Grass without Roots?<br />Foreign Funding and Accountability in Nicaraguan Civil Society<br />Dean Chahim (dchahim@uw.edu)...
From Agents to Facilitators<br />“Constructing civil society cannot be essentially about building up intermediary developm...
Civil society for health<br />Resistance against neoliberal policies<br />Pressure for improvement of social services<br /...
Motivation<br />Increasing donor funding for “civil society”<br />Apathy and demobilization<br />Structural inequalities (...
Key questions & Outline<br />How does foreign funding affect the accountability of NGOs to the grassroots?<br />Does confl...
Nicaraguan Context<br />High poverty & inequality<br />GDP/capita: $1160<br />Top 10% own 41%<br />Bottom 10% own 1.4%<br ...
NGOs in Nicaragua<br />Explosion after 1990 Neoliberal reforms<br />2009: 60% of foreign aid goes to NGOs (Hidalgo 2009)<b...
Paradox: Why so demobilized?<br />Highly unfavorable conditions for poor – stagnant or declining.<br />BUT: 20+ years of “...
“Civil society”?<br />
Hypothesis: “Grass without Roots” <br />Increasing Foreign Funding…<br />
Points of departure<br />“Civil society” as purchasable and quantifiable <br />NGOs as strictlynormative actors<br />NGOs ...
Sample<br />17 NGOs<br />Advocacy networks (4)<br />Organizing (1)<br />Human Rights (3)<br />Democracy (1)<br />Environme...
Methodology<br />Two month field study (July & August, 2009)<br />Semi-structured interviews with:<br />Administrators<br ...
Characteristics of funding<br />Volatile & whimsical<br />Short-term cycles<br />Aimed at quantitative results<br />Politi...
Accountable to who?<br />The struggle for downward accountability<br />
Strained accountabilities<br />NGOs<br />Other NGOs, Staff<br />?<br />
Coordinadora Civil (CC) :The“Voice” of Civil Society?<br />Advocacynetwork<br />Foreign funded<br />Dominated by NGOs<br /...
The “apolitical” paradox<br />How can advocacy for any group be “apolitical” – let alone the disempowered?<br />Does this ...
Accountable to who?<br />Downward accountability?<br />
Weak downward ties <br /><ul><li>Legitimacy from NGO “experts”
Urban elite NGO staff
NGOs not strongly accountable to volunteer promoters</li></ul>Volunteer promoters and victim of abuse <br />NGO representa...
Structural impediments <br />Completely dependent on foreign aid<br />No institutionalized downward accountabilityto const...
Net result<br /><ul><li>Self-admitted minimal policy impact
Marginal success at NGO coordination
Springboard to politics for NGO staff
Façade of active civil society</li></ul>Representative speaking at CC assembly<br />
Mission Drift<br />Social service or social change?<br />
Example: IXCHEN<br />Promote and defend women’s rights<br />“empowerment”<br />“we incitethe autonomy, participation, equa...
Empowerment?<br />Ixchen workshop<br />
Pushed to serve the status quo<br />Short-term “project” focus ignores structures<br />Depoliticized, token popular educat...
No Room for the Grassroots?<br />
1979-1983: Mobilization & Institutional Change<br />Tens of thousands of volunteers mobilized<br />+37% Literacy<br />-50%...
Contextual Effects of Neoliberalism, War, and Poverty<br />Fatigue from war<br />Distrust in corrupt institutions<br />Neo...
Impact of NGOs on Grassroots<br />NGOs have disproportionate voice<br />Overshadowed by NGO elites<br />“Funding culture”<...
Policy Implications & Emerging Solutions<br />
Summary: “Grass without Roots”<br />Funding restricts downward accountability<br />Structural inequality stagnant<br />Dom...
“Illusion of Progress”<br />	Foreign funding to NGOs does not resolve but actually may distractfrom the structural issues ...
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Grass without roots

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4-30-2010
Dean Chahim

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  • Key point: NGOs cannot be the movement
  • Key point: NGOs cannot be the movement
  • General apathySocial movements practically non-existent or co-opted by partiesWeak unions*1989: 22% of labor force2008: 8% of labor forceWeak cooperatives (only slightly improved since 2006 elections)
  • Note “horizontal” accountability as mentioned by Gugerty as an option via accountability clubs
  • Advocacy networkGoal: “citizen participation in public politics”800+ NGOs, networks, &amp; civil society organizations (CSOs)Produces gov’tpolicy proposals“Apolitical” yet opposed to neoliberal policies
  • Donor buzzwords, donor politicsPoliticizationEphemeral mobilizationsDepoliticized popular educationInter-NGO rivalries
  • Note the air conditioning, laptop, and projector. IXCHEN’s education director and other NGO staff complained that people had come to expect amenities like these, otherwise they simply wouldn’t come. What does this mean for the grassroots – for whom these luxuries are inaccessible without foreign funding?NOTE the volatility of a movement dependent on funding like IXCHEN’s. Their network literally disappeared in one year when funding for the promoter network was cut.
