Understanding and supporting the role of local organisations in sustainable development

Understanding and supporting the role of local organisations in sustainable development

Improving development assistance support to local organisations

This publication is one in a series of case studies that reviews the experiences of local organisations in development and environmental management . It also examines the different kinds of external funding that best supported their efforts. The case studies are based on reflections by IIED and 6 of its local partners from Puerto Rico, Peru, Zimbabwe, Pakistan, Argentina and Tanzania.

Although it is well acknowledged that the quality and effectiveness of funding provided by governments and funding agencies is dependent on the quality and effectiveness of local organisations, very little of the development assistance reaches these organisations. The report identifies incompatibilities between donors and local organisations that have contributed to the problem. Some of these are given below.

  • Despite their critical roles in poverty reduction, many local organisations work in countries that are not on the funders’ approved lists, such as “middle-income” nations, or countries whose governments are deemed unacceptable and denied official support.
  • While many local organisations work in urban areas, many international donors have no urban policy and still assume there is too little urban poverty to justify working in urban areas.
  • Official development assistance agencies will always face difficulties in supporting local organisations whose work might be judged to be political whereas, almost all forms of poverty reduction require some political change.
The paper concludes that donor agencies should consider possible ways forward. These include:
  • funding that is more flexible and long-term for local organisations with good track records
  • funding conditions that focus far less on what should be done, when and how, and far more on accounting for all funding used and on these organisations’ accountability to local populations
  • creating funds from which the urban and rural poor can draw directly
  • setting-up local funds that are accountable and transparent to civil society organisations in their areas.
The report notes that such changes bring many institutional challenges to donor agencies because it would mean a change in the understanding of aid effectiveness by the politicians and civil servants who oversee their work and control their funding.