial control while others
are more lenient, some have a more regular dialogue and contact with
the NGDOs than others. This variability is a result of the weakness of
the administrative leadership and the lack of vision of the DGDC and
creates discontinuity and uncertainty for the organizations.
The DGDC also complains that it is swamped with the assessment of
funding proposals and the ex-post evaluations and that all the detailed
financial controls eat away most of its time. At the same time, the
DGDC also feels that the lack of a substantial dialogue is related to
NGDOs’ dependence on official funding which makes the relationship
between the DGDC and organizations very asymmetrical and often
leads to a defensive stance being taken by NGDOs during discussions
on their funding proposals.
A hugely important step taken by the umbrellas and federations is that
they have recently decided that the push for quality should outweigh
the defense of the sector’s interests. For example, the Flemish umbrella
is of the opinion that smaller organizations should specialize, merge or
cease to exist and the Flemish federation supports a stricter screening of
candidate program NGDOs. The problem is that the boards of directors
of the federations, composed of representatives from NGDOs, can thwart
their determination and have in the past objected to positions from the
federations or umbrellas that did not fully support all NGDOs interests.
Certain initiatives from the federations and umbrellas consequently do
not invoke a lot of enthusiasm in many organizations, which do not
want give up their ways of working. Small organizations often refer to
their singularity and the importance of diversity as justifications of their
refusal to merge with, or be absorbed by, other NGDOs. Individuality
and variety can, however, only deliver added value when organizations
specialize, possess a specific expertise and in this sense complement
each other. The call for a division of tasks within the NGDO sector is
34 Nadia Molenaers, Leen Nijs and Huib Huyse

resounding increasingly strongly, but specialization has been a difficult

goal to attain. It inevitably entails very tough choices and measures from
organizations, as decisions to cut back activities in certain countries or
sectors affect partner organizations and sometimes even organizations’
own staff. Thorough changes in NGDOs roles and higher expectations
regarding the quality their work will inevitably not be in the interest of
all the organizations in the sector. These tensions are a consequence of
the inherent conflicts of interest in federations’ roles, as the federations
must, in a certain sense, try to promote unity between the state and the
organizations, but at the same time must also try to push the NGDOs
forward (Lambert and de Smedt, 2006). Inevitably, future developments
in the whole context of indirect cooperation will bring more tensions in
the relationship between small and large NGDOs, and the federations
and possibly also the umbrellas. It remains to be seen if these challenges
will finally result in an opening up of the debate.

2.5 Reversing the trend? Tendencies which constrain


The above-mentioned trends which try to limit the fragmentation of aid

and promote the quality of the NGDO sector are strongly challenged by
a couple of tendencies at three different levels: 1) the DGDC level, 2) the
NGDO level, and 3) the level of popular perceptions on development
First, although among top-level management of DGDC there is a
consensus that the relationship with NGDOs should change from form
(administrative and financial controls) to substance (strategies and con-
tent), it will be a challenge to materialize this change at the lower levels
of the administration. We have discussed the weaknesses in some of the
sticky traditions at the DGDC and these will remain important obstacles
to change. Added to that, it is by now acknowledged that Belgium, as a
smaller donor, is not a very good pupil in the OECD/DAC class in terms
of donor behavior. It is therefore not surprising that NGDOs argue that
DGDC should first get its own act together and tackle its own internal
fragmentation before projecting high demands on the NGDO sector.
Secondly, obstacles to change lie within the NGDO sector itself.
Although there are some drivers of change within the sector, some
Belgian NGDOs frequently react defensively to claims about their
lack of transparency, inefficiency or ineffectiveness. The real debate
about the essence of the organizations’ identities and tasks has very
seldom been embarked on. Organizations find it difficult to question
Mapping the Belgian NGDO landscape 35

themselves, especially in a context in which they are increasingly being

interrogated about their effectiveness and added value. Moreover, many
NGDOs are afraid of losing their identity and autonomy, having to
make painful changes or even ceasing to exist as organizations. This
focus on own organizational survival is a constant stumbling block for
cooperation within the sector, with each NGDO trying to secure its
place in the private market and the subsidization system. No wonder
that most organizations are hesitant about discussing an urgently neces-
sary, but profound, restructuring and reorientation of the sector.
Thirdly, people who donate money to NGDOs, want their money to
go directly to the South – and preferably also to have direct and visible
results there. The construction of water wells and the direct donation of
vaccinations and tuition money are activities that offer instant gratifica-
tion to contributors and have consequently not lost their popularity. In
part, this explains the success of a certain segment of the fourth pillar
and the effectiveness of the so-called ‘begging letters’, which appeal
directly to the emotions of the receiver by highlighting the tragedies
of poverty. This fundraising method, often labeled as unethical and
contrary to the message NGDOs would like to give people about devel-
opment, generates about 2.5 times more gifts than traditional mailings
(Roox, 2007). Many NGDOs therefore feel a strong tension between on
the one hand appealing to the wider public and guaranteeing sufficient
own funding, and on the other hand their task of awareness of the
Belgian population (De Standaard, 2007a).
Evidently, Belgian NGDOs perceive this popular perception of devel-
opment cooperation as a threat. 12.7 per cent of private charity is given
‘directly’ to the South, for example through personal connections, with-
out going through an intermediary Belgian organization. 60 per cent of
those who engage in this direct support mention trust and effectiveness
as their motivation; they feel more secure about their money ‘reach-
ing the right destination’ (Pollet and Huybrechts, 2007). According
to estimates from the above-mentioned study, Flemish fourth-pillar
organizations managed to mobilize between 47 and 68 million euro in
2005, of which about 80 per cent consists of gifts from individuals and
companies and from income-generating activities. The remaining 20
per cent are local, regional and national subsidies.
Belgian NGDOs generally have difficulties in kindling people’s inter-
est for the structural and political aspects of development, and in
convincing them of the ways private gifts can have an impact on these
(De Standaard, 2007). For example, Debels (2007) published a book
entitled ‘€100 euro for 11.11.11. only means €1 for the South’
36 Nadia Molenaers, Leen Nijs and Huib Huyse

which caused a stir in the NGDO world. The author attacked Belgian
NGDOs for spending too much donated money on personnel and
other costs in the North, with only a fraction of the gifts really end-
ing up in developing countries. The publication was strongly criticized
by NGDOs, not only because its claims were inaccurate, but mainly
because they were based on an outdated vision of development coop-
eration. Accusing NGDOs of not transferring enough resources to the
South completely ignores the structural political work many Belgian
NGDOs in Belgium try to develop and promote among the public.
Accountability claims of the media and the public towards NGDOs are
thus often based on incorrect ideas of what these organizations’ roles
and priorities should be (Aertsen and Bouten, 2007). In consequence, a
rift is growing between on the one hand what people want NGDOs to
do and what they think the organizations actually do, and on the other
hand what NGDOs should and want to do. To counter this growing gap
between organizations, their constituencies, and the general public, sev-
eral voices within the NGDO world have called for an open debate on
the visions and roles of the Belgian NGDOs, who should, in the words
of the general secretary of 11.11.11., ‘do what they say and say what
they do’ (De Standaard, 2007b). Development education and awareness
of the complexities of development cooperation should also take a more
prominent place within the sector.
Notwithstanding the fierce competition with the fourth pillar, in
recent years, NGDOs as well as the regional and local governments
of Flanders have been acknowledging the (potential) role fourth-pillar
organizations can have in development cooperation and awareness.
In collaboration with the Flemish International Co-operation Agency
(VAIS), 11.11.11 has erected in 2008 a supporting structure for fourth-
pillar organizations. This consists of a website, a help desk and courses.
According to our survey, in the whole of Belgium at least 18 other NGDOs
cooperate with fourth-pillar initiatives. This cooperation mainly consists
of provision of information, campaigning, financial support and capac-
ity building. Moreover, the majority of respondents in our survey (22 out
of 28) agreed that NGDOs needed to collaborate more with fourth-pillar
organizations in the future. However, there is less support for subsidizing
fourth-pillar organizations than for other forms of support. Arguments
for this include increased possibilities for synergy, sharing of expertise,
participation and professionalization of fourth-pillar initiatives. On the
other hand, some NGDOs mentioned the risk of further fragmentation
of development efforts and the supposedly inherent different role and
dynamics of fourth-pillar organizations vis-à-vis NGDOs.
Mapping the Belgian NGDO landscape 37

2.6 Conclusion

The Belgian NGDO landscape is, for such a small country, quite frag-
mented. This fragmentation is visible within Belgium in terms of
pillarization and regionalization; but, and this is probably more prob-
lematic in terms of improving aid effectiveness, it is also visible outside
Belgium. Too many actors are channeling relatively small amounts of
aid to a great number of countries and to a huge number of recipients.
There is thus a substantial risk that aid arrives in recipient countries
in a very fragmented way, and so, in terms of aid effectiveness, it can
be argued to be failed aid. There is however a need to consider the
idea that aid which departs Belgium in a fragmented way might not
be fragmented in the field. If Belgian actors cooperate a lot with all
kinds of different actors in the field, if they pool funds and efforts with
other donors (whether governmental or non-governmental), then the
problem might not be as substantial as currently argued by the Belgian
government. To assess this, however, more and new data are needed
in terms of how cooperation in the field takes shape, and to which
extent synergies are actively created with other (non-Belgian) donors
and NGDOs.
The attempts to decrease fragmentation in the Belgian NGDO sec-
tor date back to the beginning of the 1990s with the three subsequent
reforms in the co-funding system. Although some progress was made,
reforms did not achieve the hoped-for results. The international aid
effectiveness debate however boosted the fragmentation concern in
Belgium. DGDC and the NGDO sector are negotiating the role of
indirect actors in development cooperation with a twofold objective:
improving the quality of the NGDO sector as actors in development
cooperation, and rethinking the co-funding system in order to improve
overall official development aid (ODA).
This twofold objective encounters strong countervailing tendencies
within Belgium. At either end of the actor spectrum there are deeply
embedded institutional practices that guard against change. On the side
of the NGDO sector, smaller project NGDOs feel threatened by the calls
for more specialization, more political work, more concentration and
more professionalization; they fear losing their local embeddedness.
The success of the fourth pillar furthermore seems to suggest that small
is indeed beautiful and very capable of tapping into the generosity of
the Belgian public. From the point of view of popular legitimacy thus
it seems more worthwhile to stick to small-scale projects that deliver
directly to poor people. On the side of DGDC there are deep-reaching
38 Nadia Molenaers, Leen Nijs and Huib Huyse

bureaucratic traditions which always seem to focus on financial con-

trols and a preference for visible and easily measurable results.
The ideal co-funding system, according both DGDC and the umbrella
organizations, provides for a long-term partnership agreement with a
couple of high-quality NGDOs. Rather than focusing on tangible results,
and being persuaded to deliver visible results and outcomes, organizations
which respond to certain management standards, like the institution-
alizations of monitoring and evaluation (M&E) into their organizations,
receive flexible funding and are able to deliver core funding (rather than
project funding) to their partners in the south. This, however, requires a
very selective approach in which only a couple of high-standard NGDOs
enter in such a co-funding relationship with the government.


Table A2.1 Budgets of 37 Flemish and national NGDOs (in € and percentages)

NGDO Subsidies Own Percentage Percentage Total

revenues of of own
subsidies resources

Artsen Zonder
22.053.000 110.530.000 17 83 132.583.000
Oxfam-Solidariteit 8.245.927 12.758.535 39 61 21.004.462
10.194.613 6.188.235 62 38 16.382.848
Broederlijk Delen 6.311.384 10.070.106 39 61 16.381.490
Handicap Int. 10.130.366 6.030.796 63 37 16.161.162
Damiaanactie 3.764.130 11.130.690 25 75 14.894.820
UNICEF 604.643 12.540.800 5 95 13.145.443
11.11.11 5.734.825 7.043.806 45 55 12.778.631
Vredeseilanden 8.123.477 4.617.602 64 36 12.741.079
Plan België 75.429 12.447.417 1 99 12.522.846
DMOS 5.503.268 3.679.768 60 40 9.183.036
MEMISA 6.706.879 1.881.705 78 22 8.588.584
Trias 7.081.429 1.263.523 85 15 8.344.952
Wereldsolidariteit 4.547.809 3.241.058 58 42 7.788.867
Volens 5.471.852 1.776.415 75 25 7.248.267
PROTOS 5.565.791 1.044.581 84 16 6.610.372
Rode Kruis 3.413.306 2.167.208 61 39 5.580.514
Fos 4.805.559 721.153 87 13 5.526.712

Mapping the Belgian NGDO landscape 39

Table A2.1 Continued

NGDO Subsidies Own Percentage Percentage Total

revenues of of own
subsidies resources

Caraes 1.067.141 3.051.640 26 74 4.118.781

Bevrijde Wereld 3.091.618 594.937 84 16 3.686.555
VIC 2.677.513 395.790 87 13 3.073.303
ACTEC ‘Een Beroep
2.295.010 758.064 75 25 3.053.074
voor Iedereen’
Artsen Zonder
0 2.669.175 0 100 2.669.175
583.245 1.837.474 24 76 2.420.719
Tearfund 1.088.031 911.291 54 46 1.999.322
Studio Globo 1.291.599 366.596 78 22 1.658.195
Steunfonds Derde
847.851 259.281 77 23 1.107.132
Cunina 15.635 943.340 2 98 958.975
Atol 305.513 244.279 56 44 549.792
Alfa – vanaf 2008
455.320 64.938 88 12 520.258
Ipis 376.764 124.886 75 25 501.650
Geneeskunde voor
177.005 234.831 43 57 411.836
de Derde Wereld
Djapo (merged
with Alfa vzw in 249.177 77.446 76 24 326.623
PHOS 276.178 19.109 94 6 295.287
Wereldmediateek 145.784 91.958 61 39 237.742
Umubano 57.181 56.003 51 49 113.184
SOS Kinderdorpen 1.866 3.668 34 66 5.534
Average 3.603.679 5.995.624 54% 45% 9.599.303


Table A2.2 Twenty NGDOs with the largest federally subsidized programs

NGDO Regional group Historical background

Broederlijk Delen Flemish Catholic

Vredeseilanden Flemish Catholic

40 Nadia Molenaers, Leen Nijs and Huib Huyse

Table A2.2 Continued

NGDO Regional group Historical background

Trias Flemish Catholic rural movements and

entrepreneur groups
11.11.11 Flemish Umbrella organization, not
linked to pillars or structures
DMOS National Catholic
Damiaanactie National Catholic
Handicap International National Subsection of international
Médecins sans Frontières National Subsection of international
humanitarian NGDO
Wereldsolidariteit Flemish Christian worker’s movement
Disop Unknown Unknown
SOS Faim Francophone Outside of pillars – sprung from
international campaign
FOS Flemish Socialist movement
Oxfam Solidarity National Member of international
Memisa National Catholic – subsection of Memisa
FCD Francophone Socialist movement
Protos Flemish Outside of pillars – conceived by
private persons
Louvain Développement Francophone Catholic University
ACTEC National Catholic
Croix Rouge Francophone Subsection of international
humanitarian organization
Rode Kruis Flemish Subsection of international
humanitarian organization

Source: based on data supplied by the DGDC at the end of 2008.


With thanks to Tom de Bruyn for his contribution on the part of the
fourth pillar. The authors also wish to thank Paul Hoebink and Patrick
Develtere for their comments. Some of the insights presented in this
chapter also draw on earlier research carried out with Robrecht Renard
(Institute of Development Policy and Management, University of
Antwerp, Belgium).
Mapping the Belgian NGDO landscape 41

1. The fourth pillar is a very diversified group of initiatives in which both
large and institutionalized players (like foundations) and small particular
initiatives are collected. In this paper however we mainly refer to those small
particular initiatives which are non-professional development actors.
2. We gathered a lot of interesting information from a website ( launched by the Flemish federation, which aims to increase
NGDO transparency and accountability through supplying aggregate and
individual information on national and Flemish NGDO activities, visions,
finances and employment. A similar database is being compiled on the
Francophone side.
3. By the time this book went into print, the name of DGDC was changed. It
is now called DGD (Directorate General for Development).
4. All federally registered Belgian NGDOs were requested to participate in the
survey and 42 organizations (36 per cent) submitted their answers.
5. The information in this section is partly based on Stangherlin (2001).
6. The proceeds from this campaign are then divided among their member
organizations for funding of projects and programs.
7. This data must be interpreted cautiously, as it does not involve the NGDOs
that are not a member of the federation or did not supply information. It
also involves national NGDOs, although these should even out the figures
as they are generally members of both organizations.
8. It is estimated that the ngo-openboek figures cover about 75 per cent of
all Belgian NGOs financial information (Coprogram, 2005). AZG/MSF and
UNICEF are excluded from the analysis.
9. This data refers to the 37 NGOs that currently receive program funding and
are active in the South (2008).
10. Until very recently the Belgian socio-political scene has, like the
Netherlands, strongly been characterized by the dominance of vertical
ideological pillars who managed their own social institutions (political par-
ties, unions, women’s groups, the provision of certain social services, etc.).
The pillars existed on both side of the Flemish-French language border.
Belgian society is still very much marked by these pillars but they have lost
their predominance.
11. On the role of these coordinating organizations, see infra.
12. Although this disconnect from bilateral aid in terms of the countries where
one is active might not have been an issue the last couple of decades, today
it is increasingly seen as a potential source of fragmentation. Since the Paris
Declaration, donors are increasingly thinking about concentrating their aid
resources in a limited number of countries and in a limited number of sec-
tors. The obvious question that surfaces from this evolution is if NGDOs, as
indirect actors in development cooperation who implement activities with
ODA, should be inserted in that logic or not. In other words, should all
NGDOs wishing to receive funding, focus on the same countries and sectors,
or not. In many European countries this discussion has or is taken place,
including in Belgium.
13. This rule is known as the ‘1% evaluation rule’, but actually stipulated that
10 per cent of the administrative overhead had to be used for evaluation.
42 Nadia Molenaers, Leen Nijs and Huib Huyse

Starting from 2002, this was replaced by 0.85 per cent of the total budget
NGO’s received from the funding agency.
14. It is interesting to note that when program-financing was introduced for the
first time in 1991, the same implementation issues obstructed a real imple-
mentation of the program approach: too many organizations were, partly
for political reasons, received program financing and the DGDC continued
to work in a project logic, with all of its implications, see Ekstermolengroep,
15. Very small is defined here as employing maximum five people in Belgium.
16. In our survey, we found that smaller organizations (with a staff of maximum
ten employees) were generally less implicated in international networks,
umbrellas or federations (57 per cent) than larger NGDO’s (85 per cent).
17. This debate is also being held separately with the universities, who are also
substantially subsidized for their development activities.

11.11.11. (2008) Nota doeltreffendheid NGO’s (unpublished report) (Brussels: 11.11.11).
Aertsen, J. and Bouten, S. (2007) ‘Nieuwe uitdagingen voor NGO’s’ in De
Standaard, December 17.
Acodev (2007) Les stratégies des ONG: synthèse des études et évaluations sur le sec-
teur (2004–2006) (Brussels: Acodev) (
Cabinet of the Minister of Development Cooperation (2008) ONG: vers une aid
plus efficace (unpublished report) (Brussels: Ministerie van Buitenlandse Zaken).
CGRI-DRI (2008), Rapport CGRI-DRI 2007 (Brussels: CGRI-DRI).
Cornwall, A. and Gaventa, J. (2000) ‘From Users and Choosers to Makers and
Shapers, Repositioning Participation in Social Policy’, IDS working paper, Vol. 31,
Issue 4, 50–62.
De Standaard (2007a) ‘De waterput leidt niet tot ontwikkeling’, December 20.
De Standaard (2007b) ‘Doen wat je zegt en zeggen wat je doet’ December 22.
Debels, T. (2007) Hoe goed is het goede doel – 100€ in de collectebus van 11.11.11.
levert slechts 1€ in het Zuiden op (Gent: Borgerhoff and Lamberigts).
Develtere, P. and Stessens, J. (2007) De vierde pijler van de ontwikkelingssamenwerk-
ing in België: de opmars van de levensverbeteraar (Leuven: Hiva).
DGDC (n.d.) Co-financing of non-governmental organisations (Brussels: Ministerie
van Buitenlandse Zaken
DGDC (2007) Official Belgian development assistance (ODA) (Brussels: Ministerie
van Buitenlandse Zaken
DGDC (2009) Administratieve vereenvoudiging: Concrete voorstellen van DGOS –
reactie op het non-paper van de Federaties (unpublished) (Brussels: Ministerie van
Buitenlandse Zaken).
DIV (2008), Het Vlaamse ODA-rapport 2007 (Brussels: Departement Internationaal
Doligez, F. et al. (2005), Analyse van de besteding van 1% van het budget van de
NGO vijfjarenprogramma’s voor interne evaluaties: synthese rapport (Paris: Ifram).
Mapping the Belgian NGDO landscape 43

Fowler, A. (2000) Civil Society, NGDOs and social development: Changing the rules of
the game (Geneva Occasional paper nr. 1) (Geneva: UNRISD).
Lambert, A. and de Smedt, E. (2006) Studie van de rol en de functies van de koepels
en federaties van ngo’s in België (Paris: Iram) (
OECD (2005) Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness, ownership, harmonisation, align-
ment, results and mutual accountability (Paris High Level Forum) (Paris: OECD).
OECD (2008) Accra Agenda for Action (Accra High Level Forum) (Paris: OECD).
Pollet, I. and Huybrechts, A. (2007) Draagvlak ontwikkelingssamenwerking in
Vlaanderen (Leuven: Hiva) (
Price Waterhouse Coopers (2007) Doorlichting van Belgische niet-gouvernementele
organisaties voor ontwikkelingssamenwerking met het oog op hun ‘programma’-erkenning
(unpublished) (Brussels: Ministerie van Buitenlandse Zaken http://www.dgcd. be/
Roger C. Riddell: Does Foreign Aid Really Work? Oxford: Oxford University. Press,
2007, 505 pp.
Roox, I. (2007) ‘Wij zijn niet de uitvinders van die emocultuur: interview with
Karel Claes, advisor of Direct Social Communications’, De Standaard, December
Stangherlin, G. (2001) ‘Les organisations non gouvernementales de coopération
au développement: origine, cadre juridique, cofinancement et enjeux’, Courrier
Hebdomadaire CRISP, 1714–1715, 5–69.
Corporatism and the Development
of Private Aid Organizations in
Lars Engberg-Pedersen and Neil Webster, with Adam Moe
Fejerskov and Torsten Geelan

3.1 Introduction

Private aid has long been an important element in the majority of coun-
tries’ development assistance. It has provided means by which to engage
with populations in developing countries and assist their development
without going directly to their governments; it also enables citizens
in the more developed countries of the world to organize and support
those they identify with in the developing world; a way by which ‘to
do some good’. While the emergence and growth of private aid organi-
zations in Denmark might on the surface appear not so different from
that found in most other western European countries, there are some
important differences that emerge on closer investigation. In particular
the corporate nature of Denmark’s development has provided a strong
organizational basis from which to organize private aid; it might also
have provided for a stronger sense of solidarity with those facing social
exclusion and economic marginalization elsewhere. One consequence is
also found in the expectations placed upon the Danish government to
support private aid initiatives. For its part, the Danish state has proved
itself not to be adverse to using this close partnership to serve the gov-
ernment’s other policy agendas. Finally, the Danish economy performed
quite strongly in the 1960s and onwards, providing a relatively broad
wealth base from which private aid can be resourced, both from the
state revenues generated and from private citizens. The following chap-
ter discusses and analyzes how these and related factors have given rise
to and shaped the practice of private aid in Denmark, a story that on
certain points might well be described as something of a success.

Private Aid Organizations in Denmark 45

3.2 The historical development of private aid


The history of Danish private aid needs to take its point of departure in
relief work at the end of World War II. In 1944, the permanent under-
secretary of the Ministry of Social Affairs together with representatives
of a limited number of private relief organizations started discussions
that led to the creation of Samarbejdsudvalget vedrørende Internationalt
Hjælpearbejde (Cooperation Committee on International Relief Work) in
1945. This committee was intended to coordinate Danish relief being
implemented by private organizations, it did not carry out any form of
humanitarian assistance itself (Kaur-Pedersen, 2008, pp. 32–4).
The committee shows how a close cooperation between private and
public institutions was present from the beginning; in fact it had its
immediate roots in the organization of the food aid provided to Norway
during the war. While the Ministry of Social Affairs had played an
important role in mobilizing the necessary resources for the food aid,
the actual implementation of the aid had been delegated to Dansk Røde
Kors (Danish Red Cross) as a way to avoid the government being accused
of political interference in the German occupation of Norway and the
serious risk of provoking a backlash from the occupying power and the
Nazis in Denmark. After the war the close cooperation between the state
and the private organizations in development assistance continued.
From the latter’s viewpoint the cooperation was advantageous partly
because the state could mobilize substantial funds and partly because
the organizations did not want to engage in competition among them-
selves. The state, on the other hand, had the possibility, through the
Cooperation Committee, to control the private organizations and to
link their work to broader foreign policy concerns. Here one can point
to a desire to use relief assistance to bring the Danish government closer
to the Allies and to distance itself from the ‘cooperation policy’ that
had characterized the Danish relationship with the Third Reich (Kaur-
Pedersen, 2008, pp. 33–8).
The organization of Danish humanitarian assistance just after World
War II can also be seen to reflect the corporatist tradition found in
many other policy areas in Danish political and economic life. Private
organizations and the state meet together in institutions coordinating
the implementation of policies and advising the relevant ministers.
Particularly in the early days, the Non-Government Development
Organizations (NGDO) had a relatively strong platform vis-à-vis the
state as the latter had little experience with the implementation of aid
46 Lars Engberg-Pedersen and Neil Webster

assistance policies. Moreover, the private organizations were rooted in

fairly active religious and secular associational social practices and there
was an expectation that the state would be an active contributor to the
humanitarian concerns that characterized Danish society at the time.
With decolonization in the early 1960s the concern with bilateral
development assistance moved higher on the government’s agenda.
A law on technical cooperation with developing countries was passed
in March 1962 and this law has provided the framework for the organi-
zation of Danish bilateral aid until recently. The first drafts of the law
envisaged a rather comprehensive board with numerous representatives
drawn from various popular organizations. However, during the parlia-
ment’s considerations of the proposed bill, the board was changed to an
advisory council and a reduced board with representatives from trade
unions, employers’ associations, academics and private organizations
was established (Pedersen, 2008, pp. 119–20). While creating a more
effective working organization, this change can be seen as a defeat for
the NGDOs as it took much of the control over aid policy away from
the more public space that was the original intention for many and
into a more professional space linked more closely to foreign policy. In
the parliamentary discussions of the bill, a key issue between the centre
government and the right-wing opposition was precisely to what extent
development assistance should be seen as part of foreign policy and
to what extent it is important to create and maintain the engagement
and support of the broader population (Kaur-Pedersen, 2008, p. 96).
However, the former division of labor between NGDOs and the state
was not abolished altogether as, for example Mellemfolkeligt Samvirke
(Danish Association for International Cooperation, now ActionAid
Denmark), came to have the responsibility for implementing the official
Danish volunteer program.
In the period from after World War II to the present day, Danish
development cooperation can be seen to have passed through four
distinct phases. Although the first three phases are not separated by
decisive events – indeed changes in policies and practices tend to be
gradual rather than abrupt due to the Danish corporatist approach
that emphasizes political consensus – there are clear differences in the
priorities and concerns of aid in each phase and for the roles played by
Danish NGDOs.

3.2.1 The first phase, 1962–1971

In the first phase, 1962–1971, the Danish development policy stressed
growth and technological transfer particularly in areas where Denmark
Private Aid Organizations in Denmark 47

held a perceived comparative advantage in terms of knowledge and

capacity. Good examples here are stock breeding and the cooperative
movement. The policy shared the international understanding that
development would ‘take off’ sooner rather than later and that a small
amount of assistance would suffice. At the same time the policy was
based on the belief that Denmark’s own development experience with
the transformation of its agriculture and the creation of small-scale
industry could be usefully replicated elsewhere. Given the independ-
ence struggle in the former colonies and given the understanding that
development would come about regardless of regime type, the policy
did not seek to influence poor countries politically. Considerable energy
was also devoted to building up aid programs and the volume of Danish
aid increased rapidly. The fifty-fifty division of Danish aid between
bilateral and multilateral channels was established in this period.
In the 1960s, the work of Danish NGDOs was primarily focused
on development education, emergency relief and sending volunteers
abroad. Both in political circles and among popular organizations them-
selves, Danish NGDOs were seen as an instrument to link Danes with
the developing world. Development cooperation remained something
of an elitist project and much effort was accordingly put into develop-
ment education in the attempt to broaden its popular base. Posting
volunteers in poor countries served two purposes: it was part of the
concern with technological transfer and numerous carpenters, farmers,
nurses, and so forth went to Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda and India in the
second half of the 1960s. It was also part of the endeavors to provide
information about poor countries to a greater number of Danes as vol-
unteers on their return were expected to disseminate their experiences
to neighbors, in workplaces, schools, and similar.

3.2.2 The second phase, 1971–1986

The second phase, 1971–1986, began with a limited revision of the
law on Denmark’s international development cooperation. The law
did not break with the past, but it introduced an overall objective in
which economic growth was linked with social progress and political
independence. In 1971 the secretariat in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs
administering the government’s development assistance was changed
into a division within the ministry, thereby strengthening this policy
field within the foreign policies. In 1978 the UN target of providing 0.7
per cent of GDP was reached, but the defining feature of this phase was
the strong focus on political issues. The independence struggles in the
Portuguese colonies, the anti-apartheid movement, and the proposals
48 Lars Engberg-Pedersen and Neil Webster

for a New International Economic Order, which Denmark cautiously

supported, all reflected the view that economic growth was not enough.
Social and political issues had to be addressed by the development pol-
icy. Under the influence of the basic human needs approach relatively
big integrated rural development projects were started up.
The new political orientation in discussions of development coopera-
tion strongly influenced private organizations in this field. In the late
1960s, a Danish branch of World University Service (WUS and since
1991, Ibis) was established linked to the students’ movement. The
organization started up activities in Angola, Namibia, Mozambique and
South Africa in the 1970s and in Central America in the 1980s. Together
with the larger Mellemfolkeligt Samvirke (now ActionAid Denmark), this
organization advocated strongly for support to liberation movements
and the anti-apartheid struggle. Folkekirkens Nødhjælp (DanChurchAid)
and in particular Dansk Røde Kors did not engage in this more political
orientation amongst the Danish NGDOs however. They maintained
their focus on relief activities. In this way a split emerged among these
major organizations.
In the late 1970s, the principles for public support of the develop-
ment activities of private organizations were changed to ensure that
these activities could live up to the criteria governing official aid and
after that the amount of tax payer money channeled to NGDOs and
the amount of NGDOs receiving these resources increased dramatically
(Olesen, 2008, p. 355). The big relief organizations began to diversify
into development activities at the same time.

3.2.3 The third phase, 1986–2001

The third phase identified here, 1986–2001, is characterized by an
increasing professionalization of the Danish NGDOs. During the early
1980s it became clear that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs lacked suf-
ficient capacity to implement Denmark’s development cooperation.
Accordingly, Danida, as part of the Ministry, was reorganized into a
department in 1986 and began to hire sector specialists on a permanent
basis. At the same time, a majority in parliament decided to increase the
level of development assistance gradually to reach 1 per cent of GDP in
1992 – a level it maintained throughout the 1990s. Another decision
by the end of the 1980s was to focus on 20–24 program cooperation
countries thereby cutting away cooperation with some 40 countries that
together had received only a small fraction of Danish aid resources. This
last objective was not fully achieved however. In 1994 a new strategy for
Danish development policy was adopted that included the dropping of
Private Aid Organizations in Denmark 49

the project approach in favor of sector program support. The phase was
also characterized by a much clearer focus on the political conditions
deemed necessary for aid assistance. In line with international trends,
Danish development cooperation became concerned with democracy,
good governance, human rights, and similar cross-cutting issues. The
relatively strong emphasis on channeling resources through multilat-
eral institutions was maintained, but it was combined with a demand
for efficiency and results under a new policy formulation of ‘active
The issue of professionalization became increasingly significant in
relation to the NGDOs during this phase. Civil society organizations
were regarded as important both for development education purposes
in Denmark and because of the increased concern with democratiza-
tion processes in recipient countries. In politically sensitive contexts,
NGDOs were considered to be useful due to the limitations of govern-
mental assistance and the relatively low implementation costs of their
assistance. With approximately 17 per cent of bilateral aid channeled
through Danish NGDOs throughout the 1990s, the demands on these
organizations increased. While the major organizations profited from
relatively flexible framework agreements governing their use of state
money, they also had to specialize in limited themes and to focus on
fewer countries and they were subject to capacity assessments and
impact evaluations. Smaller organizations had to join Projektrådgivningen
(The Project Advice and Training Centre, now Civilsamfund i Udvikling
(CISU, Civil Society in Development) with the purpose of building
capacity among Danish NGDOs.1 Some large private organizations were
criticized however for becoming little more than consultancy firms
when implementing large Danida-financed projects and there was in
particular an increasing concern that the move towards professionaliza-
tion seriously jeopardized the organizations’ relationship to ordinary
Danes. The outcome was that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs elaborated
a civil society strategy in 2000 according to which the Danish NGDOs
should focus on capacity building of partner organizations and advo-
cacy activities while abandoning service delivery. The major organiza-
tions also were expected to document their ‘popular anchorage’ in the
Danish society.

3.2.4 The fourth phase, 2001 onwards

In 2001, a new government came to power and decided to cut develop-
ment assistance from 1.0 per cent to 0.8 per cent of GDI and to stop
development cooperation with Eritrea, Malawi and Zimbabwe. The
50 Lars Engberg-Pedersen and Neil Webster

support to the big Danish NGDOs was also cut by ten per cent. While
the overall objective of poverty reduction was maintained, issues like
security, terrorism and refugees received increased attention in the fol-
lowing years and a so-called ‘Middle East initiative’ focusing on democ-
racy and human rights was set in motion. Despite not having been
chosen as a so-called program cooperation country, Afghanistan came
to receive some EUR60 million annually in development assistance,
an amount that exceeds the support provided to most other program
cooperation countries, now renamed priority countries. In recent years
governments have begun to emphasize once more the importance of
development cooperation. Members of the ruling parties have men-
tioned a possible increase in aid, and the former prime minister chaired
an Africa Commission working on job creation and economic growth.
In addition to these political changes Denmark has been active in the
aid effectiveness discussions in support of harmonization, alignment
and ownership. Still, governments were slow in abolishing the use of
tied aid and parallel implementation units and only recently a develop-
ment minister adopted a positive stance towards general budget sup-
port. A major point of criticism in the DAC Peer Review in 2007 was
that Denmark is too focused on financial control and too little prepared
to take risks and to try out innovative initiatives (OECD, 2007, p. 16).
The new political situation in 2001 came as a surprise to many Danish
NGDOs. Being heavily dependent on state support, the change from a
basically supportive to a rather critical majority in parliament required
a completely new focus on fundraising. In addition to the cuts that
hit the trade unions’ development organizations particularly hard, the
major NGDOs were met with the requirement that they should raise
at least ten per cent of their budget themselves. In itself and compared
to other European countries the new situation was not remarkable, but
notably Mellemfolkeligt Samvirke and Ibis were heavily hit and had to
invest substantial efforts in recruiting members and raising funds. Other
major private organizations were accustomed to organize national fund-
raising campaigns with street collections and similar activities and they
were less affected by the new requirements.
While the change of government did not influence the orientation of
the NGDOs’ development activities, the break with the long corporatist
tradition in Denmark’s approach to development assistance placed the
private organizations on the sidelines with respect to the official devel-
opment policy. During the 2000s the governments formed their devel-
opment priorities upon very little consultation with other development
actors. For their part the NGDOs have been reluctant to perform the
Private Aid Organizations in Denmark 51

role of watchdogs on development policy since the change of govern-

ment in 2001 and the end of the previous partnership they had with the
government; the fear of further reductions in the government financial
support has proved to be a powerful influence upon them.

3.3 The contemporary landscape of NGDOs in Denmark

Based on a calculation of the organizations recently (2002–2007) having

received support from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs or being attached
to Projektrådgivningen (‘Project Advice and Training Centre’, now CISU),
288 NGDOs can be counted. These organizations include both develop-
ment and relief organizations. It is not likely that many more organiza-
tions exist, and the few not included are undoubtedly very small.
Of the 288 NGDOs some 25 had a budget in 2007 of at least DKK10
million (EUR1.34 million).2 Of these 25 organizations 21 receive sub-
stantial official support while four (Børnefonden, Læger uden Grænser,
SOS-Børnebyerne and UNICEF Danmark3) collect most or all of their funds
from private sources. In terms of employees in Denmark and abroad,
approximately 10 can be considered as large having more than 50
employees, 20–25 are medium-sized with 10–50 employees, and the rest
are small, some of them bordering on being private initiatives based on
purely voluntary labor inputs.
To provide an overview, we distinguish between three different cat-
egories of NGDOs:4

1. National organizations.
2. National organizations having their own aid activities, but linking
up to international organizations or networks.
3. National branches of international organizations.

Of the smaller NGDOs, the large majority belongs to the first category
and some to the second. Of the 25 large organizations identified above,
10 belong to the first category; 12 to the second; and 3 to the third.
Some observations can be made on this basis: First, a limited number of
international organizations have established themselves with national
branches just supporting the international organization. Secondly, quite
a large number of the largest organizations have been established based
on an international organization as a model. Most of these organiza-
tions were founded by Danes and they all have a clear national identity,
but some have moved quite close to their international prototype while
others have become more independent. Thirdly, some of the biggest
52 Lars Engberg-Pedersen and Neil Webster

organizations have increasingly felt a need for international linkages in

recent years (Ibis and Mellemfolkeligt Samvirke). Actually, Mellemfolkeligt
Samvirke has recently moved from the first to the third category by
becoming a member of ActionAid International. Fourthly, most of the ten
organizations belonging to the first category are relatively small among
the 25 largest NGDOs. This indicates that some sort of international
organizational link is useful at least in the relatively small Danish con-
text if a private aid organization wants to grow and become a significant
Figure 3.1 below gives an overview of the creation of 61 NGDOs.5
Some of these have been created with a purpose other than providing
aid, but have subsequently diversified into development activities. Of
the 25 largest NGDOs, 13 were created before 1980 or were based on
organizations established before 1980. The latest created organization
among the 25 large organizations is ProjektrådgivningenI (now CISU),
which was established in 1995. There is no clear pattern according to
which organizations belonging to the three mentioned categories have
been established in particular periods.
The resources of the NGDOs stem primarily from three sources:
Private donations, government subsidies and subsidies from inter-
national organizations. Taking the last first, there are no figures on
total subsidies from international organizations received by Danish
NGDOs. Table 3.1 below provides some information for a number of
organizations which receive close to one quarter of their resources from











Figure 3.1 Year of establishment of 61 NGDOs

Source: websites of concerned organizations.
Private Aid Organizations in Denmark 53

international sources. A large part of this money stems from theEU and
finances relief activities. It is not likely that any organization other than
the seven mentioned in the table receive significant amounts of money
from international sources.
Government subsidies for development and relief activities amounted
to DKK1,512,300,000 (EUR202,993,289) in 2009. Of this amount,
DKK1,032,100,000 (EUR138,536,913) or 69 per cent were used
for development activities while relief work was supported with
DKK480,200,000 (EUR64,456,375) or 31 per cent of the total. The sup-
port was extended to 70 different organizations some of which (in par-
ticular Projektrådgivningen) distribute the resources to different smaller
member organizations. The total amount allocated to NGDOs added
up to 17 per cent of the bilateral assistance and to 10 per cent of total
Danish aid. The support of NGDOs’ development activities constituted
11.8 per cent of total bilateral development activities in 2008, while
the support of NGDOs’ relief work accounted for 37.9 per cent of total
humanitarian assistance (Danida, 2008a, p. 5). Government subsidies
for the twelve largest NGDOs have been listed in Table 3.1 below.
The picture regarding private donations is more complicated to
establish. There are no figures available on the totality of the market
of charities in Denmark, and it is probably difficult to distinguish this
market from privately financed activities of public utility. A survey of
18 large enterprises and banks was conducted in 2007 concluding that
DKK466 million (EUR62.5 million) were allocated to various non-profit
purposes such as, handicap friendly play grounds, instruments for
cancer research and the renovation of mills.6 However, this amount is
probably a minor, though not insignificant, part of the private support
for initiatives of public utility.
Limiting the market of charity to private support to poor and mar-
ginalized people, NGDOs focusing on low-income countries probably
collect the bulk of the resources available, but there is certainly also a
significant flow of charity inside Denmark. To get an idea of the actors
in this market, one may refer to the initiative ‘a Good Cause’ where cus-
tomers by purchasing goods from online stores elicit a donation from
these stores to charity organizations. The initiative did not survive the
financial crisis, but in 2007–2008 139 charity organizations in Denmark
had joined the initiative. Of these 20 worked with international relief
and development while 37 were engaged in religiously founded charity
domestically and abroad. The rest dealt with social work in Denmark,
particular illnesses and handicaps, animals, environmental issues and
human rights.7 One of the largest private organizations working with
54 Lars Engberg-Pedersen and Neil Webster

marginalized people and families in Denmark is Kirkens Korshær (the

Church Army). It had a turnover of approximately DKK210 million
(EUR28.2 million) in 2009 and counted almost 9,000 ‘users’ of their
facilities in one week.8 Another one is Frelsens Hær (Salvation Army)
with a turnover of DKK120 million (EUR16.1 million) in 2009 and alleg-
edly 160,000 beneficiaries.9
Table 3.1 presents the fundraising from different sources of the 12
largest NGDOs in terms of resources and compares them with three

Table 3.1 Fundraising by 12 NGDOs and 3 other private organizations in

Denmark in 2009 (in DDK, EUR and percentage distribution of each organiza-
tion’s total)

Private Government EU and other Totalc)

donationsa) subsidiesb) int. subsidies

Dansk 46,000,000 169,000,000 428,000,000 643,000,000)

Flygtningehjælp (€6.169.031) (€22.664.485) (€57.398.814) (€86.232.331)
(‘Danish 7.2% 26.3% 66.5% 100%
Dansk Røde 118,000,000 215,000,000 21,000,000 354,000,000
Kors (‘Danish (€15.824.906) (€28.833.516) (€2.816.296) (€47.474.720)
Red Cross’) 33.1% 60% 5.9% 100%
Folkekirkens 167,000,000 227,500,000 101,400,000 498,000,000
Nødhjælp (€22.396.266) (€30.509.883) (€13,279,278) (€66.786.471)
(‘DanChurch 33% 46% 20% 100%
Mellemfolkeligt 11,250,000 183,400,000 0 194,650,000
Samvirke/ (€1.508.730) (€24.595.660) (€0) (€26.104.390)
ActionAid 6% 94% 0% 100%
Børnefonden 175,300,000 4,600,000 0 179,900,000
(‘Child Fund’) (€23.509.374) (€616.903) (€0) (€24.126.277)
97.5% 2.5% 0% 100%
Ibis 4,337,656 189,288,223 8,139,406 201,765,285
(€581.720) (€25.385.326) (€1.091.570) (€27.058.617)
2% 94% 4% 100%
Red Barnet 83,200,000 93,400,000 28,400,000 205,000,000f)
(‘Save the (€11,070,00) (€12,530,000) (€3,810,000) (€27,510,000)
Children’) 40.5% 45.5% 14.5% 100%
UNICEF 133,604,986 0 0 133,604,986
Danmark (€17,933,555) (€0) (€0) (€17,933,555)
100% 0% 0% 100%

Table 3.1 Continued

Private Government EU and other Totalc)

donationsa) subsidiesb) int. subsidies

Læger uden 86,989,104 28,456,542 0 115,445,646

Grænser (€11,676389) (€3,819,670) (€0) (€15,496,059)
(‘Médecins 75% 25% 0% 100%
Sans Frontières’)
SOS-Børnebyerne 138,600,000 0 0 138,600,000
(‘SOS Children’s (€18,600,000) (€0) (€0) (€18,600,000)
Villages’) 100% 0% 0% 100%
Care Danmark 26,448,480 63,917,160 11,020,200 101,385,840
(€3,550,131) (€8,579,484) (€1,479,221) (€13,608,837)
26% 63% 11% 100%
ADRA 6,872,000 60,409,000 3,753,000 71,034,000
Danmark (€922,416) (€8,108,590) (€503,758) (€9,534,765)
(‘Adventist 9.6% 85% 5.4% 100%
and Relief
Subtotal 997,602,226 1,234,970,930 601,712,606 2,834,285,760
(€133,906,339) (€165,767,909) (€80,766,792) (€380,441,042)
35% 43% 22% 100%
Kræftens 421,607,000 30,482,000 0 452,089,000
Bekæmpelse (€56,591,543) (€4,091,543) (€0) (€60,683,086)
(‘The Danish 93.2% 6.8% 0% 100%
Danmarks 67,326,000 905,000 0 68,231,000
Naturfrednings- (€9,036,379) (€121,468) (€0) (€9,157,846)
forening 98.7% 1.3% 0% 100%
(‘Danish Society
for Nature
Greenpeace 22,606,000 0 0 22,606,000
Denmark (€3,034,362) (€0) (€0) (€3,034,362)
100% 0% 0% 100%
Total 1,509,141,230 1,266,357,930 601,712,606 3,377,211,770
(€201,218,830) (€168,847,724) (€80,766,792) (€450,294,902)
44.7% 37.5% 17.8% 100%
Gross private donations including sales from charity shops, lotteries, etc.
Primarily, but not exclusively from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Danida).
The total does not necessarily equal the total income in the annual accounts since some
organizations have financial and other income.
Only the international activities of Dansk Flygtningehjælp.
The private donations are primarily used in Denmark. Dansk Røde Kors states that their
relief and development aid amount to DKK 279,956,000 (€ 37,575,208).
Includes money raised for activities in Denmark.
Danmarks Naturfredningsforening’s numbers are 2007 as updated budgets are not available.
Source: Annual accounts from the different organizations.
56 Lars Engberg-Pedersen and Neil Webster

other major Danish private organizations in 2009. The total amount

of private donations gives an indication of the lower limits of the
volume of the market of charities. The 12 aid and relief organizations
raised altogether DKK997 million (EUR133 million) which is less than
the government subsidies they received that year (DKK1,234 million/
EUR165 million). The table also documents that the aid organiza-
tions collect very unequal amounts of money. A tentative division of
the twelve organizations into three categories10 – 1) relief organiza-
tions (ADRA Danmark, Dansk Flygtningehjælp, Dansk Røde Kors, Læger
uden Grænser, Red Barnet), 2) adoption organizations (Børnefonden,
SOS-Børnebyerne) and 3) development organizations (CARE Danmark,
Folkekirkens Nødhjælp, Ibis, Mellemfolkeligt Samvirke/ActionAid Denmark,
UNICEF Danmark) – shows that the five development organizations
receive approximately 34 per cent of the private donations to the 12 aid
organizations. Three organizations strongly focused on general devel-
opment activities (Mellemfolkeligt Samvirke/ActionAid Denmark, Ibis and
Care Danmark) collected 4 per cent of the private money raised by the
twelve aid organizations compared to 35 per cent of government sub-
sidies. Actually, it seems that around 90 per cent of private donations
are targeted at relief or children. This clearly indicates that the Danish
market of charities is a difficult one for NGDOs focusing on general
development activities.
In 2007, eight private organizations received permission from the
state to conduct national fundraising campaigns with house to house
collections for three hours a Sunday noon. Of these eight organizations,
seven were development NGOs collecting money for international
activities. The last organization (Kræftens Bekæmpelse) works with cancer.
The collected amounts can be seen in Table 3.2.11
Given the meager result of the campaign conducted by Ibis and
CARE Danmark together, the two organizations subsequently decided to
abandon this activity. Again, it is quite obvious that aid organizations
engaged in general development fare much worse than relief organiza-
tions. Though part of the explanation is that organizations like Ibis and
Mellemfolkeligt Samvirke/ActionAid Denmark have been accustomed to
state funding until recently, there is little doubt that it is much more
difficult to attract private funds to development activities than to relief.
However, according to some NGDOs it has become increasingly
easy to get private donations. The Director of Communication in
Folkekirkens Nødhjælp said in 2007 that ‘the market for charitable gifts
has exploded’.12 Many of these organizations now offer goats, don-
keys and the like as Christmas presents, and this has attracted a very
Private Aid Organizations in Denmark 57

Table 3.2 National fundraising campaigns 2007

Collected amount during Percentage

countrywide house to house of total
collections, in DKK

Dansk Flygtningehjælp 15,000,000 (€2,013,274) 17.7

(‘Danish Refugee Council’)
Dansk Røde Kors 20,000,000 (€2,684,365) 23.6
(‘Danish Red Cross’)
Folkekirkens Nødhjælp 14,000,000 (€1,879,056) 16.5
Ibis and Care Danmark 1,400,000 (€187,906) 1.7
Mellemfolkeligt Samvirke/ 2,600,000 (€348,967) 3.1
ActionAid Denmark
Red Barnet (‘Save the Children’) 7,000,000 (€939,528) 8.3
Kræftens Bekæmpelse 24,700,000 (€3,315,191) 29.2
(‘The Danish Cancer Society’)
Total 84,700,000 (€11,368,287) 100.0

Source: Annual accounts from the different organizations.

significant public interest. It is not clear whether this market change is

due to a sudden increased demand for these products or to the recently
introduced supply of them. Since the demand for ten per cent privately
collected contributions was introduced, NGDOs have begun to work
much more seriously with private fundraising activities and the compe-
tition among them has increased.
Thematically, Danish NGDOs collectively cover most, if not all, themes
to be found in development cooperation: development and relief, social
sectors and policy advocacy, partnership approaches and direct imple-
mentation, and many more. Some of the smaller organizations focus on
a particular subject such as bee-keeping or blindness; others are friend-
ship associations linked to a particular country or geographical area.
Among the 25 largest organizations, four work with children, two
are based on trade union activities, three have a limited geographical
mandate, two work in the health sector, three focus on environmental
issues, and three are to some extent faith-based. In response to demands
from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs there has been a tendency the last
ten years across the board to focus on fewer themes. Mellemfolkeligt
Samvirke/ActionAid Denmark has decided to focus on local democracy,
Ibis has done much to promote work in relation to education, and Care
Danmark has specialized in environmental issues.
58 Lars Engberg-Pedersen and Neil Webster


Sierra Leone











Figure 3.2 Countries receiving more than DKK 10 million (€1.34 million) gov-
ernment subsidized NGDO aid in 2008 (in € million)
Source: Danida (2008a, pp. 38–40)

Another general tendency is that NGDOs focus on the countries in

which the Ministry of Foreign Affairs implements significant support
programs. Of the 15 countries where Danida ran its major coopera-
tion activities in the late 2000s, only four countries are not the site
of major Danish NGDO activities. One of these is Bhutan which is
reluctant to accept foreign NGDOs, and the three others are Benin,
Burkina Faso and Mali – all French-speaking countries which Danish
NGDOs have linguistic difficulties in addressing. Nevertheless, Niger
is for particular historical reasons an important recipient of Danish
private aid (Figure 3.2).

