In her seminal 1997 article, Power Shift, Jessica Mathews argued that a power shift was underway in international politics marked by a redistribution of power from states to non-state actors—mostly businesses and non-governmental organizations (NGOs). Almost two decades later, NGOs are trying to foster a new sort of power shift, this time transferring power from the global north to the global south. This power shift was one of the substantive topics of discussion at the BISA NGO Working Group workshop I wrote about last week. The BOND report and subsequent presentations by academics, Amnesty International and Family for Every Child elaborated various perspectives on the nature and perceived extent of the power shift.

From the practitioner’s point of view, the perceived power shift is occurring as humanitarian, development and advocacy NGOs, often founded and headquartered in the global North, commit to four primary activities: (1) relocating their headquarters and operations to the global South; (2) supporting capacity development in the global South by transferring skills, knowledge and resources; (3) gradually withdrawing from service delivery to permit local actors to take over these roles; and (4) where Northern NGOs (NNGOs) remain primary actors, enhancing participation in all stages of program planning, implementation and evaluation. Continue reading

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