Accepted Paper:

The fiction of sustainability: funding AIDS impact mitigation through civil society in Malawi  

Author:

Louise Mubanda Rasmussen (Roskilde University)

Paper short abstract:

Based on ethnographic research with organisations providing help to “Orphans and Vulnerable Children” in Malawi, this paper discusses how donors, international and local NGOs, and CBOs all participate in keeping alive "the fiction of sustainability’, each for their different reasons.

Paper long abstract:

International funding for HIV/AIDS interventions has played a major role in the massive NGO growth Malawi has experienced since its democratic transition in the mid-1990s (Morfit 2010). Foreign funders channel funding towards 'civil society organisations' based on a neo-liberal logic that 'empowering' communities will ensure that initiatives 'really take root' and therefore eventually can continue without donor funding. But what if these organisations are primarily formed for the purpose of accessing donor funds? And what if the organisations that are most 'successful' are those who are best at maintaining and attracting new donor funding? Despite this contradiction, various actors in the HIV/AIDS field continuously invoke the doctrine of sustainability (Swidler & Watkins) as the remedy for problems such as 'donor dependency' and 'high turn-over' among volunteers.

Based on five months ethnographic research with organisations providing help to "Orphans and Vulnerable Children" in Malawi, this paper discusses how donors, international and local NGOs, and CBOs all participate in keeping alive 'the fiction of sustainability', each for their different reasons. Rather than overt resistance to the power of international donors, the processes I discuss reflect how actors from their different positions become skilled in using established policy models and available resources for their own ends.

Panel P013
Governing AIDS through aid to civil society: power, responsibilization and resistance