Political or apolitical; powerful or powerless? NGOs, politics and power [NGOs in Development Study Group]

Rachel Hayman (INTRAC)
Susannah Pickering-Saqqa (University of East London)
Room 10 (Examination Schools)
Start time:
13 September, 2016 at 9:00
Session slots:

Short abstract:

This panel explores NGOs, politics and power. Original papers and a round-table discussion will address how international NGOs in the global north and NGOs in the global south are manoeuvring within civil and political spaces characterised by competition, legal constraints and legitimacy critiques.

Long abstract:

NGOs are struggling to overcome long-standing questions about their accountability, roles and purposes, as well as their place in civil and political spaces (Banks, Hulme and Edwards 2015). The NGOs in Development Study Group is running a three-session panel focused on NGOs, politics and power. It offers new theoretical and empirical contributions on critical issues identified in recent Study Group meetings. In the global north, how are international NGOs confronting changes in the policy environment, and responding to critiques of their legitimacy? How does this relate to the politics of funding and fundraising, with INGOs developing new income streams but critiqued for their public campaigns, corporate affiliations, and mission drift in an increasingly competitive environment? In the global south, how are NGOs straddling the difficult boundary between being perceived, or effectively acting, as political opponents of government, and remaining non-partisan to operate in complex political environments? In north and south, how are traditional NGOs relating to new forms of civil society organising and their politics? What new research is emerging on internal power and politics within NGOs; between headquarters and country offices; and between NGOs and the people they claim to support? Slot 1 (9- 10.30) ‘Power dynamics of how NGOs are responding and adapting to the changing external environment’: papers by Ibrahim, Kwak and Pierobon (Chair: Rachel Hayman) Slot 2 (11-12.30) ‘Internal power issues of NGO practices’: papers by Suthar, Peck, Hayman/Stevens and Kontinen (Chair: Solava Ibrahim; Discussant: Susannah Pickering-Saqqa) Slot 3 (2 - 3.30pm) Roundtable on ‘Power dynamics between NGOs in the global North and South’ with papers from Berghmans (Catholic University Leuven) and Schöneberg (University of Kassel), and inputs from Rob Dawes (Regional Development Manager, Mothers Union) and Graham Whitham (Senior Policy Advisor on UK Poverty, Oxfam GB) (Chair: Rob Dawes).