Towards accountability: narrowing the gap between NGO priorities and local realities in Thailand

Towards accountability: narrowing the gap between NGO priorities and local realities in Thailand

LDCs influencing NGO funding priorities: the case of Thailand

Paper addresses the debate that the gap between local priorities and NGO accountability can be wide. It explores a highly informal line of accountability that emerged between an internationally funded NGO and a village community in southern Thailand. Using case study material, it argues that pessimistic assertions about NGOs and accountability tend to:

  • overstate the power that NGOs can exercise over their beneficiaries
  • underplay the power and autonomy that poor people have at their disposal

Specifically, it argues that the imposition of rules stipulating local participation empowered villagers to negotiate and transform the terms on which the NGO intervened in their community.

Paper demonstrates how villagers in southern Thailand were able to influence the terms on which an internationally funded NGO prioritised and allocated aid within their community. This, in turn, reflects a number of factors:

  • the organisational ability of the recipient community
  • the limited resources of the NGO
  • donor stipulations regarding group formation and public participation

Such findings suggest that poor people can influence development policy and more importantly, that stipulations aimed at encouraging and demonstrating participation can improve accountability between NGOs and their intended beneficiaries.

[Adapted from the author]

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