A critical analysis of the relationship between southern non-government organizations and northern non-government organizations in Bolivia

Journal of Global Ethics 6 (1):45-56 (2011)
Abstract
This article examines the relationship between southern non-government organizations (SNGOs) and northern non-government organizations (NNGOs) in Bolivia. The term 'partnership' for many years now has been a buzzword within the development debate, particularly in reference to the relationship between SNGOs and NNGOs. The term is ubiquitous in development literature in the North but is invariably absent from similar literature in the South. According to Fowler (1992. Building partnerships between northern and southern development NGOs: Issues for the nineties. Development Journal of the Society for International Development 1: 16-23), 'the distinctive feature of a partnership is that it involves sharing, with a sense of mutuality and equality of the parties involved'. This suggests that a partnership involves associates on an equal footing, within a horizontal structure of mutual respect, where resources are distributed equitably and decisions made jointly. It is also well known that one of the underlying problems of development which emerges not only in the literature but in practice is the unequal relationship between the south and north. I will argue that the relationship between SNGOs and NNGOs continues to be entrenched within a power structure based on western hegemony and a form of neo-colonialism. I will support my argument by highlighting data collected during a research study which was carried out in Bolivia.1 The main findings included that in spite of all the rhetoric which surrounds the topic, the situation has changed very little. SNGOs work by strategic plans but often have to resort to other sectors and activities to take advantage of possible funding opportunities. In relation to accountability, SNGOs are fully aware who they need to be accountable to but tend to prioritize accountability to donors; NNGOs were found to be weak in being accountable to their partners and client groups. There needs to be some clarity of the roles of the NGOs, especially NNGOs, and an analysis of their changing role. Shared values are insufficient on their own to build effective partnerships; obstacles such as the inequitable distribution of resources and unequal power relations hinder effective partnerships. Finally, in reality, partnerships between SNGOs and NNGOs rarely exist in the true sense of the word. This unequal relationship between SNGOs and NNGOs translates into an underlying problem of development; how the dichotomy of the south and north can be destructive and counterproductive to effective development
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