It has become de rigeur for the major international development and health NGOS to incorporate capacity building and promote local ownership of aid programs. This makes sense in terms of long term sustainability of programs and it is also something that major donors are increasingly demanding.
In the new issue of PSI’s Impact magazine (for which I am a contributing writer), I take a look at how four I-NGO’s — World Vision, International Planed Parenthood Federation, Family Health International, and PSI — approach this question of local ownership of aid programs.
Here’s the intro to the piece, but do click through to read mini profiles of those four I-NGOs.
The global health community is tasked with delivering fast and effective development assistance to resource-poor countries, while also working to build the capacity within those countries to sustain improvements in health, education, human rights and other development indicators. For years, international nongovernmental organizations (INGOs) have wrestled with finding the right balance between more direct implementation of program activities and longer-term goals of building local capacity to take on greater program responsibility.
Recently, the question of how to encourage long-term sustainability of development programs has come back to the foreground of the development agenda, partly because donors are emphasizing it, and partly because INGOs have their own experiences to share, test and validate. There is no disagreement on why; it’s where, how and when that pose the most difficult questions.
“Too often, our industry is full of incentives designed to prolong our efforts rather than reduce them or enable transitions,” U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) Administrator Dr. Rajiv Shah told an audience in January. “As a result, handoffs rarely happen.” As part of a suite of USAID reform efforts introduced last year, the agency is placing a renewed focus on local capacity building. This includes accelerating funding to local NGOs and local entrepreneurs.
“We must seek to do our work in a way that allows us to be replaced over time by efficient local governments, by thriving civil societies and by a vibrant private sector,” said Dr. Shah.
The U.K.’s Department for International Development, now known as UKaid, will expand partnership agreements with civil society organizations in developing countries, a vision laid out in a 2009 “White Paper.” Perhaps the single most important driver of increased local ownership of health programs is the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. The specific programs to which $21.5 billion have been distributed since 2002 are developed by the recipient countries themselves – often through a collaboration between national governments and civil society groups. Principals of sustainability and local ownership are built into every grant that the Global Fund approves.
Various INGOs with an on-the-ground presence in the developing world have been working on these issues long before donors began to insist on them. What follows is a brief survey of how four INGOs approach the question of local ownership and capacity building.