3.4 The government’s vision for NGDOs

It would be erroneous to describe the Danish government as having, or

having had, a specific vision with respect to these organizations. It is
more accurate to say that they have been an element in a more general
Danida vision of civil society’s role in development and developing
countries during the past decade. This was clearly announced in 2000
with its ‘Strategy for Danish Support to Civil Society in Developing
Countries – including cooperation with Danish NGOs’ (Danida, 2000).
The strategy, based upon extensive consultations and commissioned
studies, was a deliberate shift from a NGO strategy to a civil society
Private Aid Organizations in Denmark 59

strategy. In many ways it reflected a more holistic approach to develop-

ment and, within that, the role of NGDOs in Denmark in the pursuit
and support of development. It was, and remains, ambitious; explicitly
pushing for private aid to be a part of a broader development project; as
such it is also more easily integrated with the approaches and interven-
tions of other development actors including bilateral and multi-lateral
In December 2008 a revised civil society strategy was published by
Danida (2008b). While seeking to update the earlier strategy in the light
of experience with the 2000 strategy and in response to the perceived
effects of globalization, it remained very much in the same vein as the
earlier; the most interesting change or development perhaps lying in the
strategy’s statement of aims with respect to the involvement in develop-
ment work of Danish civil society organizations (see Box 3.1).

Box 3.1 The Danish revised civil society strategy

Danish civil society organizations will also in future be involved in

the implementation of the goals of this strategy. This requires that
the organizations:

• set clear targets for, and regularly assess their contributions to,
promoting local ownership in the partnerships with civil society
organizations in developing countries.
• set clear priorities for their interventions with respect to country
focus, sector and partner choice, with a point of departure in their
professional competencies.
• strengthen their results-orientation, including evaluation of the
impact of activities in relation to the achievement of this strat-
egy’s long-term objective.
• set clear goals for, and regularly assess the strengthening of their
popular foundation and networks in Denmark.

Source: Danida (2008b, p. 16).

As the following suggests, eight years is a relatively short time for

aid practice to change and the private organizations have not always
found it easy to adjust. Much that was undertaken before continues
to be practised in the same ways and while the government can be
60 Lars Engberg-Pedersen and Neil Webster

said to be quite strong on the conceptual approach to civil soci-

ety in developing countries, how to bring Danish NGDOs into the
implementation of that approach has been less clear. Not least, it
has remained highly contested by the NGDOs themselves and by
those involved in the implementation of development, whether on
the part of government or donor agencies. Questions are also being
raised from the side of local civil society in the South and not least
by southern NGDOs.
As indicated, the role of the Danish private organizations is seen to
be that of strengthening the work and role of civil society in the devel-
oping countries. A central element in this is to strengthen the popular
base of the Danish private organizations and thereby the concept of
partnerships between peoples and their civil society organizations.
This has been one of the arguments for pressing for a greater commit-
ment by Danish NGDOs to raising their own funds rather than relying
on government grants. The promotion of the objectives of the Paris
Declaration can also be seen to play an important role in the approach
of the Danish government; NGDOs being pushed to practice the same
commitments to harmonization and alignment expected of the bilat-
eral and multi-lateral donors. The difference being here that it is the
Danish government ‘banging the drum’ over the Danish NGDOs rather
than just the peer group pressure that is applied to the government as
a bilateral donor.
The Danish government in its strategy emphasizes the shift from a
specific focus on a target group’s daily livelihood towards a broader
embracing of the rights of marginalized groups (a Rights Based
Approach or RBA). This is in turn linked to the need to connect local
lives to national and international agendas with the opportunities that
this gives to improve, impose and thereby (hopefully) secure these same
groups’ rights. Thereafter the revised strategy would appear to offer
room for most types of interventions, small income-generating projects,
projects for service provision, and similar, as long as they are non-party
political, support and promote good governance practices, and are
based on the strategy’s perception of good partnership that includes
strong local ownership.
As implied above, there has not been a significant change in the gov-
ernment’s vision for the NGDOs over the past decade, once the move
from a NGO strategy to a civil society strategy had been implemented
in 2000. Since then policy development has reflected an evolutionary
process based on experiences gained (including good practices emerg-
ing from NGDOs’ engagement in developing countries), the assessed
Private Aid Organizations in Denmark 61

nature of the current state of globalization, the shift in thinking on

what instruments best achieve development objectives and as to how
civil society should be guiding/guided by the national and international
agendas in development.
So to summarize the shift in vision: first came a change from an
NGO to a civil society strategy where the role of Danish private aid
organizations was to strengthen civil society and NGDOs in the devel-
oping countries. The focus for this work was seen as being the southern
NGDOs’ role and contribution to good governance and improved live-
lihoods. For their part, Danish NGDOs’ base in the Danish population
needed to be strengthened, not least through increased memberships,
greater diversity of organizations (large, small, activities, etc.). This in
turn was expected to provide opportunities for greater fundraising from
the population.
The revised civil society strategy followed on from this. It required
a greater stress on the impact and implications of globalization, the
importance of the Paris Declaration, the climate, the fact that civil
societies in some developing countries are developing but not so in
others, and the emerging importance of international NGOs. It also
called for a greater emphasis on the importance of local context, on
results-based management, on clear goals and roles with indicators to
measure and assess movement, and not least the importance of rights.
It sees a greater role for Danish embassies in the recipient countries
with links between NGDOs and bilateral donors, sector approaches
being a part of the strategy, and the use of financial instruments that
facilitate more organizations to play a role in the capacity building of
the southern civil society. Finally, the strategy increasingly empha-
sizes greater involvement in policy and advisory work generally and
for more international networking and alliance work by the Danish

3.5 Government subsidy arrangements for NGDOs

The Danish government provides subsidies to NGDOs through dif-

ferent mechanisms (see Table 3.3). Within this group of funded
organizations are four ‘umbrella’ organizations (apex or federation organi-
zations) that allocate their funds onward to their constituencies: namely
Projektrådgivningen (CISU), Dansk Missionsråds Udviklingsafdeling (Danish
Missions’ Aid Department), Dansk Ungdoms Fællesråd (Danish Association
of Youth Organizations), and Dansk Handicapforbund (Danish Association
of Handicap Societies).
62 Lars Engberg-Pedersen and Neil Webster

Table 3.3 Danida subsidies to Danish NGDO development projects

2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007

Number of 77 72 73 71 64 62
Amount (1,000 DKK) 892,917 866,333 870,334 893,122 966,416 932,477

Source: Danida’s Annual Reports.

Projektrådgivningen (now CISU) was with DKK81.2 million (EUR10.9

million) in 2009 the largest recipient of these four umbrella organi-
zations. In 1995 at its outset it had nearly 40 members; by 2009 the
membership had grown to 260 organizations. It organizes many
activities on its own, mainly aimed at enhancing the capacity of
the member organizations to undertake development activities. For
example, in 2010 it held more than 70 arrangements which included
weekend courses, evening meetings, one-day seminars, workshops
and similar.
CISU is currently responsible for administering Civilsamfundspuljen
(The Civil Society Fund) on behalf of Danida. It is designed to give
smaller and less experienced NGDOs a chance to secure funds for
development projects. An organization does not have to be a member
of CISU to apply to Civilsamfundspuljen.
Another source of subsidies, less easily assessed, is bilateral sector
program support where Danish NGDOs are used to support local devel-
opment. The data for this is lost within the sector and country aid
programs and virtually impossible to access. Within specific programs,
good governance and human rights in particular, but also in other sec-
tors NGDOs are contracted to provide capacity building and similar
support where they are deemed to have the necessary expertise and
In 2010, six Danish NGOs had a so-called ‘Framework Agreements’
with the Danish government13; these six have received more than 50
per cent of the total funds allocated to Danish NGOs for most of the
years since 2000 for which we have data. The purpose of the frame-
work agreement, as restated in the 2008 Civil Society Strategy, is to
enable these organizations to enter longer term partnerships in the
developing countries, to have greater flexibility, but also to provide
continuity strengthening their capacity to plan and meet the chal-
lenges as they evolve within the developing country. These organi-
zations, within the framework agreement made with Danida, can
Private Aid Organizations in Denmark 63

themselves identify, plan, initiate, implement, monitor and evaluate

their aid activities.
Other organizations can potentially enter into framework agree-
ments with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs if it is assessed that their
mandate, programs and capacities are suited to it. Otherwise sub-
sidies are allocated to specific projects submitted separately by the
While the larger organizations can more or less expect a budget not
too dissimilar to previous years, the medium and smaller organizations
are dependent upon their applications. Experience suggests that most
who have a good track record (projects completed, external expert
reports positive, fund utilization transparent and accountable – clean
audits) tend to secure new funding. There is not a significant change in
the lists of recipients from year to year.
The six ‘Framework Agreement’ organizations hold annual nego-
tiations with Danida. These are based upon the budget allocation
in that financial year and the indicative proposed budgets for the
following three years. In some years, the negotiations include discus-
sions of the organization’s strategies and priorities for the framework
financed work, on the planned information work, and the work
aimed at securing the popular base in Denmark for the organiza-
tion’s work. New goals might be set, existing goals modified, accord-
ing to the assessment of the organization’s work and its strategic and
organizational development. In other years the negotiations focus
primarily on the administration and implementation of program
related work; this can involve a deeper assessment of individual
The other NGDOs are assessed on the basis of the applications sub-
mitted. These are based on standard forms that require considerable
detail about the project, the implementing partners, the organization
applying, the objectives, indicators, monitoring and evaluation systems
to be used.
Generally, the NGDOs are satisfied with the various subsidy schemes.
There has, however, been considerable discussion of the requirement
for the Framework organizations to raise ten per cent of their program
and project funds. The view can be said to have started with protest,
but now some years later, to have reached a sense that change was nec-
essary, but should not have taken place with this particular financing
instrument. On the part of the small and medium organizations, the
response has been more favorable, not least due to the additional funds
that have come their way.
64 Lars Engberg-Pedersen and Neil Webster

3.6 NGDOs and public support for development


Historically, NGDOs have played quite an important role in develop-

ment education, but since the 1960s it has been the state that has
financed the largest part of the information activities. Since the 1960s
a committee under the Board of Danida has been established with the
purpose of supporting development education. After criticism that
groups already convinced about the usefulness of aid benefitted dispro-
portionately from the support, the committee began to focus on the
media, schools and the business sector in the early 1970s. Traveling
scholarships have ever since been available for people who would like
to collect information for development education (Pedersen, 2008,
pp. 246–47).
In the late 1990s, the state used some DKK50 million (EUR6.7 mil-
lion) annually on development education. Large festivals like Images
of Africa, Images of the World and Images of Asia were some of the out-
puts of this investment. An evaluation of the support for development
education in 1998 concluded that very significant and widespread
information activities were supported through the funds and that these
activities contributed to creating a more nuanced picture of the devel-
oping countries notably in schools and among adults in organizations.
At the same time, the evaluation criticized the lack of innovation in
terms of organizations supported, modalities used and groups targeted.
It also noted that there was way too little focus on measuring the effects
of development education and on gathering experience with it (Danida,
One private aid organization, Mellemfolkeligt Samvirke (now ActionAid
Denmark), stood out as a significant player from the beginning. It
received more than half of the government resources made available for
development education in the 1960s and for that money it ran a library,
made lecturers available and published a journal as well as books and
leaflets (Pedersen, 2008, p. 247). Furthermore, as part of its develop-
ment activities it recruited Danish volunteers who, once they returned,
were expected to carry out development education in their neighbor-
hood and social networks. The reason why the organization managed to
get such a central role in development education in Denmark has prob-
ably to do with its active role in establishing the Danish bilateral aid
program in the early 1960s, the limited number of persons and organi-
zations dealing with development at the time, and the organization’s
ability to attract capable and respectable personalities from Danish
Private Aid Organizations in Denmark 65

society. Mellemfolkeligt Samvirke managed to maintain its central role in

development education until 2006 when the government decided to
cut the funds available for development education by NGDOs dramati-
cally (Bach, 2008, p. 465). The organization closed down almost all its
information work as a consequence while the government scaled up
its own activities, some of which were subsequently heavily criticized.
Other NGDOs have historically undertaken information activities in
relation to their development and relief work. The largest organizations
run their own periodicals and some develop material for pupils in pri-
mary and secondary education. However, since 2005 the organizations
have devoted much energy to developing leaflets and products with
the purpose of collecting money. Still, many large NGDOs are involved
in campaigns and policy advocacy where one element is information,
communication and mobilization of the public.
To what extent do government money for development education
and the efforts undertaken by NGDOs have an impact on the public
support for development cooperation? One source describes Danish
development cooperation in the 1960s as an elite project rather than a
matter of popular concern (Pedersen, 2008, p. 246), and while solidar-
ity and humanitarian feelings undoubtedly have deep roots in Danish
society, it is also true that aid has remained a topic of the initiated. In
recent years, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has financed regular opin-
ion polls on a number of issues related to development cooperation.
These polls document that a significant and fairly consistent part of the
Danish population, namely approximately 50 per cent, agrees with the
following two statements:

• ‘The majority of development assistance ends up in administration

and does not benefit the poor’.
• ‘The majority of development assistance ends in the wrong pockets’
(authors’ translation) (TNS Gallup, 2008, p. 6).

As these statements easily can be rejected with available documentation

(e.g., NGDOs are not allowed to use more than 7 per cent of state funds
for administration), it seems that 40 years of development education
have failed to disseminate a proper picture of Danish aid to the popula-
tion at large. Whether this has to do with the complexities of the task as
it is difficult to attract popular and media attention to issues of poverty
reduction in Africa or it is related to the particular Danish organization
of development cooperation where most actors are tightly interwoven
and seek to keep a lid on criticism, is difficult to say. Although some
66 Lars Engberg-Pedersen and Neil Webster

have rightly argued that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has dominated
and partly internalized aid discussions (Olsen, 2005, pp. 199–202), the
NGDOs cannot free themselves from a responsibility for the mediocre
results of development education.

3.7 Evaluations and assessments of NGDOs

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has for many years drafted an annual
Program and Project Report (Program- og Projektorienteringen) for the
Danish parliament. This provides a summary of targets, results and
status for all the current approved bilateral and multilateral programs
and projects as well as humanitarian activities and NGDO projects. For
projects where the allocated funds are less than DKK5 million, the basic
facts are provided, but without description of the nature of the activi-
ties or similar. For all others an annual statement of the activities’ status
has to be provided; a form of annual report to the Danish parliament.
The larger organizations organize regular evaluations of their activi-
ties; this can extend to a periodic request from Danida for a full evalu-
ation of elements of a program, of a full program, or in exceptional
instance of the program and the organization itself. Particularly around
the elaboration of the civil society strategy in 2000, a number of frame-
work agreement organizations were evaluated, and an attempt was
made to assess the impact of the activities of several Danish NGDOs in
three countries (Oakley, 1999).
Smaller organizations with minor projects with a short time frame
(e.g., 3 years for a phase) tend to submit annual reports that include an
assessment from a consultant or a qualified adviser to the organization.
These assessments are often important for an application for additional
funds for a second phase of the project or an extension of an existing
activity to other localities. Few if any private organizations, large or
small, framework or project, have sought to assess the impact or aid
effectiveness of their activities. A notable exception was, however, the
above-mentioned study.

3.8 Conclusion

The number and activities of private aid organizations in Denmark have

grown continuously over the past 70 years, but it is interesting to note
the ebb and flow of their role. Just after World War II and during the
creation of Danish development assistance in 1962, private organiza-
tions played a significant role. Apart from a few big organizations, they
Private Aid Organizations in Denmark 67

were then of much less importance until the late 1970s where changes
of the relationship between the state and the private organizations
paved the way for much stronger financial support of NGDO activi-
ties. During the 1980s and 1990s, the private aid organizations steadily
increased their political influence and economic importance. With the
change of government in 2001, their influence on official development
policies was heavily curtailed, however in recent years the position of
the government appears to have softened at least with respect to some
of the NGDOs.
Apart from the political changes in 2001 and their implications for
the NGDOs, two opposing tendencies have affected the influence of
private aid organizations in Denmark in the last couple of decades. On
the one hand, the corporate tradition has enabled private organizations
to influence official development policies. Some NGDOs can do this
directly through their representatives on committees, panels, or similar
that provide advice to the development minister, otherwise the means
have been advocacy through the media, lobbying, and other advocacy
On the other hand and partly as a response to the perceived influence
of the NGDOs, there has been a growing tendency to question the legiti-
macy of private aid organizations within the Ministry of Foreign Affairs
and among politicians. In particular the extent of their popular base in
terms of numbers of members and supporters is regularly pointed to
as is the apparent mediocre level of public concern with development
cooperation. These can be seen as valid criticisms. At the same time it
is important to observe the comparatively high level of government
subsidies for Danish NGDOs. As the chapter has noted, since the early
1980s there has been a growing and significant amount of Danish aid
channeled through private aid organizations. Smaller organizations
have been actively encouraged to undertake development activities
largely subsidized by the government, and framework agreements have
enabled bigger organizations to engage in long-term collaboration with
partner organizations based on relatively secure financing. How should
we see these mixed messages? It is important to note the way that the
Ministry of Foreign Affairs has begun to assert itself a little more in
the world of private aid in Denmark. The attachment of conditions to
funding and the reduction in policy consultation reflect a shift toward
a more asymmetric partnership. At the same time the government com-
mitment to the private aid organizations remains strong in terms of the
level of funding, especially when compared to many other countries.
68 Lars Engberg-Pedersen and Neil Webster

When one examines the situation more closely, other differences

between the Danish private aid organizations become apparent. For
example, the major NGDOs differ significantly in their sources of income
with private donations accounting for between 5 per cent and 100 per
cent of their income and the government subsidies received in relation
to total income varying between 0 and 91 per cent. Here it should be
noted that organizations concentrating on relief and with a focus on
children can raise funds from private donations to a much larger extent
than organizations engaged in general development cooperation.
Regarding the government subsidized NGDO activities, the level
of monitoring and evaluation has steadily increased, and the organi-
zations have, notably since the civil society strategy in 2000, been
integrated more and more into official policies. NGDOs are generally
viewed as instruments for implementing particular elements of Danish
development policy and the various policy ‘fashions’ (the aid effective-
ness agenda, good governance, the rights-based approach, etc.) that
Danida takes up are quickly passed on to the private aid organizations.
Here lies one of the ways in which Danish NGDOs have had their role
circumscribed in recent times as Danida demands that they be more
professional in their work and organization and that they partner
Danida’s own interventions. This seems to have brought along a pres-
sure to reduce the critical engagement with the Danish government and
the advocacy role on key development issues.
Thus, the private is not so private in the Danish world of aid politics.
While international changes and the Danish corporatist tradition in the
1950s and 1960s pulled the government into development cooperation,
not least due to initiatives taken by private organizations, corporatism
has tended to pull the NGDOs into government development policies
in the last couple of decades. In that sense, concerns raised about the
relationship between the government and the private aid organizations
from the side of the NGDOs should not be permitted to gloss over the
fact that Danish NGDOs have become mini-Danidas.
From a Danish perspective, this chapter suggests that many ques-
tions regarding the relationship between Danish NGDOs and the state
remain unanswered and that recent developments need to be analyzed
in depth. While greater government control is not to be encouraged, it
is also important that Danish NGDOs do not function as mirror images
of Danida; both tendencies can be found in Danish development assis-
tance and both can undermine the critical role that Danish NGDOs
should be playing. From a European perspective, Danish aid and the
role of Danish private aid organizations within development assistance
Private Aid Organizations in Denmark 69

remains an example to be critically praised and used in other NGDOs’

debates with their own governments as to the merits of private aid in
development assistance. It is an ambiguous conclusion perhaps, but one
that on certain points suggests that private aid in Denmark is something
of a success.

1. ‘The Project Advice and Training Centre (PATC, now CISU) is a platform
for Danish civil society organizations (CSOs),  established in December
1995 in response to a general need among small Danish CSOs to exchange
experiences and build the general capacity of staff and volunteers. Today it
is a well-established association of more than 240 small and medium sized
Danish CSOs’ ( accessed 2009-
08-24). Projektrådgivningen was also established in response to the difficulties
of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to handle the contact with numerous
small private organizations, and it is, accordingly, not least an intermediary
organization between small CSOs and the state.
2. Throughout the chapter the following exchange rate has been used: €1 =
3. The status of UNICEF Danmark as a private organization can evidently be
disputed. It does, however, collect a substantial amount of private funds in
4. The categorization is tentative as the borders between the categories are not
very clear.
5. This sample has not been elaborated according to other criteria than acces-
sibility of data. It includes the bigger organizations, but not all of them.
Smaller NGDOs left out of this sample are likely to have been created within
the last 20 to 30 years. Unfortunately, it has not been possible to collect
information on more organizations.
accessed 2008-12-03.
7. accessed 2008-12-03.
8. accessed 2011-05-06.
9. accessed 2008-12-03.
10. Some of the organizations are engaged in both relief and development activi-
ties. They have been categorized according to whether they primarily fund
relief or development activities. It has not been possible to get data from Red
Barnet on the allocation of funds between the two activities, but the organi-
zation has tentatively been categorized as primarily a relief organization.
Folkekirkens Nødhjælp has been categorised as a development organization
despite its large relief work.
11. Another major national fundraising event in 2011 was a television show,
Danmarksindsamlingen, raising DKK 87 million (€11.7 million) for 12 differ-
ent NGDOs.
12. accessed 2008-12-03.
13. Mellemfolkeligt Samvirke/ActionAid Denmark, Folkekirkens Nødhjælp, Dansk
Røde Kors, Ibis, CARE Danmark, and Red Barnet.
70 Lars Engberg-Pedersen and Neil Webster

Bach, C.F. (2008) ‘Foregangslandet under forandring 1989–2005’ in Due-Nielsen,
C., Feldbæk, O. and Petersen, N. (eds) Idealer og realiteter: Dansk udviklingspoli-
tiks historie 1945–2005 (Copenhagen: Gyldendal), pp. 390–515.
Danida (1998) Evaluering: Danidas oplysningsbevilling – kontinuitet og fornyelse i
dansk ulandsoplysning (Copenhagen: Ministry of Foreign Affairs).
Danida (2000) Strategy for Danish Support to Civil Society in Developing Countries –
Including Cooperation with the Danish NGOs: Analysis and Strategy Document
(Copenhagen: Ministry of Foreign Affairs).
Danida (2008a) Danidas NGO-samarbejde 2008 (Copenhagen: Ministry of Foreign
Danida (2008b) Strategy for Danish Support to Civil Society in Developing Countries
(Copenhagen: Ministry of Foreign Affairs).
Kaur-Pedersen, S. (2008) ‘Spiren til dansk udviklingspolitik 1945–1962’ in Due-
Nielsen, C., Feldbæk, O. and Petersen, N. (eds) Idealer og realiteter: Dansk
udviklingspolitiks historie 1945–2005 (Copenhagen: Gyldendal), pp. 24–115.
Olesen, Thorsten Borring (2008), ‘Stabilitet og turbulens: Udviklingspolitikken
1975–1989’ in Due-Nielsen, C., Feldbæk, O. and Petersen, N. (eds) Idealer og
realiteter: Dansk udviklingspolitiks historie 1945–2005 (Copenhagen: Gyldendal),
pp. 258–389.
Olsen, G.R. (2005) ‘Danish aid policy in the post-Cold War period: Increasing
resources and minor adjustments’ in Stokke, O. and Hoebink, P. (eds)
Perspectives on European Development Co-operation (London: Routledge).
Oakley, P. (1999) The Danish NGO Impact Study: A Review of Danish NGO Activities
in Developing Countries: Overview Report (Copenhagen: Danida).
OECD (2007) Denmark: Peer Review (Paris: OECD).
Pedersen, J. (2008) ‘Det bilaterale program i støbeskeen 1962–1975’ in Due-
Nielsen, C., Feldbæk, O. and Petersen, N. (eds) Idealer og realiteter: Dansk
udviklingspolitiks historie 1945–2005 (Copenhagen: Gyldendal), pp. 116–257.
TNS Gallup (2008) Danida: Kendskabsmåling 2007 (Copenhagen: TNS Gallup).
Non-Governmental Organizations
and Finland’s Development Policy
Lauri Siitonen

4.1 Introduction

This article examines the role of non-governmental organizations

(NGOs) – or ‘civic organizations’ (as the corresponding Finnish word-
ing could be translated) – in Finland’s development policy. Whereas
civic aid organizations have been around for a very long time, it was
only during the late 1980s and the 1990s that they began to receive
particular interest among governments, international development
organizations and the development community at large. Suddenly there
was much enthusiasm in the air towards ‘direct aid to the poor’ through
‘flexible’ and ‘culturally sensitive’ NGOs. Indeed, NGOs have been
praised for their ability to bring development aid back to the ‘citizens’
level’, both in donor countries (for example among private donors and
taxpayers) and at the receiving end (for example ‘the target group’ or
the expected beneficiaries of aid).
This article will look at Finnish NGOs at a particular juncture, when
the early enthusiasm seems to have somewhat waned, and the aid dis-
course has turned to other topics, such as the Millennium Development
Goals (MDG) (UN, 2000) or the Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness
(OECD, 2005) and the Accra Agenda for Action (OECD, 2008) and the
Busan Outcome Document (OECD, 2011a). Henceforward the ‘effec-
tiveness’ of aid in contributing to poverty reduction is being empha-
sized in all development policies, including aid funding through and
to the NGOs. Respectively, the discourse on the role of NGOs has taken
a new shape, now expecting NGOs to demonstrate the developmen-
tal outcomes of their projects and efficiency in their use of resources.
On one hand, NGOs continue to receive positive attention in Finnish
development policy documents. Civil society actors are even considered

72 Lauri Siitonen

‘an essential and integral element of Finnish development cooperation’

(MFA, 2010, p. 3). On the other hand, the relations with NGOs remain
sometimes tense and the very same documents urge NGOs to enhance
their capacity and the overall quality of development cooperation.
To put these contradictions in Finnish development policies and
practices into perspective, I will introduce two discourses, which we
have coined as 1) instrumentalist and 2) developmentalist discourses
(Koponen and Siitonen, 2005). By instrumentalism we mean the argu-
ment that development aid is there to support the attainment of other
foreign policy goals, such as political and security goals or economic
and trade goals. Accordingly, the instrumentalist discourse empha-
sizes the benefits accruing from NGOs to the official development
policy – and thereby to the attaining of foreign policy goals in general.
Developmentalism, in turn, means ‘that complex of ideas, discourses,
ways of action, institutions and other structures that has grown around
the notion of development during the last fifty years or so and that has
involved a multitude of national, international and, increasingly, local
actors’ (ibid., pp. 215–216). In particular, the developmentalist dis-
course refers here to arguments concerning the developmental effects
of NGO projects, that is the means to forward sustainable development
that meets the needs of the intended beneficiaries of aid.
In what follows, I will first examine the historical evolution and
changing roles of Finnish civic development aid organizations and ini-
tiatives so as to show the particular national features. Then I will look
into the developmentalist and instrumentalist discourses within the
government’s vision on NGOs and the main channels of governmental
support to civil society organizations. Furthermore, the role of NGOs
in promoting public support to development policies will be discussed.
Finally, I will examine the developmental record of Finnish NGOs in the
light of the evidence from available evaluation studies.

4.2 On the history and role of NGOs in Finland’s

development policy

There are around 130,000 registered civic organizations in Finland – or

‘registered associations’ as the national legal term ‘rekisteröity yhdistys
(r.y.)’ is translated (Register of Associations).1 In a country of around
5.3 million people, that corresponds to one organization for every 40
persons. According to the Register of Associations, the average Finn is a
member of three organizations. Traditionally, Finland has figured, along
with the other Nordic countries, as a country with a particularly active
Non-governmental Organizations and Finland’s Development Policy 73

civil society, as far as membership in civic organizations is concerned.

Whereas membership does not necessarily indicate participation, it is
the level of voluntary activism that counts. And voluntary activism is
relatively popular in Finland; every third citizen participates in a volun-
tary organization.2
Comparative studies, such as the European Social Survey, reveal that
the citizens of the Nordic countries have a relatively strong overall trust
towards social institutions (Borg, 2007, p. 10). The tendency has been
explained in terms of the Nordic welfare state model, strong democratic
traditions, low levels of corruption, relatively high mutual trust (social
capital), or as a combination of these characteristics (ibid.). Indeed, the
Finns trust their state: the public sector is usually considered, also among
the civic organizations themselves, the primary actor in the financing
of public services, and correspondingly in the financing of development
aid as well. In other words, Finland typifies the collaborative model in
government-NGO relations: an institutionalized interaction where gov-
ernment provides the bulk of financing and the NGOs deliver the aid.3
The number of Finnish non-governmental organizations that are
active in development cooperation is deemed around three hundred
(depending on the definition) of which more than half are engaged in
projects or other development activities in developing countries.4 In
addition, there are three relevant national NGO umbrella organizations;
The Service Centre for Development Cooperation (KEPA, established in
1985), Finnish Disabled People’s International Development Association
(FIDIDA, established in 1989) and the Finnish NGO Platform to the EU
(KEHYS, established in 2002). KEPA is the large overall umbrella organi-
zation of the NGO sector, whereas FIDIDA with only seven and KEHYS
with 38 member organizations cater for thematic or particular interest
The Finnish Ministry for Foreign Affairs register of Finnish NGOs that
received financial support in 2011 (MFA, 2011) lists 145 organizations,
three foundations and the three umbrella organizations mentioned
above. Most of these organizations focus on sectors such as education
and health, sanitation, good governance and agricultural development.
The bulk of NGO aid goes to Africa south of Sahara and South Asia.
Over recent years, a good half of the projects supported by the MFA
are situated in Africa (MFA, 2008a; MFA, 2011). The major partner
countries include Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, and Tanzania in Africa, as
well as India and Nepal in South Asia. In 2011, the organizations that
received governmental financing operated development projects in 103
countries (MFA, 2011).
74 Lauri Siitonen

When using the membership register of The Service Centre for

Development Cooperation (KEPA) as the source, the fairly recent growth
of the sector becomes clear. Whereas the oldest non-governmental
development organizations were established in the nineteenth century,
the total number remained relatively small until the 1980s. Thereafter
the number has increased almost six times, from over 50 in 1985 to 291
in 2011. The number more than doubled during the late 1980s, and
again increased very fast during the late 1990s. If the first jump can be
partly seen as the normal early growth of a new organization, the latter
growth calls for further explanation. Possibly the economic crisis and
the related two-digit unemployment during the 1990s added to the
popularity of all kinds of self-help organizations, some of which then
started to work internationally as well.5 In any case, there has been a
continuous average growth of 44 new member organizations every five
years since the mid-1980s (see Figure 4.1).
The around three hundred KEPA member organizations include
both large, nationwide professional aid organizations, as well as tiny
local voluntary organizations. Among the professional ones figure
organizations whose main focus is something other than development
cooperation. However, a clear majority of the member organizations of
the KEPA are voluntary organizations and almost half (40 per cent) are
rather small (less than 100 members) (Kepa, 2008, p. 18; Rekola, 2008,

Member NGOs New Member NGOs







1985 1989 1995 2001 2005 2011

Figure 4.1 KEPA Membership, 1985–2011

Source: KEPA.
Non-governmental Organizations and Finland’s Development Policy 75

p. 10). Correspondingly, a significant part of the development activities

of the NGOs consists of relatively small projects of less than 50,000 euro
per year (MFA, 2006, p. 10).
In comparison with the current Finnish official development assis-
tance (ODA) budget, private aid initiatives correspond to a fairly small
part, less than ten per cent of the total. Historically, however, the civic
aid organizations have played a significant pioneering role long before
the official development aid program was launched. In a country that
became independent only in 1917 and never had colonial possessions
of its own, official relations with developing countries were not only
preceded by civil initiatives, but also deeply influenced by them. Thus,
in the late 1950s and early 1960s, when the Finnish official aid pro-
gram was initiated, the national missionary societies and humanitarian
organizations already possessed long experience of working in various
areas of the Third World in sectors typical to development work, such as
education and health. It was partly due to the missionaries’ active influ-
ence that the Nordic Council decided in 1961 to propose Tanganyika
(the mainland part of the future United Republic of Tanzania) as the
host country for the first common Nordic aid project (1963–1970)
(Falck, 1985; Koponen, 1999, pp. 8–9). It was partly through this pro-
ject that Finland’s official aid program was institutionalized within the
Ministry for Foreign Affairs.
Until 1968 Finland remained a net recipient of official development
funding (that is reconstruction funding from the World Bank) and
became a member state of the OECD only in 1969 (Siitonen, 2005,
p. 191). It was during that decade that international development aid
became an issue in public policy and gradually recognized among the
people at large, too. Yet, a study commissioned by the Finnish broad-
casting company in 1969 revealed that almost every other Finn did not
recognize the concept ‘Third World’ (Nurminen, 1969). It is not that the
Finns were short of words to describe the ‘otherness’ of peoples in far-
away countries, they only used different words for that purpose. Part of
the older generation would simply say ‘pagan countries’, thus referring
to the concept originating from the missionary tradition, the first major
grouping of Finnish development organizations. Some other Finns had
already learned about the ‘other’ world of underdevelopment, which
at first was bluntly described as ‘backward’ or ‘underdeveloped’, before
the more polite adjective ‘developing’ was adopted. Such concepts were
probably used, among others, by those active in a second grouping of
development organizations representing the humanitarian tradition,
such as the Red Cross. Those Finns who would have recognized and
76 Lauri Siitonen

possibly also used the term ‘Third World’ certainly included students
and leftist activists. Very likely they also had participated in the tra-
ditional high school students’ day off for voluntary work (taksvärkki <
dagsverke in Swedish: a day’s work), which in the late 1960s was devoted,
for the first time, to help African countries. However, the third major
grouping of Finnish non-governmental development organizations –
the solidarity movements – was only forming in the 1960s. Finally, the
fourth grouping, which consists of national branches of international
non-governmental organizations (INGO), appeared even later, in the
1980s. In the following, some of the prominent civic aid organizations
representing these four major groupings will now be presented.

4.2.1 The missionary tradition

The missionary tradition dates back to the 1860s, when The Finnish
Missionary Society (established in 1859) started operations in the north-
ern parts of what is today known as Namibia. From a small start, the
number of missionaries grew over the decades and was largest, around
120, by the 1960s (Eirola, 1990). Thereafter the number declined along
with the transfer of the activities to the local church. As the ‘last colony
in Africa’, Namibia (a colony of South Africa) was of course not eligi-
ble for official aid until its independence in 1990. However, the long
Finnish presence in Namibia made it possible for Finland to play an
active role in the UN Council for Namibia, and eventually in the pro-
cess of the Namibian independence in 1990 (Soiri and Peltonen, 1999;
Siitonen, 2005, p. 216). Thereafter Namibia became a partner country
of the Finnish official development aid program.
Meanwhile the Missionary Society had enlarged its activities and today
works in 29 countries in five continents, mainly with local Lutheran
churches. In addition, there are a number of other missionary societies
representing different Christian directions. One of the largest is Fida
International (established in 1927), the Finnish Pentecostal movement’s
missionary and development organization. Fida International has activi-
ties in 30 countries around the world. Missionary organizations are appre-
ciated among the Finnish development community for their long-term
engagement and deep knowledge of local people and their languages.
Typical to the missionary organizations is a holistic approach, instead
of focusing on any particular thematic issue area or a sector. Given their
original goal of saving not only lives but also souls, this is understandable.
From the developmental point of view, however, the holistic approach
runs the risk of creating parallel structures and separate communities dis-
connected from the surrounding society (MFA, 2008d, p. 62).
Non-governmental Organizations and Finland’s Development Policy 77

4.2.2 The humanitarian tradition

Among the Finnish aid organizations representing the humanitarian
tradition, the Finnish Red Cross (established in 1877) is the oldest and
one of the largest civic organizations in the country. The organization
was originally created to organize humanitarian relief during the war
between Russia and Turkey over the Balkans. It remained a separate
organization until after the independence of Finland (1917), when the
organization was recognized by the International Red Cross (1920).
Today it supports local Red Cross and Red Crescent organizations’ activ-
ities in 90 countries around the world. Another old humanitarian aid
organization, the Finnish Save the Children (established in 1922), works
for children’s rights in South Asia (India, Nepal), East Africa (Ethiopia,
Kenya) and West Africa (Burkina Faso, Guinea, Mali).
The humanitarian and development organization of Finnish
Evangelic-Lutheran Church, FinnChurchAid (FCA) was originally estab-
lished in 1947 to organize post-war reconstruction aid from abroad to
Finnish congregations. Today it operates in more than 30 countries
in Africa, Asia, Europe, Latin America and the Near East through the
Lutheran World Federation and the World Council of Churches. With
regard to the amount of aid funding, FCA claims to be the largest
Finnish NGO and the second-largest in humanitarian aid. Recently it
has focused on operations in fragile states such as Somalia and Sudan,
where it supports the role of traditional religious leaders in establish-
ing peace. The humanitarian organizations usually focus on a thematic
issue, such as humanitarian relief or children. The strength of these spe-
cialist organizations is a strong tradition and competence in a thematic
issue area, which helps in making them well known and recognized
actors both domestically and internationally (Riddell, 2007, p. 270;
MFA, 2008d, p. 63).

4.2.3 The solidarity movement

The third grouping of Finnish non-governmental development organi-
zations, the solidarity movement, organized only in the late 1960s and
1970s. That was almost a decade later than in Sweden: the war over
Algerian independence, for example, almost passed without any sig-
nificant political notice in Finland (Melasuo, 1985). However, Student
Unions were already experimenting with development aid activities
in the late 1950s – before official aid was institutionalized within the
Foreign Ministry. At first, it was the student organizations that offered
expertise and know-how to the Ministry.6 Those more critical of the
78 Lauri Siitonen

official policies took part in the radical youth movement, which paid
growing attention to the ‘hot spots’ of the Third World – Vietnam in
the 1960s, Chile in the 1970s and Nicaragua in the 1980s. In addi-
tion, there was the long-standing anti-apartheid movement, which
curiously united people with a missionary background with those
more engaged in humanitarian concerns or the solidarity movement,
including the labor movement. In the 1980s, Finnish Labor man-
aged to stop all importation from South Africa as a political action
against the Apartheid regime – a real tour de force. No wonder that
the largest Finnish organizations specialized in international solidar-
ity are those established within the labor movement, The International
Solidarity Foundation (established 1970) and The Solidarity Centre of the
Finnish Labor (established 1986). The former is closely related with the
Social Democratic Party and operates in Nicaragua, Uganda, India and
Somalia. The Finnish Labor’s Solidarity Centre focuses on supporting
labor organizations in over 20 developing countries. Whereas the more
radical solidarity organizations used to focus on countries ‘under colo-
nial or imperialist oppression’, the traditional labor movement has its
strength in its long-standing expertise in supporting labor organizations
and labor controlling (for instance child labor) as well as enhancing
labor conditions in developing countries.
Another kind of solidarity initiative is organized around the idea of fair
trade. The first fair trade shop in Finland was opened in Oulu in 1979
(Korhonen, 2000, p. 116). Thereafter the number of fair trade shops has
increased to over 40. In addition to selling handicrafts and other products
from developing countries, these shops provide meeting points for Third
World activists and local NGOs. According to the Register of Associations,
there are 16 local fair trade associations around the country, from
Helsinki to Lapland. These associations spread information on develop-
ment issues, maintain shops and often also run small development pro-
jects. The more commercially oriented branch of fair trade works through
the principle of ‘direct importation’ of goods marked with the fair trade
logo and sold in regular shops and super markets. Bananas, coffee, cot-
ton, flowers and wines are currently the most popular fair trade goods in
Finland Fairtrade Finland Vuosiraportti 2013 [Annual Report 2013].
The first larger civic initiative closely related with the official devel-
opment aid organized in 1979 under the name ‘movement for devel-
opment cooperation’, which in 1980 was renamed the ‘One Per Cent
Movement’ (prosenttiliike). This name referred to the original 1960s
international target for resource transfers to poor countries, already met
by the neighboring Scandinavian countries. The movement successfully
Non-governmental Organizations and Finland’s Development Policy 79

brought together civil society organizations, Third World activists and a

good number of well-known citizens into an informal advocacy group.
At the same time, it was part of a larger wave of ‘new popular move-
ments’, such as the environmental movement. ‘Membership’ in this
loose network was indicated by voluntarily donating one per cent of
one’s income to an aid organization of personal choice. Even today
many Finns continue this habit. In addition to the aid volume, the One
Per Cent Movement also campaigned for the quality of aid.
In terms of growth in the volume of aid, the movement was suc-
cessful, at least temporally, as Finland’s ODA level increased at a world
record speed during the 1980s and the international aid target (0.7
per cent of GNP) was shortly achieved in 1990. However, very soon the
Finnish economy ran into crisis and the ODA level was declined – again
at world record speed. During the 1990s the attempts to restore the
One Per Cent Movement were doomed to fail as the moment of public
enthusiasm was over and aid fatigue was growing. In addition, many
of the movements’ core activists felt disappointed with the neoliberal
policy agenda adopted by the official development policies (Isomäki,
In 1986, the One Per Cent Movement dissolved itself, having already
been reorganized, together with 56 NGOs into the Service Centre for
Development Cooperation (KEPA, established in 1985). In fact, the ser-
vice centre is also a large NGO and an umbrella organization of several
NGOs. But the name ‘service centre’ does not give a due account of all
that KEPA does. In addition to offering services to its member organi-
zations (being a ‘watchdog’ of the development aid sector, training,
advising, and offering logistical help through its offices in the global
South), KEPA also advocates and campaigns, and has overseas programs
that directly support southern NGOs. KEPA also belongs to a number of
international NGO networks, such as Eurodad, Reality of Aid, Eurostep,
the European Trade Network and EPA 2007.

4.2.4 ‘Transnational’ NGOs

The fourth major grouping of NGOs, national branches of international
non-governmental organizations (INGO), landed in Finland in the
1980s. The World Vision of Finland (1983) and Plan Finland Foundation
(1998) are among the largest. The sophisticated marketing of INGOs
obviously has an effect particularly on the young people, who seem
to have less time for voluntary work for a NGO but may still wish to
invest money in international poverty reduction. In fact, some of these
international NGOs, such as Plan Finland and the World Vision, are far
80 Lauri Siitonen

more popular than many longstanding ‘national’ NGOs, and conse-

quently claim their right to governmental funding and recognition in
the humanitarian markets (MFA, 2008d, p. 22). Then again, because of
the relatively small size of the Finnish economy, the local charity mar-
kets remain perhaps less competitive than in some larger countries, as
will be examined below.

4.2.5 Funding opportunities and the changing role of NGOs

The end of Cold War and the collapse of the Soviet Union in the early
1990s significantly changed Finland’s international environment.
Together with Austria and Sweden, Finland became a member of the EU
in 1995. Thereupon the Finnish NGOs were able to participate in EU
level networks and seek for funding from the Commission for their pro-
jects and programs in developing countries. To provide information on
the funding calls and guidance for the applications as well as to discuss
European development policy issues, an NGO committee on EU matters
was formed in 1995.7 In 2001, the committee was registered as a sepa-
rate organization, the EU Platform (KEHYS). As both KEPA and KEHYS
receive governmental support, the existence of two separate organiza-
tions may seem odd – and in fact both organizations have their offices
in the very same building. Some observers claim that it is because some
key NGO activists were critical of membership of the EU.
During the 1990s, the Finnish charity markets were further molded
by the appearance of a new kind of solidarity movement, private initia-
tives to help poor people in post-Soviet countries, particularly in the
neighboring Estonia and other Baltic countries as well as in the Russian
North-Western areas bordering Finland. Even though these areas are not
considered developing countries and the Baltic countries soon accessed
the EU, solidarity towards those ‘poor people beyond our borders’
remains popular.
Whereas most Finnish non-governmental development organizations
receive substantial funding from the Ministry for Foreign Affairs (MFA),
none of them is fully funded by official sources and therefore must raise
their own funds as well. Fundraising consists of donations from the
general public or in the case of faith-based organizations from parish
members, individual child/project sponsorship, as well as small busi-
nesses (such as recycling or free publications) (MFA, 2008d, p. 36). The
means for self-funding are many, from the usual collections, donations,
bazaars, and jumble sales, or periodic campaigns and collection of mem-
bership fees, to the more creative ones, such as advocating through well-
known people and the media. Recently some international enterprises,
Non-governmental Organizations and Finland’s Development Policy 81

such as Nokia, have been engaged in fundraising, for example by letting

their staff members use their work time for voluntary work for the aid
organizations (Onali, 2008, p. 53).
In the absence of official monitoring, it is difficult to estimate the
volume of private support to NGOs. According to the national law,
private grants to science, art or Finnish cultural heritage can be tax
deductible, but not grants to civic associations. Foundations for public
good can apply for tax redemption, but not the regular associations
that make up a clear majority of Finnish NGOs. Furthermore, because
of a strong tradition of the Collaborative Model in government-NGO
relations, non-governmental organizations tend to compete more for
governmental support than for private funding. Those receiving multi-
annual governmental support (so-called partner organizations, as will
be discussed more below) are required to publish their budget in their
Internet pages. (See Table A4.1 in Annex for the funding of the major
Finnish non-governmental development organizations.)
An important funding source for the NGOs is national fund raising
campaigns, such as the annual Common Responsibility Campaign,
Operation Hunger Day and Operation a Day’s Work. The Finnish
Lutheran Church has organized the yearly Common Responsibility
Campaign since 1950. Over previous years, the campaign has collected
around EUR5 million a year. The 2011 campaign raised funds for
young people suffering from loneliness or exclusion in Finland and in
Mozambique. The Operation Hunger Day is organized by the Finnish Red
Cross and collected over EUR2 million in 2009. Operation a Day’s Work
(ODW) Finland (or Taksvärkki, as mentioned above) is a non-govern-
mental organization, which has organized the annual operation since
1967, collecting around EUR300,000 during previous years.
The old and large organizations, in particular the faith-based organi-
zations, are closer to the self-funding organizations that traditionally,
before the government subsidiaries became available, drew the bulk of
their funding from collections during church services and at other reli-
gious occasions as well as voluntary funding from congregations. The
FinnChurchAid (FCA) web site indicates that in 2010, the breakdown
of funding sources was as follows: funds from the Ministry for Foreign
Affairs (MFA) 38 per cent; contributions budgeted by parishes 33 per
cent; and private donations (including the Common Responsibility
Campaign) 24 per cent. Save the Children, another large humanitarian
NGO, reports on its website funding sources for its international opera-
tions in 2007 as MFA (65 per cent), the EU (11 per cent), and private
voluntary funding and other ‘own’ funding (24 per cent). Accordingly,
82 Lauri Siitonen

governmental funding remains significant for most non-governmental

development organizations, including the largest ones that traditionally
were self-funding organizations.
In broad terms, the role of NGOs has changed over past decades,
from a pioneer who advises the government’s aid policies, to one of
being supported and guided by the government’s development policy.
The change obviously causes conflicts between the national interests of
official development policy and the particular interests of the NGOs.
In particular the aid projects of smaller organizations tend to be largely
dependent on official support. The official funding is likely to affect
the way in which NGOs work. On one hand, the applying organiza-
tions have to show that their aid activities are efficient and in line with
official development policies which, in turn, reflect the current inter-
national development agenda. On the other hand, the use of public
funding is conditional on a number of reporting procedures. There is
an obvious conflict between the bureaucratic reporting procedures and
the original spirit of volunteerism among NGO activists, as recognized
by the NGOs (Kontinen, 2008, p. 45). Before looking more closely at the
modes of governmental funding, I will first discuss how the government
sees the role of NGOs in development policy.

