The NGO factor

Published September 13, 2015
Children at a slum in Lahore attend class at a makeshift, open air school.—White Star
Children at a slum in Lahore attend class at a makeshift, open air school.—White Star

NON-governmental organisations (NGOs), said to be ‘partners in development’, have been active on many a social front. However, despite an active NGO presence in the country, not much has changed for the man on the street. The situation on ground remains in vivid contrast to the success stories that are generally seen in the annual reports that are peppered with the MDG buzzword.

Talking to Dawn, an NGO Project Manager said: “No one will say that their projects failed to deliver results. Go through any development sector organisation’s report, and there will be success stories but you won’t see a vast improvement in net results. The NGOs by their very nature are too small to cater to the needs of the masses.”

Most NGOs working actively on issues related to education, health and poverty alleviation excused themselves from speaking on the role of NGOs and the dismal failure in attaining the MDGs. It tells its own tale.

A Communication Officer for an NGO in the poverty alleviation field, however, insisted that there “is a silver lining”, adding, “The NGOs did try to influence policies, train journalists, go for capacity building and data collection which the government uses in its reports.”

“For NGOs to sustain, it is always good to highlight the good work they do. Our projects depend on funding and if the money isn’t there, we have to close the project. For us, getting the word out is important and the easiest way to do this is to get journalists together for a workshop or a seminar,” she said when questioned about the ‘good press’ the NGO sector generally receives despite no favourable results on the ground.

Media development expert and activist Adnan Rehmat differed. “Most donors want their work to be reported, but don’t want the issues to be highlighted.”

As the cut-off year comes to an end, caught up in their bids to garner sustained funding, NGOs in Pakistan seems to have missed out on a huge opportunity to become true partners in development.

Published in Dawn, September 13th, 2015

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