Accepted paper:

Democratising Pakistan? Critical reflections on the roles of internationally funded NGOs

Author:

Arjumand Kazmi (University of Warwick)

Paper short abstract:

This paper presents critical insights into the diverse roles of NGOs in democratising Pakistan. With a lens of hermeneutic phenomenology, it examines the contested milieu of political, cultural and social contexts in which NGOs operate. It challenges the liberal conceptions of democratisation.

Paper long abstract:

This paper presents critical insights into the diverse roles that internationally funded non-governmental organisations (NGOs) play in democratising Pakistan. These insights are informed by an empirical study conducted with members of NGOs, international development organisations, politicians, journalists and academics in Pakistan. The persistent fragility of democracy as a system of governance, parallel to a pronounced interest and investment by the West in 'consolidating democracy', brings up some vexed questions about the ethnocentric nature of democratisation agenda that is premised on liberal conceptions of democracy. Charge of 'ethnocentrism' notwithstanding, there remains a dearth in local explanations concerning the nature of democratisation and the contribution of NGOs within it.

By applying a lens of hermeneutic phenomenology and giving prominence to the 'lived experience' of NGOs' professionals, I show that in Pakistan, NGOs operate in a contested milieu of historical, political, cultural and social contexts. This milieu profoundly circumscribes their roles in democratisation. I argue that to sustain, NGOs adapt and modify their roles. As a result, they develop distinct ways of being. To conclude, I challenge the liberal conceptions of NGOs in democratisation based on normative and evaluative assumptions.

panel A01
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