4.3 The government’s vision of NGOs

At the outset, civic aid organizations are given an important role in

political speeches and development policy documents. The govern-
ment not only supports NGOs but also calls for ‘close interaction’ with
them (MFA, 2010). Nonetheless, in practice, relations with the NGOs
remain sometimes tense, as acknowledged in the preface of the NGO
Development Cooperation Guidelines of the Foreign Ministry (MFA,
2006). Anecdotal evidence gained from the representatives of the NGO
sector and the ministry gives further support to the claim. Typically, the
NGOs remain almost invisible in the annual reports of the ministry, in a
clear contradiction to the relative share of their funding – and to the lip
service given to them in the official speeches. Below I will look into four
recent policy documents that merit attention here, namely the 2006
NGO Guidelines, the 2007 development policy program, the 2010 NGO
Guidelines and Finland’s new development policy program of 2012.
The NGO Guidelines of 2006 set the official goal of increasing the
share of official aid (ODA) channeled through the NGOs up to 10–15
per cent of bilateral ODA allocable to the MFA. Over previous years the
share has been around 12 per cent (or 9 per cent of the total ODA).
Non-governmental Organizations and Finland’s Development Policy 83

The guidelines further set out that NGOs are free to choose their tar-
gets ‘within the limits of the overall goals of the Finnish development
strategy’. NGOs are expected to contribute, in the first place, to the
development of civil societies in developing countries. However, a clear
majority – two-thirds – of Finnish NGOs specializes in delivering welfare
services in health care, the social sector and education, not in advocacy,
democracy support or building other aspects of civil society.
The government’s development policy program (MFA, 2007b, p. 34)
continues with the same tone of glorifying the role of the NGOs: ‘The
special value that NGOs can add is their direct contacts with the grass-
roots level and their valuable work to strengthen the civil society in
developing countries.’ At the same time, however, the program calls for
increased effectiveness in terms of the NGOs’ general capacity and the
quality of development cooperation. These are the same goals as set in
the MFA Guidelines mentioned above. However, the dubious part of the
text is the expectation that ‘in their own development cooperation pro-
grams, NGOs should enhance, whenever possible, implementation of
the principles contained in the Government Program and in the devel-
opment policy program’ (ibid.). The statement is rather problematic, as
the very same policy program received harsh criticism – more than any
Finnish aid policy program before – particularly from the NGO sector.
The NGO umbrella organization KEPA in particular criticized the way
the program was adopted, which led to some doubts among the NGO
community about the sincerity of the policy:

The new program was briskly processed and approved within just
three weeks. Representatives of civil society were given a week to
comment on its first draft, and in all the haste there was little oppor-
tunity for the voices of NGOs to be heard. This is particularly regret-
ful here in Finland – a country that so often boasts of its exemplary
democratic processes and good governance both here and abroad.
(Lappalainen, 2008, p. 3)

The 2010 Guidelines for Civil Society (MFA, 2010) claims to respond
to the growing national and international pressure towards increased
cooperation between public authorities and civil society actors. On the
national level, the government has published a citizen participation
program and its 2007 resolution emphasizes the promotion of the oper-
ational preconditions for civil society organizations. On the interna-
tional level, the implementation of the Paris Declaration and the Accra
Agenda for Action stresses the potential in improving the effectiveness
84 Lauri Siitonen

of NGO aid. The guidelines further emphasize close cooperation with

and ‘uniform objectives with regard to civil societies’ of the other
Nordic countries and the ‘like-minded donor group’ (Austria, Canada,
Belgium, Ireland, the Netherlands, Switzerland, the UK, plus the Nordic
countries). At best, the policy paper is a serious effort to discuss the role
of civil society in development and the means to strengthen civil socie-
ties. At worst, it is an attempt to smuggle in some odd elements from
the 2007 Development Policy program, such as ‘Finnish value added’.
In any event, the 2010 guidelines clearly set the three main develop-
mentalist objectives of public support for civil society organizations:
1) support for the development of civil society in partner countries, 2)
provision of public services where the state lacks adequate capacity, and
3) advocacy (MFA, 2010, pp. 11–12).
Finland’s current development policy program of 2012 introduces
a ‘human rights-based approach to development’, which was warmly
received by the NGO community. Correspondingly, this program
emphasizes the role of civil society as an ‘important actor and partner
in the implementation of human rights-based development coop-
eration’ (MFA, 2012, p. 29). Civil society organizations are expected to
strengthen democracy and development ‘owned by the people’ (ibid.).
At the same time, the 2010 guidelines remain valid. The new policy
program also promised increased funding through civil society organi-
zations while at the same time claiming the improving effectiveness of
their development cooperation activities (ibid., p. 9).
For obvious political reasons, the new policy papers emphasize
the developmentalist goals, which are not very different from other
European donors, whereas the instrumentalist goals are today writ-
ten more diplomatically and partly between the lines. The difference
between the two is analytical and can only be made on the level of
argumentation. The instrumentalist discourse on NGOs is framed by
arguments that seek to legitimize the public financing of civic aid
organizations and arguments critical to such support. The develop-
mentalist discourse, in turn, is framed by arguments in favor of certain
development goals to be promoted with such support and those prefer-
ring some other development goals. In practice, the political rhetoric
used in the policy papers easily mixes the two levels so as to make the
instrumentalist goals look like developmentalist ones.
Still in the early 1990s, the instrumentalist discourse was easily
found in the policy documents. The policy paper entitled Finland’s
Development Cooperation in the 1990s: Strategic Goals and Means makes
explicit three instrumentalist goals: 1) implementation of projects
Non-governmental Organizations and Finland’s Development Policy 85

that would be difficult to implement by official means, 2) extending

(Finnish) contacts in the developing world and 3) ‘giving personal
experience of development co-operation to large number of ordinary
people’ (MFA, 1993, p. 30). Building on this, the Decision-in-Principle on
Finland’s Development Cooperation, published some years later, saw NGOs
to ‘have a significant role in providing a foundation and resources for
Finland’s development cooperation and in diversifying our contacts’
(Government of Finland, 1996). To attain these instrumentalist goals,
the government set the target to increase the assistance through NGOs
to 10–15 per cent of the ‘budget for development cooperation proper’
(that is the budget allocable to the MFA).
Thus, civic aid organizations are expected, firstly, to enhance (Finland’s)
contacts in the global South (Government of Finland, MFA 2006, p. 13;
MFA, 2010, p. 3). NGOs can be said to meet this instrumentalist
expectation by acting in areas and regions that official development
cooperation do not reach (MFA, 2010, p. 3). For example in 2007, there
were Finnish NGO projects in over 80 developing countries, whereas
the official bilateral aid was allocated to less than 50 countries. This
is particularly relevant in smaller donor countries such as Finland
whose diplomatic network remains limited (to less than 100 countries).
Furthermore, direct contacts with local NGOs can also offer informa-
tion channels into civil societies of the partner countries, an argument
which could gain importance when shifting from project to program
aid, as recommended in the Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness
(OECD, 2005). Through the NGO contacts governments may also
acquire important information from countries where the donor gov-
ernment may not be politically willing to invest official aid, countries
such as Byelorussia, Burma (Myanmar) or Zimbabwe. Then again, those
critical of such NGO espionage might be worried, with a good reason,
about the harmful effects to non-governmental organizations working
in the countries concerned. For similar reasons, humanitarian NGOs
are today highly critical of the experiences of ‘bombing’ conflict-ridden
areas with emergency aid packages from military aircrafts, thus blurring
the roles of humanitarian and the military organizations in the eyes of
the local people.8
Another instrumentalist reason for governmental NGO support
refers to complementing public aid, in particular supporting the civil
society and democracy in partner countries of the official development
program. NGOs are encouraged to complement and support Finland’s
activities in partner countries (MFA, 2010, p. 21; MFA, 2012, p. 17).
In addition, NGOs can focus on marginalized groups that official aid
86 Lauri Siitonen

sometimes cannot focus on for political reasons, such as casteless

people or ethnic minorities. For example, the FinnChurchAid works
together with an organization (Nepal National Dalits’ Social Welfare
Organization) representing the Dalits, or casteless people in Nepal, a
long-term partner country of Finland’s official development program.
Whereas the Foreign Ministry encourages NGOs to implement projects
in the poorest and least developed countries, as well as in priority
countries and sectors of development policy, civic aid organizations
‘can implement their projects in the sectors of their choice in countries
… eligible [for official development aid]’ (ibid.). Complementary role
means also that the Finnish government does not channel ODA through
NGOs (earmarked for donor-initiated projects implemented by NGOs)
but allocates ODA to NGOs to fund the civic organizations’ own projects
(core support) (see OECD, 2011b, p. 9 for definitions).
Thirdly, NGOs are expected to enhance overall public support for
development aid in general and thereby also official development pol-
icy. The 1996 policy document states that ‘NGOs play a vital role in
strengthening the sense of global solidarity among the Finnish people’
(Government of Finland, 1996, p. 6). Ten years later, the wording has
become a bit less radical: NGOs are now expected to ‘strengthen the
global responsibility among the Finns’ (Government of Finland, 2006,
p. 13). More recently, the 2010 document reveals that ‘Citizens’ exer-
tion of influence and civil society participation are central reasons for
the fact that Finland spends a considerable [sic!] share of tax revenue to
improve the living conditions of people in developing countries’ (MFA,
2010, p. 8). Indeed, NGOs do important advocacy work on develop-
ment issues, including aid, and activists of the civic aid organizations
usually campaign for the attainment of international aid targets as well.
It is also true that public opinion in donor countries tends to appreci-
ate NGOs, usually more than official aid agencies and therefore help
from the main ‘competitor’ must be welcome. Then again, a positive
attitude towards development aid does not necessarily mean open sup-
port for the government’s aid policy. Many NGO activists are rather
disillusioned about official aid policies, particularly when commercial
and short-term political interests or the neoliberal ideology dictate the
policies, as became clear with the above-mentioned example of the
‘One Percent Movement’ activists in the 1990s.
Finally, governmental support to NGOs can also work as a means
to monitor and control the NGO sector. On one hand, the Foreign
Ministry is engaged, in principle, to develop the means to enhance
development policy coherence and thereby needs to monitor also
Non-governmental Organizations and Finland’s Development Policy 87

organizations’ projects in partner countries (MFA, 2010, p. 21). In

practice, monitoring of NGOs varies from one recipient country to
another. Whereas the Finnish Embassy in Nepal reported monitor-
ing that funds allocated centrally by the ministry and locally by the
embassy do not overlap, embassies in some other recipient countries
reported little or no contact with the NGO sector (MFA, 2008d, pp.
51–2). On the other, the financial support may silence at least part
of the critics coming from the civil society on the subject of official
aid policies. Claiming otherwise, that continued reliance on a single
source of funding will not cause dependence in the long run, would
be politically naïve. Then again, it would be extremely difficult to
find evidence supporting the case of intended manipulation by the
government. Probably a more promising hypothesis brings up the pos-
sibility of manipulation as an unintended outcome of NGO support.
More often than not, some organizations are offered generous support
whereas applications by other organizations are rejected, for reasons
not always clear and transparent among the applicant organizations.
Does rejection mean, for example, that the applicants’ targets were
not ‘within the limits of the overall goals of the Finnish development
strategy’; or that the applications were technically weak? Twisted
between the popular call for increased official aid through the NGOs,
on one hand, and growing demands for enhanced efficiency, on the
other hand, the ministry easily ends up with funding generously those
organizations that are expected to perform effectively. Consequently,
there is always the possibility of governmental support causing a divi-
sion between ‘MFA darlings’ and the ‘other organizations’ (perhaps
even ‘MFA orphans’?). Even when unintended, this could result a sort
of divide and rule process within the NGO sector, which may then
find it hard to build a common stand vis-à-vis the government or the
Foreign Ministry.
In sum, government’s official stand towards NGOs has evolved first
from pure instrumentalism to glorifying enthusiasm and more recently
to a more pragmatic and development oriented view. However, the shift
has been gradual and Finnish political culture is likely to emphasize
more cooperation than open conflict. But beyond the surface, there
seems to be an inbuilt tension between instrumentalist and develop-
mentalist goals, particularly regarding the advocacy role of the civic
organizations, for example their critical stance towards promoting
commercial interests through official aid. It may be revealing that the
current development policy program encourages Ministry personnel to
‘adopt a more discussion-oriented organizational culture and to engage
88 Lauri Siitonen

in interaction and joint learning with other development policy actors

of Finnish society and in international contexts’ (MFA, 2012, p. 21).

4.4 The government’s subsidy arrangements for NGOs

Part of Finland’s official aid funding has been channeled to civic aid
organizations since 1974. That was more than a decade later than
the beginning of the official aid program. In fact, NGOs were actively
involved in campaigning for the opening of such funding program
(Onali, 2008, p. 51). Obviously the experiences of similar funding pro-
grams in other donor countries also played an important role.
There are currently six main channels of governmental subsidy
schemes for NGOs (MFA, 2010, p. 8):

1. Grants to individual development projects of civic development

2. Grants to partnership programs (2–4 years) of qualified NGOs.
3. Micro-projects in developing countries through special foundations.
4. Grants to international non-governmental organization (INGO)
5. Financial support to project preparation trips of Finnish organizations.
6. Travel grants enabling representatives from developing countries to
participate in international conferences.

Furthermore, civil society organizations may apply for communica-

tions and development education support for individual projects. In
addition, Finnish embassies in developing countries administer small
grants to local NGOs. The Service Centre (KEPA) also receives significant
financial support from the Ministry for Foreign Affairs. Finally, Finnish
NGOs may also compete for EU grants, and, if successful, may apply to
the MFA for additional funding to cover the total project costs (MFA,
2010, p. 23).9
Over past years, the annual governmental commitments to NGO
funding was allocated between the main channels as follows: grants to
individual projects received around 10–15 per cent of the total; the part-
nership programs (to be explained below) around 50 per cent; special
foundations around 5 per cent; INGOs around 6 per cent, KEPA around
5–7 per cent, and the remaining 17 per cent between various smaller
grants (including grants through Finnish embassies, to NGO projects
receiving EU funding, and a commitment to emergency aid through
NGOs) (MFA, 2008d, p. 18). In the following I will concentrate on MFA
Non-governmental Organizations and Finland’s Development Policy 89

funding through national NGOs (above points 1–3), as well as KEPA

which together account for 75 per cent of the total funding.
The overall governmental support to the NGO sector has grown
rapidly during the past decade: the funding almost tripled between
2000 and 2010, from EUR32 million to EUR90 million. This growth
has been even faster than the overall growth of Finland’s official aid
budget, which has meanwhile more than doubled from EUR402 million
to EUR1,007 million. Respectively the share of ODA destined to NGOs
has grown from 7.9 per cent to 9 per cent. (Or when using the method
preferred by the MFA, from 10.4 per cent to 12.1 per cent of the bilateral
aid allocable to the MFA – thus excluding aid through the EU, adminis-
trative costs, etc.). See Table 4.1 for the annual amounts.
The relatively short history of Finnish ODA funding to civic organiza-
tions can be divided into three main periods: (1) from the beginning in
1974 to the establishment of the Service Centre KEPA in 1985, (2) from
1985 to the introduction of the partnership program in 1993 and (3)
from 1993 to present.

4.4.1 The early years: 1974–1985

During the first period, 1974–1985, there were some ten non-govern-
mental aid organizations that received official support for their projects
(MFA, 2006, p. 9). These organizations had begun their aid work ear-
lier without such support, some of them for several decades ago, such
as the large missionary and humanitarian organizations mentioned
above. Another innovation was the restart of the Finnish volunteer
program. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, there had already been a
short experimentation with Finnish ‘Peace Corps’ as part of the offi-
cial development aid program. The experimentation was soon ended,
however, because candidates with sufficient experiences and linguistic
skills remained fewer than expected. By the early 1980s, the interest in

Table 4.1 Official support to civic aid organizations, 2000–2010, in Million Euro

2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010

31.8 33.6 38.2 38.6 38.4 45.1 57.1 64.5 76.2 86.1 90.3

Data for reference: annual ODA disbursements and the per cent share of NGO

402.2 434.4 490.4 494.3 547.2 725.7 664.8 716.9 808.2 926.5 1007.6
7.9% 7.7% 7.8% 7.8% 7.0% 6.2% 8.6% 9.0% 9.4% 9.3% 9.0%

Source: MFA.
90 Lauri Siitonen

a volunteer program started anew and NGOs were invited to prepare the
initiative. In this connection Dr. Marja-Liisa Swantz (the first director of
the Institute of Development Studies, University of Helsinki) came up
with the idea of transforming the loose One Per Cent movement into a
coordinating organization that would run the volunteer program.

4.4.2 From 1985 to 1993

The formation of the Service Centre for Development Cooperation
(KEPA) in 1985 by civic organizations active in the One Per Cent move-
ment added significantly to the public support, which until then had
been limited to subsidies given to individual organizations. In addi-
tion, a number of new NGOs were established (Isomäki, 2000). At first,
however, KEPA focused mainly on the organization of the volunteer
program, for which it received funding from the Ministry for Foreign
Affairs. Starting in Zambia, the volunteer program was later expanded
into Mozambique and Nicaragua. For support and administrative pur-
poses, KEPA set up country offices in Mozambique and Nicaragua, later
also in Zambia and in Tanzania. (Let us note in passing that these coun-
tries also belong to the partner countries of Finland’s ODA program – and
to popular targets of Finnish NGO projects.) At the same time, direct
financial support to an increasing number of individual NGO projects
continued, along with the record growth of Finnish ODA budgets over
the 1980s. In the early 1990s, Finland was hit by a particularly hard
economic depression and the ODA level soon fell back down to the
early 1980s level (or 0.3 per cent of gross national product, GNP). As
unemployment levels came close to 20 per cent, there was much enthu-
siasm in Finland towards voluntary organizations, or the ‘Third Sector’,
including voluntary work in developing countries. The volunteer program
was continued until 1995, as explained below.

4.4.3 From frame agreements to partner program: after 1993

From 1993, the Ministry for Foreign Affairs (MFA) adopted the first
so-called frame agreements with larger civic aid organizations, so as to
rationalize and lessen its workload in matters concerning the NGOs and
to improve the quality of NGO projects. The planning of the scheme
was initiated in 1988, based largely on the Swedish model (MFA, 2008d,
p. 18). The first agreements were signed in 1993 with five NGOs, fol-
lowed by one more organization in 1995 and another in 2001; alto-
gether with seven NGOs between 1993 and 2001. The support for the
seven larger organizations amounted to over half (57 per cent) of the
total NGO support program (ibid.).
Non-governmental Organizations and Finland’s Development Policy 91

In 2003, the frame agreements were substituted with the so-called

partner agreements with ten civic organizations. Thereby the fund-
ing of the projects of each partner organization is handled within the
partner program. In 2007, the partnership program made up the same
approximately 50 per cent of the total governmental NGO financing
as it was (under the then-called framework program) in 1993 (MFA,
2008d, p. 20). In the context of this program, the MFA makes long-
term agreements, which are expected to allow for more independence
to the organizations in the use of the funds, while at the same time also
expecting more responsibility in their quality control. The overall aim
of the program is to enhance the quality of development cooperation,
which in the case of some smaller organizations has not always been
good enough. Accordingly, the partner organizations are expected to
show strong skills in development work and a well-developed organi-
zational structure. On one hand, the Partnership Agreement Scheme
perhaps best reflects the instrumentalist goal of complementing the
official aid program with the NGOs. On the other, the establishment
of the Partnership Agreement Scheme in 2003 can be seen as ‘linked
with a global trend in development cooperation of moving from pro-
ject approach to program approach’ (MFA, 2008d, p. 17). The 2006
Guidelines revised the criteria for selecting partner organizations
and a new round of applications for partner organization status was
announced in 2008. Altogether eleven civic aid organizations were cho-
sen (see Table A4.2 in Annex for a list of the organizations).
In addition to the partner organization program, governmental
funding to the smaller and middle-sized organizations continues. For
these NGOs, the governmental financing is given on annual individual
project-based applications. However, with the growth of the number
of projects by 40 times, the administrative burden is a challenge to
the Foreign Ministry (MFA, 2006, p. 10). In 2011, the number of the
funded aid projects by Finnish NGOs adds up to 652, of which 253
projects received funding on individual applications and 399 within
the partnership program (MFA, 2011, p. 1). No wonder that the OECD
(2007, pp. 39–40) peer review on Finland questioned the burdensome
administrative work and the developmental effects of so large a number
of rather small projects.

4.4.4 The volunteer program and KEPA

The Foreign Ministry decided to end the funding of the Finnish vol-
unteer program in 1995, after the experimentation had lasted over ten
years. An evaluation conducted in 1994–1995 deemed the program’s
92 Lauri Siitonen

results of low developmental relevance to the recipient countries.

However, some NGOs still wished to continue with development aid
volunteers and in 1995 established the Finnish Volunteer Program
(ETVO), which is now coordinated by KEPA. ETVO channels volun-
teers to non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in the South. The
volunteers may be posted to work on local NGOs’ projects in the South
for 6–12 months. These NGOs must already have an existing coopera-
tion relationship with a Finnish NGO, which is a member organization
of KEPA.
Meanwhile the Service Centre KEPA found a new role and focuses
now on being (as its name tells) the service centre of Finnish NGOs
and on advocacy and campaigning. Its field offices (four since 2009:
in Mozambique, Nicaragua, Tanzania, and Thailand) focus now on
cooperation with local NGOs and on logistical help to Finnish NGOs.
KEPA has partnership agreements with around ten local NGOs in the
above-mentioned countries. These partnerships support campaigning
and advocacy work in the global South. Furthermore, KEPA organizes
regular public events, the largest and best known being the World
Village Festival, which brings together every summer in Helsinki a great
number of NGOs and public. KEPA’s annual budget was EUR5.3 million
in 2009 (KEPA, 2010). The majority of this goes to running the centre,
providing courses and other services and to campaigning and advocacy
work in Finland, around a third to the programs in the global South. The
bulk (94 per cent) of the budget comes from the MFA. The staff numbers
over 80 employees, of which over half work in Finland (ibid.).10

4.4.5 Funding to foundations and development information

Since 1998, foundations formed by Finnish NGOs providing funding
to similar foundations in developing countries have been able to apply
for governmental financing. Continuation of the support to these foun-
dations was reconfirmed in the 2010 Guidelines (MFA, 2010, p. 22).
There are currently three such foundations, the Abilis Foundation (Aid
for People with Disabilities), the Finnish NGO Platform for Human Rights
and the Siemenpuu Foundation (Supporting Environmental Work in the
global South). The Foreign Ministry makes funding agreements with
the foundations for a three years’ period. In 2011 the three foundations
received MFA financing of EUR4.9 million for their support of over 400
micro-projects in developing countries (MFA, 2011, p. 1).
There is also a separate MFA funding channel for development infor-
mation and education (excluding, however, communications in Finland
Non-governmental Organizations and Finland’s Development Policy 93

about development projects, which is included in project budgeting).

This financing is also aimed at such organizations that usually have no
development project activities in developing countries, such as universi-
ties and other educational institutes. The aim of the financial support
is to activate public discussion on development issues and thereby to
increase the domestic public interest in and support for development
cooperation. In 2008, around ninety organizations received subsidies
for their information projects and educational activities, altogether
around EUR2 million. Most of this funding is for one year, but part of it
(€300,000) was given to four organizations for their development educa-
tion during the next two years. The funding is meant for information
and education on developmental issues (development cooperation and
policies, other development issues) and is restricted to activities that take
place in Finland (MFA, 2008c, p. 13; MFA, 2010, p. 23; MFA, 2012, p. 20).

4.4.6 Conditions on governmental support

During past years, the MFA received annually around 180–200 applica-
tions from around 120 NGOs. Around 40 per cent of the applications
were rejected. In general, the large, professional organizations have
received an increasing proportion of the funding, whereas the medium-
sized or small, often voluntary based organizations tend to receive less.
In 2011, EUR52 million was channeled through the partner organiza-
tions, around EUR26 million through smaller and medium-sized NGOs
and the rest through the foundations and other channels (MFA, 2011).
The MFA publishes annually the list of the supported NGOs and their
projects as a book and through its website.
According to the Finnish law on governmental subsidies, project sup-
port can never be one hundred per cent, and the receiving organization
must also bring in its own funding. Over the years, the required share of
own funding has decreased: in 1998 the rate was decreased from 25 to
20 per cent; in 2006, the MFA again decreased it from 20 to 15 per cent
(MFA, 2006, p. 17).11 Of the organizations’ own funding, no more than
a half can be voluntary work or donations in kind. Furthermore, the
source of self-funding must be national private money. This is to pre-
vent international organizations from circulating their funds through a
national organization and thereby multiplying their money with MFA
funding. Nevertheless, the aid project can have additional funding
from international sources and, if announced, is likely to enhance the
chances of the application for a governmental subsidy (Onali, 2008,
p. 53–4). There has been a continuous debate on the level of self-funding,
but practically nobody is objecting to the principle. The NGO umbrella
94 Lauri Siitonen

organization KEPA unsuccessfully campaigned for lowering the share

of self-funding to ten per cent by the year 2010. However, there is a
large consensus that self-funding also tells about the commitment and
motivation of the civic organization in question. Fund raising also gives
a chance to publicize the activities of the aid organization and thereby
obtain new members (Onali, 2008, p. 53).
Furthermore, the law on public subsidizes sets certain conditions
on the organizations that can receive support. Eligible organizations
are expected to have a good reputation, be trustworthy and show that
their development cooperation is of good quality. The organizations
also need to have the ability to follow and evaluate the quality and
results of their aid projects. Furthermore, governmental support can-
not be used for ideological or religious work (MFA, 2006, pp. 11–12).
As an indicator of the organizational capacity, the new conditions set
in 2006 expect that the applicant organization must have been a reg-
istered association or foundation for at least two years before sending
the application. The applicant organization also needs to have at least
30 members. Another condition for funding states that the NGOs’ aid
activities should complement the official aid program, but there seem to
be no clearly defined criteria on this. In principle, the NGOs are free to
propose projects for funding, but the MFA is reluctant to fund parallel
operations, or projects that are not in line with the recipient country’s
development goals. – The latter does not, of course, apply to human
rights work, or certain projects in countries whose policies Finland and
the EU does not accept. – Alternatively, an NGO aid project may ‘com-
plement’ where the official aid cannot function for political reasons, for
example focusing on minorities.
When asked whether budget support and other modes of direct sup-
port will have an effect on the future of the NGO support program, the
representatives of the MFA emphasize their duty to follow the use of
public funds, as defined by the law. Direct aid to the developing coun-
tries’ own NGOs is seen as challenging, given the limited possibilities
to track the use of the funds. At the same time, it is pointed out that
direct contacts with the partner country societies are important and

4.5 The role of NGOs with regard to public support for

Finnish development policy

One of the instrumentalist goals of governmental support to NGOs

is to enhance public support for development policy, as mentioned
Non-governmental Organizations and Finland’s Development Policy 95

above. Let us note, first, that the relationship between NGOs and the
development policy leadership is far from fixed. In the early 1990s, the
very first Finnish Minister for Development Cooperation, Mr Toimi
Kankaanniemi was keen on emphasizing the role of civic organiza-
tions in development cooperation. His own party, the Christian League
(now renamed Christian Democratic Party) has thereafter continued
this policy. The successor Ministers for Development Cooperation, like
Mr Pekka Haavisto (1995–1999) and Ms Satu Hassi (1999–2002), both
from the Green Party, also sympathized with NGOs. The honeymoon
was somewhat disturbed only under the Minister for Foreign Trade and
Development (2007–2011), Mr Paavo Väyrynen (Centre Party). At least
in the beginning he was much criticized by some organizations and the
relationship with the NGO sector went colder. His successor, Ms Heidi
Hautala was again from the Green Party and a former (2002–2007) head
of KEPA. Due to reasons unrelated with development policy, Hautala
suddenly resigned in October 2013 and was replaced by Pekka Haavisto.
While the relationship has seen its ups and downs, it is still worth
emphasizing the broad political consensus on the basic principles of
development policies.12
Nevertheless, when it comes to the overall public support to develop-
ment cooperation in general, the Finnish non-governmental develop-
ment organizations have been rather positive and actively campaign
for the growth of official aid. This is a tricky issue in Finland, where the
level of ODA (currently at 0.5 per cent of GNI) continuously remains
below the international target (of 0.7 per cent) already met by other
Nordic countries. For example in 2006, KEPA advocated the interna-
tional ODA target by publishing a report where Finland’s development
policy was compared with the policies of the much better-performing
Scandinavian countries and the Netherlands (Nahi and Halonen, 2006).
Another recent topic of KEPA’s advocacy work is the follow up and
monitoring of Finland’s progress towards the Paris Declaration targets.
One of the main concerns seems to be the predictability of aid, an area
where Finland has performed less than well (Pitkänen, 2008).
The means of influencing public support differ according to target
group. Activities aiming to influence decision-makers (the government,
parliament and officials) are known as lobbying. When the target is to
influence the general opinion, the activities are called campaigning.
I will first look into campaigning on development issues and then shortly
into lobbying. Public campaigns are often organized by several organi-
zations that share similar goals. For example the FinnChurchAid, the
Finnish UN Association and Friends of the Earth, in addition to KEPA,
96 Lauri Siitonen

campaign actively on development issues. Recently KEPA has run sev-

eral campaigns, such as Jubilee 2000 for cancelling the debts of develop-
ing countries and Ruoka-aika (‘Dinner time’, 2002–2005) emphasizing
food as a human right, local food, and fair trade. In addition, KEPA
coordinates the NGOs’ campaign for the 0.7 per cent target for ODA,
which is activated usually in connection with the preparation of the
government’s annual budget.
To somehow assess the effect of campaigning, let us use opinion
polls as a crude indicator. It is true that public opinion on development
policy is influenced by a number of other sources as well, including the
media, political leaders as well as important national and global events,
such as economic ups and downs or major disasters (like the 2004 tsu-
nami disaster). In any event, annual opinion polls commissioned by the
Ministry for Foreign Affairs indicate a strong popular support for devel-
opment cooperation: over 80 per cent of Finns consider development
cooperation as highly or fairly important (Turja, 2009). A clear majority
(88 per cent) also agrees with the claim that rich countries have to sup-
port poor ones – even under the current difficult economic situation.
Yet almost every other person (40 per cent) thinks that Finland has
already achieved the international ODA target at 0.7 per cent of GNI
(whereas the actual level remains at 0.5 per cent). Interestingly, Finns
trust their state also when it comes to information on developing coun-
tries: 82 per cent trusted information coming from the official bodies
while only 75 per cent trusted information coming from the NGOs or
the media (ibid.). In sum; Finnish NGOs may have successfully cam-
paigned for development cooperation in general, but have clearly been
less successful in informing the public on the current ODA level, or
presenting themselves as a trustful source of information.
Finally, as far as NGO lobbying is concerned, a study based on key
person interviews reveals that not only was KEPA fairly well known
among the decision-makers, but also its campaigns were seen as suc-
cessful among members of the parliament (MPs) (Eskola, 2007). Leading
MFA officials, however, did not find KEPA’s campaigns as successful or
important. Similarly, whereas MPs in general appreciated KEPA’s lobby-
ing in the Parliament, the ministry officials criticized KEPA for being less
well informed and representing ‘romanticized’ and ‘traditional’ ideas
about development cooperation. Politically, KEPA was appreciated par-
ticularly among MPs from the Christian Democratic Party, the Greens,
Social Democrats and the Left-Wing Alliance, whereas the interviewed
MP from the Conservative Party was more doubtful concerning the
information coming from KEPA (ibid., p. 8). Then again, KEPA is far
Non-governmental Organizations and Finland’s Development Policy 97

from the only voice from the whole Finnish NGO sector. Most probably
the NGO sector’s campaigning and lobbying have successfully increased
public interest in development issues, although it is difficult to say how
much they have influenced the public support for Finnish development

4.6 The evaluation of NGOs’ aid projects

Do NGOs in general possess ‘comparative advantage’ vis-à-vis offi-

cial aid? Given the number of possible projects and countries – not
to mention the mushrooming NGO industry in the global South – it
is difficult, if not impossible, to establish strong evidence to qualify
or disqualify the arguments made for or against NGOs. Furthermore,
much of the available evidence comes from the global North, in the
form of academic studies or evaluations commissioned by the funding
organizations or by the ‘donor’ NGO sector. Finally, there are obvious
methodological problems in comparing the findings of evaluations
made in different times and with variable criteria. Therefore, the follow-
ing analysis is mainly limited to evaluations focusing on governmental
support to framework/partnership organizations and KEPA. Since over
half of governmental support goes to these organizations, regarded as
‘best’ performing NGOs and therefore models for other civic aid organi-
zations, and to the umbrella organization of the whole NGO sector, the
limitation can be considered justifiable.
The Finnish Partnership Agreement Scheme was evaluated in 2008
(MFA, 2008d). The evaluation found the Scheme to be a suitable instru-
ment for Finnish development cooperation, as it benefits both the MFA
and the participant NGOs through increased flexibility, long-term plan-
ning, and reduced bureaucracy. But how did these ‘elite’ organizations
managed to meet the developmentalist goals? The 2010 Guidelines set
three main goals: 1) support and strengthening civil society, 2) provi-
sion of services and 3) advocacy.
First of all, NGOs are expected to strengthen civil societies and democracy
in developing countries. Or as the 2010 Guidelines claims, ‘The most
important general task of civil society is to try to empower citizens to
influence public decision-making processes actively, thereby also influ-
encing their own lives’ (MFA, 2010, p. 14). Whereas the leading Finnish
NGOs are developing towards advocacy and lobbying organizations,
the clear majority of NGOs are still focusing on service delivery, which
is always much easier to plan and implement than advocacy work,
particularly if the local authorities find the advocacy work somehow
98 Lauri Siitonen

criticizing their policies. Furthermore, services are usually delivered

through traditional project aid, often with a strong Finnish compo-
nent in the planning and implementation. The now defunct volunteer
program, which represented the old-fashioned idea of aid through
‘expertise’ from Northern countries by rather expensive but not nec-
essarily effective means, still seems to remain a popular idea among
some Finnish NGOs – as seen above in the case of the reborn Finnish
Volunteer Program (ETVO). No doubt NGO projects with a strong
Finnish component may strengthen Finnish civil society, but it remains
less clear how they contribute to empowering citizens in the partner
countries. In any event, we would need much more information and
much better evidence to deliberate the argument that Northern NGOs
are strengthening civil societies and democracy in the global South.
Even when support to civil society is still seen as the primary goal, the
2010 Guidelines take a more pragmatic stance than their predecessors
and accept the fact that service delivery is what most Finnish NGOs are
there for. Accordingly, another developmentalist goal for civil society
organizations is set as ‘the provision of services to where the state lacks
adequate capacity’ (MFA, 2010, p. 12). Furthermore, the Guidelines pay
particular attention to the need to ‘bring services to a sustainable base
that is less dependent on development assistance’ (ibid.). There are
numerous reasons for the fact that development projects are sometimes
financially or otherwise unsustainable without the continued injection
of external funds. Sometimes the reason is simply the lacking capacity
of the partner organization in the global South. If the partner organiza-
tion has limited capacity to launch income-generating activities and
the local authorities are unwilling to maintain the project activities
after the external funding has ended, chances are that the activities will
soon die out. This problem is partly solved by shifting the focus from
separate projects to supporting the partner organizations in develop-
ing countries and their own programs, which seems to be the current
trend. Then again, with the aid chain growing longer, the possibilities
to ‘reach the poor’ may decrease.
Riddell (2007, p. 281) makes the point that Finnish NGO-supported
projects were found to be lacking sustainability. Domestic studies give
some support to the claim. An evaluation on the Framework Scheme
was conducted in 2002. The evaluation set the ambitious task of clari-
fying the argument that NGOs are better instruments for channeling
ODA. In concrete terms, it focused on the sustainability of the so-called
framework NGOs, which were expected to be ‘the elite of the Finnish
NGOs’. Whereas the relevance of the projects implemented by the
Non-governmental Organizations and Finland’s Development Policy 99

framework NGOs seemed fairly good, the sustainability of the projects

was found to be poor. The main problems were identified as the capacity
of the partner organizations to maintain the activities developed by the
projects, sometimes also poor project planning and unjustified utiliza-
tion of Finnish staff, as well as long administration chains, particularly
when projects were implemented by international roof organizations
(Wallenius et al., 2002). A more recent evaluation of the Partnership
Scheme found that whereas the Finnish NGOs are gradually developing
towards more sustainable practices, the Scheme does not sufficiently
contribute to this goal (MFA, 2008d, p. 69):

Traditionally development cooperation through NGOs has focused

on support to service delivery, often in the form of activity support.
While the role of advocacy work and organizational development
has increased recently, the MFA has not set clear objectives for them
in the context of the Partnership Scheme.

The 2010 Guidelines (MFA, 2010, p. 16) ‘do not require radical changes’,
nor see it ‘necessary to abandon the provision of basic services’, but
nevertheless they encourage NGOs ‘to consider further investment in
the strengthening of civil societies in their partner countries.’
The overall performance of Finnish NGOs seems to vary much,
depending on the type of organization. The more professional NGOs
are increasingly focusing on clearly defined issues (for instance child
labor) where the organization has expertise, and thereby ability to make
a difference. A good number of the partnership organizations are focus-
ing on fewer countries and intend to focus on fewer thematic areas and
reduce the number of projects. Some other NGOs in the partnership
program seem to have adopted perhaps a too wide mission. Particularly
some of the missionary organizations have continuously increased the
number of partner countries, a trend that may be logical from the point
of view of their mission, but not necessarily from a developmental point
of view (MFA, 2008d, p. 39). Then again, a recent evaluation found
development cooperation activities of the Finnish Missionary Society
effective and efficient in enhancing the lives of peoples in poor coun-
tries in a sustainable way (Tapaninen et al., 2011).
Finally, civil society organizations play a particular role in advocacy
activities. Therefore it is politically interesting to note what kinds of
organizations are given a particular status. At the beginning of the cur-
rent Partnership Scheme, seven organizations included in the former
framework were adopted without formal appraisal (MFA, 2008d, p. 33).
100 Lauri Siitonen

Only the three new organizations (Plan Finland, Save the Children
Finland and World Vision Finland), all of them branches of large pro-
fessional international networks, were audited (ibid.). In fact, almost
half (five of eleven) of the partner organizations are faith-based. Three
of them (FELM, Fida and FS) do both missionary work and develop-
ment work, using a major part of their resources for the missionary
work (ibid., p. 34). Furthermore, one NGO is very close to the Social
Democratic Party and one represents Finnish Labor. Finally, three of
the organizations (the Red Cross, Save the Children and Plan Finland
Foundation) have close relations with their international mother organ-
izations that are global players in the aid industry. Indeed, it is question-
able to what extent any foreign aid can be ‘pure’. For a good reason, the
2008 evaluation of the partnership program proposed codes of conduct
to ‘separate development work from ideological work and to distinguish
marketing and information services from advocacy’ (ibid., p. 81).
The evaluation report also noted that ‘in the Finnish scheme no
clear goals are set in terms of advocacy work and capacity building
versus service delivery’ (ibid., p. 36). In practice, the advocacy work
depends on the type of civil society organization. Thus, missionary
organizations with their worldwide approach and focus on doctrinally
similar partners can rely on loyal and strong support in their religious
communities, but their advocacy work and campaigning is sometimes
limited to activists within these background communities. Professional
humanitarian organizations usually reach the general public with their
campaigning and advocacy work. The labor organizations have strong
thematic expertise and natural partners in developing countries’ labor
organizations in campaigning for labor rights. The ‘transnational’ NGOs
with their wide international networks are, in principle, particularly
strong in advocacy and campaigning, but remain nationally perhaps
less visible than one could expect.
Another significant evaluation of the NGO sector concerns the
Service Centre KEPA. As mentioned above, KEPA is highly dependent
on governmental funding for over 90 per cent of its annual budget.
The leading motive for this support is to enhance the quality of NGO
aid (MFA, 2006, p. 16). According to the evaluation (MFA, 2005, p.
6), the competence of KEPA is between the two extremes, a ‘service
centre’ (towards its member organizations and the MFA) and a ‘devel-
opment agency’ (towards its southern partners and beneficiaries).
Whereas KEPA’s primary customers are the member organizations, its
advocacy draws legitimacy from the South. The 2005 evaluation of
the service centre stated that ‘the organization … has shifted from
Non-governmental Organizations and Finland’s Development Policy 101

the KEPA of the 1980s with its roots in volunteerism to a reliance on

professional staff with plans, policies and procedures’ (MFA, 2005,
p. 4). A survey of KEPA’s member organizations from 2008 further
confirmed the view of KEPA as a well known, important and efficient
development advocacy organization in Finland (Kepa, 2008, p. 7).
At the same time, it was criticized for becoming too bureaucratic
and growing away from the reality of NGOs (ibid., p. 13). Balancing
between volunteerism and professionalism is a major task for the
whole Finnish NGO sector, which has to address the increasing
demands for efficiency and, at the same time, maintain the original
fire of ‘civic organizations’.

4.7 Conclusion

This article has discussed the role of non-governmental organiza-

tions (NGOs) in Finnish development policy at a particular historical
juncture when early enthusiasm has somewhat waned and the gov-
ernment’s development policy increasingly emphasizes ‘effectiveness’
in all development policies, including governmental aid funding to
the NGOs. Finland typically exemplifies the Collaborative Model in
government-NGO relations: an institutionalized interaction where
government provides the bulk of financing and the NGOs deliver the
aid. Whereas most Finnish non-governmental development organiza-
tions receive substantial funding from the Ministry for Foreign Affairs,
none of them is fully funded with official sources and therefore they
must raise their own funds as well. The governmental support is core
funding to NGOs, not through them. In other words, the NGOs are
relatively free to choose the country and sector of aid, even when the
Government encourages NGOs to implement projects in the poorest
and least developed countries, as well as in priority countries and sec-
tors of development policy.
The article further proposes an analytical distinction between instru-
mental and developmental reasons for governmental subsidy arrange-
ments for NGOs. The former refer to the benefits accruing from the
supported NGOs to official development policy, such as enhancing
contacts with the global South, complementing the official policies
and enhancing the public support of development policies. For these
reasons, the government has since 1974 provided grants to individual
development projects of civic development organizations, funded
the volunteer program (1985–1995) and offers support for commu-
nications and development education projects. However, a shift of
102 Lauri Siitonen

emphasis can be discerned from early instrumentalism to the current,

more pragmatic and development-oriented NGO support policies. The
new focus is on enhancing the quality of NGO aid in general, and in
particular on orienting NGOs towards more developmental goals, such
as strengthening civil societies and democracy in developing countries,
delivering services on a sustainable basis as well as advocacy. For these
reasons, the government is now allocating a majority of its NGO sup-
port to partnership programs of qualified NGOs and to the Service
Centre KEPA. Nevertheless, the shift has been gradual and the Finnish
political culture is likely to emphasize more cooperation than open
Finally, let us note that a clear majority of the approximately 300
Finnish development NGOs are rather small, relatively young, and
more voluntary than professional organizations whose developmental
effects, campaigning and advocacy are bound to be limited at best. Then
again, these are the organizations that keep up the original NGO spirit
among the people at large. It is probably here that the administratively
burdensome, tiny sums of governmental support best promote overall
interest in development issues and the public support of development
policies. Therefore, the art of balancing between professionalism and
volunteerism is not only a challenge for the NGOs, but also for the
future of Finnish development policies.


Table 4.2 Eleven larger NGOs with the status of partner organization

Name of the Est. Description of the MFA Number of

organization organization/ contribution partnership
National branch of in 2011 scheme
an INGO (in € million) countries

Fida International 1927 Finnish Pentecostal 6.9 40

movement’s mission-
ary and development
Finland-Swedish 1936 Cooperative organization 1.8 20
Free Churches of Finnish Swedes Baptist,
(Frikyrklig samverkan) Pentecostal, Methodist
and Free Church

Non-governmental Organizations and Finland’s Development Policy 103

Table A4.1 Continued

Name of the Est. Description of the MFA Number of

organization organization/ contribution partnership
National branch of in 2011 scheme
an INGO (in € million) countries

FIDIDA – Finnish 1989 Association of six 1 3

Disabled peo- Finnish disabled
ple’s International people’s organizations
International 1970 A development aid 1.9 3
Solidarity Foundation organization founded
(Kansainvälinen by the Social
solidaarisuussäätiö) Democratic Party
FinnChurchAid 1947 The humanitarian 7.4 27
(Kirkon ulkomaanapu, and development
KUA) organization of
Finnish Evangelic-
Lutheran Church
Save the Children 1922 International Save 4.1 12
(Pelastakaa the Children Alliance
Lapset ry)
Plan Finland 1998 Plan International 6 7
(Plan Suomi Säätiö)
The Solidarity Centre 1986 The Finnish Labour 4.5 28
of the Finnish
Labour (Suomen
The Finnish 1859 Congregations of the 7.5 16
Missionary Society Finnish Evangelic-
(Suomen Lutheran Church
Lähetysseura, SLS)
The Finnish Red 1877 International Red 6.5 20 (bilateral
Cross (Suomen Cross and Red Crescent cooperation
Punainen Risti, SPR) countries)
The World Vision of 1983 World Vision 4.2 6
Finland (Suomen International
World Vision)

Source: MFA.
104 Lauri Siitonen

The author wishes to express his gratitude to Dr. Tiina Kontinen for her com-
ments to an earlier version of this article. The usual disclaimers apply.
1. For the Register of Associations see:
2. Around 33 per cent of the Finnish population is reported participating in the
activities of a voluntary organization. That is less than in Denmark (35 per
cent), Island (40 per cent), Norway (52 per cent), or Sweden (52 per cent),
yet clearly more than in the Western countries on average (15 per cent).
Due to a different data basis, the numbers may be somewhat inaccurate, but
nevertheless indicative. See Matthies (2006a), in Nylund (2008); http://www.
3. The Collaborative Model draws from the typology of Government-NGO rela-
tions proposed by Gidron et al. (1992, p. 18).
4. Since non-governmental development organization is not a legally defined
concept in Finland, but a sociological category, there are obvious methodo-
logical difficulties in determining the exact size of the sector. I have used
here two main sources: the membership register of The Service Centre for
Development Cooperation (KEPA) for the overall size of the sector and the
number of organizations that have received support from the Ministry for
Foreign Affairs (MFA) for an indication of development activities.
5. I am indebted to Dr Tiina Kontinen for the explanation.
6. In the early 1960s, expertise was sought from the staff of Students’ interna-
tional relief organization to run the new Office for international develop-
ment aid – the future Department for Development Policy. One of them was
Mr. Martti Ahtisaari, who later made a splendid carrier in diplomacy, became
President of the Republic and recently a Nobel Peace Prize laureate.
7. The committee joined the European wide EU-NGDO Liaison Committee
(today known as CONCORD).
8. Speech delivered by Mr Antti Pentikäinen, the executive director of
FinnChuchAid, in Helsinki, November 25, 2008.
9. Over the years 2004–2009 the EC grants to Finnish NGOs amounted to over
€21 million (estimation by KEHYS, e-mail to the author on February 16,
10. In the way of comparison, the Finnish NGO Platform to the EU (KEHYS) has
some six staff member and an annual budget of around €100 000.
11. For the organizations focusing on the welfare of the disabled, the percentage
is even lower, 7.5 per cent.
12. Only the populist True Finns Party has openly campaigned against official
development aid. The party received 20 per cent of votes and more than
doubled its seats in the parliamentary elections of April 2011, but remained
in opposition.