  • Note IXCHEN’s education director’s explicit admonition that IXCHEN would not contribute to an improvement of state health services for women, even though that has her long-term goalNote US parallel on last point: many scholars and activists point to the devolution of state services to the private sector &amp; NGOs as a key factor in decreasing the legitimacy of the state, distancing the accountability mechanisms, and fundamentally decreasing protest since those who can will exit rather than pressure for change. See Wood, Hisrchman, Skocpol, etc.
  • Social change will only come about when those excluded from access to wealth and power are able to make their own claims to justice, equality, rights, services, and technical support. (Pearce 1997, 273)
  • Grass without roots

    1. 1. Grass without Roots?<br />Foreign Funding and Accountability in Nicaraguan Civil Society<br />Dean Chahim (dchahim@uw.edu)<br />2009 Beyond Good Intentions Fellow<br />Development Studies & Civil and Environmental Engineering<br />
    2. 2. From Agents to Facilitators<br />“Constructing civil society cannot be essentially about building up intermediary development organisations to represent the 'poor': it must be about empowering the poor and enabling them to fight for their own rights as citizens.”<br />(Pearce 1993, emphasis added)<br />
    3. 3. Civil society for health<br />Resistance against neoliberal policies<br />Pressure for improvement of social services<br />Reduce corruption via watchdog groups<br />Enhance democracy?<br />Youth at rally in Managua<br />
    4. 4. Motivation<br />Increasing donor funding for “civil society”<br />Apathy and demobilization<br />Structural inequalities (economic, ethnic, gender, orientation, etc.)<br />Highly organized society in 1980s<br />Farmer & NGO aid recipient<br />
    5. 5. Key questions & Outline<br />How does foreign funding affect the accountability of NGOs to the grassroots?<br />Does conflicting accountability affect the ability of NGOs to catalyzesocial change?<br />How does the presence of NGOs affect the viability and vitality of the grassroots?<br />What are the alternatives?<br />
    6. 6. Nicaraguan Context<br />High poverty & inequality<br />GDP/capita: $1160<br />Top 10% own 41%<br />Bottom 10% own 1.4%<br />Weak social movements, unions, cooperatives, etc.<br />Rampant corruption<br />Poorqualitysocial services<br />Data source: World Bank, www.data.worldbank.org<br />
    7. 7. NGOs in Nicaragua<br />Explosion after 1990 Neoliberal reforms<br />2009: 60% of foreign aid goes to NGOs (Hidalgo 2009)<br />Assumed to be:<br />Closer to “people”<br />More innovative<br />Apolitical<br />Check to state power<br />NGO administrator at press conference<br />
    8. 8. Paradox: Why so demobilized?<br />Highly unfavorable conditions for poor – stagnant or declining.<br />BUT: 20+ years of “civil society” building NGOs<br />(and 20 years of neoliberal policies)<br />Coffee farmers & NGO aid recipients<br />
    9. 9. “Civil society”?<br />
    10. 10. Hypothesis: “Grass without Roots” <br />Increasing Foreign Funding…<br />
    11. 11. Points of departure<br />“Civil society” as purchasable and quantifiable <br />NGOs as strictlynormative actors<br />NGOs as “apolitical” actors<br />NGOs able to “empower” the grassroots<br />NGOs able to advocate on behalf of the grassroots <br />
    12. 12. Sample<br />17 NGOs<br />Advocacy networks (4)<br />Organizing (1)<br />Human Rights (3)<br />Democracy (1)<br />Environmental (1)<br />Rural Development (5)<br />Health (2)<br />16 locally run<br />11 national<br />Most visible NGOs in media included<br />NGO educator at workshop in León<br />
    13. 13. Methodology<br />Two month field study (July & August, 2009)<br />Semi-structured interviews with:<br />Administrators<br />Field staff<br />Volunteer “Promoters”<br />Recipients<br />Observation & field visits<br />Analysis of NGO literature & local media<br />Volunteers and field staff of local NGO<br />
    14. 14. Characteristics of funding<br />Volatile & whimsical<br />Short-term cycles<br />Aimed at quantitative results<br />Politicized and depoliticizing<br />Tied to donor foreign policy<br />USAID funded NGO compound<br />
    15. 15. Accountable to who?<br />The struggle for downward accountability<br />
    16. 16. Strained accountabilities<br />NGOs<br />Other NGOs, Staff<br />?<br />
    17. 17. Coordinadora Civil (CC) :The“Voice” of Civil Society?<br />Advocacynetwork<br />Foreign funded<br />Dominated by NGOs<br />Representatives elect “spokesperson”<br />Extremely prominent in media<br />Claims to be “the voice” of civil society<br />“apolitical”<br />Headline: “Civil Coordinator condemns Mel Zelaya”<br />
    18. 18. The “apolitical” paradox<br />How can advocacy for any group be “apolitical” – let alone the disempowered?<br />Does this notion of “apolitical” restrict the impact of advocacy?<br />
