Joris Voorhoeve: Valuable overview, but short on analysing NGOs

Development Policy27 Jan 2010Joris Voorhoeve

The WRR study is a valuable overview, but the WRR should have limited its scope to Dutch bilateral assistance. It contains little information on multilateral aid and is very brief on NGOs. Very positive, however, is the emphasis on the need for assistance and a professional approach focusing on fewer countries and about four sectors.

Development cooperation is a serious and difficult business, and it takes a long time to achieve desired impacts. I support the plea for a professional international cooperation service. I made similar proposals in the 1980s and 1990s, but they received no attention at the time. The Netherlands should focus on sectors in which it has expertise and a good reputation. These are food; water; sexual education, family planning and related health services, and; legal order, consisting of judicial and police reform. I hope the WRR will develop these themes further.

A limitation of 10 countries is too stringent, but reducing from the present 36 is a good idea. About 20 would be manageable.

It is a pity the report is short on analysing NGOs, but surprisingly opinionated on what NGOs should do. This is one of the weakest chapters. NGOs can carry out extremely useful programmes in countries with very suppressive governments, where offical aid to citizen-action groups and civil society is made very difficult by the host government. In such cases, it is very convenient that the Dutch embassy can respond to the leaders of such a government by saying that it has no influence on these projects to support local womens groups, journalist training, human rights activists, and so on. The radius of official aid is not so wide. Private assistance to civil society is very important, especially in the worst countries.