Aila-Leena Matthies: “Toisenlainen kolmas sektori: Pohjoismaiden sosiaali- ja
terveysjärjestöt tutkimuksen valossa” [Another kind of third sector: Nordic
Non-governmental Organizations and Finland’s Development Policy 105

social and health organizations under examination], Yhteiskuntapolitiikka 72

(2007):1, 57–71 (quotation from p. 63).
Borg, S. (2007) ‘Suomalaisten luottamus yhteiskunnallisiin instituutioihin’ [Trust
in social institutions among the Finns] in Borg, S., Ketola, K., Kääriäinen, K.,
Niemelä, K. and Suhonen, P. (eds) Uskonto, arvot ja instituutiot. Suomalaiset World
Values -tutkimuksissa 1981–2005 (Tampere: Tampereen yliopistopaino), pp. 9–24.
Eirola, M. (1990) ‘Suomalaisten erityissuhde Namibiaan’ [The special relation-
ship between the Finns and Namibia] in Kiljunen, K. and Lehtonen S. (eds)
Musta-valkoinen Etelä-Afrikka: Apartheid, Suomi ja kansainvälinen eristäminen
(Helsinki: Kirjayhtymä), pp. 169–91.
Eskola, K. (2007) Vaikuttaako Kepa? [Does Kepa have an effect?] Suomalaisten
päättäjien kokemuksia kehityspoliittisesta vaikutustyöstä. Kepa working papers
no. 16 (Helsinki: KEPA).
EU (2006) The European Consensus on Development (Joint Statement by the
Council and the representatives of the governments of the Member States
meeting with the Council, the European Parliament and the Commission on
European Union Development Policy) (Brussels: European Parliament Council
Commission) (2006/C 46/01).
Falck, P. (1985) Finland i Norden i Tanzania. Det Nordisk-tanzaniska lantbrukscen-
tret i Uyole. En analys av ett biståndsprojekt (Helsingfors: Utrikesministeriet).
Gidron, B., Kramer, R. and Salamon, L. (1992) ‘Government and the Third Sector
in Comparative Perspective: Allies or Adversaries?’ in Gidron, B., Kramer R.
and Saamon, L. (eds) Government and the Third Sector: Emerging Relationship in
Welfare States (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass), pp. 1–30.
Government of Finland (1996) Decision-in-Principle on Finland’s Development
Cooperation (Helsinki: The Cabinet) (September).
Isomäki, R. (2000) ‘Prosenttiliike – kansanliike kehitysyhteistyön puolesta’ [One
per cent movement – a popular movement for development cooperation]
in Hakkarainen, O., Toikka, M. and Wallgren, T. (eds) Unelmia maailmasta
(Helsinki & Delhi: Like), pp. 64–6.
Kepa (2008) Kohtalaisen hyvä – Kepan jäsenkysely 2008 [Fairly good – Kepa’s mem-
bership inquiry], Kepa reports no. 92 (Helsinki: Kepa).
Kepa (2010) Vuosikertomus 2009 [Annual Report 2009] (Helsinki: Kepa).
Kontinen, T. (2008) ‘Vapaaehtoiset järjestöjen kehitysyhteistyössä’ [Volunteers
in the organizations’ development cooperation] in Hakkarainen, O. and
Kontinen T. (eds) Vapaaehtoisuus kehitystyössä (Helsinki: Kepa), pp. 39–50.
Koponen, J. (1999) Developmentalism vs. Instrumentalism: An Interpretation of the
History of Finnish Development Aid (Helsinki: Institute of Development Studies/
University of Helsinki).
Koponen, J. and Siitonen, L. (2005) ‘Finland: Aid and Identity’ in Hoebink, P.
and Stokke, O. (eds) Perspectives on European Development Co-operation – Policy
and Performance of Individual Donor Countries and the EU (London & New York:
Routledge), pp. 207–34.
Korhonen, H. (2000) ‘Reilumpaa kauppaa, tasa-arvoisempia yhteyksiä’ [Fearer
trade, more equal connections] in Hakkarainen, O., Toikka, M. and Wallgren,
T. (eds) Unelmia maailmasta (Helsinki & Delhi: Like), pp. 116–117.
Lappalainen, T. (2008) ‘Editorial’, Kepa Newsletter 2008, p. 3.
Melasuo, T. (1985) ‘Les pays Nordiques et la guerre de libération en Algerie’ in
Touili, M. (ed.) Le Retentissement de la Révolution Algérienne (Algiers and Brussels:
ENAL and Editions GAM).
106 Lauri Siitonen

MFA (1993) Finland’s Development Cooperation in the 1990s: Strategic Goals and
Means (Helsinki: Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland).
MFA (2002) Kehitysuutiset [Development News] (Helsinki: Ministry for Foreign
Affairs of Finland) 7–8/2002.
MFA (2005) Evaluation of the Service Centre for Development Cooperation in Finland
(Kepa): Main Report (Helsinki: Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland).
MFA (2006) Kansalaisjärjestölinjaus [NGO Development Cooperation Guidelines]
(Helsinki: Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland).
MFA (2007a) Report of Evaluation Study: Implementation of the Paris Declaration,
Finland. Evaluation report 2007:3 (Helsinki: Ministry for Foreign Affairs of
MFA (2007b) Development Policy Program 2007 – Towards a Sustainable and Just
World Community, Government Decision-in-Principle (Helsinki: Ministry for
Foreign Affairs of Finland).
MFA (2008a) Kansalaisjärjestöhankkeet 2008: Ulkoasianministeriön tukemat
kansalaisjärjestöjen kehitysyhteistyöhankkeet vuonna 2008 [NGO develop-
ment projects subsidised by the MFA in 2008] (Helsinki: Ministry for Foreign
Affairs of Finland).
MFA (2008b) Kansalaisjärjestöjen kehitysyhteistyö; kumppanuusjärjestöjen uudet
valinnan kriteerit (25.08.2008) [NGO development co-operation; the new crite-
ria for partner organizations] (Helsinki: Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland)
Available online in
MFA (2008c) Kehitysuutiset [Development News] 1/08 (Helsinki: Ministry for
Foreign Affairs of Finland).
MFA (2008d) Report of Evaluation Study: Finnish Partnership Agreement Scheme.
Evaluation report 2008:1 (Helsinki: Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland).
MFA (2010) Guidelines for Civil Society in Development Policy (Helsinki: Ministry for
Foreign Affairs of Finland). Available online in
MFA (2011) Kansalaisjärjestöhankkeet 2011. Ulkoasianministeriön tukemat
kansalaisjärjestöjen kehitysyhteistyöhankkeet vuonna 2011 [NGO develop-
ment projects subsidised by the MFA in 2011] (Helsinki: Ministry for Foreign
Affairs of Finland).
MFA (2012) Finland’s Development Policy Programme. Government Decision-in-
Principle, 16 February 2012 (Helsinki: Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland).
Nahi, T. and Halonen, P. (2006) Näin naapurissa: Suomi ja kehitysyhteistyön
edelläkävijät [This way in the neighbourhood: Finland and the forerunners of
development cooperation] Kepa reports no. 84 (Helsinki: Kepa).
Nurminen, A-M. (1969) ‘Sanastotutkimus’ [An interview study on terminology]
in PTS-tutkimuksia 18/69 (Helsinki: Oy Yleisradio Ab).
Nylund, M. (2008) ‘Vapaaehtoisuuden arvot ja motiivit’ [The values and motives
of volunteerism] in Hakkarainen O. and Kontinen T. (eds) Vapaaehtoisuus kehi-
tystyössä (Helsinki: Kepa), pp. 24–38.
OECD (2005) Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness, Ownership, Harmonisation,
Alignment, Results and Mutual Accountability (Paris High Level Forum) (Paris:
OECD (2007) DAC Peer Review: Finland (Paris: OECD).
OECD (2008) Accra Agenda for Action (Accra High Level Forum) (Paris: OECD).
OECD (2011a) Busan Partnership for Effective Development Cooperation (Paris:
Non-governmental Organizations and Finland’s Development Policy 107

OECD (2011b) How DAC Members Work with Civil Society Organizations: An
Overview (Paris: OECD).
Onali, A. (2008) ‘Vapaaehtoisuus hankehallinnossa’ [Volunteerism in the project
management] in Hakkarainen O. and Kontinen T. (eds) Vapaaehtoisuus kehity-
styössä (Helsinki: Kepa), pp. 51–8.
Pitkänen, N. (2008) ‘Making aid work’ in Kepa Newsletter 2008, pp. 4–5.
Rekola, S. (2008) ‘Miten määritellä pieni järjestö? – Kepa ja järjestöjen määrit-
telyn vaikeus’ [How to define a small organization? – Kepa and the difficulty
of defining the organizations] in Hakkarainen O. and Kontinen T. (eds)
Vapaaehtoisuus kehitystyössä (Helsinki: Kepa), pp. 8–10.
‘Reilun kaupan tuotteet’ (2009), Demari, October 20.
Riddell, R. (2007) Does Foreign Aid Really Work? (Oxford: Oxford University Press).
Siitonen, L. (2005) Aid and Identity Policy: Small Donors and Aid Regime Norms
(Turku: Annales Universitatis Turkuensis).
Soiri, I. and Peltonen, P. (1999) Finland and National Liberation in Southern Africa
(Uppsala: The Nordic Africa Institute).
Tapaninen, S., af Ursin, K. and Pekkola, E. (2011) Suomen Lähetysseuran vuosien
2007–2010 kehitysyhteistyöohjelman loppuarviointi – arviointiraportti [Evaluation
report on Finnish Missionary Society’s development cooperation program]
(Helsinki) (March).
Turja, T. (2009) Ulkoasiainministeriö – Kehitysyhteistyö 2009 [Ministry for
Foreign Affairs – Development Co-operation 2009] (Helsinki: Taloustutkimus
UN (2000) The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) (available online in www.
Wallenius T., Uusihakala J., Hossain F. and Mallea S. (2002) Kansalaisjärjestöjen
kehyssopimusjärjestelmän arviointi [Evaluation of the NGO Framework Scheme].
Evaluation report 2002:6 (Helsinki: The Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland).
Irish Development NGOs and the
Official Aid Programme of Ireland:
A ‘Special’ Relationship?
Éamonn Casey and Helen O’Neill

5.1 Overview of the Irish aid environment

The Irish government launched its official aid program in 1974, the
year after the country joined the European Economic Community (now
Union). A nascent non-governmental development community already
existed in the form of Irish missionaries dispersed around the world
but with headquarters in Ireland. The greatest number was located in
English-speaking Africa and this influenced Ireland’s choice of program
countries in the early years.
From its beginnings in the 1970s – not surprisingly, given that
Christian missionaries had pioneered Ireland’s involvement in develop-
ing countries – the official Irish aid program was imbued with a strong
humanitarian motivation and partnerships were formed with devel-
opment non-governmental organizations (NGOs). This partnership
remains at the heart of the program today.
Early ministerial speeches and departmental documents stressed a
‘moral obligation’ to help ‘poor countries and poor people’ and to
‘promote the development of developing countries’. Interestingly,
promotion of human rights, a huge issue at the global level today,
was included in the aims of the Irish aid program as early as 1979.
Poverty reduction, satisfaction of basic needs, an equitable internal dis-
tribution of the benefits of economic development, and promotion of
self-reliance were repeatedly cited as the main aims of the program from
its earliest days (O’Neill, 1984).
The geographic focus was on a small number of very poor countries
in sub-Saharan Africa and the sectoral focus was on agriculture and rural
development, health, and education. This remains largely true today. In
2012, the nine ‘program countries’ (PCs) − now ‘key program countries’

Irish Development NGOs and the Official Aid Program of Ireland 109

(KPCs) − were: Ethiopia, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Uganda,

Tanzania, and Zambia in Africa, and Timor Leste and Vietnam in Asia.1
The 2009 Development Assistance Committee (DAC) peer review of
Ireland notes: ‘The concentration of Ireland’s development assistance
on a limited number of poor countries is one of its main strengths’
(OECD/DAC, 2009).2
All aid was in grant form and this too remains so today. Thus, the offi-
cial Irish aid program creates no debt – although it has been involved
in debt relief programs for a number of years, not only with its program
countries, but also with World Bank and IMF debt relief initiatives.
Finally, it is appropriate to note that, as early as 1973, the then Minister
for Foreign Affairs was describing development cooperation as one
of the ‘basic objectives of Irish foreign policy’. This also remains true
today, with the DAC Peer Review 2009 citing development coopera-
tion as one of the six high-level goals for Department of Foreign Affairs
strategy in 2008–2010.
The Irish government made a commitment at the United Nations
Millennium Summit in New York in 2000 that it would meet the UN
target for official development assistance (ODA) of 0.7 per cent of gross
national income (GNI) by 2012. This commitment was reconfirmed at
the UN General Assembly in September 2005. However, as a result of a
major recession in the economy beginning in 2008, massive cut-backs
in public expenditure have impacted negatively on the official aid
program. Total ODA fell from EUR920 million in 2008 to EUR718
million in 2009. By 2012, it had fallen to EUR629 million – and from
0.59 per cent of GNI in 2008 to 0.47 per cent of GNI in 2012.
Although the Government maintained an avowed commitment to
meeting the 0.7 per cent target, it has declined in recent years to set
a date or timetable for achieving it. Ireland’s Policy for International
Development, One World: One Future (Government of Ireland, 2013,
p. 27) is somewhat less committed in light of ‘present economic dif-
ficulties’, merely stating that Ireland will ‘endeavour to maintain aid
expenditure at current levels, while moving towards the 0.7 per cent
target when our economy improves’. In 2014, the government for-
mally dropped the objective of meeting the 0.7 per cent of GNI target
by 2015.
Table 5.1 shows the growth of official development assistance (ODA)
between 1974 and 2008 – and its reduction after that date. Ireland was
in sixth place – after the five donors that reach or exceed the UN target
of 0.7 per cent of GNI – in terms of ODA as a percentage of GNI in 2008.
By 2012, it had fallen to seventh place.
110 Éamonn Casey and Helen O’Neill

Table 5.1 Irish ODA, selected years 1974–2013 (EUR million and per cent)

1974 1994 2004 2008 2012 2013

Total ODA 1.9 95.5 488.9 920.8 629.0 637.1

Bilateral aida 0.3 50.2 329.7 650.2 439.0 432.8
Multilateral aid 1.6 45.3 159.2 270.6 190.0 204.3
Bilateral as % of ODA 15.8 50.7 67.4 70.6 70.0 67.9
ODA as % of GNI 0.05 0.24 0.40 0.59 0.47 0.46

a = this figure includes all administration costs associated with managing the entire aid
program both at headquarters and in the field (€28.2m in 2013).
Sources: Department of Foreign Affairs, Ireland’s official development assistance, various years,
and data kindly supplied by Irish Aid in July 2014.

5.2 White Papers on Irish aid

The Irish government published its first White Paper on foreign policy,
Challenges and Opportunities Abroad, in 1996 (Government of Ireland,
1996). It included a chapter on development cooperation and also a
chapter on human rights. Ten years later, the government published
its first White Paper on Irish Aid (Government of Ireland, 2006). It
included a chapter on civil society organizations (CSOs) and non-gov-
ernmental organizations (NGOs).3
That chapter described the relationship between the official Irish
aid program and the non-governmental development organizations
(NGDOs). It began by describing these organizations as ‘a vital compo-
nent of healthy democracy in both developed and developing coun-
tries’ and the Irish NGDOs as ‘key partners’ in the Irish Aid program.
It continued by stating that, while ‘poverty reduction is our shared
goal, we can work towards it in separate and complementary ways’
(Government of Ireland, 2006, p. 75). The White Paper acknowledged
that Irish NGOs and missionaries had been working in developing
countries since before the establishment of the government’s official aid
program in 1974 and stated that they enjoyed ‘an excellent reputation
domestically and internationally’ (ibid.).
The paper also stated that the relationship between Irish Aid and the
development NGOs goes beyond funding arrangements and includes
policy dialogue across a range of areas. It acknowledged that the
NGDOs play an important role in development education by helping
to keep development issues on the public policy and media agenda.
Highlighting the advantages that accrue to Irish Aid from working
with NGDOs, it pointed to the speed with which they can deploy in
Irish Development NGOs and the Official Aid Program of Ireland 111

emergencies, their ability to operate at community and local levels and

with particularly vulnerable or excluded groups, and their ability to
work in developing countries where the circumstances make structured
inter-governmental relationships difficult. Irish NGDOs contributed in
a constructive way to the White Paper process.
Beyond NGDOs specifically, in a chapter called ‘Supporting Voluntary
Activity’, the White Paper outlined the core principles shaping the rela-
tionship between the State and the non-profit sector. It included recog-
nition of non-profits as a core component of a vibrant civil society, the
need to consult non-profit service providers and other groups in receipt
of state funding about service design and delivery, the diversity and
autonomy of the sector, the role of the sector in contributing to policy
and relevant legislation, and the legal obligation that rests on the state
for service delivery.
Ireland’s 2013 Policy for International Development reiterated the
importance of the Irish development NGO sector to the official aid
program. It stated that Irish NGDOs play ‘a pivotal role’ in responding
to humanitarian emergencies, providing services where they are needed
most and supporting vulnerable people in developing countries. The
policy also stated that Irish NGOs raise awareness in Ireland of global
development challenges and involve the Irish public in efforts to
address them.
The new policy paper also noted two significant changes in approach
by Irish Aid in its partnership with the development NGOs. Firstly,
Irish Aid is strengthening the emphasis on accountability, transparency
and development results with its NGDO partners: a new performance-
focused and results-oriented system has been put in place to guide
funding allocation decisions. Secondly, Irish Aid is placing an increased
emphasis on partnership with local civil society organizations (CSOs) in
developing countries, with the level of funding allocated to local CSOs
expected to increase over time (Government of Ireland, 2013, p. 32).

5.3 The early history of the Irish NGDO sector

As noted above, the missionary activities of church organizations, both

Catholic and Protestant, formed the basis of the emergence of the
Irish NGDO sector. According to Connolly (1979), writing in the early
days of the official aid program, at least two Irish missionaries in five
(out of a total of around 6,000) were involved full-time in socio-economic
development work in developing countries (DCs) in the early 1970s.
Most of the organizations that formed the basis of the NGDO sector
112 Éamonn Casey and Helen O’Neill

were established in the late 1960s and early 1970s. The two largest Irish
NGDOs today were founded during that period: Concern in 1968 during
the Biafran war, and Trócaire (the development organization of the Irish
Catholic bishops) in 1973. Goal, the third largest Irish NGDO today, was
established in 1977.
The early activities of the Irish NGDOs covered a wide field but,
according to Connolly, fell roughly into three areas: 1) raising and
disbursing funds to help development projects in developing countries
(DCs); 2) non-fundraising bodies concerned with development educa-
tion, policy issues and/or research; and 3) bodies concerned with special
interest groups such as returned development workers or DC students
in Ireland.
The establishment of Irish Aid and of the government’s Agency
for Personal Service Overseas (APSO) and DEVCO (the state agencies’
development cooperation organization) in 1974 helped the NGDOs
‘to define themselves more clearly as a distinct grouping with com-
mon interests’ (Connolly, 1979, p. 27). Accordingly, a loose structure
called the Voluntary Agencies Liaison Committee (VALC) was set up
that same year to promote exchange of views and possible cooperation
among these various bodies. VALC operated quite successfully for over
two years but was superseded by a more permanent structure called
the Confederation of Non-Governmental Organizations (CONGOOD)
in 1977, which brought together 16 NGDOs but excluded APSO and
DEVCO. It was this decision, that the organization would include only
NGOs, which promoted the growth of a distinctive and self-aware
Irish NGDO sector, according to Connolly (ibid., p. 28).
At this same time, the European Commission (EC) expressed a wish
to see the establishment of national NGDO structures in the nine
member states so as to obviate the need for it to deal with a large
number of individual NGDOs. Thus, CONGOOD was showing the way
in having already established itself as a national structure. The EC set
up the EC-NGO Liaison Committee which, at that time, linked over
700 European NGDOs. That initiative also led to the establishment of
the Irish National Assembly (INA), or ‘national platform’ that acted
as a conduit for Irish-based organizations to interact with the new
EC committee.
Interestingly, when the EC and official aid agencies are today encour-
aging national NGDOs to get involved directly with their counterparts
in DCs, it is worth recalling that Irish NGDOs – probably largely as a
result of their missionary links – were already handling funds and spon-
soring projects in 1979 equal to a quarter of the ODA transfers that year
Irish Development NGOs and the Official Aid Program of Ireland 113

by Irish Aid (Connolly, 1979). Connolly describes the work of the Irish
NGDOs as follows: ‘They are involved with hundreds of local grassroots
communities and organizations, as well as with regional, national and
international groups.’ He added: ‘It is this direct contact with the poor,
the marginalized and the weakest, in a way that is out of the question
for government linked programs, that gives Irish NGOs much of their
cutting edge’.
Connolly conceded that it was difficult to quantify the full contribu-
tion of the Irish NGOs at that time. However, he stressed their growing
influence in terms of the emergence of a consciousness in Ireland in
relation to development issues in the late 1970s: ‘Behind every pound
given there is the involvement of people, the arousal of interest and
sympathy, the posing of questions about the very nature of develop-
ment itself, and increasingly the conversion of development questions
into political issues’ (Connolly, 1979, p. 29).
Connolly concluded by presenting his views on the challenges that,
in his opinion, faced the NGO sector in 1979. He said that the interest
by NGOs in development education at that time implied an acceptance
that much of the roots of maldevelopment and the obstacles facing DCs
derive from international market, financial and technological structures
and that many of these structures have their roots within the indus-
trialized countries, ‘including our own’. He concluded: ‘This is not an
easy or straightforward process for NGOs, as it must bring them into
sensitive domestic areas, and to a sometimes painful reassessment of
their own understanding of development. The nettle is however being
grasped, even if very warily at times’ (ibid.).
The key issues that engaged CONGOOD in the 1970s and 1980s
included: informing and engaging with the public on development and
humanitarian issues (now called development education); lobbying Irish
Aid for substantial and targeted increases in ODA, for the establishment
of a National Council for Development Cooperation, for the appoint-
ment of a junior minister in charge of development cooperation, and
for clarity in relation to the criteria used to select program countries.
On a wider front, CONGOOD mounted a campaign to raise public and
political awareness of European Economic Community (EEC)/DC rela-
tionships in the context of direct elections to the European Parliament.
It also criticized the slow rate of disbursement of EEC development
funds, and drew attention to the issues involved in re-negotiating the
Lomé Convention.
Financing of CONGOOD itself was a problem in its early days.
The  confederation relied heavily on voluntary assistance provided
114 Éamonn Casey and Helen O’Neill

by  its  members and depended on special arrangements with some of

its  larger members to provide office space and materials. Its income
derived from membership subscriptions, the minimum subscription
being set at IEP £25 and the maximum at IEP£500. Members also paid
a fee for each working group in which they participated. From 1978, a
new system was introduced under which members paid an annual sub-
scription (minimum IEP£50) based on a percentage of their voluntary
income in the previous financial year. A variation on this arrangement,
complemented by multi-annual funding from Irish Aid and special pro-
ject or program funding from other sources, is still what funds the Irish
NGDO network today.
In April 1983, CONGOOD was registered as a ‘Company Limited by
Guarantee’ and, separately, granted a charity number by the Revenue
Commissioners. Membership was open to all organizations that were
non-profit in nature, were involved in development cooperation and/
or development education, and were independently established and
located in the state or in Northern Ireland.
The Irish National Assembly was responsible for electing a national
delegate to the EEC/NGO Liaison Committee as well as representatives
to its various working groups and ad hoc groups. The Assembly was not
a legally registered company, did not have charitable status and did not
have an office or secretariat. Its administrative work was carried out by
the member NGO for which the elected national delegate worked.
For sixteen years, CONGOOD and the INA worked in parallel, address-
ing Irish and European-oriented aspects of Irish NGDO cooperation
respectively. In 1993, following a review of the work of the two organi-
zations, it was agreed to merge the two bodies to represent the com-
mon interests of the Irish NGDO sector at both national and European
levels. The name chosen for the new body was Dóchas. Its members felt
that the meaning of this word (hope/expectation) reflected the aims
of the sector, but also that this particular Irish name would be easy for
European counterparts to pronounce.

5.4 The Irish NGDO network today

Dóchas, the association of Irish development NGOs, which also oper-

ates as the Irish national platform for international NGDO engagement,
is one of the most established actors in the Irish development coopera-
tion sector today − although networks and alliances such as the Irish
Development Education Association (IDEA), Comhlámh (development
workers in solidarity), the Gender-Based Violence Consortium, Stop
Irish Development NGOs and the Official Aid Program of Ireland 115

Climate Chaos and Misean Cara (a missionary financing and support

organization) play important roles, often complementary or collabora-
tive but also differentiated.
Organizations are eligible to join Dóchas as full members if they meet
full-member criteria4, which include that they should:

• Work in international development (projects, education, emergency

aid or volunteer sending);
• Be headquartered in Ireland (or have an Irish branch with substantial
powers of decision-making in its own right, including control and
disposal of funds and appointment of personnel);
• Have been established in Ireland for at least two years, and comply
with Dóchas policies and other criteria for membership.5

Dóchas full-membership fees are calculated on the basis of total

domestically generated voluntary income, including that generated
from special appeals and designated for special purposes or areas.
Apart from full membership, organisations/bodies are eligible to
join Dóchas as associate members if they meet certain other set cri-
teria6, which include that they should: engage with or support the
Dóchas mission, but not meet the criteria to be full members; and
work in related, supportive or similar fields to that of Dóchas. Such
organisations or bodies may be, for example: trade unions; university
departments or research centres, colleges or other third level groups
or associations; medical or nursing organisations; charitable trusts
and foundations; trade or representative organisations; private sector
organisations or associations; other civil society/voluntary/community
organisations; or other NGOs.
The membership criteria are regarded as a minimum standard rather
than a barrier to entry by Dóchas members, especially given a new and
lighter associate membership status.
The network is primarily funded by contributions, calculated on a
sliding scale according to the voluntary incomes of its member organi-
zations, and a multi-annual grant from Irish Aid. In the past, Dóchas
has also received funding from other sources, such as the European
Commission. It is currently exploring ways of diversifying its funding.
Since its inception in 1993, Dóchas has had an organizational struc-
ture similar to that of CONGOOD, from which it had emerged. It cur-
rently has a 10-member Board (one member of which is not from a
member organization), members of which are elected at the AGM. The
board meets in full session about six times a year.
116 Éamonn Casey and Helen O’Neill

In 1997, the then Executive Committee (now Board) initiated an

organizational reform process which culminated in the production of
its first Strategic Plan, adopted by the membership at the 1998 annual
general meeting. Implementation of the plan brought about a more
dynamic and engaged network. It also improved communications
within the membership, led to greater involvement of members in
working groups, and created a higher profile for the NGDO sector itself
(Dóchas, 2005). This strategic footing also improved the relationship
between the network and Irish Aid.
The network began to attract new members, which increased from 22
organizations in 1998 to 31 in 2002 (and stands at 50 in 2014). However,
this in turn introduced greater management pressures since the network
still had only one staff member, a revolving and voluntary Executive
Committee, a small office, and very limited financial resources.
In 2000, the Executive established a ‘Strengthening Dóchas Group’
charged with the task of examining the role and position of Dóchas
within the sector and of considering how a strengthened network body
could add value to the work of Irish NGDOs. It was agreed that Dóchas
should have a clearly defined role in supporting and representing its
members; improving networking, information sharing and collaborat-
ing; and enhancing the efforts of working groups, as well as promoting
good practice and improving relations with Irish Aid.
This clarification of goals identified the need for extra capacity
within the network. Lengthy discussions were held with Irish Aid
and these ultimately led to agreement between the two parties on
a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) in 2002. This was aimed
at enabling Dóchas ‘to become a more actively engaged and better
resourced partner’ of Irish Aid ‘in order to reinforce the common over-
arching goal of reducing poverty throughout the developing world’
(Dóchas, 2005, op cit).
Irish Aid agreed to contribute a total of EUR362,299 to Dóchas over
a three-year period (September 2002 to December 2005). This allowed
the network to develop a strategic partnership with Irish Aid and carry
out a number of new activities through its working groups. Its improved
financial position facilitated the move to new offices in the Dublin
city centre close to Irish Aid and enabled the organization to recruit a
new director to steer its development. The network now has five staff
members, with the director assisted by a full-time office manager, who
runs the office and is responsible for the financial management of the
network, a program officer, an information officer, and a business devel-
opment adviser.
Irish Development NGOs and the Official Aid Program of Ireland 117

Dóchas members provide about EUR125,000 in affiliation fees

annually, with Irish Aid providing EUR250,000 under the latest
Memorandum of Understanding. The contribution-in-kind of member
NGOs, in releasing their staffs to attend the Dóchas board meetings,
working groups and other meetings, and to engage in preparatory and
follow-up activities, was estimated at in excess of EUR50,000 in 2009,
which goes some way to balancing the equation (McEvoy, 2009).
A second MOU between Irish Aid and Dóchas was agreed for the
period 2006 to 2008. An independent external evaluation of this MOU
(ibid.) endorsed the network’s work and achievements from 2006 to
2008, in promoting quality standards, facilitating reflection and action
among its members, and building relations among NGDO members,
on the one hand, and between the NGDO sector and Irish Aid, notably
in policy engagement, on the other. The external evaluation recom-
mended a new MOU for the period 2010–2015 (Dóchas, 2010).
In the event, a new ‘partnership agreement’ − focused on improve-
ments in program quality and results, accountability, transparency and
governance, according to the government’s latest development coop-
eration policy − will run to December 2014. The basis for a successor
agreement is currently under discussion.
The rationale for Irish Aid’s funding of Dóchas includes the provision
of ‘public good’ benefits conferred by a stronger network and adher-
ence to good practice, which Dóchas promotes. Efficiency gains are also
assumed to accrue both to Irish Aid and to the NGDOs as a result of
shared learning and the potential for demonstrating to the Irish public
that there are positive impacts from ODA expenditures resulting from a
greater focus by both partners on development effectiveness and policy
coherence (Dóchas, 2010).
The relationship between Irish Aid and Dóchas is seen as construc-
tive and healthy by both partners, avoiding the partisan conflict that
can sometimes characterize relationships between statutory bodies and
NGOs. The partnership had been helped since 2002 by a common com-
mitment to make the relationship work, by useful mechanisms to do
so through the MOU, and, not least, by the expansionary ODA budget
up until 2009.
The enormous cuts to Irish ODA (including significant cuts to
NGDOs) and softening political commitment to the 0.7 per cent
ODA/GNI target have tested the relationship more in recent years.
There are also growing NGDO concerns at apparent tensions, within
and outside the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, between
Ireland’s strongly stated commitments to international human rights
118 Éamonn Casey and Helen O’Neill

norms and standards, on the one hand, and some of the modalities
used to pursue Ireland’s economic interests overseas, including in DCs,
on the other hand. However, these tensions seem unlikely to cause a rift
in a partnership that has been built up in pursuit of a common interest
in promoting development and eradicating or at least reducing poverty
in developing countries.
Irish NGDOs are involved in a wide variety of Irish and interna-
tional networks and peer learning organizations. The 2012 Dóchas
Members Survey captured that the responding NGDOs were involved
with two other membership or professional networks on average,
and  that 92  per cent of members surveyed belonged to at least one
other network.
Other networks and membership organisations that are important
in the Irish development context include: the Irish Development
Education Association (IDEA), the gender-based violence (GBV) consor-
tium, Comhlamh (development workers and returned volunteers acting
in global solidarity) and Misean Cara (which specifically supports
missionary organisations and their partners), as well as The Wheel, a
support network for the community and voluntary sector more broadly.
Many Irish NGDOs are also members of European and international
alliances and networks.
In addition to policy influencing sector relations with Irish Aid,
research and international initiatives, formal consultations and sector
campaigns (such as on Ireland’s commitment to the 0.7 per cent target),
Irish NGDOs identify the need for continued network investment on:
information sharing, effective working groups, NGO support with
regard to monitoring and evaluation (M&E) and results-based manage-
ment, and NGO capacity for enhanced management and governance
(Dóchas, 2012).
Dóchas is the Irish member of the European Confederation of NGOs
for Relief and Development (CONCORD), although Irish agencies can
also be members of the European group through other networks of
which they are members, including CIDSE, Aprodev, Eurostep,7 and
others. Irish NGDOs participate in CONCORD working group meet-
ings and seminars. Moreover, the Director of Trócaire was President of
CONCORD between 2006 and 2012. This European involvement by
Irish NGDOs affords them the opportunity to become more involved in
issues central to their specific development interests as well as promot-
ing, among European counterparts, the priorities of Irish NGDOs, such
as the Code of Conduct on Images and Messages initially developed
within Dóchas.
Irish Development NGOs and the Official Aid Program of Ireland 119

The Irish platform also plays an informal role as adviser to several

NGDO networks in Eastern and Central Europe and helps raise aware-
ness of development issues in the enlarged EU through regular coopera-
tion with the TRIALOG program.8 The Irish NGDO platform hosted a
study visit by Czech NGOs before the start of the Czech Republic’s EU
Presidency project in 2009, during which they met Irish NGDOs, Irish
Aid, the Minister of State for Development Cooperation and others to
learn how the Irish development sector worked during Ireland’s EU
presidency in 2004.
Dóchas members have also engaged in workshops and training ses-
sions for NGDOs in new member states in Slovenia, Estonia and Austria,
as well as sharing experience on the nature, advantages and limitations
of the close collaboration between Irish NGDOs and Irish Aid under the
successive MOUs and partnership agreements.

5.4.1 Typologies of actors in the Irish NGDO sector

Table 5.2 presents a typology of 45 selected Irish NGDOs as of March
2009, the last date for which data of this type is available by organiza-
tion. In this, the NGDOs are classified by background, focus of their
work, and size. The list is divided into three groups. The background of
the first group of 27 is national. Half of them are small (zero to 4 staff)
while the other half are of medium size (5 to 14 staff). Four of them are
faith-based. While the members of this group were national in terms of
their bases, some of them had a few overseas activities. Many of them
engaged in advocacy and development education. Those in the second
group of NGDOs captured in Table 5.2 were also national in terms of
their backgrounds but had become internationalized over time. This
group included the largest of the Irish NGDOs and three of them,
Concern, Trócaire and Goal, had been in existence for over 30 years.
While Concern and Trócaire undertake a diverse range of development
and humanitarian activities, Goal tends to focus mainly on emergency
relief – although it also engages in long-term development work, espe-
cially with street children. Those in the third group of NGDOs were
international in terms of their backgrounds, as branches of interna-
tional NGDOs. Two of them, Amnesty Ireland and Oxfam Ireland were
large in terms of size.
Most of the more established NGDOs in the Republic were based
in Dublin, the capital city, in 2009, and tended to work either in the
areas of long-term overseas development (over 50 per cent) or both
development and humanitarian assistance (20 per cent). Some NGDOs
are organized on an all-island basis, while others operate either in the
Table 5.2 Typology of selected Irish NGDOs by size and activities as of March 2009

No Background – national Focus Size* Type**

1 Afri Advocacy, campaigning for justice, rights 1 a

2 Aidlink Health, HIV/AIDS, education, food, cap. bldg. 1 c
3 Friends of Londiani (Ire) Development in Kenya 1 c
4 Galway One World Centre Development Education (Deved) 1 a
5 Irish Commission for Justice & Social Affairs Promoting Catholic Church social teaching 1 a
6 Irish Family Planning Assoc Advocacy of reproductive health, Deved, rights 1 a
7 Irish League CU Foundation Credit unions, savings 1 c
8 Irish Council Intern’l Students Study Fellowships and student support 1 a
9 Irish Found’n for Coop Dev Support for regional agri-food co-ops 1 b
10 Kerry Action for Deved Deved and linking projects 1 a
11 Nat’l Youth Council of Ireland Deved 1 a
12 Volunteer Missionary Movement Community development, deved 1 c
13 Wingspread International Deved, micro projects 1 a
14 Bóthar Livestock & agriculture 2 c
15 Camara Volunteering, technology for education 2 c
16 Centre for Global Education Deved 2 a
17 Children in Crossfire Emergencies, agriculture 2 c
18 Church Mission Soc. Ireland Mission development 2 e
19 Comhlámh Deved & campaigning 2 a
20 Gorta Food & agriculture, livelihoods 2 c
21 International Service Ireland Volunteering, Deved, capacity building 2 c
22 Irish Missionary Union Missionary info, training and placement 2 b
23 Suas Volunteering, education, Deved 2 c
24 The Hope Foundation Education, health protection for children 2 c
25 Vita Livelihoods, specific vulnerable groups 2 c
26 The Niall Mellon Foundation House building in South Africa 3 c
27 Traidlinks Private sector mentoring (Uganda) 2 c
National → International Focus

28 Concern Worldwide Development/humanitarian activities 3 e

29 Trócaire Development/humanitarian, social justice 3 e
30 Self-Help Africa Agriculture, livelihoods, basic needs, Deved 2 c
31 Goal Mainly emergency, & long-term development 3 e

International Focus

32 Skillshare Intern’l Volunteering, capacity bldg, partnerships 1 c

33 Action Aid Ireland Education, capacity bldg, human rights (HR) 2 d
34 Amnesty International Ireland Human rights, advocacy 3 a
35 ChildFund Ireland Child sponsorship & rights, family welfare 2 d
36 Christian Aid Ireland Agri., capacity bldg, HR, humanitarian relief 2 c
37 Irish Red Cross Disaster, post emergency & recovery response 2 e
33 Plan Ireland Child sponsorship, family/community welfare 2 d
39 Progressio (formally CIIR) Small farming, HIV/AIDS, sust’able env. 1 c
40 Sightsavers Intern’l Ireland Eye health, education, advocacy 2 c
41 Voluntary Service Intern’l Volunteering, Deved 2 c
42 Voluntary Service Overseas Volunteering, capacity building 2 c
43 War on Want Northern Ireland Livelihoods, Deved, grassroots partnerships 2 c
44 World Vision Ireland Child sponsorship, family/community welfare 2 e
45 Oxfam Ireland Livelihoods, advocacy, campaigning 3 e

Note: Faith-based organizations are typed in italics.

* 1 = small, 2 = medium, 3 = large, according to rating based roughly on staff size where 1 = 0-4 professional staff, 2 = 5-14, 3 => 15.
** a = mainly advocacy, b =some overseas activities, c = a few overseas activities, d = overseas child sponsorship, e = large mixed portfolio.

122 Éamonn Casey and Helen O’Neill

Republic of Ireland or in Northern Ireland: still others have separate but

connected organizations in both.
Many Irish NGDOs take the form of companies limited by guarantee,
and are therefore subject to company law, according to the Irish ena-
bling environment. A smaller number are established as trusts, socie-
ties or other forms. The new registration and reporting regime being
established under charities legislation will have significant implications
for all NGOs, although the Charities Regulator has indicated that the
NGDO sub-sector appears more prepared than others in terms of gov-
ernance, accountability and financial transparency.
The 2012 survey revealed that all the surveyed organisations had
governing boards, up from 97 percent in 2006 and 80 percent in 2001.
The average board size in 2012 is 8.9, compared to 11 in 2006, with
organisations citing a drive for more effectiveness. In general terms,
there is a good gender balance (with an average female membership of
45 percent and the board membership of 19 organisations comprising
50 percent or more) by women, yet still female representation stood at
less than 25 percent on the boards of five organisations.
According to all organisations surveyed, the board approves the
annual audit report and maintains formal records of board meetings.
A key area of comparison with the 2006 survey is the practice of the
board approving the annual budget: this has increased from 77 percent
in 2006 to 97 percent in 2012. NGDOs also report that their governing
boards now devote significantly more attention to risk management
(Figure 5.1).
Organizations who said their ability to achieve their vision and mis-
sion was either ‘good’ or ‘very good’ amounted to 85 per cent, but the
dominant challenges mentioned by nearly all organisations the difficult
economic context and the knock-on financial effects: struggling to
maintain funding levels, adjusting to a decline in income, and main-
taining financial/organizational stability.

5.4.2 Survey of Dóchas members, 2012

A major survey of the NGDO sector in Ireland was carried out in
2012, following up on a prior survey in 2006. It yielded a huge
amount of data on all aspects of the sector and much of the informa-
tion in Section  4 of this paper summarizes its more striking results.
Membership of the network, operating as the national NGDO platform,
grew from 35 to 45 between 2006 and 2009. It continues to grow slowly
and in 2014,  Dóchas has 50 full member organizations and seven
associate members.
Irish Development NGOs and the Official Aid Program of Ireland 123
























































Figure 5.1 Board activity of surveyed Irish NGDOs

Source: Dóchas Members Survey 2012.

Although the survey data captured that 766,912 individual supporters

were supporting Dóchas members in 2012, quite a substantial reach in
an all-island population of about 6.4 million, this represented a decline
of 10 percent since 2006.
Social justice and respect remain (from the 2006) the two most impor-
tant values underpinning members’ work, identified by 73 percent and
72 percent of responding organizations respectively. Humanitarian
principles were ranked third by larger organizations, many of whom
have relief operations, but ranked only eighth by smaller organi-
zations, many of which do not have emergency relief programs.
Promoting economic equality, which has become more important as a
stated value since 2006, was cited by 52 percent of NGDOs (Figure 5.2).
A variety of value elements was cited other than those prompted in the
survey, including both education and development education, which
were mentioned most frequently, followed by  children/youth, volun-
teering and peace.
124 Éamonn Casey and Helen O’Neill










































Figure 5.2 Values motivating surveyed Irish NGDOs

Source: Dóchas Members Survey 2012.

In the 2012 survey, the Dóchas members surveyed reported employ-

ing 845 staff within Ireland, up 17 percent from 720 staff reported in
2006. Between Ireland and overseas, Dóchas members employed a total
of 4,246 staff. The median number of staff working with organizations
is 9.3, up from seven in 2006.
The ten largest NGDOs surveyed employed 3,997 staff, while the ten
smallest employers employed 30. A number of factors are evident among
the larger organizations which include: they are generally older organiza-
tions and most of them were established prior to the median year of estab-
lishment, 1989; a number of them have a large humanitarian program;
and they mostly implement programs directly (rather than via partners).
Just over 40 per cent of staff are working on programs, represent-
ing the largest single area of staff numbers – and up from a reported
28 per cent in 2006. After that, in descending order of importance,
came administration (15 per cent), fundraising (13 per cent), finance
Irish Development NGOs and the Official Aid Program of Ireland 125

2012 2006





































Figure 5.3 NGDO allocation of staff

Source: Dóchas members survey 2012.

(10 per cent), and then information and communications (9 per cent).
Surprisingly, given the big push on results-based management in recent
years, monitoring & evaluation was reported to account for only 4 per
cent of staffing allocation, with policy (3 per cent) and advocacy/ cam-
paigns (4 per cent) also low on the staffing count.
Figure 5.3 provides a breakdown of staff allocation per function and
compares the percentage with those of the 2006 Survey.
The survey results indicated that there were also 464 volunteers
working with the surveyed Dóchas member organizations, a more than
threefold increase from the 2006 level. The results showed that 59 per
cent of staff, and 51 per cent of management level staff, are female.
The overall non-profit sector’s workforce is three-quarters female (The
Wheel, 2014).
126 Éamonn Casey and Helen O’Neill

In 2012, Dóchas had also commissioned an analysis of the number

and type of jobs carried in its ‘Wednesday News’ e-newsletter, recognized
as being a key source of information for vacancies, as well as events,
trainings and meetings, related to the NGDO sector. The resulting report
revealed that the total number of positions advertised (including unpaid
volunteer and intern places) had increased between 2007 and 2011,
with the highest number relating to the area of programmes and a con-
sistently high NGDO requirement to fill positions overseas. The findings
highlighted an increase in demand for positions in the areas of finance,
personnel, law and information technology, and a dramatic rise in the
number of unpaid volunteers sought (including for work overseas) − but
a decline in what would be considered core NGDO functional areas,
including development education, policy and advocacy. The analysis
revealed a decline in the proportion of marketing, fundraising and com-
munications posts over the five years, but that their representation in
the jobs mix remained relatively high (Dóchas, 2013).

5.4.3 Geographic and sectoral focus of the work

of Dóchas members
The overall number of countries, in which Dóchas members work fell
from 118 to 70 between 2006 and 2012, with a strong focus on sub-
Saharan Africa remaining − and with less emphasis on Eastern Europe,
Central Asia and North Africa. Just over half of those 70 countries were
in Africa, including North Africa, and fully 58 per cent of expenditure
was going to African countries – despite the anomalously high expendi-
ture in Haiti and Pakistan (arising from the 2010 earthquake and flood
responses respectively) in the reporting period.
The six program sectors which were the most popular, or had the
highest number of organizations involved in 2012, were: capacity
building of Southern partners; development education; education &
social services; gender and children; health; and humanitarian opera-
tions. The relief/humanitarian sector is the one with the highest level
of expenditure (Figure 5.4).
Looking at implementation modality, 44 per cent of organizations
worked exclusively through partnership, 21 percent implemented pro-
grams directly, and 35 per cent had a mixture of both models. Altogether,
almost two-thirds of programs (64 per cent) were implemented through
a partnership model, while a majority (86 per cent) of organizations
implementing directly had their programs exclusively in Ireland.
As detailed in Figure 5.5, below, the top four sub-sectors for Irish
NGDO engagement, with over EUR20 million in total expenditure
Figure 5.4
Ag ad
C i’ ltu em
ap re ic
ac & &


ity ru re
b ra se
el u ild l de ar
’m ch
in ve
en g lo
te of pm
du so en
Ec c at
he t
ion rn

Source: Dóchas members survey 2012.

im & N
ic G
pu O
,s bl s
oc ic
ia a

NGDO program sector focus

Ed l, w
uc cu ar
at ltu e
io r
n al
& rig
so ht
ci s
En ic
Fo es
od v iro
se nm
cu en
y t

G &
en h un
de ge
H r& r
an ch

rig ild
s, n
go H
v ea
& lth

Po m
lic M o
y F cr
in & ac
flu cr y
en e di
R cin t un
ie g io
f& & n
hu vo
m ca
m cy
Vo d

128 Éamonn Casey and Helen O’Neill

Relief & humanitarian aid 7,60,87,553

Agriculture & rural development 4,75,41,157
Food security & hunger 2,48,28,498
Health 2,44,59,510
Sustainable livelihoods 1,44,30,782
Human rights, gov & democracy 1,28,82,001
Education & social services 1,27,48,801
Gender & children 1,00,04,859
Dev education & public awareness 66,65,137
Capacity building of southern NGOs 58,72,798
Environment 55,99,740
Policy influencing & advocacy 52,45,740
HIV and AIDS 25,00,000
Water & sanitation 22,97,000
Vocational training 12,92,237
Other* 1,03,62,477

- 4,00,00,000 8,00,00,000
*‘Other’ covers sectors where expenditure is less than € 1M

Figure 5.5 NGDO expenditure per sector

Source: Dóchas members survey 2012.

as reported among survey respondents in 2012, were, in descending

order: relief and humanitarian aid (76.1m); agriculture and rural liveli-
hoods (47.5m); food security and hunger (24.8m), and health (24.5m).
A second tier, accounting for between ten and 20 million euro in
expenditure, included: sustainable livelihoods (14.4m); human rights,
governance and democracy (12.9m); education and social services
(12.8m); gender and children (10m).
Below that, in order of expenditure, come Irish NGDO activities in
the areas of: development education and public awareness, capacity
building of Southern CSO actors, environment, policy and advocacy,
HIV & AIDS, water and sanitation, vocational training, and others.
Figure 5.6 shows the combined total expenditure, of all surveyed
organizations, for each country in which they operate. It also includes
Irish Development NGOs and the Official Aid Program of Ireland 129






dg al

di l

iti of

au a

bu nnu

al nu

tiv t

ac en

rn an

al m

te n

ci ate
ex n a


an st



fin e a





Figure 5.6 Accounting practices of surveyed NGDOs

Source: Dóchas Members Survey 2012.

reference to the ranking of those countries on the United Nations’

Human Development Index (HDI) and to those that are key program
countries for Irish Aid.
Figure 5.7 illustrates that most of the countries on which Irish NGDOs
concentrate their funding rank low on the UN’s Human Development
Index. Following after the unusually high level of expenditure accounted
for by those humanitarian crises in Haiti and Pakistan, the countries
where there was the highest level of expenditure included: Zimbabwe,
Sudan (including the Republic of Sudan and what is now South Sudan),
Kenya, Uganda and Ethiopia.
The 2012 Dóchas survey also analyzed the program sectors in which
members are working and found six sectors in which the highest
number of organizations are involved: capacity building of Southern
partners; development education; education & social services; gender
130 Éamonn Casey and Helen O’Neill

Haiti 2,57,11,723 –158
Pakistan 2,13,73,173 –145
Zimbabwe 1,15,54,225 –173
Sudan* 1,13,22,530 –169
Kenya 1,10,62,946 –143
Uganda 1,07,26,750 –161 (IA)
Ethiopia 1,05,24,610 –174 (IA)
Ireland 83,73,954 –7
Niger 82,21,000 –186
Malawi 82,04,087 –171 (IA)
Somalia 72,04,372 –n/a
Tanzania 64,00,671 –152 (IA)
DRC 60,50,936 –187
Sierra Leone 51,46,739 –180
Zambia 49,65,733 –164
India 45,15,599 –134
Bangladesh 44,60,347 –146
Afghanistan 44,47,023 –172
Mozambique 38,33,838 –184 (IA)
Liberia 33,23,446 –182
Cambodia 30,82,832 –139
Rwanda 28,11,946 –166
Burundi 20,98,118 –185
Honduras 20,43,204 –121
Nicaragua 19,70,706 –129
Ghana 13,89,799 –135
Burma 13,19,756 –149
Colombia 12,91,296 –87
Guatemala 12,53,223 –131
Guinea 12,52,565 –178
Chad 12,31,000 –183
Eritrea 12,00,000 –177
El Salvador 11,99,425 –105
Angola 11,97,911 –148
DPRK 11,24,000 –n/a
Other** 1,16,20,096
– 1,00,00,000 2,00,00,000
*Includes South Sudan and Republic of Sudan
**Includes all countries where expenditure is less than €1m
‡HDI ranking (out of 187). (IA) indicates Irish Aid programme country.

Figure 5.7 NGDO expenditure per country

Source: Dóchas members survey 2012.
Irish Development NGOs and the Official Aid Program of Ireland 131

Table 5.3 NGDO organizational expenditure by country program concentration

Average Median

Organisations in 10 or more Countries 1,035,363 405,857

Organisations in 5 to 9 Countries 299,338 175,245
Organisations in 2 to 4 Countries 557,704 426,667
Organisations in 1 Country 576,301 334,072

Source: Dochas Members Survey 2012.

and children; health; and emergency relief/ humanitarian response. The

latter accounted for the highest level of reported expenditure.
Between 2006 and 2012, the survey data reveal, there has been a sig-
nificant rationalisation in the number of program countries and sectors
in which Irish NGDOs are operational − despite an overall increase in
annual income in that time. In 2012, the average number of countries
in which each organization worked was six, down from 13 in 2006. The
average number of program sectors in which NGDOs were engaged fell
from eight to four.
Table 5.3, above, captures the number of countries in which the
surveyed organizations were operating and illustrates another trend:
towards higher expenditure per country among those organizations
who work in fewer countries, with potential gains for operational effi-
ciency. For example, those working in 10 or more countries have below-
median expenditure per country, suggesting a relatively thin spread of
expenditure; while those working in between five and nine countries
have an average expenditure per country which is less than half that of
those organizations working in two to four countries.
The Dóchas survey data reveal a distinct shift with regard to Irish
NGDOs geographic and program reach. Just as there was a substantial
shift in country focus, with organizations moving to higher expendi-
ture levels in fewer countries, there was also a notable concentra-
tion of program sector involvement, meaning that Irish NGDOs are
increasingly focusing on more sizeable and programmatic operations
in significantly fewer countries (Dóchas, 2012). This coincides with a
distinct focus by Irish Aid, usually an important donor and often the
primary one, on those organizations that it funds achieving greater
focus, efficiencies, value for money, and results (program outcomes and
sustainable impact).
While Dóchas members continue to confront new concerns as they
arise (growing inequality – at home and globally, issues of climate and
132 Éamonn Casey and Helen O’Neill

tax justice, policy coherence for development), the platform has also
continued to focus on issues of long standing: advocating that Ireland
should reach the United Nations 0.7 per cent ODA target, as well as
for more and better EU aid, and for enhanced quality in develop-
ment cooperation and humanitarian response overall. Irish NGDOs
are unified in targeted political advocacy for ‘more and better aid’
(particularly through the Act Now campaign) the date by which the
Irish Government has committed itself to achieving the 0.7 per cent
has been repeatedly postponed, from 2007 to 2012 and then 2015.
This date was dropped in 2014 and there is now no firm target date
in mind.
Yet ‘overseas aid’ is acknowledged to be only part of the story for Irish
NGDOs. Dóchas members recognize that effective work on broader and
interlinked issues of policy coherence for development and human
security may be more effective in the long term in advancing the over-
arching goal of eradicating poverty and inequality to achieve equitable
and sustainable human development.
In addition to the national platform and its thematic working groups,
Irish NGDOs interact in various other associations, groupings, alli-
ances and coalitions, including but not limited to: the Irish Association
for Development Education, the Stop Climate Chaos coalition, Trade
Justice Group, the Gender-Based Violence Consortium, the Debt and
Development Coalition, and the Tax Justice Network.

5.5 Funding of Irish NGDOs

5.5.1 The broad fundraising environment in Ireland

Before focusing on the issue of funding for Irish NGDOs, it is appropri-
ate to look briefly at the wider non-profit sector in Ireland to place the
fundraising activities of the NGDOs in a broad national context. Despite
its significant contribution to Irish society and economy, there are big
gaps with regard to quantitative data for the not-for-profit sector. It is
hard even to account for the number of not-for-profits, or what might
be termed charities, because a formal registration of charities is hap-
pening for the first time through the Charities Regulatory Authority
(established operationally in 2014) during 2014 and 2015.
In a substantial contribution to emerging knowledge of the sector,
INKEx (2012) reported that in December 2011 there were 7,874 entities
with a charity number for tax purposes, 4,011 (50.9 percent) of which
were incorporated as business entities with the Companies Registration
Office and 3,863 (49.1 percent) unincorporated.
Irish Development NGOs and the Official Aid Program of Ireland 133

% of total income % of total organisations

Culture and recreation 9%


Education and research 7%


Health 6%

Social services 23%


Environment 2%

Development and housing 19%


Law, advocacy and politics 4%


Philanthropic intermediaries 11%


International 15%

Religion 0.6%

Business and professional associations 3%


Not elsewhere classified 0.5%


0 5 10 15 20 25 30

Figure 5.8 Irish not-for-profit subsectors as a percentage of total income and of

total organizations
Note: Sample size for % of total organizations: 713; sample size for % of total incomes: 694.
Source: 2into3, Third Annual Fundraising Report 2013.

Despite the limitations of definition and data, the Third Annual Report
into Fundraising in Ireland (2into3, 2013) estimated that the size of the
sector in 2011 was at least EUR4.9 billion, it provided a contribution to
Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of 3.5 per cent, and that state funding as
a percentage of total income (2011) at 73 per cent. The report estimated
that the international NGO sector accounts for 15 per cent of the income
of the not-for profit sector (ibid., p. 13). While the international NGO
sector accounts for a relatively small proportion of the total number of
not-for-profits, it accounts for a disproportionately large share of what
the report terms large organizations (Figure 5.8).
The 2011 version of 2into3’s annual report on not-for-profits’ fun-
draising in Ireland identified a major surge in donations following
134 Éamonn Casey and Helen O’Neill

the Haiti earthquake in January 2010: for the organizations in its

sample, public donations to the international development sector
increased by 30 percent between 2009 and 2010. The World Giving
Index 2012 showed that Ireland is highly generous, ranking it sec-
ond after Australia (the most generous country), based on interviews
conducted in 2011 that explored a range of giving behaviors. More
than 79 percent of people in Ireland had donated money to charity
in the previous month, the highest score internationally for this indi-
cator, according to 2into3 a research and consulting firm, citing the
2013 Index.
Figure 5.9 shows the breakdown of fundraised income across the
different not-for-profit sub-sectors in Ireland. International develop-
ment organizations, along with those in social services, were especially
prolific fundraisers (the former explained in large part by the Haiti

Culture and Recreation, 5.2% Education and Research, 3.1% Health, 2.8%

Social Services, 28.8% Environment, 2.9% Development and Housing,

Law, Advocacy and Politics, Philanthropic Intermediaries, International, 23.2%
14.3% 11.8%
Religion, 1.5% Business and Professional Not Elsewhere Classified,
Associations, 0.7% 0.0%





14% 6%

Figure 5.9 Fundraised income by not-for-profit sub-sectors in Ireland

Source: 2into3, Third Annual Fundraising Report 2013.
Irish Development NGOs and the Official Aid Program of Ireland 135

earthquake and Pakistan floods crises of 2010), with each accounting for
more than one in every five euros raised (2into3, 2013).
The fundraising environment for non-profits in Ireland is character-
ized by keen competition, strong public demand for innovative strate-
gies, increasing costs per additional euro raised (alongside low public
tolerance for charitable spending on fundraising and administration),
and increasing demand across a range of stakeholders (government,
political, corporate and public) for enhanced transparency and account-
ability (2into3, 2013). The future directions for fundraising by non-
profits include a requirement for greater professionalism, a higher focus
on committed giving, alliances and joint initiatives, evolving corporate
relationships and diversity of funding, concentration of funding in
fewer but bigger organizations, and potential merging of organizations
to achieve scale and efficiencies.
In 2008, one such merger occurred when the medium-sized Irish
NGDO Self-Help Development International merged with the British
NGO Harvest Help, also founded in the mid-1980s and focused on rural
development and livelihoods, to form Self-Help Africa. The merged
entity had income of around EUR10 million in 2008. Self-Help Africa
is now merging with Gorta (an NGDO focused on food and nutrition,
water and sanitation, and enterprise development) in 2014 and the
merged entity will be a sizeable actor in the Irish NGO scene. Even so,
the number of mergers (and closures) has not been as high as many
observers of the sector anticipated, given the serious economic crisis
that has hit Ireland since 2008.

