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AFRO-NETS> The missionary position: NGOs and development in Africa

  • Subject: AFRO-NETS> The missionary position: NGOs and development in Africa
  • From: Claudio Schuftan <aviva@netnam.vn>
  • Date: Thu, 15 Aug 2002 11:17:47 -0400 (EDT)

The missionary position: NGOs and development in Africa

From: Firoze Manji <firoze@fahamu.org>
and Carl O'Coill.
Published in International Affairs, 78:3 (2002) 567-83.

NGOs today contribute marginally to the relief of poverty/ill-health/
malnutrition, but significantly to undermining the struggle of the
people to emancipate themselves from oppression...

Programs delivered by these NGOs do not really seek to redress the
social circumstances that cause impoverishment/preventable ill-health
and malnutrition....

The development discourse is framed not in the language of emancipa-
tion or justice, but with the vocabulary of charity, technical exper-
tise, neutrality and paternalism....

Development as a whole has worked to undermine popular mobiliza-
tion.... NGOs accept or do not comment on the manner in which the
state exercises its power... NGOs work is limited to project work,
armed with manuals and technical tricks rather than seeking justice
and standing up against violations of Human Rights (HRs)...

Many NGOs were co-opted by funders to taking up such a role (a typi-
cal example is work to set up safety nets for the poor)... Develop-
ment NGOs have become an integral part of a system that sacrifices
respect for justice and rights, instead taking a missionary posi-
tion... If NGOs stand in favor of emancipation, then the focus of
their work has invariably to be in the equity/HRs/political domain,
supporting those social movements that seek to challenge a social
system that benefits a few and impoverishes the many.

The full article is available at:
or from the author's email address above.

Claudio Schuftan
Hanoi, Vietnam

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