    19. 19. Accountable to who?<br />Downward accountability?<br />
    20. 20. Weak downward ties <br /><ul><li>Legitimacy from NGO “experts”
    21. 21. Urban elite NGO staff
    22. 22. NGOs not strongly accountable to volunteer promoters</li></ul>Volunteer promoters and victim of abuse <br />NGO representative checking on project<br />
    23. 23. Structural impediments <br />Completely dependent on foreign aid<br />No institutionalized downward accountabilityto constituency<br />Can it be responsive?<br />Can it mobilize?<br />
    24. 24. Net result<br /><ul><li>Self-admitted minimal policy impact
    25. 25. Marginal success at NGO coordination
    26. 26. Springboard to politics for NGO staff
    27. 27. Façade of active civil society</li></ul>Representative speaking at CC assembly<br />
    28. 28. Mission Drift<br />Social service or social change?<br />
    29. 29. Example: IXCHEN<br />Promote and defend women’s rights<br />“empowerment”<br />“we incitethe autonomy, participation, equality, and decision power of women”<br />Create a movement for women’s rights<br />More funding for: Vertical healthcare delivery<br />Less funding for: Women’s rights education via volunteer promoters<br />Mission <br />Practice<br />Pre-natal care <br />
    30. 30. Empowerment?<br />Ixchen workshop<br />
    31. 31. Pushed to serve the status quo<br />Short-term “project” focus ignores structures<br />Depoliticized, token popular education<br />Services reduce pressure on state for policy change<br />Campesinochild<br />
    32. 32. No Room for the Grassroots?<br />
    33. 33. 1979-1983: Mobilization & Institutional Change<br />Tens of thousands of volunteers mobilized<br />+37% Literacy<br />-50% Malaria<br />Elimination of Polio<br />-75% Infant Diarrhea<br />+4 years life expectancy<br />Literacy crusade trucks<br />Teaching literacy<br />Photos and statistics from Walker, 2003<br />
    34. 34. Contextual Effects of Neoliberalism, War, and Poverty<br />Fatigue from war<br />Distrust in corrupt institutions<br />Neoliberal reforms crushed unions, cooperatives<br />Increasing poverty: eat or organize?<br />Rural community leaders in Somoto<br />
    35. 35. Impact of NGOs on Grassroots<br />NGOs have disproportionate voice<br />Overshadowed by NGO elites<br />“Funding culture”<br />Depoliticized & demobilized<br />Overly localized and project-focused<br />Community organizer in León<br />
    36. 36. Policy Implications & Emerging Solutions<br />
    37. 37. Summary: “Grass without Roots”<br />Funding restricts downward accountability<br />Structural inequality stagnant<br />Dominated by NGO elites<br />Limited “empowerment”<br />Limited potential for grassroots growth<br />Minimal policy impact<br />Depoliticized, localized, and demobilized<br />Undermining of social contract? <br />
    38. 38. “Illusion of Progress”<br /> Foreign funding to NGOs does not resolve but actually may distractfrom the structural issues underlying inequality while demobilizingthose best capable of challenging them.<br />Campesino children<br />
    39. 39. Emerging solutions<br />Long-term donor funding?<br />Does not eliminate donor politicization<br />Social audits?<br />Accountability clubs?<br />Democratic NGO structures?<br />NGO technical support without co-optation?<br />Ex. Zapatistas, Sandinistas<br />Return to member funding for advocacy?<br />Difficult - and not perfect - but great potential<br />
    40. 40. Working towards Obsolescence?<br />“The greatest achievement of any NGO is the ability to renew society and then be replaced by movements from that renewed society.”<br /> -Marchetti 1997 (emphasis added)<br />
    41. 41. Thank you!<br />
    42. 42. Questions?<br />
    43. 43. Sources<br />Gugerty, Mary Kay, and Aseem Prakash. Advocacy Organizations and Collective Action. Cambridge, UK:: Cambridge University Press, 2010.<br />Hidalgo, Wendy Álvarez. "Ipade: Obtener fondos internacionales fue dificìl en 2009." La Prensa, 12 18, 2009.<br />Marchetti, Peter E. "NGOs: RethinkingStrategy." Envío, no. 195 (October 1997).<br />Pearce, Jenny. "NGOs and Social Change: Agents or Facilitators?" Development in Practice 3, no. 3 (October 1993): 222-227.<br />Polakoff, Erica, and Pierre La Ramée. "Grass-Roots Organizations." In Nicaragua without Illusions: Regime Transition and Structural Adjustment in the 1990s, by Thomas W. Walker, 185-201. Wilmington, DE: Scholarly Resources Inc., 1997.<br />Walker, Thomas W. Nicaragua: Living in the Shadow of the Eagle. Boulder: Westview Press, 2003.<br />Vázquez, Luis Serra. "La Sociedad Civil en Nicaragua." Centro de Análisis Socio Cultural, Universidad Centroamericana, Managua, 2008.<br />
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