5.5.2 Irish NGDO funding

The combined overall income for NGDOs surveyed in the 2012 Dóchas
Members Survey was EUR328 million, an increase of EUR47 million
from 2006. The total figure available to the surveyed organizations in
voluntary income was EUR144m, a decline of EUR46 million from 2006
figures, a situation which reflects Ireland’s reduced economic circum-
stances since 2008 in particular.
There is quite a disparity evident in income size among organizations,
with 14 organizations having an annual income of less than EUR1m,
23 in the EUR1 million to 10 million bracket, and only three with an
annual income above the EUR10 million mark. The median income
level derived from the survey data was EUR1,899,067 (see Table 5.4)
(Dóchas, 2012).
Irish NGDOs report that the costs attached to voluntary fundrais-
ing have increased substantially, and that they have to develop new
136 Éamonn Casey and Helen O’Neill

Table 5.4 Total organizational income of surveyed NGDOs

2012 Survey 2006 Survey

Republic of Ireland €214,225,868 n/a

Northern Ireland €21,957,931 n/a
Other locations €92,711,867 n/a
Total €328,895,666 €281,780,461

Voluntary Contributions (of total income) €144,023,436 €190,812,297

Source: Dóchas Members Survey 2012.

Table 5.5 Organizational income disparity among surveyed NGDOs

Organizational income Number of Combined income


less than €1M 14 6,420,131

between €1M and €10M 23 76,954,359
more than €10M 3 245,521,176

Source: Dóchas Members Survey 2012.

initiatives and work much harder to attract the voluntary funding they
do manage to raise (ibid.). The cost of raising each euro of voluntary
income has increased significantly from 6.4 cents in 2006 to 17.3 cents
in 2012 (Dóchas, 2012, p. 48). Research by 2into3 has reported this cost
at 50.3 cents for the non-profit sector as a whole, though advising cau-
tion as its estimate was based on a small sample (2into3, 2013).
Table 5.5 captures the disparity in income levels among NGDOs of
different sizes, with three larger ones accounting for three-quarters of
total NGDO income. The disparity in scale and public support is also
evident from Table 5.6 below, from which we can see that 11 mid-size
organizations account for over 24 per cent of the total number of sup-
porters, but the largest four Dóchas NGDOs account for 75 per cent.
The number of supporters (who promote, advocate for or financially
support NGDOs) is down about one-tenth from the 850,000 figure
reported in 2006.
The Wheel (2014) has reported that almost 60 per cent of Irish
non-profits have experienced a drop in their income between 200 and
2012, with the majority (60 per cent) of these experiencing a decrease
of between 11 and 25 per cent. Although most organisations are
Irish Development NGOs and the Official Aid Program of Ireland 137

Table 5.6 Number of public supporters of surveyed NGDOs

Number of supporters Number of Total number

organizations of supporters

didn’t respond or have no supporters 7 0

less than 500 supporters 15 3,062
between 501 & 5,000 supporters 3 8,300
between 5,001 & 50,000 supporters 11 181,550
more than 50,000 supporters 4 574,000
Total Number of supporters 766,912

Source: Dóchas Members Survey 2012.

Table 5.7 Distribution of income and supporters among surveyed NGDOs

Organizational Number of Combined Average Combined

income organizations overall voluntary number of
income as % of total individual
income supporters

less than €1M 14 6,420,131 38% 7,390

between €1M and 23 76,954,359 50% 500,522
more than €10M 3 245,521,176 44% 259,000

Source: Dóchas Members Survey 2012.

responding to decreasing income by securing efficiencies and reducing

the scale of activities, 44 per cent have dropped some services. Given
the trends, the danger is that organisational energies could be diverted
from program conception, delivery and accountability to fundraising
for organisational survival.
Also reported by 2into3 is a reliance on state income within the
international NGO sector of 78 per cent, compared to a total non-for-
profit sector average of 73 per cent (2013). However, that degree of
reliance on official funding appears to be challenged by the data in
Table 5.7, derived from 40 Dóchas member NGDOs in its 2012 survey,
which suggests that smaller NGDOs have income from non-official
sources of at least 38 per cent, 50 per cent and 44 per cent respectively.
Interestingly, the picture is of greater dependence among mid-sized
NGDOs than among the three biggest ones, who have much greater
reach to the public.
138 Éamonn Casey and Helen O’Neill

5.5.3 How partnerships between Irish Aid and NGDOs

are funded
Given the missionary roots of the Irish aid program, relations between
Irish Aid and NGDOs (many of which were church-based when estab-
lished) have been strong since the program was launched. The practical
experience of NGDOs working in DCs was helpful to Irish  Aid and it
influenced the direction and geographic focus of the official program.
A 1994 review in the Irish Studies in International Affairs (ISIA) refers
to co-financing schemes with NGDOs, both Irish and local NGDOs in
the field. These included ‘grants covering up to 75 per cent of the costs
for running small to medium-sized projects focused on meeting basic
needs in developing countries’ – and the expectation that the budget for
such schemes would increase very significantly thereafter.9 Block grants
were first introduced in 1994 to allow NGDO recipients and Irish Aid
greater administrative flexibility, and to allow the recipients freedom to
select projects within agreed criteria.10
By 1999, Irish Aid’s expenditure through NGDOs had increased to the
equivalent of around EUR20 million, or 15 per cent of the total bilat-
eral aid program, and 35 per cent of what was being spent in the PCs
that year.11 During the 1990s, Irish Aid was also supporting the work of
Irish NGDOs in development education, on which it was spending the
equivalent of around EUR1.2 million per annum.
The 1999 DAC Peer Review of Ireland’s aid program considered a
number of options for channelling the additional funding available to
an expanding program. One of these was to increase the funding for
NGDO schemes and special funds. The DAC team was cautious about
increasing substantially the amount of aid channelled through Irish
NGDOs, arguing that they already absorbed ‘a relatively large share’
of the aid budget and, in addition, ‘are generously supported by the
Irish public and receive funding from other sources, such as the EU and
United Nations agencies’.12 It suggested that additional funding chan-
neled through NGDOs could be directed toward indigenous NGDOs
in developing countries by expanding the in-country micro-project
scheme, especially in the priority countries.
In contrast, the 2002 Irish Aid Review Committee (IARC) report rec-
ommended that funding to NGDOs should ‘increase significantly’ as
the Irish aid budget expanded.13 As the 2003 ISIA Review explained,
Irish Aid was financing NGDOs under a number of separate funding
mechanisms at that point: co-financing with NGDOs; individual and
block grants to the five biggest NGDOs (Concern, Trócaire, Goal, Self
Irish Development NGOs and the Official Aid Program of Ireland 139

Help Africa and Christian Aid); a local funding scheme administered

through Irish embassies in DCs that assisted micro-projects undertaken
primarily by indigenous NGDOs; a separate budget line for emergency
humanitarian assistance and post-emergency recovery; funding for
democratization and human rights; funding for personnel on assign-
ments overseas through the Agency for Personal Service Overseas
(APSO); and funding for development education through the National
Committee for Development Education.14
Having established these various schemes that financed NGDOs, Irish
Aid then spent a considerable amount of time ‘rationalising’ them,
through amalgamation of schemes or their replacement with others.
The 2002 IARC report recommended that the various mechanisms
being used to co-finance NGDO activities should be consolidated into
one single fund. This appears to have been for transparency as much as
efficiency reasons. The IARC suggested funding channeled to NGDOs
should be ‘significantly increased’ as the aid budget expands, and that
NGDO efforts so funded should be poverty-focused and ‘subject to the
standards for planning, implementation, effectiveness, evaluation and
best practice which apply universally in the Irish aid program’.15
The IARC report supported the proposal – which was under discus-
sion as its report was being prepared in 2002 – that a new multi-annual
program scheme (MAPS) be set up between Irish Aid and the largest
NGDOs who might wish to move away from the block grant scheme
onto ‘a more programmatic model’ with predictable budgetary frame-
works over a three-year period. This scheme came into operation on 1
January 2003, and was described as Irish Aid’s ‘third key partnership
component’ (in addition to its partnership with the program countries
and its partnership with international organisations) in the delivery of
the government’s ODA program.
By 2005, Irish Aid was spending EUR87 million through NGDOs
for a wide variety of schemes. These included MAPS; HAPS (a partner-
ship scheme to support the short-term institutional development of
Irish NGDOs in relation to HIV/AIDS programming); Volunteer 21 to
promote volunteering; a scheme to promote civil society in Central
America; a scheme to support in-country micro projects; core fund-
ing for Dóchas, the umbrella organisation for Irish NGDOs; and a
scheme to provide support for the Irish missionary resource service
(IMRS, later Misean Cara), established in 2004, which manages fund-
ing for Catholic missionary organisations working in developing
140 Éamonn Casey and Helen O’Neill

Irish Aid established a Civil Society Fund (CSF) with a budget of

EUR20.7 million in 2006, with a view to rationalising the various exist-
ing schemes in support of civil society groups and promoting coopera-
tion among them. Funding for the smaller schemes, including HAPS,
was later incorporated into that larger fund. It is instructive to analyze
expenditure under the Civil Society Fund by sector and region. In 2008,
29 per cent was allocated to governance and civil society; 19 per cent
to health, HIV and AIDS; 16.7 per cent to agriculture; 12.4 per cent to
education; 7 per cent to program management and support; 6 per cent
to social infrastructure; 2.6 per cent to water and sanitation; 2.5 per
cent to multi-sector and rural development; 2.4 per cent to emergency,
recovery and disaster preparedness; and 2.4 per cent to other sectors.
Over 60 per cent of the CSF was spent in Africa; 13 per cent in Asia; 10
per cent in Central America; 4 per cent in South America; 1 per cent in
the Middle East; and the remainder was non-region specific.
Following an evaluation of MAPS in 2005, it was decided to continue
the scheme as MAPS II for the period 2007–2011. To safeguard against
over dependence on Irish Aid, funding was limited to 75 per cent of the
NGDO’s overall income. By the end of 2006, MAPS II and the CSF con-
stituted the main conduits through which Irish NGDOs accessed Irish
Aid funding for their work in developing countries.17
In addition to funding under its various CSO schemes for Irish NGOs
(Table 5.8), which together amounted to 14.6 per cent of ODA in 2008
and 2009, Irish Aid provides additional funding to NGOs, both Irish
and international, for their work in emergency situations and in post-
emergency recovery. Expenditure by Irish Aid for development educa-
tion and volunteer-related programs also includes contributions to
development NGOs for their work in these activities. This brought total
funding by Irish Aid to NGDOs to around 35 per cent of bilateral aid
and 25 per cent of total ODA in 2008, one of the highest among OECD
donors (OECD/DAC, 2009, p. 4).
A significant heading under which certain faith-based groups can
access Irish Aid funding is Misean Cara, which manages funding for
Catholic missionary organizations working in DCs. Although the num-
ber of Irish missionaries has been decreasing steadily in recent years,
the work of the remainder has broadened out from a major focus on
education to include work on development projects that promote liveli-
hoods in DCs. Total expenditure by Irish Aid through the Misean Cara
amounted to EUR16 million in 2009.
Table 5.8 shows the growth over time in funding by Irish Aid to NGDOs
under its various funding schemes for civil society. The explanation for
Irish Development NGOs and the Official Aid Program of Ireland 141

Table 5.8 Irish Aid funding from its CSO schemes to NGDOs
(EUR and per cent, 1993–2012)

Year Total ODA Irish Aid funding Irish Aid funding

(€m) to NGDOs (€m) to NGDOs as % of

1993 69.5 3.2 4.6%

1994 95.5 5.1 5.3%
1995 122.9 7.0 5.7%
1996 142.3 8.6 6.0%
1997 157.6 9.4 6.0%
1998 177.3 8.1 4.6%
1999 230.2 9.0 3.9%
2000 255.6 11.1 4.3%
2001 320.2 16.3 5.1%
2002 422.1 23.2 6.0%
2003 445.7 37.4 8.4%
2004 488.9 66.7 13.6%
2005 578.5 79.2 13.7%
2006 813.9 96.3 11.8%
2007 870.9 117.6 13.0%
2008 920.8 134.2 14.5%
2009 718.1 105.0 14.6%
2011 657.0 92.0 14.0%
2012 629.0 90.4 14.4%

Sources: O’Neill, 1994 and thereafter annually through 2012.

the disproportionately high funding levels by DAC member standards,

as captured in the 2006 White Paper, is that this financing ‘is a reflection
of the importance of NGOs not just to the official aid program but to
the approach to development of the country as a whole’ (Government
of Ireland, 2006).
There were opportunities and risks for both sets of actors in the very
significant expansion of funding for NGDOs by Irish Aid, especially for
those participating in the MAPS. The scheme provided some significant
funding predictability over a three-year period, which secured part of
their resource base and helped them to build capacity and work out
medium-term strategic plans. The risks were associated with increased
dependency on government funding that, in the cases of some of the
142 Éamonn Casey and Helen O’Neill

NGDOs, now exceeded their income from their own private fund-
raising activities. For Irish Aid, the risks attached to spending taxpayers’
money for the benefit of people in other jurisdictions was now spread
more widely. The audit and evaluation obligations remained unchanged
in essence but became more complex in terms of execution.18
Total funding for NGDOs peaked at EUR134 million in 2007 but
declined thereafter as the Irish ODA budget was subjected to huge
cuts. In 2012, funding for NGDOs amounted to around EUR90 mil-
lion. The final (to date) reform of the funding schemes for NGDOs
was introduced in 2012. MAPS II and block grants were replaced by
the Program Fund and the MAPS scheme was extended to 18 NGDOs.
These18 NGDOs have to take a focused programmatic approach to
their work in DCs and the five biggest NGDOs have to reduce the
number of countries in which they work; this reduction in geographic
program coverage is a trend evident in the 2012 survey of Dóchas
member organisations. In addition, part of the NGDOs program has to
include a strategic engagement through development education with
the Irish public.
The work of all NGDOs, funded by Irish Aid under these various
schemes, is now required to be results-focused – again in line with Irish
Aid’s own strategic approach. The most significant managerial change
effected in 2012 was the merger of the civil society section of Irish Aid
(which deals with the NGDOs) and the development education section.

5.5.4 Upward and downward accountability

Irish NGDOs have to report to Irish Aid on how they spend the fund-
ing they receive from government. Irish Aid has worked closely with
the NGDOs since 2009 to encourage them to examine their work from
the perspective of aid effectiveness, to which it is highly committed.
According to Irish Aid, this involves ensuring that programs and pro-
jects maximize coordination, are based on a strong analysis of context,
use appropriate and sustainable strategies that enable participation by
beneficiaries, and work toward the achievement of clear positive change
(impact) for communities where they work (Irish Aid, 2010, p. 46). The
eighteen NGDOs that receive multi-year organizational support are
obliged to adopt a ‘programmatic’ approach in their work that is funded
by MAPS in consultation with Irish Aid.
In general, the larger the NGDO, the more professional and clear
are their financial accounts and their reporting methods. Dóchas has
been working hard with medium and small NGDOs to improve their
Irish Development NGOs and the Official Aid Program of Ireland 143

reporting. An external consultant was hired in 2010 to examine the

annual reports and financial statements of Dóchas members. The pur-
pose of the review was to determine the extent to which each member,
in presenting its Annual Report and Financial Statements, was meeting
all relevant obligations in terms of the quality of such information and
the manner of its presentation (Dóchas, 2011a).
The obligations relate to the extent to which the Annual Report
and Financial Statements accord with the charities SORP (Statement
of Recommended Practice: Accounting and Reporting for Charities)
requirements19 as well as the Code of Corporate Governance for NGDOs
which Dóchas co-authored in 2009 with the Corporate Governance
Institute of Ireland and which it encourages its members to use, adapt-
ing it to their specific circumstances.
The consultant reviewed the annual reports and financial statements
of 42 Dóchas member organizations, broken down into four size-based
categories (15 members with income of EUR0.14 to EUR1 million;
15  members with income EUR1.09 to EUR2.75 million; 10 members
with income of EUR3.45 to EUR8.7 million; and the two largest Irish
NGDOs, Concern and Trócaire (with incomes of EUR116 million and
€60 million respectively in 2007)). An appropriate reporting template
was developed for each size category. Not surprisingly, the two largest
Irish NGDOs were reported as having established very high standards
of financial reporting and were described as being ‘pathfinders’ in terms
of interpreting Charities SORP and in reporting comprehensively on
activities, plans, governance, reserves and risk management.
In his overview of findings regarding the other three size categories,
the consultant found the standard of reporting and financial statements
in terms of compliance with the two sets of guidelines by the first (small
NGDOs) group to be ‘quite disappointing’, by the second category to be
‘significantly better’ and by the third size category to be ‘very high’ in
terms of their financial statements and ‘somewhat disappointing’ with
respect to Directors’ Reports.
In the absence of a legal requirement for Irish charities to adhere to
the SORP standard developed in the UK, Dóchas has put in place and
revised specifically tailored guidelines for members’ annual reports
and  financial statements. This initiative is put forward as a matter
of good practice, an exercise in development effectiveness, transpar-
ency and accountability, and a stepping stone towards meeting the
forthcoming requirements of NGOs under the Charities Regulatory
Authority and the International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI).
144 Éamonn Casey and Helen O’Neill

The guidelines are practical, consistent with the International

Framework for CSO Development Effectiveness, and integrate the
requirements of the network’s own Code of Conduct on Corporate
Governance along with many of the requirements of the Charities SORP
in one guidance document. The reporting requirements are differenti-
ated for small, medium-sized and large organisations, which are defined
for these purposes as those having less than EUR1 million income,
between EUR1 and EUR3 million, and income between EUR3 million
and EUR10 per annum respectively.
The national NGDO platform is actively promoting to its members –
and the wider NGDO sector – that adopting Charities SORP ahead of
any regulatory or specific donor requirement to do so is a prudent
move, not just because many key stakeholders expect it or because it
is increasingly becoming a measure of the due diligence of directors on
an organization’s board, but also because it represents a best-practice
approach to reporting on and accounting for organisational activities,
financial practices and financial status. Dóchas also encourages NGDO
adherence to the Guiding Principles for Fundraising promulgated by
Irish Charities Tax Research (ICTR).
A relatively new concept of accountability is also relevant to the
implementation by NGDOs of rights-based approaches to development
and improved effectiveness, in line with the Istanbul Principles and
International Framework for CSO Development Effectiveness. O’Dwyer
and Unerman discuss the concept of downward accountability relative
to its role in improving NGDO-beneficiary partnerships in DCs. They
are critical of NGDOs in general and the Irish NGDOs which they chose
as a case study (O’Dwyer and Unerman, 2009).
They state that their analysis, supported by interviews with managers
in Irish NGDOs20, suggests that, while commitments to the complemen-
tary combination of the rights-based and local partnership approaches
‘which is central within the MAPS requirements’ facilitate ‘the appear-
ance of attention to beneficiary/local NGDO participation’, they do not
often extend in practice to delivering power to beneficiaries or to locally
based NGDOs in DCs. They suggest that the interactions between the
funder NGDOs and the local partner NGDOs and from the local partner
NGDOs to the ultimate beneficiaries were not sufficiently well devel-
oped. This weakness in downward accountability was described by the
writers as due to an apparent lack of attention by Irish NGDOs to over-
sight of downward accountability within locally based NGDOs and the
perceived control of local partner NGDOs by local elites ‘who were often
distant from and unrepresentative of local communities’ (ibid., p. 27).
Irish Development NGOs and the Official Aid Program of Ireland 145

The challenge of ensuring downward accountability is borne out by the

finding from the latest Dóchas survey of members that only 12 per cent
of NGDOs surveyed said they ‘always’ provided evaluation findings or
information to beneficiaries, 47 per cent said they ‘usually’ did so, 35 per
cent that they ‘sometimes’ did so and six per cent that they ‘never’ did so
(Dóchas, 2012, p. 40). By contrast, when asked to assess themselves with
regard to a few key dimensions of programming, the surveyed NGDOs
awarded themselves an average score of 7.3 out of 10 for the influence
that beneficiaries have over program design and management.

5.5.5 Management and accountability within Irish NGDOs

In 2008, Dóchas worked with the Corporate Governance Association
of Ireland to develop and introduce an Irish Development NGOs Code
of Corporate Governance. This code now applies to all Dóchas mem-
bers (Corporate Governance Association of Ireland and Dóchas, 2008).
Regarding governance, almost four-fifths of organizations (78 per cent)
of surveyed Dóchas members now have term limits for board members
and the average duration which an individual could serve on a board
is 6.9 years. However, 22 per cent of organizations have no limit and
individuals could potentially serve on their board indefinitely. The sur-
vey found that board members are increasingly ‘invited’ to join by an
existing board rather than being elected.
The division and sharing of responsibility is considered positive,
or even necessary, for effective management and oversight of an
organization. For example, the separation of operational and financial
management, and the separation of responsibility for developing and
approving projects, are important ‘checks and balances’ in the system –
although these are challenging for smaller organisations. Figure 5.10
captures some of the key indicators of the division of responsibility
from the latest survey of member NGDOs.
Reflecting the professionalization of the sector, 92 per cent of Dóchas
member organizations reported having a strategic plan in place (similar
to the 2006 percentage), and those who do not have a strategic plan all
reported their intention to address this gap in the short term. Most of
these strategic plans are of three to five year duration. A big majority (89
per cent) of the NGDOs surveyed reported having a system in place to set
and assess short-term operational targets for senior management, and a
similar percentage explicitly link staff job descriptions to organisational
objectives. Sixty per cent of organisations reported evaluating all of their
programs at output stage. This dropped to 38 per cent for outcome stage
and 28 per cent for impact evaluation, but comments accompanying
146 Éamonn Casey and Helen O’Neill






en y

en d

ec to
em -da

em an

pr ity

ag to

ag p’l

e or
an ay-

an o

ov th
m of

pr au

al n

ap red
ci tio

an ra


fin pa

Figure 5.10 Division of management authority among surveyed NGDOs

Source: Dóchas Members Survey 2012.

the survey suggest that the focus on ‘managing for results’ has increased
considerably in recent years and will continue to receive considerable
attention. In the non-profit sector overall, two-thirds of organisations
report that they have indicators in place to measure their progress:
90 per cent considering that these indicators measure outputs and
70 per cent that they capture outcomes (The Wheel, 2014).
When probed on dimensions of monitoring & evaluation:

• 30 per cent of the Dóchas members surveyed that they conduct a

baseline survey for all of their programs.
• 60 per cent of organisations stated that they evaluate all of their pro-
grams at output stage, 38 per cent at outcome stage, and 28 per cent
evaluate the impact of all of their programs;
• 29 per cent of organisations stated that evaluations were ‘systemati-
cally’ used to inform further programming and 56 percent said evalu-
ations are ‘nearly always’ used to inform programming;
• 48 per cent of organisations stated that they systematically measure
the success of gender mainstreaming when they are conducting
evaluations (Dóchas, 2012).
Irish Development NGOs and the Official Aid Program of Ireland 147

All members reported that they commission an annual external audit

of their finances and 92 per cent stated that they are voluntarily apply-
ing the Statement of Recommended Practice (SORP) financial standards
(ibid.). In the non-profit sector overall, the percentage of organizations
that use the Charities SORP for financial reporting stands at 10 per cent
(The Wheel, 2014).
When asked if they were aware of their obligations under the 2009
Charity Act (long delayed but now coming into effect through a new
Charities Regulatory Authority working on a detailed register in 2014
and financial reporting requirement in 2015), 79 per cent of the NGDOs
surveyed in 2012 said they were aware, while 21 per cent said they were
either partially aware or unaware (Dóchas, 2012).
From the survey group, 69 per cent of organizations said they
had an Information and Communication Strategy in place (up from
46 per cent in 2006 and a mere 17 per cent in 2001), which probably
reflects the vital important of online communication and social media,
as well as greater focus on and commitment to transparency and
enhanced stakeholder communication.
In what is likely to reflect sector-level efforts to promote transparency
and accountability, as well as increasing political and public demands,
all of the Dóchas members surveyed in 2012 have annual account
details posted on their individual websites (up from 34 per cent in 2006)
and 90 per cent have annual reports posted (up from 54 per cent). There
is more progress to be achieved on publishing program evaluations,
with only 30 per cent of organisations uploading evaluation reports to
their website (Figure 5.11).
During 2004, the Dóchas board had started a process of reflection
about NGDO governance, which led to the publication of a Governance
and Procedures Manual for the Dóchas secretariat in May 2006. This
strand of work continued in subsequent years and gave rise to the
Irish Development NGOs Code of Corporate Governance, developed
jointly with the Corporate Governance Association of Ireland. This is
a determined effort to formulate standards and best practice in corpo-
rate governance that are applicable to the NGDO sector, with a view to
strengthening the impact and quality of its work – and thereby enhanc-
ing confidence in the sector.
Dóchas members also subscribe to a Code of Conduct on Images and
Messages, adopted in 2007 to guide member organizations on NGDO
communications that maintain full respect for human dignity. Irish
NGDOs have been praised across Europe for the development of the
Code, initially developed through the national NGDO platform and
148 Éamonn Casey and Helen O’Neill






































Figure 5.11 NGDOs’ transparency on their websites

Source: Dóchas members survey 2012.

now being adapted and rolled out by NGDO platforms and networks
across Europe. Specific training courses are now on offer on the imple-
mentation of the code, as well as a booklet to guide understanding and
Similarly, the Code of Corporate Governance has earned recognition
and praise from the Irish government, wider civil society and the incom-
ing charities regulator. The code, formally adopted by Dóchas members
in 2008, sets out clear standards on the main principles of corporate
governance, and offers help in relation to decision-making, account-
ability and roles of NGDO board members. The EU’s Directorate-General
of Justice, Freedom and Security has included the code as a case study
of good practice in a study on public and self-regulatory initiatives aimed
at improving transparency and accountability of non-profit organiza-
tions in the EU.
Irish Development NGOs and the Official Aid Program of Ireland 149

According to the Centre for Non-Profit Management (CNM), non-

profits report an ever-increasing demand for accountability (higher
quality information, better feedback and more involvement) from the
State, other donors, supporters and peers in relation to fundraising and
service delivery. Non-profits are trying to address this demand through
annual reports, audited accounts, newsletters and other means − and
in 2013 Dóchas strengthened its separate Guidelines for Reporting
and Financial Statements for small, medium-sized and large member
Beyond Dóchas, recent years have seen the emergence of numerous
Irish-based organizations with an outreach to the developing world,
some of which are offshoots of private philanthropy and others small-
scale, localized civil society initiatives, although the economic down-
turn has stemmed their emergence. Existing NGDOs recognized the
need to engage with the newcomers, partly to learn from the new ideas
and energy being brought to development but also to help improve
the latter’s organizational capacity and accountability, and to reduce
reputational risks for the whole sector (Ó Caoimh, 2008). It was with a
view to reaching out to these NGOs and CSOs, and incorporating them
into the development sector over time, that Dóchas introduced its new
associate membership with lighter requirements and subscriptions.
The Public Accounts Committee of the Oireachtas (joint houses of
parliament in Ireland) undertakes a range of research missions and
reports as part of its remit. For example, in a report on the efficiency
and effectiveness of Irish Aid expenditures in 2008, specifically recom-
mended that NGDOs and missionaries, ‘given their vast experience and
track record, need to be given a formal role in the deployment of aid’
(Government of Ireland, 2008). In exploring the move towards greater
use of general budget support (GBS) as an aid modality by Irish Aid in
its bilateral aid program, the committee stated that it is important that
this should not, in any way, undermine the role of NGDOs and mis-
sionaries. It recommended that budgeting and disbursement processes
should facilitate the work of the NGDOs. ‘The Committee sees a bal-
anced approach, which underpins and provides ongoing support for the
work of NGOs and missionaries, as well as direct funding to government
as being the way forward in the effective delivery of aid. In many ways,
and Irish Aid staff acknowledged this to the Committee, these mission-
aries and NGOs have the best handle on what is going on and what
needs to be done’ (ibid., p. 9).
The Oireachtas Committee stated that being able to call on the expe-
rience and expertize of Irish NGDOs in disbursing aid was ‘a plus’ for
150 Éamonn Casey and Helen O’Neill

the Irish government in reducing the potential for fraud or waste, and
stated that NGDOs should have a formal role in risk analysis in the
use of various aid modalities. In its specific analysis of the efficiency
and effectiveness of Irish Aid support for NGDOs and missionaries, the
Committee stated that ‘the potential and knowledge of missionaries
and NGOs need to be tapped, especially at the planning stage, if aid
programs are to be more effective’ (ibid., p. 7).
The Committee recommended that Irish Aid should:

• Continue to fund NGOs and missionaries working on the ground

in developing countries, given their history of involvement and its
effectiveness and value;
• At partner country level, give a formal role to NGOs and missionaries
in planning aid programs; and,
• Specifically and formally advocate, in working with partner gov-
ernments, that they enable and support the work of NGOs and

5.6 New legislation governing Irish charities

including NGDOs

Prior to 2009, there was no comprehensive up-to-date legislation gov-

erning the operation of charities and CSOs (including development
NGOs) in Ireland and no central public register of charities. The number
of charities and NGOs had been increasing significantly over time and
many existing charities and NGDOs had been pressing government to
enact legislation covering the sector.
A Bill was drafted in 2006 and stakeholder meetings were held as it
proceeded through the Oireachtas, or joint houses of parliament. The
Charities Bill was enacted on 28 February 2009, although it did not come
into force until 2014. Civil society advocacy, including by NGDOs, as it
was being drafted won a number of important amendments to this new
Charities Bill, an instrument that will shape the enabling environment
for Irish non-profit organisations for years to come, including in rela-
tion to the definition of advocacy, support for self-regulation by NGOs,
an advisory role for NGO representatives, and the proportionality of
reporting requirements for different types and sizes of CSOs.
The Charities Act 2009 is intended to protect against abuse of chari-
table status and fraud, increase transparency and ensure accountabil-
ity in the sector, and to enhance public trust and confidence. A new
Irish Development NGOs and the Official Aid Program of Ireland 151

independent Charities Regulatory Authority has been established in

2014 and it is anticipated that the authority, though having strong
powers, will operate in a manner that is both regulatory and supportive.
The authority’s role principally will be to increase public confidence in
the  charities sector through effective oversight of charitable organiza-
tions; promotion of compliance by charitable organizations with their
legal obligations; encouraging better administration of charitable trusts;
and providing guidance to charitable organizations, including through
the development of codes of practice.
Stakeholder consultation by the Charities Regulator is to be inte-
gral to its operation, in accordance with good regulatory practice.
Stakeholders will include charities, charity trustees, donors (including
corporate donors), philanthropists, beneficiaries, academics, account-
ants, lawyers, government departments and agencies. The Charities
Regulatory Authority will establish and maintain a register of charitable
organizations that will be accessible to the general public. Registration
will be mandatory for all charities operating with the State. The require-
ment to register will apply whether a charity had been established
within the state and had its administrative centre in Ireland, or whether
it is a foreign charity with a presence in the state, established in another
jurisdiction and having its administrative centre outside the state. The
key purpose of the register will be to promote transparency. The register
will enable the public to confirm the bona fides of genuine charities,
thereby limiting the scope for abuse.
All charities and NGOs will also be required to keep proper books of
accounts, and provide annual statements of accounts and annual reports
on their charitable activities to the Authority. In the case of charities that
obtain donations from the public, the annual reports will be accessible
to the public. A key principle of the Act is to provide for regulation in
a proportionate manner: the varying reporting and audit requirements
will depend on whether a charity’s income or expenditure is above or
below EUR500,000. Thus, small charities and NGDOs will not be dispro-
portionately burdened with accounting and reporting regulations. An
independent Charity Appeals Tribunal has been provided for.
Fundraising legislation has also been modernized and work on agreed
Codes of Good Practice on Fundraising had already advanced signifi-
cantly in partnership with the charities sector. The Charities Regulatory
Authority will establish and maintain a register; ensure accountability
to donors; carry out investigations when required under the 2009 Act;
and ensure charitable organizations comply with the rules.
152 Éamonn Casey and Helen O’Neill

5.7 Sectoral partnerships between Irish aid and

Irish NGDOs

5.7.1 Partnerships in emergency and recovery assistance

Irish Aid had been spending increasingly larger amounts on emergency
and recovery assistance since 2000. In 1997, it spent EUR6 million on
emergencies and EUR4 million on recovery on the bilateral side of the
program. Ten years later, it was spending EUR92 million on emergen-
cies and EUR25.8 million on recovery. Reflecting the decrease in total
ODA in 2009, expenditure on emergency and recovery assistance fell to
EUR63.2 million that year. However, reflecting the number of emergen-
cies in 2012, expenditure under these two headings recovered to EUR70
million that year.
Since the prevention of crises is better than dealing with them after
they have emerged, the heading ‘recovery’ includes expenditure on
emergency preparedness. Expenditure by Irish Aid on emergencies and
recovery is an expenditure continuum. It has to be stitched as seam-
lessly as possible into a renewal of the long-term development process.
A major concern for many donors, including Irish Aid, is the number
of crises that continue to emerge in countries to which they have been
providing long-term aid for years.
NGDOs, including Irish NGDOs, have played an important role in
implementing emergency and recovery assistance provided by Irish Aid.
Irish Aid has been developing an increasingly integrated and coherent
approach to providing assistance in emergency and recovery situations.
It is no longer merely reactive to requests from NGDOs and interna-
tional agencies for funding. It now has a strategic engagement with
these partners and networks. Coherence now characterizes the work of
Irish Aid in its emergency and recovery work on both the bilateral and
multilateral sides of the program.
First, the emergency and recovery section has established closer
links with the other relevant sections of Irish Aid including country
programs, civil society, the multilateral section and technical, evalua-
tion and audit sections. Second, there is now greater coherence with
Irish Aid policy on gender, HIV/AIDS and greater attention to evalua-
tion. Assistance is based on internationally agreed principles and good
practice. Where expenditure on emergencies had been reactive, with
funded in response to requests from NGDOs and international agen-
cies who implemented the emergency and post-emergency programs, a
more strategic engagement had also been developed with Irish NGDO
partners and international networks. Third, coherence has also been
Irish Development NGOs and the Official Aid Program of Ireland 153

established with the work of Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) head-

quarters in Iveagh House. Emergency and recovery assistance also sup-
ports and promotes the central role of the UN, the IFRC and NGDOs.
Irish Aid is increasingly asking the partners it funds to follow its own
lead in terms of managing for development results and addressing the
causes of emergencies when working in crisis situations in DCs. For
example, following a review of the HPP in 2011, Irish Aid is now asking
its NGDO partners to address the underlying causes of poverty and to
address issues of resilience (by investing in capacity building and disas-
ter risk reduction) when designing their programs. A real dialogue has
begun on the issue of performance-based allocation of funding, which
is increasingly being based on the ability of the NGDOs to articulate the
results they expect to achieve ex ante and to being able to demonstrate
actual results achieved ex post.
Greater coherence between the work of the emergency and recov-
ery section and the civil society and development education sections
within Irish Aid is also intended to help ensure that Irish NGDOs relate
to Irish Aid as a unit rather than to various parts of it for individual
aspects of their work. Irish Aid, in turn, is able to take a more organi-
sational approach to areas such as results, gender, fragile states and
disaster risk reduction.
Over recent years, a distinctly Irish approach to the prevention and
response to humanitarian emergencies has also been developed. Among
the elements of a more integrated approach can be listed: the Rapid
Response Initiative (RRI) including its Rapid Response Corps (RRC);
Special Emergency Funds (SEFs) for NGDOs; the Stability Fund (SF); a
wider involvement in peace-keeping activities under UN and EU man-
dates; and increased funding for specialized international agencies such
as OCHA, the UN’s Common Emergency Response Fund (CERF), IFRC
and UNICEF. The Conflict Resolution Unit (CRU) in the Department of
Foreign Affairs and Trade’s political division and Irish Aid’s Hunger Task
Force (HTF) can also be considered as elements on the preventive side
of Ireland’s emergency and recovery activities.
The HPP provides funding to eight Irish NGDOs (Concern, Trócaire,
GOAL, Oxfam Ireland, Christian Aid, Plan, MSF and World Vision) that
work in situations of protracted crises. Projects are often funded year
after year. The Special Emergency was set up in 2007 as a pilot project
offering access to a special drawdown fund to enable the three largest
Irish NGDOs (Concern, Trócaire and Goal) to respond to sudden-onset
global emergencies. In 2013, this scheme was opened up to the same
eight Irish NGDOs receiving funding under the HPP scheme.
154 Éamonn Casey and Helen O’Neill

The total amount of humanitarian assistance provided bilaterally

by Irish Aid in 2012 amounted to EUR78.9 million, comprised of
EUR51 million in emergency humanitarian assistance, EUR18.6 mil-
lion to post-emergency recovery and EUR9.3 million through the rapid
response initiative.21 In addition, EUR4.3 million was provided through
the SF, which is managed jointly by Irish Aid and the political division
within DFA and which provides funding for conflict resolution activi-
ties and the emergency civilian assistance team initiative.
Irish Aid’s annual report 2012 stated that EUR18.5 million of emer-
gency and recovery funding was channeled directly through NGOs in
that year, representing 22 per cent of the total EUR83.5 million the
program − down from 24 per cent in 2011 and 29 per cent in 2009.
However, the proportion finally programmed by NGOs is higher, since
they also draw down some of the funding channeled through the UN’s
Common Emergency Response Fund (CERF) for rapid response and
underfunded emergencies, and through the Common Humanitarian
Funds, the country-based pooled funds that provide early and predict-
able finance for NGOs and UN agencies addressing the most critical
needs in five ongoing and large-scale crises in the Democratic Republic
of Congo (DRC), Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, and the Central
African Republic.

5.7.2 Partnerships in human rights and democratization22

No country can be considered ‘developed’ unless the human rights of its
population are protected. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights
(UDHR), built on the principles of the UN charter (freedom from fear
and freedom from want), was signed and accepted by the international
community in the UN in 1948. The six core treaties and conventions
derived from the UDHR are the Convention on the Elimination of all
forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD), the International Covenant
on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), the International Covenant on
Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), the Convention on the
Elimination of all forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW),
the Convention against Torture (CAT) and the Convention on the
Rights of the Child (CRC). Many other treaties and conventions have
been added over the years. Many aid organizations and NGDOs, includ-
ing Irish NGDOs, now take a ‘rights-based’ approach when designing
their programs − and this was embedded as a key principle and cross-
cutting theme in the Istanbul Principles and International Framework
for CSO Development Effectiveness.
Irish Development NGOs and the Official Aid Program of Ireland 155

Human rights have been considered important to Irish Aid’s develop-

ment cooperation strategy since 1993 – and even since its inception,
with ‘respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms and a sense
of justice for all’ included as ‘a fifth principle’ in Irish Aid’s 1993 strat-
egy paper. Although no conditionalities were appended to Ireland’s aid
program when it was launched, the 1993 strategy paper stated that,
in choosing a new PC, conditionalities relating to ‘level of corruption,
human rights record, level of democracy, effectiveness of local and
national administration, government commitment to development
and military spending as a percentage of GNP’ should be taken into
consideration.23 The minister of state in 2003 was described as ‘[minis-
ter of state] MOS for development cooperation and human rights’,24 in
contrast with the title of the current minister of state at the Department
of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT), who is described as ‘MOS for trade
and development’.
The 2003 Irish Studies in International Affairs Review reported
that human rights and democratisation (HRD) and governance
activities were already integrated into Ireland Aid’s work in the
program countries and in South Africa. As a result, these issues
formed ‘a key element of the policy dialogue process that takes place
with partner countries’.25 In addition, activities under these head-
ings were supported in many other developing countries, with the
funding being channelled through NGDOs – Irish, international
and local.
The 2002 Irish Aid Review Committee report recommended that
the HRD and governance dimension of the ODA program should be
‘intensified’ by being provided with additional resources. It recom-
mended that HRD be made a fourth cross-cutting issue within the
program (in addition to gender, the environment and HIV/AIDS); that
regular consultations should be held with NGDOs; and that a dedicated
Governance Unit should be established within Irish Aid to ensure that
‘this set of concerns receives special emphasis’.26 In 2014, Irish Aid
still does not have a dedicated human rights unit, although there is a
human rights unit (HRU) within the political division of DFAT.
Irish Aid had a separate budget line for promotion of human rights
until 2009. It still provides such funding. Its purpose is to provide sup-
port for NGDOs and international organizations in promoting human
rights and democratization in DCs. Specific provision for support of
human rights is already included in PC country programs. The budget
line also supports human rights initiatives in areas outside Ireland’s
156 Éamonn Casey and Helen O’Neill

PCs and South Africa as well as the work of international human rights
In providing funding under the human rights heading, Irish Aid tries
to link the principles of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights
to practical actions on the ground by funding the work of national
and international NGDOs that provide basic needs and promote and
protect human rights, as well as funding for international think-tanks
and pressure groups and UN organizations that operate internationally
to promote and protect human rights and democratization. In recent
years, about 75 per cent of the funding for human rights and democra-
tization went to 33 international NGDOs while most of the remainder
went to six Irish NGDOs. Among these, usually the most significant
recipient of funding was Frontline, an international foundation set
up in Dublin in 2001 for the protection of human rights defenders in
developing countries.
In 2011, reflecting a clearer rights-based approach in line with the
Istanbul Principles on CSO Development Effectiveness, Dóchas made a
submission to the United Nations’ Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of
Ireland’s human rights record (Dóchas, 2011b). In that, it cited increas-
ing international recognition of extra-territorial obligations towards
progressively achieving the full realisation of human rights, and raised
related questions for how Ireland integrates its development coop-
eration and human rights priorities. The NGDO platform cited human
rights-based concerns with regard to the country’s ODA commitment,
engagement with DCs on particular human rights issues, linkages
between Irish Aid policy and human rights, and broader government
policy coherence for development. In 2014 then, Dóchas recommended
in its submission to a government review of foreign policy that Ireland
should advance and implement a rights-based approach to foreign
policy and external relations in their totality.

5.7.3 Partnerships in development education

Development education and distribution of information about the
Irish aid program have always been considered important in Ireland.
The  argument is that if the public are well informed, they will sup-
port the program, and if students study and understand the causes of
poverty and analyze ways of solving it, then an informed public will
be assured in the next generation. Irish people have shown very high
levels of response to appeals for donations to emergencies and disasters
around the world. Attitude surveys, whether taken at the EU level or
Irish Development NGOs and the Official Aid Program of Ireland 157

within Ireland, have always shown a strong support for the Irish aid
A review commissioned by Irish Aid in 1988 recommended that a
national committee be established to administer Irish Aid’s total funding
for development education. This led to the establishment in 1990 of the
National Development Education Grants Committee (NDEGC) consist-
ing of 10 representatives from NGDOs and the formal education sector.
Recommendations from another review in 1993 led to the replacement
of the NDEGC by the National Committee for Development Education
(NCDE) in 1994. It subsumed the activities of DESC which was closed
down and it took over the allocation of grants to all actors involved in
development education. Its brief, before its absorption into Irish Aid,
included a role in assessing and evaluating the quality of development
education in Ireland and supporting development educators. Irish
Aid established a Development Education Unit in 2003, charged with
implementation of its first three-year strategy plan (2003–2006) with its
own dedicated budget.
During the lifetime of the 2003–2006 strategy plan Irish Aid provided
grants through various mechanisms to various organisations and insti-
tutions (youth, third-level education, NGDO and community groups)
that delivered development education or enabled others to do so. That
included providing support to capacity-building, including in-service
training for teachers in the formal sector (principally at primary and
secondary levels) and in the non-formal sector (adult, community and
youth groups). Irish Aid became the single largest funder of develop-
ment education in Ireland. Around 75 per cent of grants were provided
for multiannual programs and 25 per cent for annual programs.
When the strategy plan was reviewed, it was deemed to be a success
and a second strategy plan, Promoting public engagement for development,
was launched in 2007 to run for five years through 2011. That strategy
was guided by the 2006 White Paper on Irish Aid and built on the long
history of work in development education in Ireland, both formal and
informal. The sub-title of the strategy paper is Promoting public engage-
ment for development. It aimed to provide everybody in Ireland with
information on the Irish aid program and to improve access to educa-
tional opportunities to help them understand their rights and responsi-
bilities as global citizens.
Dóchas, which has its own strategy for Dev Ed, made a comprehen-
sive submission to Irish Aid during the planning stage of Irish Aid’s
2007–2011 Development Education Strategy Plan and its associated
158 Éamonn Casey and Helen O’Neill

funding guidelines (Dóchas, 2006a). It began by setting out its three

basic principles: 1) development education is central to any develop-
ment cooperation program; 2) deepening understanding on the issues
of development and building public support for development coopera-
tion have distinct yet complementary roles; and 3) government sup-
port toward civil society organizations is crucial to encouraging public
ownership of the development agenda and public engagement in the
challenges associated with development processes.
The NGDO platform cautioned against making a sharp distinction
between information, communication, public awareness-raising and
development education stating that they should be seen as ‘comple-
mentary parts of the same continuum of building and strengthening
public awareness, knowledge and support for reducing global inequali-
ties where each part has a specific role in meeting this objective as well
as different, specific methodologies’ (Dóchas, 2006a). It recommended
that regular research (including focus group research and annual opin-
ion polls) should be commissioned by Irish Aid in order to identify
strengths and weaknesses in public support for development coopera-
tion. Finally, Dóchas expressed its concern about the resources and staff-
ing levels in Irish Aid’s Development Education Unit and recommended
that an appraisal should be carried out into the resources required by
Irish Aid to maximize the impact of its strategic plan.
One initiative under the strategy, in 2007, was the launch of a
program of strategic cooperation with higher education and research
institutes. The strategy is managed by the Higher Education Authority
on behalf of Irish Aid with a budget of over EUR20 million for the five
year period 2007–2011. It is designed to promote research on develop-
ment issues of interest to Irish Aid, including health, HIV/AIDS, educa-
tion, water, urbanism, food security and livelihoods, pro-poor growth,
human rights, governance and gender equality. The funding will help
to promote research on these issues in Irish third-level institutions and
enable them to build research partnerships with universities in Irish
Aid’s program countries.
Another initiative was the opening of the Irish Aid Volunteering and
Information Centre in downtown Dublin in 2008. This is helping to
provide information relating to the official aid program. However, in
announcing it in 2006, the minister of state made clear that it would
be available to all actors in the field including ‘NGOs, civil society
and faith-based organizations’ as a venue for public events to raise
awareness of international development issues (Department of Foreign
Affairs, 2007b).
Irish Development NGOs and the Official Aid Program of Ireland 159

Various Irish development education organizations, including a good

number of NGDOs, work within and across the areas of primary, sec-
ondary and third-level education, adult and continuing education, and
the youth sector as well as targeting the broad public.
Another example of partnership between the NGDOs and Irish Aid is
a consortium of organizations that provide development education. The
consortium includes a number of NGDOs including 80:20 (Educating
and Acting for a Better World), Aidlink, the National Youth Council of
Ireland, Self-Help Africa and Concern as well as Irish Aid.27 Concern is
a big actor in the Irish development education sector. It spent EUR4.6
million in 2007 (3 per cent of its total expenditure) but, following cuts
in 2008 and 2009, its development education expenditure fell to EUR3
million in 2009 (2 per cent of its total expenditure). Trócaire spent
EUR1.6 million on development education activities during the finan-
cial year 2010–2011.
Of particular note in the Irish context are regional development edu-
cation centers in various parts of the island. These include the Centre
for Global Education (Belfast), Galway One World Centre, Kerry Action
for Development Education (KADE) and Waterford One World Centre.
Comhlamh and the Debt and Development Coalition Ireland are other
important player, although strictly speaking they are not an NGDO.
The Development Education Group (DEG) of Dóchas provides an
opportunity for NGDOs, and especially but not exclusively Dóchas mem-
bers, to work collectively on common issues. It has driven the develop-
ment and implementation of the influential Code of Conduct on Images
and Messages in recent years. The current active membership of the
DEG includes: the Africa Centre, Amnesty International – Irish Section,
the Centre for Global Education, ChildFund Ireland, Development
Perspectives, Kerry Action for Development Education (KADE), Plan
Ireland, Nurture Africa, Progressio, Serve, Trócaire, Voluntary Services
International (VSI), and Voluntary Services Overseas (VSO).
Many of the organizations involved in development education – not
exclusively NGDOs – also work together and share learning through the
Irish Development Education Association (IDEA), the national platform
for development education practitioners in Ireland. It focuses particularly
on promoting good practice; providing professional development and
training; coordinating development education initiatives throughout the
island of Ireland; developing policy positions and undertaking advocacy;
organizing events; and providing links with practitioners at international
level. IDEA currently has 78 member organisations, ranging from NGOs
and volunteer-sending organisations (overlapping with Dóchas, the
160 Éamonn Casey and Helen O’Neill

NGDO national platform) to dedicated development education (Dev

Ed) organizations, educational institutions, teacher networks, solidarity
organisations and community groups. There is also a range of associate
member organisations, and both full and associate individual members.
In 2010, in its submission to a mid-term review of the strategy,
Dóchas urged Irish Aid to: establish clear baseline information on pub-
lic awareness of and attitudes to development and global justice issues;
enhance the inclusion of southern voices; strengthen links with other
government departments; work with sector stakeholders to clarify the
‘call to action’ dimension of Dev Ed (which Irish Aid has occasionally
found problematic); clarify and streamline funding modalities; require
a Dev Ed component in multi-annual program funding schemes for
NGDOs; and further support capacity development in the sector
(Figure 5.12).
In its submission to that mid-term review, the Irish Development
Education Association argued that the Dev Ed sector had been hit hard
by the effects of the economic crisis, with Irish Aid and NGO cutbacks
(and some NGOs having discontinued support), leaving an unfair bur-
den of expectation of results for a sector that was allocated less than 1
per cent of ODA according to its figures. In calculating that, it deducted
Irish Aid’s public information spend (IDEA, 2010). Following that mid-
term review on the second strategy plan (formally an internal review),28
the development education section of Irish Aid was merged with the
civil society section in 2012.
Irish Aid spent 2.9 per cent of its bilateral aid budget on development
education in 1994; in money terms, the NGDOs are estimated to have
spent twice as much as Irish Aid that year (O’Neill, 1995). It reached a
high of 4.2 per cent in 1992 but clearly, as the program began to expand
significantly from 1993 (to 2008), the growth of expenditure on devel-
opment education did not keep pace for a number of years, and Irish
Aid reported its development education spend at 0.7 per cent in 2008
and 0.83 per cent in 2009.
Various reports have made suggestions about the appropriate amount
that should be spent on development education by Irish Aid. The review
of development education carried for Irish Aid in 1993 recommended
that the budget available for grants for development education work
should increase ‘on an annual basis’ but gave no guidance as to the
nominal or percentage amounts. The 1985 report on development edu-
cation produced by the Advisory Council on Development Cooperation
had recommended that 5 per cent of the bilateral aid program budget
should be allocated to it. This figure was also recommended by Dóchas
Irish Development NGOs and the Official Aid Program of Ireland 161

























Figure 5.12 Percentage of Dóchas members that carry out baseline studies and
evaluations in their programs.

in 1994. In 2010, IDEA submitted to Irish Aid that many international

stakeholders in development cooperation, including the UN and
CONCORD, have repeatedly asked for a figure equivalent to 3 per cent
of ODA to be spent on Development Education and awareness raising
(IDEA, 2010, p. 4).
A new approach to promotion of development education is now
being sought by Irish aid, following the completion of two strategy
plans, the second of which ended in 2011. This second plan is now
being extended to 2015 while Irish Aid considers the content and rec-
ommendations of five focused reviews into the five areas it has been
funding for many years: primary education, post-primary education,
higher education, the youth sector and adult and community sectors.
The specific focus of the reviews has been on objective three from the
development education strategy, namely, to support the further inte-
gration of development education in formal and non-formal education
programs in Ireland. Although the synthesis report, published in July
162 Éamonn Casey and Helen O’Neill

2011, found much to praise in the experience to date, nevertheless,

it describes the context in which actors in the field operate and the
implications of reduced resources today for development education
as ‘challenging.’ Irish Aid is demanding change of its NGDO partners.
The same organizations and the same activities have been funded for
years. It is possible that a sense of ‘entitlement’ may be felt by some
of the actors but the reality is that activities funded by Irish Aid under
its various civil society schemes are now required to be results-focused.
Irish Aid is of the opinion that the same conditions should apply as far
as possible to funding received by both the formal and informal actors
for their development education work, however results are defined and
captured in this context.

