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Forum for the Future of Aid

Southern Voices for Change in the International Aid System Project

The Forum on the Future of Aid is an online community dedicated to research and opinions about how the international aid system currently works and where it should go next

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Constraints faced by Southern CSOs in Engaging on the Aid Agenda: some lessons from Uganda

By Charles Lwanga-Ntale, Development Research and Training (DRT)

This paper identifies and discusses constraints to the participation of Ugandan CSOs in aid processes. The paper catalogues a number of external and internal factors are responsible for the observed poor relationship between CSOs and other key stakeholders in the aid process. It also argues that for aid to be effective, the role of all key partners, including Civil Society Organisations, local and national government institutions, donor partnerships, private sector, etc need to be recognized and supported. A review of the context in which aid to Uganda is delivered and its strengths and limitations has also been attempted, and efforts have been made to highlight challenges which if addressed would help to enhance collaboration, hence enriching both the process and content of aid processes in the country.

A range of external and internal factors limit CSO participation in aid processes. These include contradictions in goals, limited space to engage, lack of access to information, donor-dominated agenda (s), and vulnerability to foreign funding. Within CSOs themselves the limiting factors include CSOs’ self image, capacity issues, the role of dominant personalities, ambiguous or narrow constituency for most CSOs, and limited internal democracy and accountability.

We propose that more innovative ways of enriching the aid effectiveness agenda should be explored, initially by proactively supporting Uganda CSOs to engage with aid processes. This support should, among other things, include greater recognition of the role of CSOs, as well as an explicit recognition of the need for a balance in the roles that government, donors, the private sector and civil society should play in development. However more enduring success can only come if deliberate efforts are also made to address the identified external and internal factors which limit CSO participation. The current tendency is to think of aid effectiveness in terms of enhanced partnerships between donors and recipient governments, while relationships with non-state actors are conceived primarily as those of service provision or at best as supplementary. There is therefore a need for greater attention to partnerships which more deeply involve CSOs, Government and donors on an equal footing. These different agents of development each have their own strengths and weaknesses, the latter of which can interfere with aid effectiveness. Insights into the interests, power relationships, values, knowledge, and access to information of each are required to understand the relative appropriateness of each as vehicles to pursue the aid effectiveness agenda.

More specifically it will be necessary to develop a better understanding of donor and government partnerships with non-state actors, to recognize the role of politics in such partnerships, and to recognise the limits of planning. It is conceivable that aid effectiveness can be achieved in Uganda and other developing countries, but only if the full involvement of all key stakeholders is ensured. From our analysis, it is evident that the current aid effectiveness agenda does not adequately involve CSOs or non-state partnership issues, although it may be argued that it provides a solid foundation upon which to build, there is a need for an enriched, more sophisticated understanding of aid effectiveness, that recognizes value added wherever it can be found.

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Uganda CSOs paper.doc 93.5 KB

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