Radboud Centrum Sociale Wetenschappen

Opleiders in Mens en Maatschappij

Guide Dogs and Black Swans

Eight recommendations for more sustainable and inclusive partnerships between NGOs and the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs

The relationship between governments and NGOs is a central theme within international development. The class of AMID 2020 had the opportunity to talk to representatives of Fair Wear Foundation, Solidaridad and Amref Flying Doctors. They shared their experiences in partnering with the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs in terms of challenges, opportunities and added value. As a result of these discussions, AMID trainees developed eight recommendations for more sustainable and inclusive partnerships between NGOs and the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs in the future.

  1. Guide dogs: Find a way to involve NGOs better as thought leaders and make use of their innovative solutions in a constructive manner. Tensions that may derive are good: it will stimulate the government to think critically about system change and bring more attention to global needs rather than national policies. NGOs can assist the government as guide dogs and will bring discussions on international development closer to the political spotlight.
  2. Financial independence: Stimulate NGOs to diversify their portfolios to decrease their dependence on MFA. Although NGOs are progressively diversifying their portfolios more and more, there is still room for improvement. Less donor-dependence gives an NGO more resilience to overcome sudden budget changes and make decisions more independently.
  3. Sustainability of funding schemes: Explore the ways of making the continuity of Dutch development programs more sustainable. Possibilities that can be looked into are; the duration of partnerships, long-term focus regions, better project follow-up and certain threshold criteria.
  4. Southern leadership: the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs should have open and flexible discussions per applicant for both local and international partnerships. There is currently a discrepancy in the managerial threshold criteria of new partnerships and the strategic aim for more southern leadership.
  5. System challenges: Instead of the white swans also look at the black swans in monitoring and evaluation. Do not only have eyes for the positive examples and numerical outcomes, but also give attention to the negative side-effects and external barriers that hold back system change. As many of the valuable lessons you learn, come from negative experiences.
  6. Coordinating partnerships: Make sure that a partnership is coordinated by more than one policy officer of the ministry. Limited capacity and rotation of personnel hinder coordination and cooperation; two responsible policy officers could solve this problem.
  7. Choose wisely: Be more strict when selection organizations for long term partnerships. Sharing the same values and objectives is essential for a successful strategic partnership and sustainable results.
  8. Integrating the aid and trade agenda: Generating impact in the field of international development means a need for cooperation. For the aid and trade agenda to work, NGOs need to be enabled to cooperate more with the local private sector, focus more on local public-private investments and stimulate self-sustaining regional cluster building.

In conclusion, the class of AMID 2020 identified recommendations that may contribute to strengthening civil society. Further discussions are needed on accelerating system change, moving development cooperation closer to the political spotlight and stimulating southern leadership. This will be critical for effective, inclusive and sustainable international development in future partnerships between NGOs and the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs. 

This blog was written by Bram De Groote and Bart van der Meer, on the lecture on Strategic Partnerships Lau Schulpen & Willem Elbers.