5.8 NGDO engagement with broad policy issues

Dóchas has made major submissions to the Irish government’s White

Papers on development cooperation, EU development policy, charities
legislation, DAC Peer Reviews, yearly national budget deliberations,
election manifestos, and the Management Review of Irish Aid. In recent
years, it has provided significant inputs on issues and consultations
including, inter alia: the human rights UPR of Ireland, the Department
of Foreign Affairs strategic plan, the new Policy for International
Development, the government’s review of foreign policy, Responsible
Investment through the National Pension Reserve Fund, implementa-
tion of the OECD Anti-Bribery Convention, and the 2014–2016 strategy
of the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland.
Typically led or represented by a small and active few with particular
policy capacity, NGDOs have also actively engaged with Irish Aid in
recent years on the development of Irish Aid policy, its budget, meet-
ing the UN 0.7 per cent target for ODA and advocacy for the MDGs.
In addition, Irish NGDOs have engaged in broad dialogue or narrower
consultation exercises with Irish Aid in relation to development educa-
tion, gender policy, governance, HIV and AIDS, emergency relief, aid
effectiveness, policy coherence for development, civil society role and
space, water and sanitation, UN strategic focus, and the work of the
Hunger Task Force.
In a 2011 submission to the United Nations UPR review of Ireland and
a 2014 submission to the government review of foreign policy, Dóchas
increased its efforts to see development cooperation policy – and
external affairs more broadly – underpinned by a clearly stated human
rights-based approach.
Irish Development NGOs and the Official Aid Program of Ireland 163

5.9 Risks and opportunities in the close relationship

between NGDOs and Irish aid

When the Ireland Aid Review Committee (IARC) published its report
on the Irish aid program in 2002 and made recommendations for new
funding mechanisms for NGDOs, it was as much for transparency as for
efficiency reasons. According to the report, it would ‘ensure that NGOs
and the public have a full picture of the government funding available’
(Government of Ireland, 2002, p. 81).
The IARC report suggested that specific deliverables and monitoring
arrangements be agreed with the NGOs and published and that they
give ‘due recognition’ to Irish Aid by using its logo. It recommended
that, while funding provided to NGDOs should be ‘significantly
increased’ as the aid budget expanded, it should be poverty-focused and
‘subject to the standards for planning, implementation, effectiveness,
evaluation and best practice which apply universally in the Ireland Aid
program’ (ibid., p. 82).
The report also recommended that an NGDO Liaison Unit should
be established within the Irish Aid management structure and that
a Development Forum be established ‘to enhance policy dialogue
between NGDOs and Irish Aid policy-makers at both political and offi-
cial levels’ (ibid., p. 84). Moreover, it recommended that, in the interests
of accountability, legislation on regulation of charities and charitable
fund-raising be enacted ‘as quickly as possible’ (ibid., p. 85).
The result was a huge increase in spending through the NGDOs. Irish
Aid’s annual budget for supporting their activities amounted to over
EUR117 million for project and program activities in 2007. As already
noted, when funding from Irish Aid to NGDOs for work in emergency
and recovery activities as well as human rights and development educa-
tion is taken into account, the total amounts to around 25 per cent of
Irish ODA. This is very high relative to other DAC donors.
The 1999 DAC peer review team, and subsequent peer review teams,
suggested that Ireland should be cautious about increasing substan-
tially the amount of aid channeled through Irish NGDOs, arguing that
they already absorb ‘a relatively large share’ of the aid budget and, in
addition, ‘are generously supported by the Irish public and receive
funding from other sources, such as the EU and United Nations agen-
cies’ (OECD/DAC, 1999, p. 18). It suggested, instead, that additional
funding channeled through NGDOs could be directed toward indig-
enous organizations in developing countries. In contrast, the 2002
IARC report recommended that funding to NGOs should ‘increase
164 Éamonn Casey and Helen O’Neill

significantly as the Ireland Aid budget expands’ (Government of

Ireland, 2002, p. 6).
However, it is notable that the 2009 DAC peer review comments
very favorably on the partnership between Irish Aid and the NGDOs. It
commends the ‘more structured approach’ [of Irish Aid] to civil society
organizations, the framework for larger NGOs which provides more pre-
dictable funding, the focus on results and enhanced engagement with
Southern NGOs which the DAC states are all ‘welcome features of Irish
Aid’s approach’ (OECD/DAC, 2009, p. 26).
Clearly, there remain opportunities and risks for Irish Aid and for
Irish NGDOs (quite apart from concerns as to whether it constitutes a
form of tied aid) in the high level of funding for NGDOs by Irish Aid.
This is especially the case for the NGDOs that are part of multi-annual
program funding arrangements, which bring particular, quite stringent
requirements around organizational focus, priorities and management
for results. For them, as noted by DAC, the scheme provides some sig-
nificant funding predictability. This secures part of their resource base
and helps them to build capacity and work out medium-term strategic
plans. The risks are associated with increased dependence on govern-
ment funding which, in the cases of some of them, now exceeds their
income from their own private fund-raising activities.
Compared to a total non-for-profit sector average of 73 percent (2013,
p. 31) 2into3 has identified a higher than average reliance on state
income within the international NGO sector of 78 percent, although
this appears to be contradicted by NGDOs’ reported levels of voluntary
funding in the Dóchas Members Survey 2012. The danger is that, if
funding from other official sources such as the EU is factored in, some
NGDOs’ dependence on public resources may be so significant that it
raises issues relating to their strategic autonomy and the nature of their
partnership with official aid funders.
For Irish Aid (as noted already on page 142), the risks attached to
spending taxpayers’ money for the benefit of people in other jurisdic-
tions is now spread more widely. On  the other hand, the audit and
evaluation obligations remain unchanged in essence but become more
complex in terms of execution.

5.10 Challenges for the future

As the full reality of Ireland’s economic recession became apparent in

2009, the challenge of protecting Ireland’s development cooperation
program ODA spending and, within that, civil society funding levels
Irish Development NGOs and the Official Aid Program of Ireland 165

assumed greater importance on the agenda of Irish NGDOs. They have

been alarmed, while seeking to remain pragmatically engaged, at the
government’s failure to achieve the UN 0.7 per cent target by its own
2012 deadline (itself postponed from 2007) and then the growing reali-
zation that it would not meet the revised 2015 deadline. That deadline
too was formally dropped in 2014.
As is already clear, Irish NGDOs and their network Dóchas have devel-
oped a close partnership with Irish Aid. Given the severe cuts in ODA
since 2008, maintaining fruitful working relations through a more frac-
tious public discourse, will be a significant challenge in the short and
medium term. Managing the strains arising from the Irish government’s
softer 0.7 per cent commitment and the fact that Irish Aid will be a less
generous source of funding for Irish NGDOs will be a test of the special
relationship that currently exists.
Over time – but especially as Irish Aid has increased its capacity on
policy and practice, and has moved increasingly towards ‘results based’
approaches to programming – NGDOs are no longer seen as the main
repositories of development expertise and experience. Rather, they face
a new challenge, rooted in Irish Aid’s strong support for the donor-
driven aid effectiveness agenda, of demonstrating their own efficiency,
effectiveness and value-added.
The Irish NGDO landscape will probably look very different a decade
from now. More ‘niche’ NGOs will likely have formed coalitions with
like-minded ones. A significant number may have ceased to function
or undergone mergers. A key issue for NGDOs will be to redouble their
efforts to capture, communicate and improve the quality of their work –
their development impact on the ground – to maintain the trust and
support of partners, beneficiaries, stakeholders, the public and politi-
cians, not to mention Irish Aid and other donors.
In an evaluation of the Dóchas strategic plan 2005–2009, interview-
ees identified key changes in the external environment to which Irish
NGDOs and their network will need to respond. These relate to the
funding environment; the demand for public accountability; the weak-
ening of traditional NGO relations with the public; changes in Irish Aid
with its greater focus on outcomes and impact; and the perceived need
to adopt private sector approaches (Table 5.9).
Ó Caoimh identified a danger he called the ‘de-professionalisation
of development work’ (Ó Caoimh, 2008). He argued that the model of
a development worker shifted in the 1980s from missionary to profes-
sional, but that this in turn is now being challenged by the perception
that ‘anybody can do it’. Through changes in transport and technology,
166 Éamonn Casey and Helen O’Neill

many members of the public view development as something that any-

one can do from Ireland, with perhaps a site visit during the summer
holidays. Traditional NGDOs may criticize this ‘voluntourism’ approach
but may not be able to stop the trend. Ó Caoimh suggests that they
need to adapt their methods so that their hard-won learning and exper-
tise is not lost.
Ó Caoimh also argues that the relationship between NGOs and the
public is changing and that many established Irish NGDOs are not
changing with it. A multiplicity of small organizations is emerging
because the traditional NGOs are not adapting themselves to the new
globalized world. Today, the public can act independently of the ‘devel-
opment sector’ and expect to have a hands-on involvement in projects.
The allegiance of the donating public is shifting towards new initiatives
that capture the imagination and allow people to participate. He sug-
gests that without vibrant, engaged relations with the public, many
established NGDOs will stagnate.
The operating environment for Irish NGOs is changing forever with
the establishment of the Charities Regulatory Authority: these chal-
lenges include requirements relating to registration, fundraising permits
and plans, annual reporting on activities and finances, and the respon-
sibilities of trustees. Regulation will be good for charities overall because
it will increase public understanding and confidence in the work NGOs
carry out. Indeed, NGDOs in general appear to be better prepared for
the changes to come than are CSOs in other sectors. Nevertheless, there
will be extra administrative and cost burdens, and some unexpected
difficulties may emerge as the regulator’s work program is implemented
in the coming years.
At the same time, the evolution of Southern CSOs is proceeding and,
in a shifting landscape, Irish NGDOs will be challenged to demonstrate
their evolving value-added and downward accountability. The 2009
DAC Peer Review of Irish Aid specifically encouraged Irish NGDOs to
coordinate more closely and strategically with Irish Aid and with host
governments in DCs for reasons of aid effectiveness. It also encour-
aged Irish NGDOs to build closer partnerships with Southern CSOs to
enhance local ownership and delivery.
The recommendation to enhance coordination and partnership in
the South will probably lead to changes in funding patterns. NGOs
had become more dependent upon Irish government funding before
a difficult correction amid ODA cuts since 2009. Relatively few Irish
NGDOs access substantial EU funding. Indeed, many of the chal-
lenges identified here are common to most Northern NGOs. They are
Irish Development NGOs and the Official Aid Program of Ireland 167

Table 5.9 Selected key challenges facing Irish NGDOs after 2009

Area Challenges

Funding 0.7 percent spend not secured (amid national

economic crisis)
Donors decentralising funding to South – NGOs lose
intermediary role
Finding new sources (beyond official donors)
Increased competition – need to scale and innovate
Economic downturn
Accountability The money trail
Negotiating aid and CSO development effectiveness
Managing for Results
Enhance accountability to beneficiaries/rights holders
Professionalizing/ Building capacities and impact of professional DW’s
De-professionalizing ‘Everyone can do development – on their 2-weeks
Link to public Public want involvement
Traditional NGOs not adjusting, new NGOs responding
Opportunities and threats in new technologies
Dev Ed under scrutiny, underfunded – yet never more
Irish Aid ‘ahead of Policy capacity greater on many thematics
NGOs’ Integrated thinking
Managerial approach
Emphasis on ‘Managing for Results’
Private sector Private sector ‘wants in’ to development
approaches Seen as innovative/effective by politicians and
Capture public imagination/ NGOs may look antiquated
Little critique (beyond some NGOs) of value-added in
development cooperation, sustainability and human
rights challenges, and the need for ODA versus private

Source: Adapted from Ó Caoimh, 2009.

likely to see their intermediary or partnership role change as donor

agencies (including the EU and, over time, their national official aid
agencies) decentralize NGO funding to developing countries. In the
Irish case, Southern NGDOs are likely to source funds independently
of Irish NGDOs, who will then be challenged to evolve and re-orient
themselves southwards, or to build joint projects with new EU member
states, to access funding.
168 Éamonn Casey and Helen O’Neill

A continuing challenge will be the requirement to represent the

NGDO sector and its concerns to Irish society in a unified, more visible
and accessible manner, yet without losing diversity. Dóchas is a vibrant
network of Irish NGDOs, represents most of the key actors and by far
the greatest share by income level, and has opened up to newcom-
ers and smaller actors through its associate membership status (with
lighter requirements). However, its standing as the voice of the sector is
weakened somewhat by representing 57 only of over 170 civil society
organizations that receive funding from Irish Aid, even if not all of these
are Irish CSOs or NGOs.
Other key challenges identified in NGDO visioning documents
and meetings, particularly for development of the Dóchas strategic
plan (2009–2015) include: ensuring continued space for innovation
and diverse approaches; the nature of skills sets and career structures
required for evolving NGDOs; and the emergence of future leaders for
Irish NGDOs.
At the moment, the NGDO sector in Ireland is strong, active and
highly visible in society, and it is much more generously supported
by the official aid program than are its counterparts across Europe.
Irish NGDOs also have broad public and cross-party political sup-
port for their work because tackling global poverty, inequality and
injustice continues to resonate in Irish society. Yet the cuts in ODA
funding in recent years, together with the limited and mixed public
reaction to those cuts, suggest that support may be shallower than it
was in a stronger economic climate. Broad support cannot be taken for
granted and, while starting from a solid base, Irish NGDOs will need
to continually strive for effectiveness and impact in the sector, along
with clear, coherent communication of their message, in order to be
responsive to increasingly demanding stakeholders, public, media,
and politicians.

1. A new White Paper on the Irish aid program, One world, one future: Ireland’s
policy for international development, was published in 2013. It included a
stronger focus on fragile states. The word ‘program country’ was replaced
by ‘Key partner country’ (KPC). Sierra Leone became a KPC and Timor Leste
ceased to be a KPC.
2. DAC is conducting a Peer Review of Ireland’s aid program in 2014. It has
already indicated that it is pleased that Ireland has managed to ‘stabilise’ its
ODA flows and is doing the best it can with the available resources.
3. Irish Aid now tends to use the term Civil Society Organization (CSO) to
describe the actors in the non-governmental development sector. This paper
Irish Development NGOs and the Official Aid Program of Ireland 169

will generally use the term non-governmental development organization

4. The full-member criteria for Dóchas are available at www.Dó
5. Applicants should be development focused; non-profit making and non-
partisan in their aims; operate beyond the local level; have audited accounts
for at least the two previous years; have acceptance among existing Dóchas
members; and indicate acceptance of the NGDO Charter, and the Dóchas
Code of Conduct on Images and Messages.
6. The associate membership criteria for Dóchas are available at www.Dóchas.
7. CIDSE is an international alliance of 17 Catholic development agencies
working together for global justice; Aprodev is the Association of World
Council of Churches-related development organisations in Europe; Eurostep
is a network of autonomous European NGDOs working toward peace, justice
and equality in a world free of poverty.
8. TRIALOG is an organisation, established in 2000, to support CSOs in an
enlarged EU that were active or interested in development cooperation and
development education.
9. O’Neill (1994, p. 135).
10. O’Neill (2000, p. 285).
11. O’Neill (2000, p. 285).
12. OECD/DAC (1999, pp. 290–1).
13. DFA (2002, p. 80).
14. O’Neill (2003, p. 282).
15. DFA (2002, p. 82).
16. O’Neill (2006, p. 193).
17. O’Neill (2006, p. 193; 2007, p. 245).
18. O’Neill (2003, p. 283).
19. SORP, The statement of Recommended Practice, Accounting and Reporting
by Charities (2005), was developed in accordance with Accounting Standards
Board guidelines by the Charities Commission for England and Wales, and
by the Scottish Regulator. While Charities SORP has no jurisdiction outside
the UK, most Irish charities have voluntarily adopted it in order to follow
respected practice in relation to accounting and reporting and to satisfy
their stakeholders, including their funders, in this regard. It is a demanding
system and the directors of Irish NGDOs decide how much of the Charities
SORP is appropriate and warranted for their organisations. It is not appropri-
ate for very small NGDOs.
20. The evidence collected by O’Dwyer and Unerman came from twelve in-
depth semi-structured interviews with individuals from all three of the larg-
est Irish NGDOs, three from the medium-sized NGDOs and two from the
smaller NGDOs. Seven of the eight NGDOs represented by interviewees were
on the board of Dóchas, a thought leader in Irish development education,
and a senior official in the main Irish support organization for develop-
ment aid workers. Further sources of evidence came from analysis of annual
reports of individual NGDOs and Dóchas from 2004 to 2008, Irish Aid
and Dóchas strategy and policy documents, Irish government publications
on development aid, print media coverage and press releases of Irish Aid,
170 Éamonn Casey and Helen O’Neill

Dóchas and the NGDOs interviewed, and external consultant evaluations of

21. See Table 2 in the Review of the 2012 foreign aid program in this issue;
O’Neill (2013a). Only the bilateral part of the expenditure under the emer-
gency and recovery heading is shown in Table 2. Emergency expenditure is
included in Table 3 when it is spent multilaterally.
22. This section leans heavily on O’Neill (2013b).
23. O’Neill (1994, p. 131).
24. Irish Aid, Annual Report 1998, p. 3 and Irish Aid, Annual Report 2003, p. 6.
25. O’Neill (2003, p. 284).
26. O’Neill (2003, p. 284).
27. The site contains a broad range of materials
exploring a variety of development issues and topics, materials, and ideas for
teachers and educators, as well as cartoons and photographs, and campaign
actions (including those on the MDGs and Child Labour).
28. O’Neill (2011, p. 209).

2into3 (2013) Fundraising Performance: The Third Annual Report on Fundraising in
Ireland, (Dublin: 2into3).
Connolly, J. (1979) ‘The Irish Non-Governmental Sector’, Development
Cooperation: Ireland’s Bilateral Aid Program (Dublin: Department of Foreign
Affairs), 27–30.
Corporate Governance Association of Ireland and Dóchas (2008) Irish Development
NGOs Code of Corporate Governance (Dublin: Dóchas), http://www.Dó
Department of Foreign Affairs, Irish Aid (2007a), speech by Minister of State
for Development Cooperation, Mr Michael Kitt, TD, at the launch of the
Special Emergency Funds for NGDOs, Press Release, (29 August), available at (25 September 2008).
Department of Foreign Affairs, Irish Aid (2007b), speech by Minister of State
for Development Cooperation, Mr Michael Kitt, TD, at the Irish Aid/Third-
level education conference in the National University of Ireland Galway, Press
Release (24 November).
Dóchas (2005) A History of Dóchas 1974–2004: The First Thirty Years (Dublin:
Dóchas (2007) Dóchas Member Survey: Consolidated Report (Dublin: Dóchas).
Dóchas (2006a) Dóchas Submission to Irish Aid on Development Education
(Dublin: Dóchas).
Dóchas (2006b) Code of Conduct on Images and Messages (Dublin: Dóchas).
Dóchas (2010) 2009 Annual Report (Dublin: Dóchas) (March).
Dóchas (2011a) Dóchas Report on a Review of Annual Reports and Financial
Statements of Dóchas Members (Dublin: Dóchas).
Dóchas (2011b), Submission to the United Nations Universal Periodic Review of
Ireland, Twelfth Session of the Working Group on the UPR, Human Rights Council,
6 October 2011 (Dublin: Dóchas).
Dóchas (2012), Members Survey 2012 (Dublin: Dóchas).
Irish Development NGOs and the Official Aid Program of Ireland 171

Dóchas (2013), Situations Vacant: An Analysis of Jobs Advertised in ‘Wednesday

News’ 2007–2011 (Dublin: Dóchas).
Dóchas (2014), A Submission to the Review by the Department of Foreign Affairs and
Trade of Ireland’s Foreign Policy and External Relations (Dublin: Dóchas).
Government of Ireland, Department of Foreign Affairs (1996) Challenges and
Opportunities Abroad: White Paper on Foreign Policy (Dublin: Department of
Foreign Affairs).
Government of Ireland/Department of Foreign Affairs (2002) Ireland Aid Review
Committee (Dublin: Department of Foreign Affairs), p. 80.
Government of Ireland, Department of Foreign Affairs (2006) White Paper on Irish
Aid (Dublin: Department of Foreign Affairs).
Government of Ireland, Joint Oireachtas Committee (2008) Interim Report on
Irish Aid,
Government of Ireland, Department of Foreign Affairs (2013) One World, One
Future: Ireland’s Policy for International Development (Dublin: Department of
Foreign Affairs).
INKEx (2012), ‘Irish Nonprofits: What Do We Know? A Report by Irish Nonprofits
Knowledge Exchange’. Available online at: http://www.irishnonprofits.
Irish Development Education Association (2010), IDEA Submission on Funding
Instruments for Development Education (Dublin: IDEA).
Joint Oireachtas Committee (2008) Interim Report on Irish Aid, available at www. 30thdail/pac/reports/20080722.pdf.
McEvoy, P. (2009) Draft final report: Evaluation of Irish Aid – Dóchas Partnership
2006–2008 (Dublin: Dóchas).
Ó Caoimh, C. (2008) Evaluation of Dóchas Strategic Plan 2005–2009 (Dublin:
Ó Caoimh, C. (2009) Key Challenges in the Development Environment (Dublin:
O’Dwyer, B. and Unerman, J. (2009) ‘Enhancing the role of accountability in
promoting the rights of beneficiaries of development NGOs’, paper presented
at a Manchester Business School seminar, 27 May.
OECD/DAC (1999) Ireland (Development Cooperation Peer Review Series) (Paris:
OECD/DAC (2009) Ireland (Development Cooperation Peer Review Series) (Paris:
O’Neill, H. (1984) ‘Irish aid: Policy and Performance’, in O. Stokke (ed.), European
Development Assistance: Policy and Performance, Volume 1 (Tilburg: European
Association of Development Research and Training Institutes and Norwegian
Institute of International Affairs), 239–61.
O’Neill, H. (1995) ‘Ireland’s Foreign Aid in 1994’, Irish Studies in International
Affairs, 6, 185–98 (Dublin: Royal Irish Academy).
O’Neill, H. (2000) ‘Ireland’s Foreign Aid in 1999’, Irish Studies in International
Affairs, 11, 277–93 (Dublin: Royal Irish Academy).
O’Neill, H. (2003) ‘Ireland’s Foreign Aid in 2002’, Irish Studies in International
Affairs, 14, 267–92 (Dublin: Royal Irish Academy).
172 Éamonn Casey and Helen O’Neill

O’Neill, H. (2006) ‘Ireland’s Foreign Aid in 2005’, Irish Studies in International

Affairs, 17, 183–202 (Dublin: Royal Irish Academy).
O’Neill, H. (2007) ‘Ireland’s Foreign Aid in 2006’, Irish Studies in International
Affairs, 18, 231–55 (Dublin: Royal Irish Academy).
O’Neill, H. (2011) ‘Ireland’s Foreign Aid in 2010’, Irish Studies in International
Affairs, 22, 187–223 (Dublin: Royal Irish Academy).
O’Neill, H. (2013a) ‘Ireland’s Foreign Aid in 2012’, Irish Studies in International
Affairs, 24, (Dublin: Royal Irish Academy).
O’Neill, H. (2013b) ‘The Evolution of Ireland’s Foreign Aid over the past 20 years:
A ‘Review of ISIA Reviews’ since 1994’, (Dublin: Royal Irish Academy)
The Wheel (2014) A Portrait of Ireland’s Non-Profit Sector (Dublin: The Wheel,
published in partnership with Crowe Horwath).
From Favoritism via Abundance
to Austerity–NGDO-government
Relations in the Netherlands
Lau Schulpen and Paul Hoebink

6.1 Introduction

In the relationship between the Dutch government and non-governmental

development cooperation in the Netherlands, a few years stand out: 1965
(when large-scale government funding for Dutch non-governmental
development organizations (NGDOs) started); 1980 (the introduction
of core funding for Dutch NGDOs); 1999 (the opening up of the co-
financing system to a wider range of Dutch NGDOs); 2003 (the first
step in restructuring the funding of NGDOs with the introduction of
major new grant schemes); 2006–2007 (the next step in the restructur-
ing, with the merger of the two most important schemes); 2008 (with a
more polarized political debate on the future of NGDO funding in the
Netherlands); and 2011–2013 with cutbacks in government subsidy and
announcements of even further reductions from 2016 onwards. This list
shows that more changes have been introduced in the grant systems
since 2000 than in the thirty-five years before.1
This indicates that the real debate on the importance of private aid
and NGDO funding in the Netherlands is relatively new. Of course,
there were discussions in earlier periods as well, but in the new mil-
lennium they have not only speeded up but also seem to be more fun-
damental, more critical and (at least for the financial survival of many
NGDOs) more threatening. A look at one of the latest policy papers of
the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on NGDOs, calling for a halt to the frag-
mentation of these organizations (which the ministry anyway helped
create, see below) might suffice to illustrate the new climate. However,
the proposals of some political parties during the 2010 elections to halve
or even to reduce the budget for development cooperation to zero and/
or to be far more restrictive towards NGDOs are also a case in point.2

174 Lau Schulpen and Paul Hoebink

This article moves away from these discussions and sets out to pro-
vide an overview of the history, characteristics and underlying ideas
about non-governmental aid organizations and their relationship with
the Dutch government. Section 1 takes a birds-eye view of the Dutch
NGDO landscape concentrating on what is generally called the civi-
lateral channel for development cooperation but introducing a fourth
channel of alternative (and sometimes new) non-governmental actors
in development. Next, in Section 2 we take a look at the official (and
perhaps unofficial) view and perspective of the Dutch government
regarding the civilateral channel, followed in Section 3 by an analysis
of the government’s funding schemes for NGDOs, on the basis of a
few main characteristics. One of these characteristics (public support)
is the topic of Section 4. Finally, Section 5 delves into the evaluation
of aid by NGDOs and shows the major results from a cross-section of
evaluation studies.

6.2 Non-governmental aid agencies in perspective

The Dutch civilateral sector consists of diverse non-governmental aid

organizations active in various fields, including public support in the
Netherlands itself, sending out experts, support for development pro-
jects in the South, research and lobby campaigns. In one of the first
attempts to map this sector, Kruijt et al. (1983) distinguished between
‘recognized’ (for example, the four major NGDOs receiving government
grants, see Section 2 below) and ‘categoral’ development organizations.
They described the latter as consisting of ‘more than 100 foundations,
institutes and committees which are active in aid outside of the official
aid system’ but which have some common characteristics (e.g., a strong
base in Dutch society, funding primarily from the general public and
principally supporting small-scale projects from a strong social and
political commitment and a minimum of bureaucratic procedures).
This ‘categoral’ group included different types of organizations, includ-
ing labor unions, country-based solidarity committees, church-based
organizations, women’s groups and local governments.
Twenty-five years on, this initial categorization has to be reviewed,
not only because some of the groups, for example country solidarity
groups (Beerends, 1993), have largely disappeared and many others
have joined the ‘government funding drip’, but also (and mainly)
because other actors have emerged which are more difficult to fit into a
simple dichotomy. The once fairly surveyable Dutch non-governmental
development community has thus become much more complex.
From Favoritism via Abundance to Austerity 175

In % Absolute













Figure 6.1 Founding years of Dutch NGDOs (N=188)
Source: Websites of the NGDOs concerned.

One way of illustrating this is by looking at the early years of Dutch

NGDOs. Restricting this to 188 NGDOs taken from the CBF website (see
below), Figure 6.1 shows that, while some organizations date back to
the nineteenth century, more than 40 per cent started operations later
than 1990. It shows the majority to be relatively young. All in all, the
table shows a continuous emergence of new NGDOs combined with the
persistence of the older ones.
Another, and more fundamental, illustration of the growing com-
plexity is provided by the emergence of more sectoral organizations,
like WEMOS (health), cultural institutes like the Prince Claus Fund,
emergency organizations like Doctors Without Borders, environmen-
tal associations like Milieudefensie and IUCN Netherlands, as well as
development organizations linked to private businesses (e.g., Triodos
Bank, Oikonomos) or working on a more corporate basis (Solidaridad,
Fair Trade). Their activities are characterized by three common denomi-
nators (Schulpen and Hoebink, 2001). First, they support development
interventions (projects) implemented by local organizations (their
partners) in developing countries. The funding for these interventions
occasionally comes from the government but in many cases also from
donations by the general public. Second, they are involved in public
support and, more broadly, building awareness about development and
developing countries in the Netherlands. Third, many of them send out
176 Lau Schulpen and Paul Hoebink

volunteers and/or experts and are therefore active in the field of techni-
cal assistance (also see Hoebink and Van der Velden, 2001).
Another way of categorizing Dutch NGDOs is by a division between
intervention strategies. For a long time, three of these strategies have
been distinguished: 1) direct poverty reduction, 2) civil society build-
ing, and 3) lobby and advocacy. Although these strategies are central in
the discussion on NGDO-government relations (and particularly in the
restructuring of the government’s grant system, see section 4 below),
they are not used as a means to distinguish between individual NGDOs.
A survey by CIDIN covering ninety-four Dutch non-governmental
agencies overall shows that they still consider direct poverty reduc-
tion as the most important strategy in fighting poverty. Interestingly,
the ministry emphasizes the more political strategies of civil society
building and lobbying/advocacy. Besides, in the discussion on these
intervention strategies, additional strategies have been added in later
years. This holds, for instance, for public support with its focus on the
Netherlands. Public support is also one of the three additional strategies
distinguished by the NGDO branch organization Partos (the two others
are networking and research/knowledge provision).
Others differentiate between NGDOs on the basis of their different
roles. Potentially, this is a useful way of gaining an insight into the
Dutch NGDO landscape. Various authors suggest different categories.
De Wal (2009), for instance, distinguishes six different roles: consultant,
banker, networker, aid provider, activist and entrepreneur. Grotenhuis
(2009) distinguishes between roles and functions, identifying three
roles: 1) service provider (direct poverty reduction), 2) ‘the voice in soci-
etal and political debate’ (influencing policy and civil society building),
and 3) a combination of service delivery and voice. He then specifies
six functions of civil society, mainly as a way of showing what he feels
will be changing for Northern NGDOs: funding, knowledge develop-
ment and knowledge-sharing, partnering the state and businesses, net-
working, lobbying and influencing policy, and, finally, a specific role
in effecting changes in the North. Finally, Partos (which had some 120
member organizations in 2012) distinguishes five different roles ‘within
the cooperation chain’: advisor, financier, intermediary, knowledge cen-
tre, and (co-)implementing organization.
Combining these different authors would produce six different roles
(see Table 6.1). Unfortunately, such an exercise is of little use as long
as there is insufficient data to place one NGDO under one role and
another under a different one. None of the authors mentioned provides
From Favoritism via Abundance to Austerity 177

Table 6.1 Roles of NGDOs – a typology

Role Description/main activities

1 Financer Funding of Southern partners for their develop-

ment interventions.
2 Advisor Capacity building, knowledge collection and dis-
semination, linking Southern organizations to
knowledge, expert advice
3 Implementer Implementing own activities. This is most
common in humanitarian and reconstruction
interventions as well as in more entrepreneurial
activities (e.g., fair trade).
4 Networker Bringing organizations (governmental, non-gov-
ernmental and commercial) together to increase
cooperation and complementarity
5 Lobbyist Influencing policies of governments, inter-govern-
mental organizations, multilateral agencies and
companies through lobby and advocacy
6 Changing the North Promoting changes in the North with a view to
contributing to development in the South. Public
support activities are an important part of this role.
Source: Based on Schulpen and Hoebink (2001), De Wal (2009), Grotenhuis (2009),
database Partos.

such data. Moreover, all seem to be reluctant to go beyond naming dif-

ferent roles and are obviously unwilling (or unable) to provide a classi-
fication of the NGDO sector in the Netherlands in which organizations
are clearly placed under one specific role. In addition, their proclaimed
uniqueness would make such a categorization a politically sensitive
endeavor, while the diversity of NGDOs and the acknowledgment that
each one of them may have characteristics belonging to several of these
roles would make it extremely difficult even if sufficient data were
available. De Wal (2009), for instance, shows that the majority of the
seventy-six Dutch NGDOs in her study regard themselves as consultants
in the first place, closely followed by the roles of banker and networker.
The general lack of data does not mean that Dutch NGDOs are
obscure by nature. Several sources provide an increasing insight into
specific characteristics of these organizations Apart from their indi-
vidual websites presenting data and documents, there are essentially
three databases available (from Partos, CIDIN and CBF) which provide
specific information on the civilateral channel (or the third aid channel
alongside bilateral and multilateral aid). All three databases have their
178 Lau Schulpen and Paul Hoebink

strengths and limitations. Apart from the fact that they concentrate on
different characteristics, they also cover different NGDOs.
The Partos database is restricted to its own members and strongly con-
centrates on their self-proclaimed sectoral, target group, strategic and
country expertise. Furthermore, it provides information on their sources
of funding (as does CBF, see below). Interestingly, it also provides data
on the gross salaries of the different NGDOs. There is considerable dis-
cussion about whether NGDOs have high overhead costs (in the public
debate usually referred to as ‘rake-off’). If these overhead costs are taken
here as all salary costs,3 the data for 90 Partos members show them to
be on average 10 per cent of the total budget. There are, however, huge
differences between NGDOs, with salaries ranging from 2 to 65 per cent
of the total budget. Figure 6.2 shows that more than half of the Partos
members are in the 2–20 per cent bracket. In the public debate such
differences can easily be used to support the idea of high rake-offs. In
reality, however, they should primarily be seen as reflecting the differ-
ent types of organizations. In other words, they most likely express the
different roles played by NGDOs.
The CIDIN NGDO database in 2011 covers eighty-one organizations
and includes data derived from CBF and Partos. In addition, it covers
country-specific and sectoral (according to DAC sectors) expenditures.
It shows that 8 per cent of total NGDO funds was spent on global or
regional programs and projects. The remaining 92 per cent was used in

Number of Partos members % of Partos members

2% – 10% 11% – 20% 21% – 30% 31% – 40% 41% – 50% 51% – 60% 61% – 70%

Figure 6.2 Salaries as % of total budget (2007) (Partos members, absolute and in
percentage, N=90)
Source: CIDIN NGDO database. Own calculations on the basis of Partos data.
From Favoritism via Abundance to Austerity 179

specific countries. Congo DR ranked first with slightly more than 4 per
cent of total expenditure, followed by Haiti, Kenya and India. In total,
country-specific expenditure by Dutch NGDOs went to 113 different
countries. Panama foots the list, receiving only one thousand euros. In
terms of Dutch NGDO aid per capita Haiti is by far the main recipient,
with slightly less than EUR4 per capita. In sectoral terms, humanitarian
aid was the most important, with more than 18 per cent of all expendi-
ture, followed by government & civil society (17 per cent), agriculture
(11 per cent), health (10 per cent), and education (8 per cent). Contrary
to the expenditure data of bilateral donors, Dutch NGDOs have a minor
unallocated and unspecified item (3 per cent).
The CBF database covers more than 600 non-governmental organiza-
tions active in the field of international aid. Their total budget over 2011
comes close to EUR1.5 billion. Table 6.2, however, shows that there are
a few large organizations and hundreds of (substantially) smaller ones.
The 30 biggest and most well-known NGOs in Table 6.2 taken together
already have a budget of more than EUR1.1 billion. Besides, the six
biggest ones (including the four NGDOs – Oxfam Novib, Icco, Cordaid,
and Hivos – formerly known as the co-financing organizations or MFOs)
account for 63 per cent of total government grants. Table 6.2 also shows
that, for the 30 organizations covered here, government grants are the
most important source of income (43 per cent). This includes, of course,
contributions from the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, as well as from
other governments (e.g., the UK or Germany), local authorities in the
Netherlands, other ministries, and the European Union. Dependence
on government grants varies substantially per organization, ranging
from 3.1 per cent in the case of Kerk in Actie to around 98 per cent for
Agriterra. Section 3 (Funding schemes) takes a closer look at this govern-
ment funding of NGDOs concentrating on DGIS.
The same six organizations that take up more than half of the total
income also account for 41 per cent of private fundraising for these
30 organizations. According to the bi-annual survey ‘Giving in the
Netherlands’ (Schuyt et al., 2013) which aims to cover all private dona-
tions to charitable organizations, the total contribution to international
aid in 2011 was EUR569 million. The major part of that (49 per cent)
comes from households in the Netherlands, followed by lotteries (22
per cent),4 and estates (13 per cent). International aid was the third
charitable goal, after churches (€806 million, with 92 per cent coming
from households) and sports and recreation (€702 million, 5 per cent).
Data for the period 1995–2011 shows some fluctuations between these
different goals, with international aid generally coming third or fourth
180 Lau Schulpen and Paul Hoebink

Table 6.2 The 30 largest Dutch NGDOs – total budget for 2008 (showing sources
of funding) – in euros

Instelling Total Own fund- Government Other

raising grants (in %
(in % total) (in % total) total)

Artsen zonder Grenzen 171.901.000 25,1% 10,2% 64,6%

Oxfam Novib 129.316.000 21,4% 51,5% 27,1%
Cordaid 111.694.000 33,5% 46,0% 20,5%
Hivos 99.668.000 1,5% 91,3% 7,1%
Rode Kruis 97.214.000 48,1% 27,2% 24,7%
ICCO 70.336.826 0,3% 89,0% 10,7%
Plan Nederland 44.993.000 69,6% 13,1% 17,2%
ZOA 40.924.137 19,9% 69,8% 10,3%
Kerk in Actie 40.400.000 58,0% 3,1% 38,9%
Woord en Daad 32.235.786 60,4% 28,9% 10,7%
CARE Nederland 30.545.151 10,1% 89,4% 0,5%
SOS Kinderdorpen 22.161.187 72,7% 11,7% 15,6%
Liliane Fonds 19.742.750 86,5% 6,0% 7,5%
Dorcas Hulp 19.624.708 87,9% 3,7% 8,3%
Humanitas 19.096.033 6,5% 59,1% 34,5%
War Child 18.545.591 60,7% 29,3% 10,0%
Wilde Ganzen/IKON 18.443.113 81,7% 6,7% 11,7%
Terre des Hommes 17.462.851 52,9% 29,0% 18,1%
Save the Children 16.100.996 20,4% 65,3% 14,3%
Simavi 15.843.000 15,7% 69,2% 15,1%
Solidaridad 15.105.417 31,3% 58,6% 10,1%
Edukans 14.084.964 56,8% 41,5% 1,7%
Vluchteling 13.717.564 43,8% 14,1% 42,1%
IKV Pax Christi 12.274.709 5,4% 83,7% 10,9%
Kinderpostzegels 11.594.855 85,0% 9,4% 5,6%
Red een Kind 11.535.147 71,1% 26,3% 2,5%
Free Press Unlimited 11.077.495 15,7% 79,1% 5,2%
ICS 10.558.033 17,2% 79,2% 3,6%
Mensen met een Missie 10.179.799 56,6% 43,5% −0,2%
Agriterra 9.953.378 0,6% 97,9% 1,5%
Total 1.156.329.490 33,0% 43,2% 23,8%
Source: CIDIN NGDO database (CBF data).
From Favoritism via Abundance to Austerity 181

Table 6.3 Income of charity funds in the Netherlands (in millions of euros)

Charity Report Giving in the


Destination 2007 2011 2007 2011

Churches and religions – – 1,001 806
International assistance 882 1,116 545 569
Sport and recreation – - 687 702
Welfare and culture 562 623 –
Culture – – 386 287
Social Welfare – – 575 525
Health 301 353 479 487
Nature and environment 261 226 375 376
Education and research – – 295 150
Non-specified – – 216 349
Total 2,006 2,318 4,559 4,252
Note: The figure of EUR742 million for 2005 (Geven in Nederland) is higher than the regular
share of international assistance due to the tsunami.
Source: VFI (2006, 2007); Schuyt et al. (2013).

with (since 1999) a relatively stable share of around EUR500 million

annually (ibid., p. 15). The Charity Report (Goede Doelen Rapport) of the
association of fundraisers (VFI) indicates an even higher level of dona-
tions for international assistance (VFI, 2012) (see also Table 6.3). Despite
the fact that different sources show different figures on private funding
for development, it is likely that they all still underestimate the finan-
cial support of Dutch citizens for development cooperation. One of the
main reasons for this is that the data does not include, or only partly
includes, fundraising by citizens’ small (private) initiatives.

6.2.1 The philanteral channel

Although most discussions (certainly in the Netherlands) concentrate
on the ‘professional NGDOs’ discussed above, the world of develop-
ment cooperation is no longer restricted to the ‘usual suspects’ of
NGDOs, ministries for development cooperation and multilateral
organizations. Apart from a growing proliferation in these organiza-
tions with new bilateral donors joining the ranks (e.g., China, Brazil,
India, Turkey) and new multilateral funds being created every year, the
number and scale of ‘unusual suspects’ becoming active in develop-
ment cooperation is staggering (see also Schulpen et al., 2011). Under
182 Lau Schulpen and Paul Hoebink

the banner of ‘socialization of international aid’, these are referred to as

the ‘fourth pillar’ (Develtere and Stessens, 2006, Develtere, 2009) or the
‘philanteral channel’ (Kinsbergen and Schulpen, 2010, 2011).
As with the three existing channels this philanteral channel is
extremely diverse. To shed some light on this diversity a distinction
can be made between organizations for which development coopera-
tion is not the main activity and those for which it is (see also Brok
and Bouzoubaa, 2005; Schulpen, 2007). The first group contains, in
principle, all social organizations and institutes active in aid but for
which development cooperation is not a primary task. They distinguish
themselves from other channels (and especially from the civilateral
channel) by their different history. They did not come into being to
work in North-South relations, but were already professional players in
their own field. Within this sub-group of the philanteral channel, we
can distinguish three different agents: 1) (semi-)government services
(in this case, police, fire brigade); 2) social, non-profit organizations
(schools, hospitals, migrant organizations, trade unions); and 3) organ-
izations linked to business (water companies, banks, multinational
Perhaps the most important feature of these institutional agents is
that, generally, they enter the field of development cooperation in
their own field of expertise. Although there are certainly exceptions,
fire departments partner with fire departments in developing countries,
schools are active in the educational field, hospitals in the area of health
and water companies will direct their efforts in the first place towards
development projects in water and sanitation. In other words, ‘starting
from their own field (institutional structure) they develop development
activities, often with similar organizations in the same sector in the
South’ (De Bruyn and Huyse, 2009, p. 18).
The general impression is that, over the past decade, an increasing
number of these membership and/or professional groups have become
active in development cooperation activities as donors and/or imple-
menting organizations. However, exact figures are not available. The
same applies to the second group of ‘new actors’ distinguished here –
those that have specifically been set up for the purposes of development
cooperation. Although the organizations in this group may be based on
specific professions, their development activities are not connected to a
specific professional group, company, (semi-) government institution or
the like. Different types falling under this group include political lobby
groups (e.g., anti-globalists), temporary volunteers, and citizens active
in fundraising activities.5
From Favoritism via Abundance to Austerity 183

Two other groups deserve special mention here because they are
either considered to be major players or because some initial research
has been done on them. The first of these is charitable foundations or,
more accurately, millionaire philanthropists. Charitable foundations,
according to De Haan (2009, p. 21), represent ‘the biggest change to the
aid industry’. Although several publications and television documenta-
ries identify a rise in philanthropy in the Netherlands and internation-
ally, that may be true for broad segments of the Dutch population but
not necessarily for the super-rich. Some rich philanthropists are active,
particularly in the health, culture and sports sectors, but their number
in development cooperation is limited. However, there are a number of
Dutch philanthropic foundations involved in financing development.
One of the oldest and perhaps most professional is the Bernhard van
Leer Foundation, established by and named after the founder of the Van
Leer packaging empire. The foundation, which focuses on early child-
hood and child rights projects, has an income from venture capital of
EUR23 million and a project portfolio of EUR18.5 million. Other foun-
dations have more limited resources (also see Table 6.4).
The second type refers to that subsection of the philanteral channel
known in the Netherlands as private initiatives (PIs) broadly defined as
concrete development interventions conducted by groups of citizens
(Schulpen, 2007). Many (if not all) PIs are also active in the field of
public support in the Netherlands (albeit for a large part for fundrais-
ing reasons. See also Smeets, 2009), but their main raison d’être is their
contribution to development in the South. Research (Kinsbergen and
Schulpen, 2010, 2011) shows that PIs in the Netherlands are largely run
by volunteers over the age of 50, have been set up over the last 20 years,
and receive the larger part of their funding from the general public.
On average, Dutch PIs have an annual budget of some EUR50,000. The
majority of them work in only one developing country (with Kenya,
India and Ghana topping the list) where they concentrate on activities
in the field of health and education. Within their activities they have
a strong preference for concrete interventions aimed at direct poverty
reduction, like teaching aids, building schools and digging wells.

6.3 Guidelines before vision: the NGDO policy of the

Dutch government

Given the large number of Dutch non-governmental organizations

in the field of international cooperation (whether they fall under the
civilateral or philanteral channel) and the long history of government
184 Lau Schulpen and Paul Hoebink

Table 6.4 Dutch foundations active in the field of development cooperation

Foundation Financial Fields of support (e.g.)

(million €)

1 Bernhard van Leer Foundation n.a. Early childhood,

(1949) health, education
2 African Parks Foundation 100 Game Parks, Amnesty
(2000)/Ank van Vlissingen International, cancer
Foundation (1980) research
3 De Waal Foundation (1985) 50 Pre-natal care and
prevention of birth
4 Jade Foundation (1988) 100 Rehabilitation of poor
5 Oikonomos Foundation (1994)/ 10 Education, Private
Naober Foundation (2000) Sector Development,
micro credit, religious
6 Foundation for Earth, Mankind 100 Education, microcredit
through Inspiration and
Initiative (1995)
7 Stichting The Home Foundation n.a. Ecology, wildlife
(1991)/Ex’tent (1996) protection
8 Peace Flame Foundation n.a. Post-war social recon-
(1994)/Fred Foundation (1996) n.a. struction, malaria
9 Johan Cruijff Foundation (1997) n.a. Sport, handicapped
10 D.O.B. Foundation (1997) n.a. Social entrepreneurship
11 Breukhoven Foundation n.a. Orphans
12 The Good Shepherd Foundation n.a. Water supply, midi-
(2002) credit, income gen-
eration, old aged,
handicapped children
14 Wereld foundation (2004) n.a. Housing
15 Dirk Kuyt Foundation (2005) n.a. Sport
16 Turing Foundation (2006) 100 Children, nature,
culture, education
17 SOVEC (2007) 10 Small and medium
Sources: Websites of the foundations, some with annual reports. Articles: Management Team,
19 December 2003; De Nieuwe Revu, 27 April 2007; Internationale Samenwerking, October
2007; Van Immerzeelen and Van Benthem (2007, pp. 74–82).
From Favoritism via Abundance to Austerity 185

funding to NGDOs (see section 3 below), it is somewhat surprising to

note that the government vision on ‘non-governmental aid’ has always
been rather haphazard and unclear. This did not change until the gov-
ernment presented its first ‘NGDO policy paper’ in 2001 (DGIS, 2001a).
As the outcome of a dialogue between the ministry and NGDOs, this
paper, entitled ‘Civil society and structural poverty reduction’, called for
increased complementarity between different channels of aid and for
fighting poverty by facilitating (self-)organization, combining strengths
and organizing countervailing power. Taking as a starting point the idea
that CSOs are not the implementing arm of government policy, the
paper still indicates that governments have a role to play by creating
an enabling environment in which civil society can flourish. What is
important is the idea that CSOs are autonomous organizations and that
Southern CSOs can best be supported by their northern civil society
counterparts. This requires northern CSOs to be autonomous, which
means that the Dutch government should not impose its own policy
upon them, even when it is funding their activities. Finally, the policy
paper emphasized the need for core funding, as this was seen as befit-
ting the autonomous role of CSOs.
Although the policy paper clearly expresses some of the core ele-
ments of the Dutch government’s official view towards NGDOs (e.g.,
respecting their autonomy on the basis of acknowledging their values,
visions, objectives and strategies), it shows that NGDO policy in the
Netherlands is inseparable from the funding of NGDOs by the Dutch
government. In that sense, TMF (theme-based co-financing) and MFS
(co-financing) policies are often seen as the next steps in policy formu-
lation, notwithstanding their primary focus on regulating and structur-
ing government funding of Dutch and international NGDOs. More
interestingly, the 2001 paper quickly disappeared from the table and
was not referred to in the TMF and MFS policy documents. Obviously,
these co-financing ‘policies’ did not need the 2001 consensus paper
and in fact rode roughshod over some of its main points of departure,
including core funding.6
More recently, the 2001 policy paper resurfaced. In the 2008 dialogue
it was used as one of the background papers for the discussion on the
new NGDO policy (read: the new NGDO funding policy) and was
referred to on several occasions. Whereas this was quite understand-
able for NGDOs, which embrace the paper, it was less understandable
for the ministry, which had ignored it for several years. At the same
time, one can wonder what exactly the revival of the 2001-paper meant
186 Lau Schulpen and Paul Hoebink

in practice. In his opening speech at the start of the dialogue, then

minister Bert Koenders set out the contours of his new NGDO policy.
Although the dialogue certainly helped to fine-tune the policy further,
the policy note that came out in April 2009 was largely a continuation
of issues raised in that opening speech (DGIS, 2009a).
These issues can broadly be grouped under three headings: 1) changes
in the environment, 2) political role is central, 3) funding directives.
The first concerns the context-specific developments that impact on
Northern NGDOs. At the same time these developments provide the
justification for the change in policy. The heading includes such issues
as the emergence of new actors in the field of development (e.g., the
socialization of development aid (as described in Section 1), the re-
emergence of governments as central development actors, the spread
and impact of international crises (economic and financial, food secu-
rity, climate), changes in the aid architecture (Paris agenda), and the
expanded capacity of Southern civil society organizations, enabling
them to engage independently and increasingly in the same type of
activities as their Northern counterparts. Of course, it is also neces-
sary to take account of specific developments in the Netherlands itself
(including changes in official development policy), with a strong focus
on the need to fine-tune the actions of different actors under the ban-
ner of complementarity, and of specific thematic choices (for women’s
rights, reproductive health, peace & security, etc.) (DGIS, 2009a, pp.
3–7; see also Stuurgroep Dialoog, 2008; Schulpen, 2009).
The second heading refers to the vision of the role of NGDOs in devel-
opment cooperation, including some more critical reflections. Here, the
importance of NGDOs is stressed, repeating some well-known views on
their role. NGDOs are seen as important because of their independent
role, their closeness to the poor, their bottom-up approach combined
with promoting good governance and democracy in a globalizing world,
their values and orientation, their constituencies and accountability
structures, etc. In other words, NGDOs are seen as having an added value
compared to other players. Two central roles are distinguished (service
delivery and a political role) and one derivative role (in public support).
If there is any individuality in the Dutch government’s vision of
NGDOs, it has to be sought in the centrality of their political role.
While the importance of the service delivery role is downplayed by the
idea that delivering services is the primary responsibility of govern-
ments and that NGDO involvement is dependent on the context cre-
ated by governments in a specific country, the political role is seen as
From Favoritism via Abundance to Austerity 187

intrinsically relevant. That makes the components of the political role

(contributing to democratization by strengthening civil society and lob-
bying & advocacy) NGDOs’ most crucial tasks. This political role then
includes lobby and advocacy activities on an international level and in
their home countries.
Four years down the line, the new minister for international trade and
development cooperation, Liliane Ploumen, in 2013 issued a new policy
paper on the cooperation with civil society (DGIS, 2013). In broad terms,
it repeats the first two headings of the 2009 paper while placing emphasis
on the growing strength of Southern civil society, the consequent emer-
gence of new forms of cooperation, and changes in funding sources for
development as elements impacting on Northern NGDOs. Regarding the
role of NGDOs, the new policy paper even more strongly focuses on their
‘advocating and influencing role’; put differently, their political role.
The third heading of the 2009 policy paper essentially addresses the
directives, or the do’s and don’ts, to which NGDOs have to adhere if
they (at least in the eyes of the ministry) wish to contribute to the
development process in the South. It is here that the policy moves into
the funding policies, making the directives essentially criteria for receiv-
ing financial support from the government. In the second co-financing
grant policy framework (MFS-2) of July 2009 (DGIS, 2009d), the gen-
eral ideas of cooperation, added value and ‘customization’ underlying
NGDO policy are translated into sixty-seven criteria spread over five
tests. A grant application that fails on one of these tests will automati-
cally be rejected. A large number of these criteria are similar to those
used in earlier grant schemes and are essentially an assessment of the
strength of the implementing organization and the quality of the pro-
posed program. Other criteria, however, are of a different nature. They
are not related to content and are only included to achieve some of the
additional objectives of the NGDO policy.
The clearest of these additional objectives is the desire to use grants
as an instrument to reduce fragmentation in the NGDO sector. It is for
this reason that organizations that submit individual proposals are at
a disadvantage from the start as they can never earn any points in the
‘alliance test’. The fact that fewer NGDOs can receive a grant and that
the maximum grant amount has been reduced and the minimum raised
are all part of this drive to combat fragmentation. In November 2011,
it turned out that nineteen alliances survived the MFS-2 assessment
process. These nineteen cover a total of sixty-six different organizations
meaning that the number of organizations being subsidized under this
188 Lau Schulpen and Paul Hoebink

major government scheme came down with twenty (under MFS-1, and
including the so-called ‘young & innovative’ scheme (see below), a total
of eighty-six different organizations were funded). As such, the ministry
succeeded in reducing the number of subsidized NGDOs. Whether that
also means they managed to reduce the feared, condemned or admired
fragmentation of the NGDO sector in the Netherlands is doubtful,
however.7 The discussion on this will undoubtedly continue and is of
particular interest because, as the next section will argue, the fragmenta-
tion has partly been created by the ministry itself.

