Improving aid for development? Bring the State in and let’s phase out the internationals, slowly slowly…

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In a current development ecosystem, characterized by high fragmentation among development players, there is a desperate need to allow the government to regain a central role in coordinating and monitoring the work of different layers of development agencies and organizations. Therefore we need to bail in the government and ensure that it is in the position to take the lead.

We need a thin but strong government with less direct interventions but stronger oversight and control of what non development actors are doing. With a totally empowered and reinvigorated Social Welfare Council, an agency that deserves some stronger ‘teeth”, the state can regain control of development domain.

Here some more suggestions:

Overhaul of Social Welfare Council with a total depoliticization of its leadership. Let the technocrats do their job and let’s stop political appointees jeopardize the overall work of the Council. In order to achieve this, we need strong leadership from the government in reviewing the Social Welfare Act. Social Welfare Council should be a powerful body focused on coordination and monitoring of the hundreds of INGOs and NGOs working in the country. Setting up a national database as the Council is doing is indeed a great milestone. Major resources should be entrusted to roll it out nationwide with the long term goal to include, one day, not only all the INGOs but also the NGOs.

The revised Act should also ensure that “all” donors’ funding is scrutinized as well under the new Social Welfare Council. We all know that currently the Council is practically bypassed in favor of Ministry of Finance and National Planning Commission.

Increase the minimum funding threshold for INGOs being allowed to work in the country: instead of requesting at least 100.000 USD, INGOs already operating in the country should be requested to rise at least to 250.000 USD in order to renew the general agreement to work in the country. Within five years, the threshold should incrementally be raised to at least 750.000 USD. INGOs unable to meet the new requirements should be encouraged to merge their local operations, including sharing of offices in the country. As alternative, INGOs would be asked to completely hand over their activities to their current local partners.

In order to make the transition smooth the phase out can be supported, for two or max three years, by expats working with the local partner(s) before their full “take over”

There are already quite a good number of INGOs which have significantly contributed into improving living conditions of local population. Importantly they have created the conditions through which local organizations can deliver good development work.

It is high time we appreciated, we recognized INGOs but also it is time we wrapped up with them in a step by step fashion and with high honor.

As part of a national dialogue to reform the Social Welfare Act, let’s create a genuine atmosphere for debating new legal forms for entities and organizations working in the development sector. The dichotomy between NGO and INGOs does not make sense any more. INGOs willing to get “nationalized” should be allowed if certain conditions are met. Those INGOs willing to turn themselves national should be mandated to work only as philanthropic foundations, offering funding to smaller local organizations. It is not a drastic change with the partnership working modality already applying.

Particular regulations should be imposed on the new foundations, including stricter oversight on their overheads costs. Capacity building and organizational development functions should be phased out by ex INGOs now turned philanthropic foundations. There are already good numbers of national NGOs already able to work at grassroots level, doing the work that INGOs are doing in terms of capacities builders. Let them carrying on with this. The new philanthropic foundations would be able to work with minimal ‘structure” and light overheads, all strictly monitored

Going beyond the existing dual scenario NGO-INGO will also allow to come up with some sort of new legal cover for hybrid social models that promote social impact through development but also do achieve an economic return. Bilateral donors like USAID and DFID could create awareness with the government among B Corp and community interest companies (

These proposals should offer some opportunities for a serene although frank discussion. Those with major responsibilities in the development sector should not miss the chance to kick off the process. My dream for some sort self regulation and code of conduct seems not breaking through. Then it is time for a different kind of action.


Position: Co -Founder of ENGAGE,a new social venture for the promotion of volunteerism and service and Ideator of Sharing4Good

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