Friday, February 27, 2009

Aid from international NGOs: Blind spots on the aid allocation map?

Do international NGOs target poor countries when allocating aid? And do they focus on countries where governments fail? They don't, according to the PhD research of Dirk-Jan Koch, civil servant at the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs. NGOs spend more resources per poor person in lower middle income countries than in the poorest countries. For example, per poor person, more aid is allocated to Costa Rica and Chile than to Cote d'Ivoire. Tanzania (11 million people below the poverty line) receives 61 times more NGO aid than the Central African Republic (4 million people below the poverty line).

In his research, Koch uses a variety of quantitative and qualitative research techniques and data sets on aid allocations for 61 internationally operating NGOs from Europe, Canada, USA and Australia, to investigate a series of hypothesis about the behavior of NGOs.

He found that the policy choices of donors have an important influence on the countries chosen by NGOs to work in. They are less important when it comes to how active an NGO is in a country. His analysis shows, Koch claims, that NGOs follow governments and not the other way around. He also found that the quality of governance in a country does not seem to be a significant factor in any of this.

Not only do they all work in the same countries, within countries, NGOs also cluster and Koch analyses whether the factors that influenced the emergence of Silicon Valley play a similar role for Tanzania in "Serengeti Valley". He compares NGO aid and donor practices in Germany, Norway and the USA to test various hypothesis regarding the pattern of clustering. Is it risk aversion because of “marketization”? Or the degree of dependence on back donor? Does the emphasis on results lead to safe choices? A panel of Dutch researchers questioned Koch extensively on 26 February 2009 when he defended his PhD research. Questions remain but all panelists agreed that "this study is an important contribution to the debate."

by Rosien Herweijer

Links to articles (also in French) published on Koch’s research can be found at

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