6.4 Funding non-governmental aid organizations

As noted before, the largest Dutch NGDOs in particular are heavily

dependent on government funding. In fact, between 1989 and 2009,
the Dutch government directly funded over 570 different Dutch and
international NGDOs out of the development budget (Schulpen et al.,
2009). Dutch government funding to NGDOs, however, dates back as
far as 1965 when a small part of the development budget was first set
aside for assistance through non-governmental aid agencies. Initially
this scheme funded three private aid organizations – catholic (Cebemo,
later Cordaid), protestant (Icco) and non-religious (Novib, later Oxfam
Novib). Later a humanistic organization (Hivos) was included. These
four organizations were financed for the projects they proposed, but
in the beginning of the 1980s they were financed on a programmatic
This system, known as the Co-financing Program (MFP), essentially
remained intact up to 2002, at the end funding five NGDOs.8 In 2002,
the MFP block grant system was replaced by a system in which organiza-
tions had to apply for funds and were assessed beforehand. Known as
MFP-broad, this system funded a total of six NGDOs (including the five
that were already in MFP). In the same year, a smaller funding scheme
(known as the Theme-based Co-financing Scheme or TMF) was added
for smaller and, as its name indicates, more theme-based NGDOs. The
structure of TMF was different from that of MFP-broad if only because
there was not a single round for applying for support, but annual
rounds. Between 2003 and 2006, four TMF rounds were held, leading to
some 225 NGDOs receiving a grant. In contrast to MFP-broad, the TMF
also supported non-Dutch NGDOs, at least in the first three rounds.
Only in the last TMF round were all organizations Dutch, for the simple
reason that ‘under pressure from the Dutch parliament, the Minister
decided in early 2005 that foreign organizations would no longer be
From Favoritism via Abundance to Austerity 189

eligible for TMF financing as per 1 January 2006’ (De Ruijter et al., 2006,
p. 22, own translation).
Whereas the emergence of the MFP-broad and TMF systems already
represented a substantial break with earlier ways of funding NGDOs by
the Dutch government, they only lasted for four years. From 2007 MFP-
broad and TMF were merged in the MFS, described by some as ‘a logical
continuation of the earlier grant schemes in the sense that it is built on
the basis laid out in both policies’ (De Ruijter et al., 2006, p. 86, own
translation). True as that may be, the MFS differs from MFP and TMF. The
assessment of proposals, for instance, is done by an independent outside
committee rather than by ministry officials (see also Schulpen, 2007).
The MFS covers the period 2007–2010. In 2008, the ministry started
preparing for its successor, MFS-2. At the end of 2009, a total of forty-three
applications for funding had been received by the ministry and, once
again, the proposals were assessed internally by ministry officials (Ruben
and Schulpen, 2009). Another difference in the MFS-2 scheme is that pro-
posals have to pass through two rounds of appraisal. The first round was
concluded in April 2010, leading to twenty of the forty-three applications
being rejected. Of the remaining twenty-three in total nineteen survived
the second round and were thus granted a subsidy. The nineteen alli-
ances cover a total of sixty-six different NGDOs with seventeen of them
participating in more than one alliance. At the time of granting the sub-
sidy a total sum of EUR2,125 million was made available for the period
2011–2015. This was already 26 per cent less than the nineteen alliances
asked for. A few weeks later, a further reduction with EUR250 million was
announced as part of the overall budget cuts agreed upon in the new cabi-
net. In effect, particularly the larger NGDOs such as Icco and Cordaid lost a
substantial amount of government funding compared to the period of the
first MFS. It led to a downsizing of their programs and to a serious contain-
ment of their organization. Almost immediately following the granting
of MFS-2 subsidies, the then state-secretary for development cooperation
Bert Knapen announced a further reduction in government funding of
NGDOs. This line was then prolonged by the next cabinet of liberals and
social-democrats and by his successor Lianne Ploumen (minister for inter-
national trade and development cooperation since 2012). In fact, from
2016 onwards (and following substantial budget cuts – particularly also
in the NGDO field – between 2012 and 2015) the total available annual
budget for ‘strengthening civil society’ will be reduced to EUR219 million.
Like the earlier support programs such as MFS, MFP-broad and the last
round of TMF, the MFS-2 was only open for Dutch NGDOs. To allow
the ministry also to fund non-Dutch (that is, international) NGDOs a
190 Lau Schulpen and Paul Hoebink

separate grant scheme was created which also became operational in

2007 and covers the period 2007–2010. This is known as SALIN, which
stands for Strategic Alliances with International NGDOs. SALIN is in
turn quite different from MFS mainly because the ministry decided
beforehand which INGDOs would be eligible for a grant. Twenty
INGDOs were handpicked by the ministry and essentially invited to
apply for a grant. All of them did and were consequently awarded a

6.4.1 An (almost) complete overview

Although the MFP to MFP-Broad to TMF to MFS sequence has domi-
nated the discussion on NGDO funding in the Netherlands (and the
relationship between NGDOs and the government more generally),9
these schemes were not – and are still not – the only ways in which
the Dutch government funds NGDOs. In the past, hundreds of devel-
opment organizations have in one way or another received funding
from the Dutch government outside the MFP. Between 1998 and 2001,
some 350 NGDOs received support totaling EUR256 million. This rela-
tively large number of organizations obscures the fact that there was
no underlying NGDO policy and they were supported on the basis of
the ‘whims and wishes’ of departments within the ministry and at the
While this essentially still applies to the Dutch embassies (see below),
the plethora of unstructured NGDO funding outside the old MFP was
one of the reasons for the restructuring leading to MFP Broad and the
TMF, and eventually the MFS. Alongside these ‘major’ schemes (at
least in terms of funding), there are several others that can be brought
together under three headings. The first can be categorized as minor
but general schemes. SALIN would fit into this category, as would the
Schokland fund, which was a direct outcome of development minister
Bert Koenders’ policy paper (DGIS, 2009a) emphasizing strategic coop-
eration between different sectors in society. The Schokland fund thus
prioritizes cooperation between regular development NGDOs, CSOs and
private companies.
The second category includes theme-based and regional-specific
(or even country–specific) grant schemes. Examples are the MDG-3
women’s fund (for activities in the field of gender and reproductive
rights, one of the central themes in Koenders’ policy), the fund for migra-
tion, for partnerships in health and meso-funding. The third category
covers ‘individual schemes’ intended for specific Dutch organizations.
From Favoritism via Abundance to Austerity 191

Practically all of them go back a long time, like the funding schemes
for the NCDO (working on public support for international develop-
ment in the Netherlands, see below), PSO, SNV and the labor unions
CNV and FNV.
Using these four categories of funding schemes (major, minor, the-
matic/country, and individual) as a point of departure, Figure 6.3 shows
that several schemes date back before the restructuring period (dotted
arrows) and that, particularly in more recent years, the number of new
schemes has increased. Put more strongly, there has been a proliferation

Major schemes Theme-based or regional schemes

Minor schemes Individual schemes


Trade unions

Daey Ouwens




2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010

PPP Health





Figure 6.3 Grant schemes in the period 2003–2010

Source: Schulpen et al. (2009).
192 Lau Schulpen and Paul Hoebink

of (mostly small) funding schemes that are also open to NGDOs. This
already shows that the idea of streamlining NGDO funding which was
at the basis of the TMF and, later, the MFS has in fact not led to a sim-
plification of funding NGDOs but to a plethora of funding schemes.
This leads to the question why the ministry obviously felt it necessary
to create several new funding schemes in recent years.
Overall, the suggestion would of course be that these new schemes
provide an opportunity to fund new priorities. Directly related to that
is the fact that particularly the major schemes are ‘untouchable’ for
longer periods leaving little room to maneuver for a minister look-
ing for ways to implement new policies through the civilateral chan-
nel. Simultaneously, resolutions accepted in parliament also lead to
new funding schemes. The Daey Ouwens fund (aimed at promoting
small-scale projects in the area of renewable and job-creating forms of
energy supply), for instance, is the direct outcome of a parliamentary
resolution from the Labor Party. The PPS (Political and Parliamentary
Cooperation aimed at strengthening political parties and their coopera-
tion in developing countries) can also be seen as such although this
was due to less open pressure from political parties. Finally, it is quite
possible that some of these schemes actually spring from pressure from
departments within the ministry itself based on the idea that having a
funding scheme at their disposal creates an opportunity to broadcast
their own importance.
Whatever the reason or trigger behind the emergence of funding
schemes, the fact remains that several new schemes have been created
in recent years. ‘Wisdom comes with age’ is a saying that seems to be
highly applicable here, considering the fact that, once again in the
2009 NGDO policy paper, a streamlining of grant schemes has been
announced to combat the fragmentation of the NGDO landscape. Apart
from the question why exactly this fragmentation is considered to be
something bad (and who feels that way),10 it is interesting to see that
combating this fragmentation is obviously considered to be primarily
the task of the government and not of the NGDOs themselves. The min-
istry then has two options at its disposal, and it intends to use both. Not
surprisingly, both are directly related to its grant schemes.
The first has already been discussed before and refers to the ‘premium’
for joint proposals and reduction of the number of NGDOs to be funded
under the MFS-2. It could be argued that this will undoubtedly reduce
the monitoring burden of the ministry, as it will only have to deal with
the nineteen principal applicants. Still, in total the number of NGDOs
behind these alliances is 66. The second option refers to the announced
From Favoritism via Abundance to Austerity 193

reduction in the number of grant schemes. In his answers to questions

from parliament on this matter in 2010, the then minister Bert Koenders
referred to ten of the existing NGDO funding schemes, while not men-
tioning the others at all. Two issues played a role here. First, the existing
grant schemes often have a different timeframe (also see Figure 6.1),
meaning that some will still continue for months or even years after
2010 while others are already finished. Second, whereas separate
funding schemes were the norm in the past, for the period from 2011
onwards, the ministry is taking two main schemes as its starting point:
the MFS-2 and a standard scheme.
In reality, the latter scheme is not a subsidy scheme in the sense
that organizations can draw on it but a framework providing standard-
ized and uniform criteria on the basis of which subsidy tenders can be
developed. As such, it is meant to streamline future subsidy calls (based
on fixed criteria and a tender system) while creating flexibility for the
ministry. In contrast to MFS-2, the (future) subsidy tenders that will
be developed under the standard scheme are not restricted to Dutch
organizations but also open for international civil agencies.
Up to mid 2011, two of these subsidy tenders have been announced –
both for the period 2012–2015: FLOW (Funding Leadership and
Opportunities for Women) and FPP-II (Political Parties Fund II). The lat-
ter can be viewed as the successor of PPS and is meant ‘to contribute to
the functioning of democratic systems in developing countries’ by for
example ‘facilitating multi-party dialogue’, strengthening the ‘capacity
of political parties’ and ‘improving cooperation between political par-
ties, the private sector and civil society organizations’ (DGIS, 2011a).
FLOW is the successor of the MDG3-fund and aims at funding activities
in the field of for example economic self-reliance and ‘participation
and representation of women in politics and public administration’
(DGIS, 2011b). While FPP-II is meant for Dutch or international NGOs,
FLOW is, in line with the earlier MDG3-fund, also open to Southern
Mid 2013, the subsidy program of the ministry embraces next to these
two standard scheme ‘affiliates’ and MFS-2, a few old acquaintances
(like trade unions program and SNV) and three other new schemes (all
three being set up outside the standard scheme outline). Two of the
latter might be regarded as successors of SALIN starting from January
2011 onwards: 1) ‘Fonds Product Development Partnerships’ (PDPs –
aimed at developing medicines for poverty-related health problems)
and 2) ‘Fonds Keuzes en Kansen voor seksuele gezondheid’ (choices and
chances for sexual health fund). Several of the INGOs supported under
194 Lau Schulpen and Paul Hoebink

these two schemes were previously funded under SALIN. A last new
scheme is SBOS – replacing part of the NCDO – which will be discussed
more in detail below.
All in all, while several schemes have (as was expected) been discon-
tinued since the end of 2010, several new ones have been set up and
often as a replacement of abandoned ones. In the new NGDO policy
paper of October 2013, the ministry announced new plans (to be effec-
tive from 2016 onwards) that will again fundamentally change the
Dutch subsidy structure for NGDOs. Apart from the fact that the indi-
vidual schemes of SNV and NCDO will stop entirely, those for the labor
unions are still under negotiations, and the more thematic schemes (in
such fields as food security and sexual and reproductive health) will
most likely continue, two new subsidy schemes are envisaged that are
meant to replace MFS-2. The first of these is known as ‘strategic part-
nerships’ meant for a selected group of Dutch NGDOs. In this scheme,
the idea of alliances that was so central in MFS-2 is abandoned and the
main focus will be on the political role (lobby and advocacy) of NGDOs.
Although the policy paper already mentions several criteria for funding,
a more elaborate system still has to be worked out. The same holds for
the second scheme labeled the ‘innovation facility’, which will be based
on annual calls for proposals and will only be open for those NGDOs
that are not part of the strategic partnerships scheme.
Next to these two new schemes, the 2013 policy paper also announces
the intensification of direct support to Southern civil society organiza-
tions. Under the name ‘Accountability Fund’, the ministry will reserve
a budget of EUR15 million for this direct funding (or nearly 7% of
the total annually available budget for NGDOs from 2016 onwards).
Whether these are extra millions (in reality direct funding is already
substantially larger now) remains to be seen.

6.4.2 Direct funding

Not surprisingly, and in common with most NGDO-funding schemes
offered by other bilateral donors, the majority of the Dutch schemes
discussed above are restricted to Dutch NGDOs. This certainly applies to
major programs like the MFS. A notable exception is SALIN and its suc-
cessors, which are either specifically intended for international NGDOs
or also open to them. Interestingly, there are no funding schemes open
only to Southern NGDOs, although they can apply for support from
some of them. In fact, under the first three rounds of the TMF a few
Southern NGDOs (SNGDOs) did succeed in receiving direct funding from
The Hague. Only recently, a few schemes have explicitly mentioned that
From Favoritism via Abundance to Austerity 195

Southern NGDOs can apply and in some cases, they seem to be quite suc-
cessful. The majority of the forty-five NGDOs approved for funding under
the MDG-3 scheme at the end of 2008, can be classified as SNGDOs.
Nevertheless, funding of SNGDOs by the Dutch Ministry of Foreign
Affairs directly still seems to be extremely limited. However, focusing
only on the grant schemes offered by the ministry in The Hague obscures
the fact that direct funding of Southern NGDOs without an intermedi-
ary is already part and parcel of Dutch bilateral aid. It is definitely less
well known that Dutch embassies have already been funding SNGDOs
directly for quite some time. Part of this funding is provided through
Small Embassy Funds, which generally provide small grants to one-time
projects by local NGDOs, but total funding is far more substantial than
that. In 2000, for instance, the Dutch embassies are reported to have
spent some EUR167 million on NGDOs, 39 per cent (or €65 million) of
which went directly to local NGDOs (also see DGIS, 2009c)”.
In 2005/2006, figures of only 24 Embassies in Dutch partner coun-
tries indicated that they spent a total of nearly EUR72 million in direct
support of southern NGOs (Ruben et al., 2008). The latest figures for
the period 2008–2010, covering all thirty-three partner countries of
Dutch bilateral ODA, show a further increase from EUR117.6 million to
EUR129.7 million for local NGOs. As such, the 2007 policy intention to
increase direct funding to local NGOs annually with 10 to 15 per cent
did not materialize but stalled at 3 per cent (2008 to 2009) and 6.7 per
cent (2009 to 2010).11
Individual countries, however, substantially deviate from this gradual
growth pattern in direct funding. In fact, such a constant increase over
2008–2010 can only be witnessed in ten countries, whereas another ten
countries show a constant decrease in direct funding and twelve coun-
tries move up and down. In some cases, these increases and decreases
are substantial (as in the cases of Suriname and Mali) while in others
they are only minor (e.g., South Africa and Pakistan). In effect, the
amount of direct funding to local NGOS differs substantially between
countries. Bangladeshi NGOs, for instance, received over 2008–2010
more in direct funding than all the lowest 22 countries on the list
combined. The top five countries on the list (Bangladesh, Bolivia, the
Palestinian authorities, South Africa and Ethiopia) were good for more
than half of all direct funding in the thirty-three partner countries.
Also the percentage of delegated funds used for direct funding differs
substantially between Embassies. Over 2008–2010, for instance, the
average percentage of total Dutch bilateral ODA for thirty-two partner
countries that went into direct funding was 12.8 per cent. In the case
196 Lau Schulpen and Paul Hoebink

of the Democratic Republic of Congo, however, this was nearly 52 per

cent and it reached 49 per cent in Bangladesh, 42 per cent in Kenya and
39 per cent in the case of the Palestinian authorities. In contrast, only
0.5 per cent of delegated funds went to Ghanaian NGOs, while it was
even less in Vietnam. Put differently: those partner countries receiving
a large share of Dutch bilateral ODA do not necessarily get a likewise
proportion of direct funding.
Although growth in direct funding to SNGDOs is justified by the
increased capacity of these organizations (combined with an explicit
recognition of the success of capacity-building activities by Northern
NGDOs), the Dutch NGDO community is far from convinced that this
is the right direction for funding of local NGOs in developing coun-
tries. They, for instance, question the capacity of embassies to really
link up with SNGDOs and become more than only a financer. At the
same time, fears are expressed that direct funding will lead SNGDOs to
become sub-contractors for bilateral donors, and thereby become less
of a countervailing power vis-à-vis governments. Two recent country
studies into direct funding showed, however, that SNGDOs themselves
certainly see added value of engaging with bilateral donors. First of all,
bilateral donors are seen as more generous (e.g., providing larger funds
and core funding). Secondly, bilateral donors are seen as more flexible
than Northern NGDOs and offer more freedom. Thirdly, and in addi-
tion to the fact that direct funding is seen as more cost-efficient, bilat-
eral donors are regarded as providing a closer link to the government.
Whereas all this may be true, the studies also show that particularly
larger, well-established and strong SNGDOs are likely to be funded
directly by bilateral donors (see Kranen, 2009; Mangelaars, 2009).

6.4.3 Funding private initiatives

Finally, PIs also receive government funding, albeit in an indirect man-
ner. In May 2001, the Minister for Development Cooperation, Eveline
Herfkens, requested the four MFOs to develop a structure to handle
requests for the funding of small development projects by Dutch
citizens (PIs).12 Six months later, the MFOs and the NCDO together
proposed setting up front offices to provide financial support for small
projects and programs (Sikkema et al., 2006, p. 52). These front offices
started operating in 2003 and funding was provided by the government
as part of the MFP Broad grant to the MFOs. The NCDO also received
additional funding for PIs which was added to the existing grant chan-
nel (known as Small Local Activities (KPA)).13
From Favoritism via Abundance to Austerity 197

Also under the MFS (starting in 2007), the MFOs included front office
funds in their regular grant proposals to the government and the front
offices thus continued. In 2007, the four MFOs plus NCDO spent a
total of EUR16 million in government funds through their front offices
(IOB, 2009). This figure however does not show all expenditures as
MFOs also finance the front offices from their own funds. The excep-
tions are Hivos, which restricts PI funding to the sum received from
the government for that purpose, and NCDO, which essentially does
not have any ‘own money’. How much of these own funds are being
used is difficult to determine. Linkis, the organization set up to act as
an intermediary between PIs and the front offices, only reports on the
number of PI proposals submitted, accepted and rejected but not on the
funds distributed.
The fact that it is extremely difficult to determine exactly how much
funding went to PIs is undoubtedly due to the fact that there is no
uniform definition of what constitutes a PI. Whereas all front offices
essentially view PIs as public support organizations and development
organizations, some (including Hivos and NCDO) emphasize the former
and others (e.g., Oxfam Novib and Cordaid) the latter.14 Not surpris-
ingly, PI grant proposals are judged on both specific development crite-
ria and specific public support criteria, and all front offices demand that
PIs that receive funding also undertake specific activities in the field of
public support.
Major changes in PI-funding occurred following the ministerial pub-
lic support policy paper (DGIS, 2009b). Although the paper left the door
open for MFS organizations to continue funding PIs with government
funds in the future, this was only allowed if the PIs were regarded as
development organizations and were as such an integral part of the
organization’s grant proposal. Whereas this most likely would have had
a negative effect on the amounts made available to PIs, the fact that
the NGDOs with front offices received substantial less money under
MFS-2 than anticipated proved to be more important. In effect, the
front offices were either closed (Hivos) or substantially reduced (Oxfam
Novib, Icco and Cordaid). A further decline in PI-funding occurred
because the agreement between the ministry and NCDO was substan-
tially revised. From 2011 onwards, the NCDO is a knowledge center
and no longer subsidizes PIs. The former subsidy part of the NCDO
was transferred to a new public support scheme (SBOS – see below) for
which, however, substantially less money was available and certainly
for PIs.
198 Lau Schulpen and Paul Hoebink

All in all, funding PIs seemed at first straightforward but became

increasingly complicated due to the direct link made with funding
NGDOs and the consequent changes in this NGDO funding system. In
the end, the golden years for PI (at least in terms of indirect government
funding through Dutch NGDOs) lasted only a few years.

6.5 NGDOs and public support

For a long time, with an exception of the early 1970s when the role
of Prince Claus, husband of Princess (later Queen) Beatrix, was heav-
ily discussed, the financing of activities to promote public support for
development cooperation played a minor role in discussion on devel-
opment cooperation in the Netherlands, and certainly in connection
with these type of activities by NGDOs. This has only changed since
the mid 2000s, reaching a peak in the second half of 2008. Following
political discussions about the position of the NCDO (a public support
organization par excellence, established in the 1970s following a UN call
to strengthen public opinion in developed countries), political parties
from the left and right campaigned against public support activities. It
was felt that it was principally wrong for the government to be facilitat-
ing these kinds of activities because the primacy for influencing govern-
ment policy lies with parliament and that strengthening public support
with government funds resembles government propaganda. It was also
felt that public support activities do not contribute to poverty reduction
and that too much money was going into strengthening public support,
while it could be better used in the South. Furthermore, in the eyes of
the critics, the obligation for all NGDOs receiving government funding
to also be active in the field of public support, only led to competition.
Finally, it was questioned whether public support activities were neces-
sary at all considering the fact that the Dutch public is not only positive
towards development cooperation but also very active itself (e.g., in PIs).
These critical remarks are interesting if only because they show differ-
ent ways of looking at public support and thus the different objectives
attached to it. Public support is regarded as a means to influence gov-
ernment policy, as action in the sense that it should lead citizens to do
something for developing countries or development, and as a means of
raising awareness about the work of NGDOs. This combination of dif-
ferent objectives is not strange and reflects those of the Dutch interna-
tional development community. However, despite decades of activities
in this field, the community has not succeeded in producing a clear and
widely accepted definition, objective and structure for public support.
From Favoritism via Abundance to Austerity 199

Interestingly, it was not the NGDOs themselves but the government

that finally, in 2009, set out the contours of public support more clearly.
With this, the public support discussion became embedded into the
ongoing debate about NGDO funding. Based on two earlier evaluations
by the IOB (2008, 2009) and an advisory letter by the AIV (2009), the
ministry presented its views on modernizing public support in May
2009 (DGIS, 2009b).
The ministry distinguishes three dimensions within public support:
knowledge, attitude and action with regard to the objectives of inter-
national cooperation (based on Develtere (2003)). Although all three
dimensions are considered important, knowledge is not regarded as a
necessary precondition for attitude and action. More important, how-
ever, is that public support is viewed as ‘a means to create structural
changes within and between countries with the objective of reducing
poverty and inequality’, and that activities in this field ‘directly or
indirectly result in different actions by people in the Netherlands’. The
latter is crucial here, as it means that public support activities aimed
primarily at fundraising by development organizations are no longer
regarded as true public support activities and certainly not as activities
eligible for government funding. In future, with the separate objective
of contributing to public support removed as a condition for NGDOs
receiving government funding, it will only be possible to receive gov-
ernment funding for such activities if they are a logical part of an
NGDO’s broader program (e.g., a lobby campaign which includes a
component aimed at the general public).
In addition, and keeping in mind the objective of changing not only
the mindset but also the actions of Dutch citizens, the ministry decided
to transform NCDO into a knowledge center (aimed primarily at
researching public support and supporting organizations in their public
support activities through trainings and documentation). Furthermore,
a specific public support grant scheme called SBOS (Subsidy facility
for Citizenship and Development Cooperation) was set up, primarily
aimed at supporting organizations in the Netherlands active in the
field of public support. Although strengthening public support in the
Netherlands is the ultimate objective of this program, part of the funds
available can be used as well for exchange and internship programs for
youth or for development activities in the South (e.g., by PIs).
In the first three rounds between September 2010 and May 2011,
SBOS in total granted some EUR27 million to sixty-seven projects/pro-
grams of fifty-nine different organizations. Several of these (e.g., Plan
Nederland, Icco, Stichting Woord en Daad) are also supported under
200 Lau Schulpen and Paul Hoebink

MFS-2. More important for now is, however, the fact that the ministry
in August 2011 decided to postpone further grant-making activities by
SBOS up to 2013. No further explanation was given apart from the fact
that this was part of the overall cut in the development budget as agreed
upon for the period 2011–2015. This postponement in the end turned
out to be a cancellation. Since then little has been heard about SBOS
(let alone that it will be revived) meaning that this subsidy scheme fell
victim to a kind of ‘out of sight, out of mind’ strategy.

6.6 Evaluation and effectiveness

Evaluations within and of Dutch non-governmental agencies were for

a long time limited in scope, internally driven and tended to address
organizational issues rather than effectiveness and impact. This changed
partially with the first Impact Study of the Dutch Co-financing Program
(Stuurgroep Impactstudie Medefinancieringsprogramma, 1991). The
study, commissioned by the four co-financing organizations at the time
and led by a steering committee of researchers and former politicians,
more or less came to the same conclusions as a number of earlier evalu-
ation studies: that the NGDO programs analyzed had a limited impact
on poverty, partly because of limited funding and scope; that there was
insufficient people’s participation in many projects; that cost-awareness
was low; and that evaluation and monitoring policies were deficient or
absent. At the same time, agricultural and credit programs were seen to
have a positive impact on incomes, and employment and social service
provision turned out to be limited but successful, professional and with
small overheads. Furthermore, in some instances NGDOs were very
effective in bringing about group formation and political change.
A second interesting study appeared in 1998. Here the IOB, the
evaluation unit of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, set out to systemati-
cally compare funding of Bangladeshi NGDOs by Dutch co-financing
organizations and by the Dutch embassy. The evaluation concluded
that the Dutch MFOs concentrated their assistance on the larger (very
large) Bangladeshi NGDOs, which was not seen as a very effective way
of spending aid money. The collaboration and coordination between
the MFOs needed to be improved to maximize the effects of their con-
tributions. However, the MFO contribution was not only of a financial
nature but included training, consultancy services, integration into
international networks and lobbying and advocacy. As for the Dutch
embassy, the IOB was rather critical about the aid it provided to NGDOs
From Favoritism via Abundance to Austerity 201

in Bangladesh. This criticism was particularly clear where the embassy

involved NGDOs in the implementation of bilateral projects. The effec-
tiveness of these projects was considered to be low because the NGDOs
were not involved in the planning and communication was under pres-
sure due to rapid changes of staff at the embassy. The IOB concluded:
‘The NGOs therefore often encounter a discontinuous and sometimes
contradictory relationship with Embassy specialists, which they com-
pare unfavorably with the long term, mutually supportive and cumula-
tive relationship established with their MFO partners’ (IOB, 1998, p. 7).
Similar studies to that of the IOB conducted by independent research-
ers reached more or less similar conclusions. Schulpen (1997) compared
programs of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the MFO Icco in India.
He concluded that the scope for both aid agencies to implement their
own policies in India was limited, if only because their Indian partners
gave them little room for maneuver in the policy dialogue. Both aid
agencies had projects with a real impact on poverty, but others with a
minimal impact. Schulpen thus concluded that the similarities between
the two organizations (the Ministry’s bilateral program and Icco) were
much greater than the differences.
Two years later, Biekart (1999) criticized the Dutch MFOs for focusing
too heavily on the financial relationship and support, and thus on the
short term, and very little on efforts to tackle the structural causes of
poverty by lobbying, international networking and mobilizing public
support (ibid., p. 26). His research showed that non-governmental aid
indeed contributed to the construction of civil society, but was not a
major factor in that success. Such aid only substantially increased when
successes were already at hand. Biekart identified overfunding, sticking
with successful partners, (unintentionally) strengthening hierarchical
relations or competition between NGDOs, a lack of serious political
analysis of the local situation and monitoring as other weak spots of
Dutch non-governmental aid agencies (ibid., p. 428).
The international lobbying of Dutch non-governmental aid organi-
zations has also been the subject of independent research. Arts (1998)
questioned the influence that NGDOs and environmental organizations
had on international treaties. Based on case studies, including UNCED
in Rio de Janeiro in 1992, he concluded that international NGOs had
some influence, but that it was very limited. In most areas, including
implementation, formulating objectives and drafting the final texts
of the treaties, international NGOs had no influence at all. In addi-
tion, the number of NGOs present at these international meetings and
202 Lau Schulpen and Paul Hoebink

conferences had no significant impact. Their influence was much more

based on experience and on their ability to create a constructive envi-
ronment for dialogue.
A more recent study focused on the relation between Dutch non-
governmental donor agencies and Sri Lankan NGOs. Fernando (2007)
studied relations between three Dutch MFOs and seven Sri Lankan
NGDOs during the period 1994–2004. His study indicates that during
this period the political climate for the three Dutch non-governmental
aid organizations changed considerably. They lost their privileged
position and went through a series of internal changes with a new
emphasis on professionalization and results-based management. This
also raised pressure on the NGDOs in Sri Lanka. What this analysis
clearly showed were the unequal power relations and how Sri Lankan
NGOs had little countervailing power over their donors. The changes
in the institutional contexts in the Netherlands and Sri Lanka clearly
determined the different phases of the relationships between the two.
One of the most surprising elements to emerge from the study was the
inability of both types of organizations to deal with conflict. Lastly the
study challenged a number of common observations about relations
between Northern and Southern NGDOs: that they work together in
close consultation, that the relationship is harmonious and congruent,
that they are mutually dependent, and that there is complementarity
between them. None of these generally accepted notions turned to be
true in this case study.
One of the most ambitious NGO evaluations ever was the study of
the Dutch co-financing program over the period 1998–2002. From 1999
onwards the Steering Group Evaluation Co-financing Program commis-
sioned fourteen larger evaluation studies and seventy-five case studies.
The majority of the evaluations were theme-based (health, micro-finance,
poverty reduction, rural development, civil society building), but under
these themes a series of country studies and a regional study (Sahel) were
undertaken. Most of the team leaders were Dutch, but local researchers
were involved in all the evaluations. Seventeen large reports were pub-
lished, plus a summary of all the evaluations and a final report of the
Steering Group summing up the overall conclusions of the evaluations
(Stuurgroep Evaluatie Medefinancieringsprogramma, 2002b, pp. 103–7).
The general conclusion of this mega-evaluation was that co-financ-
ing organizations were very ambitious in their goals and objectives,
particularly given the funds they had at their disposal and the way
they distributed them. This made it also rather difficult to link their
goals and objectives to the implementation practices of the NGDOs
From Favoritism via Abundance to Austerity 203

they supported. A second conclusion was that the organizations did

not make sufficient use of their comparative advantages and did not
innovate enough in response to social changes (Stuurgroep Evaluatie
Medefinancieringsprogramma, 2002a, pp. xi–xiii). One of the major
problems is that the four co-financing organizations did not concen-
trate their activities on a limited number of countries and themes. The
MFOs were active in eighty countries, working with around 3,800 part-
ner organizations on about 5,400 projects annually.
Progress in relation to the earlier evaluation was seen in activities
aimed at poverty reduction: people were less vulnerable and assistance,
although modest, was in nearly all cases adapted to the needs of the
poor. This progress was in particular attained through the provision of
social services. Health and education are sectors in which some of the
organizations have a long tradition, but the number of poor people
profiting from these activities was rather limited and there were doubts
on the sustainability of some of the progress made.
Evaluations on civil society building were far more critical.
Organizations were strengthened and their capacity increased, but
in most cases they were intermediary NGOs and the effects on net-
works, advocacy and policy changes were far less visible. According to
the Steering Group, this was also a consequence of the fact that civil
society building received less attention in the decade before and that
policies on this theme were not well developed (Stuurgroep Evaluatie
Medefinancieringsprogramma, 2002a, pp. xi, 51–7).
In comparison with the 1991 study, the MFOs had also made pro-
gress in terms of professionalization and implementation capacity, with
clearer financing strategies, structured and well operationalized gender
strategies, and greater attention to lobbying and advocacy. However,
there was limited progress in the way partners were selected. Monitoring
and evaluation was also lagging behind, as was policy development
with regard to civil society building. Although the organizations portray
themselves in general as innovative, little evidence was found to that
effect. They also tended to work in isolation and with little contact with
other non-governmental and bilateral donors.
A few years later a new larger, but less ambitious, evaluation took place
of the Theme-based Co-financing Program. This involved seven evalua-
tions of all the themes of the program and two cross-cutting evaluations
on monitoring and evaluation and the added value of the program. It is
important to bear in mind that the organizations involved in the evalu-
ation had sometimes been receiving grants for a long time or receiving
subsidies for at least some of their activities, while the program itself
204 Lau Schulpen and Paul Hoebink

was rather young. This meant that in several cases it was too early to
draw conclusions on effectiveness, sustainability and impact.
The outcomes of the theme-based evaluations were generally positive,
although complex situations made it very difficult to come to any firm
conclusions. The conclusions regarding conflicts and peace building,
for example, go no further than to state that ‘the six organizations do
important and very good work in often insecure and difficult circum-
stances and regions’ (De Ruijter et al., 2006, p. 34). A second conclusion
was that the relevance of the work performed by these organizations
could be made more visible if they made their choices more explicit and
explained how their interventions complemented the strategies of other
development actors.
A similar conclusion was reached by the evaluation of human rights
activities, a field in which the Dutch government has for a long time
relied heavily on NGOs, for obvious reasons. Although the objectives
were clearly defined and coherent it was not possible to make any
strong statements on effectiveness and efficiency. This is also because
organizational stability was threatened by a lack of core funds, unpre-
dictability of donor support and brain drain. As with activities aimed at
biodiversity, the success of human rights activities depended highly on
an enabling environment, conducive to change.
The main conclusion of the first cross-cutting study on monitoring and
evaluation of the TMF-program was that the co-financed organizations
and their partners had a rapidly growing interest in program monitoring
and evaluation (PME). They had in recent years put considerable effort
into improving their PME systems, training their staff and supporting
partners to the same effect. In this respect, the larger organizations per-
formed better than the smaller ones. Having said that, the evaluation
team concluded that only 8 per cent of the organizations had excellent
PME systems and that, in half of the cases, they needed serious improve-
ments. A major weakness found was the problem of using quantitative
and qualitative data and assessments at the top of the objectives pyramid.
The second cross-cutting evaluation on the added value of the TMF
program also made some critical observations. The added value of the
TMF program for the ministry was seen as very positive in terms of
management (more uniform rules), organization (a quality impulse),
and relations (contracts, mutual learning). In terms of internal added
value (the importance of the TMF funding, and of the TMF program
for strengthening the TMF-funded organization and the capabilities
of its recipients/partners) the evaluation concluded that the program
was of particular value for the TMF organizations but much less so for
From Favoritism via Abundance to Austerity 205

their partners. The TMF organizations themselves could benefit from

longer term and larger grants and core funding, which contributed to
their organizational stability and professionalization. However, because
they did not pass these benefits on to their partners, funding them with
rather small contributions and not providing core funding, partner
organizations did not receive the same benefits.
With regard to external added value compared to other funding
channels (what do TMF organizations do differently and/or better than
bilateral agencies, or MFOs) the study indicated that the organizations
themselves clearly saw a difference between their activities and policies
and those of bilateral and multilateral organizations. They defined that
very much in the terms defined by the international literature on NGOs:
that they support civil society, are closer to community-based organiza-
tions and the poor, and work on the basis of equal partnerships. The
TMF organizations even saw a different role for themselves than for the
organizations financed under the traditional co-financing scheme. They
saw themselves as being more innovative and more liable to take risks in
their activities. The four field studies did not corroborate this. The added
value was seen as limited, in particular because of the lack of focus and
the small amounts of money available for funding and limited scope for
organizational development of the TMF organizations’ partners.
A first conclusion could be that none of the evaluation studies really
confirm that Dutch non-governmental aid organizations are the better
partners in development cooperation. It cannot be concluded that they,
or the partners they support, have better development results, that they
are closer to poor communities and the poor, or that they deal with
their partners on a more equal basis. What can be said is that many
of their activities produce results in terms of poverty reduction, but that
their outreach is restricted. What also clearly emerges is that it is dif-
ficult to find clear evidence of sustainable civil society building. At the
same time, the studies question what exactly the objectives and goals
of organization building should be, since clear policies are lacking. This
does not mean that the co financing schemes should be seen as a fail-
ure, only that the claims and expectations should be more modest than
they often have been.

6.7 Conclusion

The first conclusion that we might draw from the above is that the
Netherlands has a vibrant community of non-governmental aid organi-
zations. They may vary in age, size and professionalization, but behind
206 Lau Schulpen and Paul Hoebink

all of them are thousands of paid and unpaid activists who invest
money, time, energy and love in all types of activities which they
hope will contribute to a better world. Originally, as in most devel-
oped nations, religious and political organizations and beliefs were at
the root of all this activism and solidarity. Secular organizations may
have become more important in the last decades, but for historical and
organizational reasons and as a result of the strong support for develop-
ment cooperation in the churches, faith-based non-governmental aid
organizations still play a role that extends beyond the role of religion
and religious activities in Dutch society. Cordaid, a Catholic-based aid
agency, is a good example. While Catholic churches in particular in the
south of the Netherlands have emptied and are being demolished or
used for non-religious purposes, Cordaid remains the biggest non-gov-
ernmental aid organization in the Netherlands, playing an important
role vis-à-vis the Dutch government and Dutch society.
Similar remarks can be made about political convictions and beliefs
about solidarity with the oppressed and poor in developing countries.
A certain depoliticization can be observed, due to changes in the politi-
cal climate. In the 1960s and 1970s non-governmental aid initiatives
were often founded in solidarity with liberation, feminist and social
movements. In the Cold War years this often led to bitter disputes
between conservatives and liberals, and the right and the left. This
started changing many years before the end of the Cold War in 1989,
as sharp political divisions vanished. Partly this was because repression
and liberation were no longer voiced in Cold War terms and resistance
to repression was better understood, and partly because disappointment
with liberation movements that had gained power gradually gnawed
away at self-congratulatory convictions. Only the Israel-Palestine con-
flict seems to be able to raise the same blazing disputes nowadays. That
means that aid and advocacy by NGDOs now finds itself in a much
more reformist setting. It also means that political convictions might
be still an important source of solidarity with the poor and oppressed
in developing countries, but they are now expressed much more in
humanitarian than in political terms.
In the past fifty years Dutch governments have mostly been more or
less strong supporters of non-governmental aid. In the beginning this
was because faith-based organizations, stemming from missionary activ-
ities, were strongest but were also close allies of the Christian parties in
government. Many leaders, directors and managers of faith-based non-
governmental aid organizations were active members of these parties,
From Favoritism via Abundance to Austerity 207

and even members of parliament. With the changes in the political

landscape these relations changed, but support for non-governmental
aid organizations prevailed. Long-time development minister Jan Pronk
always emphasized that he saw non-governmental aid organizations
as an essential ingredient in the mosaic required to achieve change.
It was however a Christian Democrat, Jan de Koning, who gave the
organizations more room for maneuver and it was Eveline Herfkens,
probably the most skeptical about non-governmental aid, who opened
up the grant system to organizations other than the original four MFOs.
Together with the growing support for non-governmental aid organiza-
tions from theme-based programs, this finally led to a situation in which
more than 200 organizations were sponsored by the Dutch government,
many of which were for a large part dependent on that support.
In the end, this proved unmanageable and arbitrary, since there was
no well-described or rule-based system for providing grants. In this
sense, the instigation of a co-financing system and a theme-based co-
financing system at the beginning of this century was the first step
towards better regulation, but also to creating a greater distance between
the ministry and the organization it subsidized. The introduction of the
second co-financing system (MFS-2) and the restructuring of new sub-
sidy schemes under the Standard scheme could be seen as a next step,
followed in turn by the recent announcements of (again) a major over-
haul of the NGDO funding system. Of course there are complaints that
the system is now very bureaucratic and the procedures still look (and
possibly are) unnecessarily complex, but the question should be asked
whether there is any simple way to divide hundreds of millions of euros
over some hundred organizations.
The Dutch government has been one of the most generous donor
countries in its support for non-governmental aid. It could be con-
cluded, however, that this generosity is not only shrinking but is also
based more on convictions and beliefs than on an assessment of the
effectiveness and efficiency of development organizations. Several
evaluations have been conducted over the past two decades to assess
the effectiveness of non-governmental aid. None of them have dem-
onstrated that aid provided through non-governmental aid organiza-
tions is highly effective or that it might score better than bilateral or
multilateral aid. The major evaluation of the beginning of this decade
revealed clear successes, but in terms of sheer numbers of people who
benefited from Dutch non-governmental aid, the results were modest at
best. The most common criticism in several evaluations was support for
208 Lau Schulpen and Paul Hoebink

civil society building, in particular because objectives and policies were

vague and unclear. One response to that critique could be that most
multilateral organizations have not yet been the subject of these types
of evaluations, so that a comparison between the three channels is not
possible. This leads to the conclusion that, in the coming five years as
well, evaluations of non-governmental aid will contribute to the con-
viction that NGDOs perform well, but on a modest scale, and that it
is difficult to compare this contribution with multilateral and bilateral
aid. In the end it means that the pressure on non-governmental aid
organizations to show that they are an important component of today’s
aid architecture will continue.
The liberal–labor party government which is currently in power has
again announced a major overhaul of the subsidy scheme for private
aid organizations in the Netherlands. While all the changes in the last
decade were aimed at harmonizing the systems, incoherently blocked
by the introduction of new schemes, the coming overhaul seems to
aim at only subsidizing lobby and advocacy activities. The major part
of the budget cuts from 2013 to 2016 fall on the subsidy instruments
for Dutch private aid organizations. It will mean that the Netherlands
as the first country to reach 0.7 per cent of GNI in ODA and the first
to fall back under 0.7 to 0.55 per cent, will also be the first to have one
of the most generous systems to fund private aid organizations and to
then reduce it to one of the most limited subsidy schemes.

1. It is generally accepted that the Netherlands has a long civil society tradi-
tion and that the government created an environment that stimulated its
growth. This also seems to apply to that part of civil society active in the
field of development cooperation under scrutiny here. For a more general
overview of the origins and history of Dutch civil society (not restricted to
NGDOs) see Burger et al. (1999), Burger and Veldheer (2001) and De Nieuwe
Dialoog (2006).
2. Such ideas and critiques not only reflect the idea that the government, as a
major NGDO donor, should be in the driver’s seat but are also a reaction to
the continuing debate on the effectiveness of development aid in general and
of the assistance provided by and through NGDOs in particular. It thus links
up to a more international debate about what aid contributes to the fight
against poverty (Sachs, 2005; Easterly, 2006; Stiglitz, 2006; Riddell, 2007).
3. There is quite some debate on what ‘overhead’ exactly is. Overhead costs
generally cover more than just salaries. Unfortunately, data is only available
on salaries for Partos members. CBF does include a larger number of organi-
zations but does not provide an insight into overhead costs, but only in the
direct costs of fundraising.
From Favoritism via Abundance to Austerity 209

4. In particular a lottery based on postal code has become very popular in the
last ten years. This lottery pays out about half of its €460 million in income
(2007) to 53 organizations in the areas of development, the environment
and refugees.
5 Connected to the latter is the rise of celebrity activism and advocacy for
specific organizations. The Dutch branch of War Child, for instance, benefits
greatly from the support of one of the most popular Dutch pop stars, Marco
Borsato. UNICEF (one of the biggest fundraiser in the Netherlands) has at
present six Dutch ambassadors, including cabaret artists, a film star, disk
jockey and a pop singer. Relatively new and innovative is a production line
under the name Return to Sender, funded by a Dutch film star and televi-
sion presenter, Katja Schuurman. It develops and produces fashion products
in 15 developing countries, sold by one of the Dutch warehouse chains and
promoted by television documentaries.
6. Core funding, for instance, was no longer possible in MFS (and was replaced
by program funding). TMF, and also MFS, set government policy (MDGs,
themes) at the forefront more strongly than earlier grant schemes and essen-
tially demanded that applicant NGDOs fit their programs to this policy.
7. As far as known, all alliances that did not manage to get MFS-2 funding dis-
solved soon after. Besides, in the latest policy paper (DGIS, 2013) forming
alliances was no longer considered a must.
8. Over the period 1965–2002, the main changes occurred in 1980 when a block
grant system was introduced (with accountability afterwards), in the 1990s
when the MFP ceiling was increased to 10 per cent of the total governmental
budget for development cooperation, and in 1999 when for the first time
in more than twenty years a new NGDO (Foster Parents/Plan International
Netherlands) joined the original four recipient organizations of MFP grants.
9. SALIN hardly features in these discussions, most likely because no Dutch
NGDOs are part of it.
10. It is clear that this fragmentation is considered ‘bad’ by the government
because of the selection, monitoring and evaluation pressure from co-fund-
ing tens of (and in reality more than 200) NGDOs. Some would naturally
argue that this ‘fragmentation’ is a healthy expression of the diversity in
Dutch society and that combating it might actually lead to an impoverished
civil society. This does not mean that they also object to the need for more
cooperation and coordination in the field of international cooperation
because of the expected gains in terms of efficiency and effectiveness.
11. Next to direct funding to local NGOs, Dutch embassies also support inter-
national NGOs (including some Dutch ones). Over 2000, such funding
amounted to EUR58.9 million, going down an annual average of EUR36
million over 2005 and 2006 and up again to EUR49 in 2008, EUR55 in 2009
and EUR63 million in 2010. Even if we included such INGOs in our defini-
tion of direct funding (which we do not) the intention of an annual 10–15
per cent increase has not been reached.
12. This request was the direct outcome of the changes proposed at that time
in the funding system for NGDOs leading to the division between MFP-
broad and TMF. Whereas these schemes were intended for two groups of
NGDOs (MFP-broad for NGDOs with a ‘comprehensive approach’ and TMF
for NGDOs working on a specific theme), a third group of ‘development
210 Lau Schulpen and Paul Hoebink

organizations’ were distinguished: the PIs (DGIS, 2001b; see also Schulpen
and Hoebink, 2001). As such, the request was part of the attempt to stream-
line funding to non-governmental development organizations, but was also
inspired by the desire to reduce the administrative burden on the ministry
itself in assessing, supporting and monitoring the growing number of grant
applications from small private initiatives.
13. This also means that indirect government funding to PIs via the NCDO
already existed before the establishment of the front offices.
14. Interestingly, the front offices have been taken up as part of IOB’s evaluation
of public support (2009).

