ADB, DfID boost government-NGO cooperation
Civil Society | Livelihoods
The Asian Development Bank and UK Department for International Development have announced details of a USD 1 million technical assistance grant that they hope will usher in a new dawn for NGO-government relations.
The project, worth USD 2.1 million including matching funds from the government of China, will develop pilot partnerships between local government agencies and NGOs in rural Jiangxi Province. ADB hopes this will provide a blueprint for NGO-Government cooperation that can be extended to national level poverty alleviation efforts in what the press release dubs “mainstreaming NGOs into national poverty alleviation efforts.”
“At least on a pilot basis there is an acknowledgement from some sections of government that NGOs have a role to play,” says Chris Spohr, a social sector economist at ADB. The Leading Group Office of Poverty Alleviation and Development, he says, was a chief proponent of the initiative.
The project will see government poverty alleviation cash directly fund project pilots as part of a ground-breaking initiative that will invite applications from NGOs in late 2005. A competitive tender process will assess their ability to work with and build the capacity of local government.
The assessment process will not, however, offer NGOs a blank page to design and implement their own projects, stresses Spohr, who confirms that management capacity, knowledge of participatory processes and sectoral knowledge would be key assessment criteria. “Facilitative” best characterizes how NGOs will be used, according to Spohr. He adds that “the implementation role of NGOs will vary from village to village.”
The process, Spohr reveals, will also take a broad definition of the term ‘NGO’ and hopes to attract interest from domestic organisations such as famers associations, but also international NGOs.
The move to engage more closely with civil society comes at a time when the national government is grappling to contain growing regional inequalities. The incidence of poverty rose by nearly one million during 2003 and the elimination of poverty has slowed in recent years despite growing public investment. The project will try to improve the working practices of local government, which has struggled to implement new participatory approaches introduced in 2001.
Reaching communities in isolated, rural areas has proven the biggest challenge for government officials who, in Jiangxi, will now be able to draw on the expertise of NGOs who are thought to have comparative advantage in areas such as project design, management and monitoring and evaluation.
“The PRC now faces a new poverty context, with poverty increasingly concentrated in hard-to-reach groups…. [Government departments] increasingly view NGO participation in poverty reduction as a means to address certain systematic flaws and inefficiencies” Spohr is quoted in a press release.
The pilot projects, due to begin in early 2006, will include a rigorous monitoring and evaluation component that will compare results from villages where there is NGO-assistance with those where there is not.
The technical assistance programme will conclude in October 2007.
Report by Matt Perrement, September 17, 2005