AIV (2009) Development Cooperation – The Benefit of/and Need for Public Support (The
Hague: Advisory Council for International Affairs) (Advisory letter no. 16, May).
Arts, B. (1998) The Political Influence of Global NGOs – Case Studies on the Climate
and Biodiversity Conventions (Utrecht: International Books).
Beerends, H. (1993) De Derde Wereldbeweging – geschiedenis en toekomst (Urecht/
Den Haag: Uitgeverij Jan van Arkel/NOVIB).
Biekart, K. (1999) The Politics of Civil Society Building – European Private Aid
Agencies and Democratic Transitions in Central America (Utrecht/Amsterdam:
International Books/Transnational Institute).
Brok, M. and Bouzoubaa, H. (2005) Particuliere Initiatieven op het gebied van
ontwikkelingssamenwerking (Nijmegen/Amsterdam: CIDIN/NCDO) (unpub-
lished MSc thesis).
Burger, A., Dekker, P., Toepler, S., Anheier, H. and Salamon, L. (1999) ‘The
Netherlands: Key Features of the Dutch Nonprofit Sector’ in H. Salamon,
H. Anheier, R. List, S. Toepler, S. Wojciech Sokolowsjki and Associates (eds)
Global Civil Society: Dimensions of the Nonprofit Sector (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins
University), pp. 145–62.
Burger, A. and Veldheer, V. (2001) ‘The Growth of the Nonprofit Sector in the
Netherlands’, Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly, 30 (2), 221–46.
De Bruyn, T. and Huyse, H. (2009) De vierde pijler van de Vlaamse ontwikkelingssa-
menwerking: voorbij de eerste kennismaking (Leuven: HIVA).
De Haan A. (2009) How the Aid Industry Works – An Introduction to International
Development (Sterling: Kumarian Press).
De Ruijter, A., Dietz, A., van Dongen, E., Helmsing, B. and Knorringa, P. (2006)
Evaluation of the Theme-based Co-financing Program (TMF) of the Dutch Ministry
of Foreign Affairs. Synthesis Report (Utrecht: Berenschot).
De Wal, M. (2009) Een sector onder vuur – ontwikkelingssamenwerkingsorganisaties
en hun strategieën in een veranderende wereld (Amsterdam: KIT Publishers bv.).
Develtere, P. (2003) Draagvlak: voorwaarde voor duurzame ontwikkeling’ in
Develtere, P. (ed.) Het draagvlak voor duurzame ontwikkeling – wat het is en zou
kunnen zijn (Antwerpen: De Boeck nv), pp. 12–19.
Develtere, P. (2009) De vrije markt van de ontwikkelingssamenwerking (Leuven:
Develtere, P. and Stessens, J. (2006) De vierde pijler van de ontwikkelingssamenwerk-
ing in Vlaanderen: de opmars van de levensverbeteraar (Leuven: HIVA).
From Favoritism via Abundance to Austerity 211

De Nieuwe Dialoog (2006) CIVICUS Civil Society Index Report for the Netherlands
(CIVICUS) (retrieved 20-7-2009,
Netherlands_Country_Report. pdf).
DGIS (2001a) Civil society en structurele armoedebestrijding – de rol van actoren uit
het Nederlands maatschappelijk middenveld (The Hague: DGIS).
DGIS (2001b) Interdepartementaal Beleidsonderzoek: Medefinancieringsprogramma –
letter to Parliament (27 433, no. 2) (The Hague: DGIS).
DGIS (2009a) Cooperation, Customisation and Added Value – Policy Memorandum of
the Netherlands on Civil Society Organizations (The Hague: DGIS).
DGIS (2009b) Investeren in mondiaal burgerschap – kamerbrief over modernisering
draagvlak ontwikkelingssamenwerking (The Hague: DGIS).
DGIS (2009c) Directe financiering (The Hague: DGIS) (downloaded 12 May 2010,
DGIS (2009d) Medefinancieringsstelsel 2011–2015 (MFS II) (The Hague: DGIS).
DGIS (2011a) Order of the Minister for European Affairs and International Cooperation
of 13 May 2011, no. DJZ/BR-0370/11, laying down administrative rules and
a ceiling for grants awarded under the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Grant
Regulations 2006 (Political Parties Fund II 2012–2015) (The Hague: DGIS).
DGIS (2011b) Order of the Minister for European Affairs and International
Cooperation of 10 May 2011, no. DJZ/BR-0457/11, laying down administrative
rules and a ceiling for grants awarded under the Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Grant Regulations 2006, Funding Leadership and Opportunities for Women
(FLOW) (The Hague: DGIS).
DGIS (2013) Samenwerking met het maatschappelijk middenveld in een nieuwe context
(The Hague: DGIS).
Easterly (2006) The White Man’s Burden: Why the West’s Efforts to Aid the Rest Have
Done So Much Ill and So Little Good (New York: The Penguin Press).
Fernando, U. (2007) Uneasy Encounters: Relationships between Dutch and Donors
and Sri Lankan NGOs (Amsterdam: University of Amsterdam).
Grotenhuis, R. (2009) Over grenzen heen – nieuwe perspectieven op civil society in de
strijd tegen armoede (The Hague: Cordaid).
Hoebink, P. and Velden, F. van der (2001) ‘Van tropenarts en vrijwilliger tot
institutieopbouw: Nederlandse technische assistentie in verleden en toekomst’
in Schulpen, L. (ed.) Hulp in ontwikkeling – bouwstenen voor de toekomst van
internationale samenwerking (Assen: Van Gorcum), pp. 75–90.
IOB (1998) Bangladesh – Evaluation of Netherlands-funded NGOs, 1972–1996, The
Hague, IOB (subreport).
IOB (2008) Xplore programma (The Hague: IOB).
IOB (2009) Draagvlakonderzoek – evalueerbaarheid en resultaten (The Hague: IOB).
Kinsbergen, S. and Schulpen, L. (2010) De anatomie van het PI – resultaten van vijf
jaar onderzoek naar Particuliere Initiatieven op het terrein van ontwikkelingssamen-
werking, (Amsterdam/Nijmegen: NCDO/CIDIN).
Kinsbergen, S. and Schulpen, L. (2011) ‘Taking stock of PIs – the What, Why and
How of Private Initiatives in development’ in Hoebink, P. (ed.), The Netherlands
Yearbook on International Cooperation 2009 (Assen: Van Gorcum), pp. 161–86.
Kranen, J. (2009) Shadowplay in Indonesian Development Cooperation: Direct
funding of Southern NGOs (analyzing incentives and questioning surplus val-
ues) (Nijmegen: CIDIN) (unpublished MSc thesis).
212 Lau Schulpen and Paul Hoebink

Kruijt, D., Koonings, K. and Vellinga, M. (1983) ‘De Nederlandse ontwikke-

lingsgemeenschap’ in Kruijt, D. and Vellinga, M. (eds) Ontwikkelingshulp getest:
resultaten onder de loep (Muiderberg: Coutinho), pp. 11–39.
Mangelaars, N. (2009) Taking direct funding of Southern NGOs to the next level:
a study about incentives and surplus values (Nijmegen: CIDIN) (unpublished
MSc thesis).
Riddell, R. (2007) Does Foreign Aid Really Work? (Oxford: Oxford University Press).
Ruben, R. and Schulpen, L. (2009) ‘How to Allocate Funding to Nongovernmental
Development Organizations: A Critical Assessment of the Dutch Co-Financing
System’, Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly, 38 (2), 287–306.
Ruben, R., Schulpen, L. and Schendel, L. van (2008) Direct Funding to Local Civil
Society Organizations (Nijmegen: CIDIN) (Desk Study IS Academy).
Sachs, J. (2005) The End of Poverty – How We Can Make It Happen in Our Lifetime
(London: Penguin Books).
Schulpen, L. (1997) The Same Difference – A Comparison of Dutch Aid Channels to
India (Saarbrücken: Breitenbach).
Schulpen, L. (2007) Development in the ‘Africa for beginners’ – Dutch Private
Initiatives in Ghana and Malawi (Nijmegen: CIDIN) (unpublished research
Schulpen, L. (2009) ‘From “licking wounds” to ”private initiatives” – Dutch pri-
vate development cooperation in 2007’ in Hoebink, P. (ed.), The Netherlands
Yearbook on International Cooperation 2009 (Assen: Van Gorcum), pp. 209–20.
Schulpen, L. and Hoebink, P. (2001) ‘Ontwikkelingssamenwerking via particuli-
ere ontwikkelingsorganisaties – de MFO’s in perspectief’ in Schulpen, L. (ed.),
Hulp in ontwikkeling – bouwstenen voor de toekomst van internationale samenwerk-
ing (Assen: Van Gorcum), pp. 159–91.
Schulpen, L., Loman, B. and Kinsbergen, S. (2011) ‘Worse than Expected? – A
Comparative Analysis of Donor Proliferation and Aid Fragmentation’, Public
Administration and Development, 31 (5), 321–39.
Schulpen, L., Wintraecken, E. and Leuven, L. Van (2009) NGO funding in the
Netherlands – final report for DSI/MY (Nijmegen: CIDIN) (unpublished research
Schuyt, T., Gouwenberg, B. and Bekkers, R. (eds) (2013) Geven in Nederland
2013 – giften, nalatenshcappen, sponsoring en vrijwilligerswerk (Amsterdam: Reed
Business Education).
Sikkema, K., Van Bochove, A. and Koster, E. (2006) Tussen ‘Leuk meegenomen’ en
‘echt meedoen’ – Evaluatie van de front offices voor particuliere projectaanvragers in
de ontwikkelingssamenwerking (Leiden: Blaauwberg).
Smeets, A. (2009) Private Initiatives and the challenge of public support – view-
points of PIs on Public Support and the way they give form to it in practice
(Nijmegen: CIDIN) (unpublished MSc thesis).
Stiglitz (2006) Making Globalization Work (New York: W.W. Norton and Company).
Stuurgroep Dialoog (2008) Internationale samenwerking in verandering – Syntheserapport
van de dialoog 2008 ‘Ontwikkeling is verandering’ (The Hague: Stuurgroep Dialoog).
Stuurgroep Evaluatie Medefinancieringsprogramma (2002a) Eindrapport
Stuurgroep Evaluatie Medefinancieringsprogramma (Ede: Stuurgroep Evaluatie
From Favoritism via Abundance to Austerity 213

Stuurgroep Evaluatie Medefinancieringprogramma (2002b) Samenvattingen

Evaluaties Medefinancieringsprogramma (Ede: Stuurgroep Evaluatie
Stuurgroep Impactstudie Medefinancieringsprogram (1991) Betekenis van het mede-
financieringsprogramma: een verkenning (Meaning of the co-financing program: an
exploration) (Utrecht: Libertas).
Van Immerzeelen, M. and Benthem, W. van (2007), ‘Gulle Gevers Top30’,
Miljonair, 74–82.
VFI (2006) Nationale Goede Doelen Rapport 2006 (Amsterdam: VFI).
VFI (2012) Nationale Goede Doelen Rapport 2012 (Amsterdam: VFI).
Spanish Development NGOs and
the State: A Continuously Evolving
Christian Freres and Ignacio Martínez

7.1 Introduction

Non-governmental organizations (NGOs)1 in the development field in

Spain have come a long way in the last two and a half decades since the
country joined the European Community. This progress has mirrored
and has also been an important driving factor in overall advances in
Spanish development cooperation. In that respect, it is useful to under-
stand the characteristics, dynamics and evolution of the relationship
between Spanish development NGOs (NGDOs) and the State.
Today, Spanish NGDOs manage over EUR300 million2 for their devel-
opment-promotion activities. They form a small part of the charitable
sector (an estimated 5 per cent) but these organizations have become
key actors in the Spanish development system, channeling some 20
per cent of official development assistance (ODA) in 2012. They are
undergoing profound processes of transformation, partly as a result of a
changing national (and sub-national) political and institutional context
and, in the last few years, due to the effects of the economic crisis on
public and private financing, but also due to the international develop-
ment agenda which places increasing demands on all actors in terms of
aid effectiveness, development impact, and so forth.
A brief overview of Spain’s historical-sociological background is useful
to contextualize the following information and analysis. Three aspects
play a key role in this context. First of all, the relatively late return to
democracy (compared with other Western European nations) had vari-
ous consequences for civil society organizations (CSOs). One of these
consequences is that State-civil society mutual trust is still relatively
low due to four decades of institutionalized conflict during the Franco
regime (1939–1976). In addition to this, the structure of the Spanish

Spanish Development NGOs and the State 215

state became ever more complex as a result of one of the deepest

decentralization processes seen in Europe; for CSOs this has meant they
have to maneuver in a complicated institutional landscape where dif-
ferent territorial administrations have very distinct development policy
frameworks (see Sanahuja and Martínez, 2009). This has also contrib-
uted to the relatively high dependence of NGOs on public financing, a
characteristic which has had particularly negative consequences in the
economic recession in which Spain has been since 2009.
A second key aspect has to do with Spain’s economic base. In other
industrialized countries growth in the NGDO sector was associated
with reaching a certain level of prosperity. On this point, only in 1981
did Spain ‘graduate’ from being considered a developing country. Ten
years later it joined the Development Assistance Committee (DAC), an
important indicator which reflected the fact that it had advanced con-
siderably in economic terms. An important consequence of this is that
Spain’s national product (and particularly its income per capita) was not
large enough to sustain an active NGDO sector until well into the 1990s.
This partially explains the relatively late emergence of a sector as such.
The third key factor that should be considered is the weak foundations
of Spanish development policy. A clear example of this can be seen in the
Agency for Spanish International Development Cooperation (AECID),
which, despite institutional changes since the mid 1970s, and the
broadening to new areas of activity, has maintained traditional modes
for many years. With regards to NGDOs this has meant that ‘dialogue’
with this agency has often not gone much beyond the regulation on
grants to their projects, with limited opportunity for a more profound
debate on their role in the aid system. More broadly, it is paradoxical
that although they constitute a key aid channel, Spain has not articu-
lated a specific strategy or policy document on NGDOs (DAC, 2012).
Given this context, the current chapter analyzes Spanish develop-
ment NGOs and their evolving relationship with the State; an issue
which is difficult to understand without providing general information
about the basic foundations and evolution of overall Spanish aid, the
subject of the following section. After that the main analysis is pre-
sented in four sections. The second section presents an overview of the
organizations themselves, including definition issues, information on
funding sources, a discussion of various typologies and how resources
are distributed. The third part focuses on the Spanish government’s
vision of NGDOs, a perspective which has changed over time. In the
fourth section information is provided on public subsidy arrangements
provided by the central and decentralized administrations. The fifth
216 Christian Freres and Ignacio Martínez

part briefly deals with the role of Spanish NGDOs in public support for
development. The chapter ends with some general reflections on key
issues for the future.

7.2 The fragile pillars of Spanish development cooperation

In addition to obtaining a broad understanding of the context in which

Spanish development policy has emerged and how NGDOs were incor-
porated, it is convenient to outline, briefly at least, that policy’s evolu-
tion to understand how NGDO-State relations have been shaped and
transformed over time.
In broad terms, it can be said that Spanish aid has gone through
several clearly differentiated periods in terms of ties between the gov-
ernment (both central and sub national levels) and the NGDOs. After
it joined the DAC (in 1991), Spanish cooperation went through a long
initiation phase involving a gradual process of institutionalization.
The main highlights of this period were the creation of the AECID,
the Office of Planning and Evaluation – in 1987 – and the Development
Cooperation Council – 1995 –, and the approval of the Law for
International Development Cooperation in 1998 (Alonso, 2008; de los
Llanos, 2010, p. 79). This period of institutional development coincided
with the rise of the so-called ‘0.7% movement’ which campaigned to pro-
mote deep changes in the country’s aid policy. Although this movement
defended improvements in aid quality it is best known for its demand that
the government fulfill its commitment to the UN goal for aid volume.
At the end of this period, the first Master Plan for 2001–2004 was
drafted. This was a strategy document which defined the broad guid-
ing principles of Spanish development, as well as the priorities and
instruments needed to achieve its policy goals. This was also one of the
moments of greatest crisis in government-development NGO relations.
The main immediate factor behind this tension was the decision by
the Foreign Ministry to directly select the NGDO representatives to the
Development Council.3
In 2004 a new government was elected (the Socialist party), thereby
initiating a new phase in Spanish cooperation which lasted until 2008.
This period, which analysts have denominated ‘an era of expansion’
(Martínez and Martínez, 2012) or ‘a reformist era’ (Sanahuja, 2007) was
a significant change with regards to previous years.
The changes can be seen through four pillars. The first of these was
the expansion of ODA resources, which went from EUR1,985 million
in 2003 to €4,731 million in 2008; as a result Spanish aid increased
Spanish Development NGOs and the State 217

from 0.24 per cent to 0.48 per cent of GDP. The second pillar was the
upgrading of political commitment and a new discourse which aimed
to overcome the traditional view that sees development merely as a tool
at the service of foreign policy. This cosmopolitan perspective sought
to frame development within a multilaterally focused foreign policy
(Sanahuja, 2007, pp. 40–1).
The third change consisted in institutional and normative advances,
including the creation of a directorate general in charge of planning and
evaluating Spain’s development policy and the reform of the main aid
management body, AECID (Martínez, P.J. and I. Martínez, 2011, p. 7).
Finally, the last pillar which is also probably the most directly relevant
to the issue addressed in this chapter was the effort to rebuild social and
political consensus around development policy. In this period, relations
with NGDOs were ‘normalized’,4 and a new financing framework was
established, and, for the first time, a broad consultative process was used
to draft the new Master Plan.
This trend towards convergence with ‘international best standards’
initiated in this new cycle was interrupted abruptly after 2009. All of
the four pillars were negatively affected, and as a result, Spanish devel-
opment policy was significantly weakened, particularly since 2012,
coinciding once again with a change in government.
Nevertheless there were already signs of stagnation in 2009 when
aid volume reached its peak. The following year marked the beginning
of a steady process of ODA reductions which continues till today (i.e.,
the latest example are the cuts in the 2014 budget proposal). In 2012
Spanish aid had fallen to EUR1,652 million, 66 per cent less than 2008,
and it declined again in 2013.
The first major cut in ODA – by the Socialist government – announced
in May 2010 was an early sign of weakening political resolve, contra-
dicting the State Pact against Poverty and the 2009–2012 Master Plan.5
This made it clear that development policy was considered one of the
most dispensable policies in times of crisis.
Later, with the change of government in November 2011 (through
the election of the conservative Popular Party) and worsening economic
conditions in Spain, aid policy shifted towards a realist orientation.
In this regard, the government sees external action, including devel-
opment policy, as an important contribution to efforts to return to
economic growth, internationalization of Spanish companies and the
attraction of foreign investment. One of the main examples of this shift
is the government’s decision to position the ‘Marca España’ (the ‘Spain
brand’) project as an overriding theme in the country’s foreign policy.6
218 Christian Freres and Ignacio Martínez

In addition, the Master Plan for the period 2013–2016 notes that
development policy contributes to Spain’s external action because it
‘strengthens relations with other countries in which strategic interests of
Spain and global responsibilities come together’. The document goes on
to say that development cooperation is linked with Spain’s own efforts
to overcome its current economic crisis (MAEC, 2013, p. 16).
Currently the capacities of the system have also been diminished,
largely as a result of the steep decline in aid. One of the main impacts
has been on AECID, which despite being the main executive body, has
suffered budget cuts of over 70 per cent in the last three years and which
now manages less than 15 per cent of the country’s ODA.7 Decentralized
cooperation, one of Spanish cooperation’s distinctive characteristics
thanks to active civil society organizations at the regional and local
levels, has been notably debilitated over the past few years.
Finally, in this period the social and political consensus which existed
before has been severely affected. This is one of the factors that has had
the greatest impact on the relations between NGDOs and the govern-
ment. In the current phase of Spanish cooperation there is a wide gap
between a large part of the political spectrum and the non-governmen-
tal organizations and the current administration on the importance
of participation in building development policy. This disassociation
can be seen in several ways: the government’s failure to comply with
its commitments in the State Pact against Poverty, the opposition par-
ties’ growing criticism of the administration’s policies in parliamentary
debates,8 and an apparent crisis in the model of participation in the
policy-making process seen in the consultative bodies as well as other
ad hoc organizations.9

7.3 An overview of Spanish NGDOs

A review of the Spanish NGDO sector must take into account the broad
variety of organizations which have increased and transformed in a
relatively short time. From a comparative perspective this is an inter-
esting fact, because while in many Western European countries these
organizations date from the 1960s or 1970s, in Spain it is not until the
second half of the 1980s that an NGDO sector can be identified as such.

7.3.1 Number and types of NGDOs in Spain

Although there is information about the dimensions of this phenom-
enon, there are many methodological difficulties in determining the
exact size of the NGDO sector, and, thus, the scope of their work. These
Spanish Development NGOs and the State 219

problems are related to the classification of NGDOs which, from a legal

perspective, is not a clear concept in Spain (and elsewhere).
Spanish NGDOs include organizations which fall under one of two
legal classifications: associations or foundations.10 It is precisely this
differentiation in the legal persona, and the variety of registries for each
category that makes it difficult to know how many NGDOs exist in the
country as can be seen in Box 7.1.

Box 7.1 The challenge of identifying NGDOs in Spain

through various registries

In 2007 there were 30,493 associations registered with the Spanish

Interior Ministry (Ministerio del Interior, 2008). The distribution by
group and type of activity is included in Tables A7.1 and A7.2 in the
Appendix. The following table summarizes information about associ-
ations that carry out international development assistance activities.

Private associations in Spain: number and areas of activity related to development

General areas of Those involved in

activity international activities

Health, education and 3,820 Of these: humanitarian 960

social sectors organizations working abroad
Cultural and 14,782 Of these: organizations 480
ideologically based working on human rights
Other 11,891 0
Total associations 30,493 Total associations active in 1,440
registered international development

Note: These categories are those which the organizations themselves claim to be their
area of activity.
Source: Ministerio del Interior (2008).

In addition to these associations, there are many private foun-

dations that work on social issues and development cooperation.
However, in Spain there is no single registry for foundations since
these institutions are included in different registries at various lev-
els of the State administration.
At the national level, various ministries provide legal coverage for
foundations. When the data for this study was gathered, the vast
majority of Spanish foundations at the national level are registered at
220 Christian Freres and Ignacio Martínez

the Ministry of Education, Social Policy and Sports, in the Ministry

of Culture, and to a lesser extent, the Ministry for Environmental,
Rural and Marine affairs. In total, some 2,842 foundations are reg-
istered in Spanish ministries. Of these foundations, 456 carry out
activities in the realm of international development (see Table A7.3
in Appendix).
In addition to these foundations there are a large number of enti-
ties which are active on a regional (Autonomous Communities)
or local level. In this case, these foundations are registered at the
regional level where there is a number of registries, as occurs at the
national level.
The Spanish Agency for International Development Cooperation
(AECID), the main institution in charge of executing Spain’s devel-
opment policy, also hosts a registry of NGDOs. However, this regis-
try is voluntary, that is, the organizations themselves decide freely
whether to register or not. It is not, therefore, an official source
of information about the number of NGDOs that exist in Spain,
although it does provide relevant information about the number of
organizations which are active in the development field. To date,
some 2,000 NGOs are registered with AECID (although a consider-
able number are inactive).

In sum, due to the various registries that exist and the variety of clas-
sifications of NGDOs, it is difficult to determine the exact number of
charitable organizations. In contrast, it is easier to identify those that
are dedicated to international development cooperation, whether they
do this exclusively or whether this is only one of their areas of activity.
For this reason, it is best to distinguish between development organiza-
tions and the rest. In this manner, despite certain inconsistencies in the
data and some methodological difficulties, it can be said with relative
certainty that between 5 and 10 per cent of charitable organizations in
Spain are engaged in development co-operation, close to 1,900 organi-
zations, as can be seen in the following table (Table 7.1).11
Nevertheless, there are indications from news reports and recent stud-
ies that there has been a decline in the number of charitable organiza-
tions since 2011 as a result of the fall in funding, particularly from
public entities (Fundación PwC, 2013). Although there is no specific
data on how this has affected the number of NGDOs, there is evidence
of some closures and a rise in mergers between several entities (i.e.,
Spanish Development NGOs and the State 221

Table 7.1 Summary of private organizations in Spain active in development

cooperation, 2008

Type of organization Total organizations Number of organizations

in Spain engaged in development

Associations 30,493 1,440

Foundations (at national 2,842 456
Total 33,335 1,896

Source: Compiled by authors based on registries at: Ministerio de Sanidad, Política Social
y Deporte; Ministerio de Medio Ambiente y Medio Rural y Marino; Ministerio de Cultura.

Alianza por la Solidaridad was created by fusing three NGOs in 2013).

This issue will be developed in the following section.

7.3.2 Financial resources that Spanish NGDOs mobilize

Just as it is not easy to determine the precise number of NGDOs which
are active, it is also not simple to account for the total volume of
resources which these organizations manage. The main difficulty is
due to the fact that it is particularly problematic to determine the total
amount of private resources that Spanish NGDOs manage. To get a good
idea about the resources these organizations manage, it is necessary to
carry out a differentiated analysis based on the types of financing.
A starting point for this analysis is the membership of the
Spanish national NGDO platform (Coordinadora de Organizaciones No
Gubernamentales para el Desarrollo-España) According to its most recent
annual report (Coordinadora (2012). INforme del Sector 2011),12 with
data from 2010, its members can be classified by relative size accord-
ing to their income and staff: small (income of up to €2 million and
less than 10 staff); medium (11–50 staffers and income €2–10 million);
medium-large (51–250 staff and income of €11–50 million) and large
(more than 250 staff and €50 million in income). Based on these crite-
ria, in 2010, 54 per cent of the Coordinadora’s members are considered
medium-sized, 20 per cent are small, 18 per cent are medium-large,
and only 8 per cent are large. This data enables us to determine that
the vast majority of organizations (almost three quarters) are small or
medium. In fact these two categories have risen from a total of 71.5 per
cent in 2008 to 74 per cent in 2010 and it is likely the economic crisis
will stimulate this trend. Another fact which can be highlighted is that
222 Christian Freres and Ignacio Martínez

an important proportion of NGDO income is concentrated in relatively

few organizations. This fact explains in part the limited capacity many
organizations have, as shall be seen in later sections.
Data provided by the Coordinadora indicate a fall in staff between
2008 and 2011 Coordinadora, 2008, 2009, 2010a. While its members
hired a total of 4,881 paid professionals and over 19,000 volunteers col-
laborated with these NGDOs in 2008, the respective figures for 2011 are
3,352 staff and 9,152 volunteers.13 The total income managed by these
organizations was over EUR625.4 million in 2008, falling to EUR530.5
million in 2011.

7.3.3 Evolution of public financing for NGDO since 200014

As can be seen in the following table, public financing of NGDOs in
Spain rose considerably in the decade since 2000. However, this growth
has been gradual and relatively insignificant until 2006 (see Table 7.2).
The year 2005 was a year of change in public financing of NGDOs in
Spain, because it was in that year that these flows grew from EUR301
to EUR510 million in 2006, a 70 per cent increase. This trend contrasts
with the weight that public financing of NGDOs has had in total
Spanish ODA. Although public funding of NGDOs has more than dou-
bled between 2000 and 2009, it has represented a declining share of
Spanish aid, going from 17.4 per cent in 2006 to 14.2 per cent in 2009.
This apparent contradiction may be understood in the context
of a large increase in overall Spanish aid since 2005; this grew from
EUR2,428 million in 2005 to EUR4,727 million in 2009, an increase of
almost 95 per cent.
However, the global economic crisis began to take effect in Spain in the
public sector in 2009, leading to a slight decline in the volume of funding
for NGDOs in the following year, (a fall from €671 to €638 million in 2010),
although the proportion of total Spanish aid remained stable, around
14 per cent of net ODA. Since 2010, there have been deep reductions in

Table 7.2 Public financing of NGDOs, 2000–2012 (€ million and per cent)

  2000 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012

Volume 263 301 512 579 644 671 638 462 302
% of Net
19.9% 12.0% 16.9% 14.9% 13.5% 14.2% 14.2% 15.5% 19,0%

Source: prepared by authors based on database from monitoring reports of Plan Annual de
Cooperacion International (PACI), various years.
Spanish Development NGOs and the State 223

subsidies for NGDO activities, which fell about 50 per cent to €301 million
in 2012, although their share in total Spanish aid increased to 19 per cent.

7.3.4 Private funding

Information about private funding of Spanish NGDO activities is dif-
ficult to find as there is no continuous and independent monitoring
of these resources. Since these are private funds generated basically
through grants or project financing by private companies,15 member-
ship fees, individual donations, child sponsorship, and the sale of prod-
ucts and services, there is no official registry. Therefore, it is the NGDOs
themselves that decide whether to publish this information, to what
extent and with what criteria.
In this regard, the main difficulty is not so much the level of transpar-
ency of the organizations, since many do make an effort to publish their
accounts. Instead, the main problem refers to the overall data since
complete information is not available on all NGDOs in Spain. Although
it is true that a large percentage of NGDOs carry out permanent activi-
ties in the development field, publish their accounts, submit themselves
to regular audits and are accountable to the public in general, a signifi-
cant proportion of organizations do not fulfill these criteria. In many
cases this because the NGDOs are institutionally weak.
In any case, the existing variety of situations makes it difficult to
obtain reasonably precise information on private funding of all Spanish
NGDOs. Nevertheless, this analysis is available in respect of those
organizations which are members of the Spanish national platform
(Coordinadora), a representative sample of the NGDOs that exist in
Spain, as can be seen in Figure 7.1. According to this data, there is
no major difference between the relative levels of public and private
financing. In some years public funding is dominant while in other
years there is more private financing, a trend which illustrates the fluid
nature of NGDO financing in Spain.
Private funding has grown slowly but steadily since 2003. In 2005
there was a temporary ‘boom’ due to the enormous public response to
requests for humanitarian assistance for the countries affected by the
Tsunami in Southeast Asia. Donations were so high that some NGDOs
had to renounce new funds because they had reached their capacity to
manage resources. The effects of the economic crisis were first noted in
2008 in which there was a small decline in private funding.
However, in the following two years, resources increased. Indeed,
in 2010 total funding for the members of the Coordinadora reached
its highest point, EUR811 million, most likely as a result of the large
224 Christian Freres and Ignacio Martínez

Public Private
2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2010 2011

Figure 7.1 Evolution of public financing for Spanish NGDOs (2000–2010, in

€ millions)
Source: Prepared by authors, based on data from: Coordinadora de ONGD – España, Informe
de la CONGDE, several years.

donations linked with humanitarian aid to Haiti. However, this was

to be a temporary phenomenon, as the total amount these NGDOs
received in 2011 was EUR530 million, similar to levels of 2005. It
is interesting to note that 90 per cent of this decline was in public
resources, and that the relative fall in private funding was small, reflect-
ing greater stability in this source of support.
One important fact to bear in mind is the high level of concentra-
tion of private funds in a small number of NGDOs. According to the
Coordinadora’s report on activities in 2010, 4 organizations received
over 50 per cent of all the private financing channeled to all of its mem-
bers. In other words, the other NGDOs surveyed –78 – had to make do
with less than half of this type of funding.
In addition, most private funding in 2010 for Coordinadora members
was through one-off donations (43 per cent), followed by stable annual
institutional quotas (39 per cent). Only 11 per cent came from private
entities. Individual donations appear to be the source which has grown
the most, maintaining certain stability during the crisis although the
amount of each contribution has fallen (Fundación PwC, 2013).
Unfortunately, the historical data available is too limited to carry out a
deeper analysis of trends in private funding. In addition, there are numer-
ous organizations outside the Coordinadora which have received consid-
erable amounts of private donations, but information on them is limited
or non-existent. Indeed, five organizations which are not Coordinadora
Spanish Development NGOs and the State 225

members are the NGDOs that have raised the most funds from private
sources, a total of EUR126 million in 2009, representing about one half
of private monies channeled through Coordinadora members.16
Despite the difficulties in making definitive conclusions on private
funding, it can be said that the evolution of this type of financing partially
reflects external factors beyond the control of NGDOs. As a result, Spanish
NGDOs face clear limits in increasing the ‘market’ of private financing
through their own efforts. On the other hand, the economic crisis has
shown the limited reliability of public funding over the long term. Until
recently this was considered more stable than private financing which
seemed to respond mostly to humanitarian crisis and natural disasters.
The situation at present seems to be more complex with different fac-
tors having varying effects on private financing to NGDOs. One factor
which has favored increased private support is a law on the tax status
of non-profit organizations which allows companies to deduct 35 per
cent of donations to these entities. However, the disappearance of the
savings banks (Cajas de Ahorro) in the restructuring of Spain’s financial
sector eliminated an important source of private financing for the Third
Sector (Fundación PwC, 2013, pp. 11–2).

7.3.5 Spanish NGDOs’ national and international presence

and origins
In the 1980s and 1990s there was a boom in the NGO sector which
has continued past 2009 although at a much slower pace. This section
explores the factors that explain the emergence of this actor during
these decades and also why Spanish NGDOs developed much later than
in other DAC member countries.
The diversity in the origins of Spanish NGDOs is a major factor behind
the heterogeneous nature of this sector which responds to various clas-
sifications and typologies. The first and most basic type, which refers
to their legal status, has already been dealt with. Most NGDOs in Spain
are either foundations or associations according to national law. These
legal persona have contributed to important differences in terms of each
NGDO’s governance structures, internal organization and social base.
There are other ways to classify Spanish NGDOs. For instance, with
regards to how these organizations approach the development process.
In general terms, this allows for three broad categories (‘assistentialist’,
developmental and ‘structuralist’) although this is a very subjective
typology, and this is not the place to go further into this classification.
A more useful classification relates to the main links and groups upon
which NGDOs are sustained. In this case, four types of organizations
226 Christian Freres and Ignacio Martínez

can be identified: 1) entities linked with the Catholic Church; 2) insti-

tutions linked with trade unions; 3) organizations linked with political
parties; and 4) others linked with broad civic movements. This typology
is important as the groups that are connected often are quite influential
in the NGDOs’ activities, particularly in determining their counterparts
in developing countries (often drawn almost exclusively from local ‘sis-
ter’ organizations). They may also affect their approach to participation
in and monitoring of development policy as well as their development
education activities.
With regards to organizational size in terms of number of paid, staff,
there is considerable variety among Spanish NGDOs. However, this
information is only readily available for Coordinadora members. Data is
available, in 2010, on 77 organizations. The NGDO with the largest staff
has 1,370 workers, and at the other extreme there are two organizations
with only one contracted staff member.
The main activity or activities which these organizations carry out pre-
sents another opportunity for classifying them. Most Spanish NGDO are
primarily dedicated to managing development projects (developmen-
tal), but there are numerous organizations which have a humanitarian,
human rights, environmental, advocacy, development education or fair
trade orientation. Some NGDOs may address several of these focuses.
Another typology which the literature has not addressed sufficiently has
to do with where the organizations were founded and their geographic
presence. This refers to whether the organization was founded locally
and whether it has established a presence in other donor countries. Most
Spanish NGDOs’ headquarters and offices are located in the country, with
an international presence limited to sporadic visits or the sending of expa-
triates to developing countries to monitor projects, but few have a stable
structure in those countries. The majority of their activities are not carried
out directly, but through local partners, so that Spanish NGDOs focus on
the identification, planning and monitoring phases.
There are a small but growing number of international NGDOs in
Spain. These organizations have established offices in Spain according
to the legal requirements but they are formally part of an international
structure that includes NGDOs in various countries (i.e., Save the
Children, Medicins Sans Frontieres, etc.).
According to this classification, about three-quarters of the Coordinadora
members are national in origin and structure and the rest are interna-
tional organizations.17 Within these two broad categories, however,
there is considerable variety, as can be seen in a study analyzing non-
governmental cooperation in Peru (Martínez, 2007, pp. 38–9, 118–23).
Spanish Development NGOs and the State 227

The following paragraphs review some of the main characteristics of four

groups of NGDOs:

1. Nationally based NGDOs with no presence in the South. A number of

Spanish NGDOs are only located within the country, either through
a large presence, with offices in various autonomous communities,
provinces and municipalities, or through a merely local presence in
a few communities or only in one. The NGDOs of this type establish
agreements with Southern NGDOs and carry out their work through
the traditional Northern NGDO-Southern counterpart scheme.
There are various reasons why these NGDOs use this scheme.
Sometimes this responds to ideological or strategic motivations. In
this view, a large part of their work is carried out in Spain (and other
countries in the North) –through activities of policy advocacy, devel-
opment education and social mobilization – and work in the South
should be done in association with a local partner to strengthen social
networks and human resource capacities in developing country com-
munities. In other cases this way of working reflects structural limita-
tions these organizations have in terms of their lack of resources to
create offices in countries in the South where they are active.
2. Nationally based NGDOs with a stable presence in the South. These organi-
zations have undergone a process of ‘transnationalization’, as a result
of which they have opened offices abroad. This presence in countries
of the South does not necessarily mean they do not work with local
counterparts, because in many cases, these NGDOs work directly
through expatriate staff hired through the head office and at the same
time carry out other projects through local partners, in which case
their role consists mainly in monitoring project activities and results.
The setting up of an office is not always done in order to man-
age projects. In many instances it is done in order to establish an
institutional presence to identify local needs and seek and develop
new partnerships. In these cases the traditional North-South scheme
continues to be dominant. In other cases, however, this scheme has
resulted in abandoning collaboration with local counterparts, par-
ticularly when this type of presence is a result of a Spanish NGDO’s
interest in increasing its direct management capacity.
3. Internationalization by joining international networks. In contrast to the
NGDOs dealt with before, these organizations, in addition to their pres-
ence in Spain, belong to an international network. In the context of
globalization these institutions became integrated in an international
organization in their search for economies of scale in their work, greater
228 Christian Freres and Ignacio Martínez

efficiency and to link with larger structures with which they share a
vision on how to promote development. This process of international-
ization of Spanish NGDOs is seen by the sector itself as a natural pro-
cess, coherent with globalization and the emergence of a transnational
civil society. This linkage takes place through the formal integration
of a Spanish NGDO in an international organization as a new partner.
This option has been used mostly by relatively large NGDOs.
Other NGDOs, generally small and medium-sized, are also evolv-
ing in this process of internationalization, although through more
informal channels, by joining regional or global networks through
local networks. For instance, the organizations which form part of the
Coordinadora participate in a process of internationalization through
the Coordinadora’s activities in the European network, CONCORD.
4. Establishment of international NGDOs in Spain. The last type of NGDO
found in Spain is that of international organizations that have
established offices in the country. These are mostly NGDOs with a
long tradition of working in other countries and which do not have
much experience or social foundations in Spain. Their basic moti-
vation for entering Spain is to access the ‘solidarity market’ which
has expanded notably in the past decade. This phenomenon is seen
with general concern by many Spanish organizations mainly because
the fundraising methods used by many of these NGDOs –primar-
ily through child sponsorship schemes – is not seen as compatible
with practices used and widely supported by most Spanish NGDOs
in development education. Furthermore, the contribution of these
NGDOs to the process of building a more conscientious and active
civil society in Spain is seen by Spanish organizations as minimal. In
that sense Spanish NGDOs are concerned about the risk of ‘instru-
mentalizing’ the solidarity of civil society in the country.

Although this classification should help to explain the NGO sector in Spain
in the last two decades, the sector will probably suffer important changes
as a result of the current crisis which affects the very survival of many
organizations as well as their relations with the Government (see Table 7.3).

7.3.6 The evolution of the NGDO sector in Spain

The vast majority of NGDOs in Spain became active in the 1980s. Before
that decade relatively few Spanish organizations worked in the field of
development cooperation. In the 1980s and 1990s Spain experienced
a boom in non-governmental activism, leading to a proliferation of
NGDOs.18 Since then, the sector has undergone certain volatility in
Spanish Development NGOs and the State 229

Table 7.3 Main Spanish NGDOs, by volume of resources (2009–2010)

Name of Year € % public % private Background

organization millions financing financing

1 Intermón** 2010 70.7 33% 67% N/I

2 Manos Unidas** 2010 53.5 22% 78% N
3 Ayuda en 2010 45.0 15% 85% I
4 Intervida* 2010 42.5 – – N
5 UNICEF – Comité 2010 47.7 15% 85% I
6 Vicente Ferrer* 2009 39.6 13% 87% N
7 Acción Contra el 2010 39.1 86% 14% I
8 Cruz Roja** 2010 24.8 63% 37% N/I
9 Asamblea de 2010 23.7 94% 6% N
por la Paz**
10 Entreculturas** 2010 21.4 54% 46% I
11 Medicus Mundi** 2010 19.5 84% 16% I
12 Médicos del 2010 18.7 71% 29% I
13 Cáritas 2010 18.1 0% 100% I
14 Mundubat** 2010 16.2 90% 10% L
15 Plan España* 2009 13.4 22% 78% I
16 Anesvad* 2010 13.0 0% 100% I
17 Global 2009 11.5 5% 95% I
18 Alboan** 2010 10.3 49% 51% L
19 Jóvenes y 2010 9.6 76% 24% I
20 Federación 2010 9.4 81% 19% I
Española de
Ingeniería Sin

Key: N=Nationallybased; I=Internationallybased; NI=Nationally based organization which

has transnationalized; N/I: a nationally based organization which forms part of an historical
international network (Red Cross); and L-NGDOs with a local (within Spain) base.
Source: prepared by authors.
* This information is based on data published by NGDOs.
**This information is from Coordinadora reports.
230 Christian Freres and Ignacio Martínez

terms of the appearance and disappearance of NGDOs. A brief overview

of the most important moments that influenced the non-governmental
phenomenon in Spain may help to understand the situation of NGDOs
in Spain today.
In 1977, the Spanish government signed its last agreement with the
World Bank to receive loans and in the following years Spain underwent
a significant change in its international role. Specifically, in 1981 it ‘offi-
cially’ stopped being classified as an aid recipient and became a donor
country (Guedán, 2004, p. 119). The relative youth of the Spanish aid
system, compared with other donor countries, was a key determining
factor in the late appearance of NGDOs in Spain.
This delay was also related to the political regime in the country until
1975 (a 40-year dictatorship under General Francisco Franco) which
did not permit civil society to freely develop. Indeed, of all the current
members of the Coordinadora, only 11 per cent (8) started operating
before 1975 and most of these were organizations that emerged within
or closely linked with the Catholic Church. With the end of the Franco
dictatorship, restrictions on the right to associate were removed and
numerous social organizations emerged.
In this regard, the formalization of solidarity movements (particularly
focused on Central America) in the early 1980s played a key role in the
early growth of the NGDO sector. Another important factor in this dec-
ade was the emergence of a more modern development policy which
included a specific support program for NGDOs. This co-financing influ-
enced the type of organizations that emerged in the 1980s: more socially
and politically oriented, linked with social movements, although reli-
gious organizations continued to have considerable influence.
The real boom in births of new NGDOs occurred in the late 1980s
and early 1990s (Figure 7.2). Spain’s development policy continued to
evolve in this period, with growing funds for these organizations. As a
result Spanish NGDOs had become a relevant actor in the aid system;
both in terms of their role in constructing aid policy and in terms of
their management of a growing share of aid resources.
In the first years of the 1990s another important factor came into
play: decentralized cooperation. In addition, during this period there
was a growing movement, lead by some NGDOs and by the ‘0.7%
movement which had an enormous repercussion on Spanish society’
(see Freres, 1999, p. 204).19 This movement’s main demand was that
the Spanish government be more involved in promoting development,
particularly through channeling at least 0.7 per cent of the GDP to
foreign aid.
Spanish Development NGOs and the State 231

Año 1902 1947 1960 1968 1977 1979 1981 1983 1985 1987 1989 1991 1993 1995 1997 1999 2007

Figure 7.2 Number of Coordinadora member NGDOs created by year, 1864–2011

The ‘0.7% movement’ had a strong impact at the local level. It lead
to greater involvement by many municipalities, provincial and regional
governments in promoting development cooperation. Since NGDOs
were at the forefront of this change, they soon became the main chan-
nel for distributing decentralized cooperation. Today close to 70 per
cent of decentralized cooperation is carried out by Spanish NGDOs, so
this factor was key in their expansion in the 1990s. This, in turn, proved
to be an incentive for the emergence of new organizations. As a result
of these factors most of the new NGDOs that emerged in these years
had a more technical profile than those created in the previous decade.
In the late 1990s there was a considerable drop in the number of
NGDOs created (Figure 7.2). However, the situation is more complex
because the graph only registers the membership of the national plat-
form (Coordinadora), and while there is no other data source available,
it would appear that a number of NGDOs have been created in the last
few years, although many of them have not joined the Coordinadora.
Currently, decentralized cooperation is in a deep crisis. A first piece
of evidence is seen in the sharp fall in resources. In 2008 decentralized
ODA reached EUR613 million and in 2011 it had declined to EUR371
million. The second element is visible in the legislative area, through
the draft Law for the Rationalization and Sustainability of Local
Administration which, if approved, will considerably reduce these enti-
ties’ resources. This crisis will have a profound debilitating effect on
232 Christian Freres and Ignacio Martínez

the local associative structures linked with decentralized development

policies. In particular it may lead local actors to pay less attention to
international issues.20

7.3.7 The Spanish NGDOs’ work: sector and geographic focus

Information about how and where Spanish NGDOs work is relatively
dispersed. The main source, the Spanish Platform (Coordinadora) has
complete data on most of its membership, but a number of important
organizations are not included. In any case, this data provides a broad
sense of Spanish NGDO work. This analysis is complemented by official
data from the Spanish Foreign Ministry although this is limited to pub-
licly funded projects.

7.3.8 Main Sectors of activity

In general terms, data for the last few years show certain consistency
over time in terms of sector distribution of Spanish NGDO projects
financed with public funds. Not surprisingly, slightly over half of their
activities are concentrated in social infrastructure and services, with
health and education being the dominant areas by far (together repre-
senting over 30 per cent of the total in 2010). Within this broad sector,
the most important change in the last few years is the increase in sup-
port for activities in the sub-sector, ‘government and civil society’; this
probably reflects greater interest by the NGDOs in this area, but also
the efforts by public entities to promote goals in this area through non-
governmental organizations.
Agriculture is another sub-sector in which there are many projects,
although it is the only significant area in productive sectors; economic
infrastructure and services receive considerably less attention, only
about 2 per cent of the total in 2010). Humanitarian assistance projects
increased their relative importance from a little over 8 per cent in 2004
to almost 5 per cent in 2010, a shift which is in part a reflection of
increasing government priority to this area. Support for ‘women and
development’, relatively limited in 2004 (3 per cent) fell to zero in 2007,
but rose again to 11.7 per cent in 2010. Finally, funds for development
education activities have increased slightly since 2004, although they
still only represented less than 6 per cent of total spending in 2010.
In general, there is considerable fragmentation of the overall NGDO
effort in partner countries. As they are important actors in the Spanish
system, this has contributed to a relatively dispersed aid program. The
government is trying to reduce this though the country partnership
agreement (Marco de Asociación País/MAP) process, with limited success
Spanish Development NGOs and the State 233

because different stakeholders –NGDOs chief among them – resist this

sector concentration.

7.3.9 Geographic concentration of Spanish NGDOs21

Latin America is clearly the first priority for Spanish NGDOs, and
although its relative importance declined between 2005 and 2009 as
a result of increasing public resources focused on poorer regions, it
still represents over one half of the total (data from the Coordinadora
for 2010 notes 61 per cent of members’ projects were in this region).
This reflects Spanish organizations’ strong links to counterparts in the
region and limited presence and experience in other zones. NGDO
activities in Sub-Saharan Africa have risen during this period thanks
to greater public support, although its share of the total remains sta-
ble, at about 30 per cent (falling to 25 per cent in 2010). NGDO aid
to Asia rose in 2005 thanks to the large outpouring of public and pri-
vate funds for the Tsunami victims, but this is not likely to continue
(indeed, this region’s share was less than 9 per cent in 2010). The
region that has undergone a constant decline in its relative impor-
tance since 2004 is the Middle East; in 2010 less than 3 per cent of the
Coordinadora members’ projects were there. It is likely that the ‘Arab
Spring’ has lead to a slight increase in this area’s importance but there
is little data to confirm this.
The dominance of Latin America – in particular the Andes and
Central America – is evident in the ranking of the main countries where
Spanish NGDO activities are concentrated (Table 7.4). Of the top 15
countries where Spanish organizations worked in 2010, nine were Latin
American (Table 7.5). The only non-Latin American country in the ‘top
ten’ was India (most likely a result of humanitarian aid funds channeled
by Spanish NGDOs as this country has not been a traditional priority.
It should be noted that these organizations basically focus their activi-
ties on the same countries prioritized by the government, a fact which
underscores their financial dependence.
In any case, the heavy concentration on Latin America has been
slowly changing, since 2008 when 11 of the top 15 recipient countries
were from this region in. Despite, this a much larger number of Spanish
NGDOs are present in Latin American countries (over 30 organizations
in the top 9 countries), as compared with other zones (20 or less NGDOs
on average in countries in Africa or the Middle East).
The data also shows a major difference in the way in which Spanish
NGDOs work in Africa and in Latin America. In Africa the average size of
projects tends to be larger than in Latin America. Two cases illustrate this
Table 7.4 Geographic distribution of Spanish non-governmental aid, 2004–2010 (€ million and per cent)

  2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2010

€ % € % € % € % € % € %

Africa 95.8 29% 99.9 28% 121.4 30% 159.2 33% 160.3 29% 144.6 25%
181.7 56% 179.9 51% 208.4 52% 256.4 53% 301.9 55%
America 349.4 61%
Asia* 24.1 7% 55.8 16% 57.1 14% 49.8 10% 48.4 9% 49.4 9%
Europe 4.8 2% 5.8 2% 4.9 1% 4.9 1% 4.2 1% 3.2 1%
19.3 6% 9.6 3% 12.7 3% 17 3% 30.2 6%
East 15.9 3%
Total 325.7 100% 350.9 100% 404.5 100% 487.4 100% 544.9 100% 570.3 100%

Note: * From 2005 onwards: Asia–Pacific and Oceania.

Source: Prepared by authors based on: Coordinadora de ONGD – España, Informe de la Coordinadora sobre el sector de las ONGD, several years.
Table 7.5 Main countries where Coordinadora members are active, 2010

  Rank, according to Volume Geographic zone Central Government Number of NGDOs

funds managed in … (mill. €) Priority countries* (active in county)

2010 2008

Haiti 1 15 62.2 LAC A 42

Peru 2 1 58.2 LAC A 58
El Salvador 3 7 31.9 LAC A 41
Ecuador 4 2 31.2 LAC A 47
Bolivia 5 3 29.4 LAC A 57
Colombia 6 5 25.9 LAC B 42
Guatemala 7 6 20.9 LAC A 45
Nicaragua 8 4 18.6 LAC A 40
Honduras 9 11 14.3 LAC A 31
India 10 8 14.2 Asia