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objectives: democratising neighbourhood organizations and expanding the public arena. Remaining outside the local power system, the NGO will seek to set up mechanisms enabling the actors concerned to introduce arrangements for solving conflicts that arise from the transformation of social hierarchies.

c. Take part in the research-action process. Because of its intermediary position, the development NGO has special insight into the correlation between different orders of knowledge. It acts as a mediator between the skills of the politician, the scientist and the people at large.

NGOs will aim to produce knowledge as a spinoff of experiments that occur. Facilities must exist for disseminating and possibly reproducing this knowledge. To this end, the NGO must promote co-operation between academic researchers and grassroots actors.

The main value of intervention by NGOs is communications-focused; it results from the introduction of discussion opportunities open to all the actors. This method permits development along mutually agreed lines, e.g. extending local experiments to other groups and neighbourhoods or setting up collective management bodies grouping the different actors. This does not in any way imply neutrality or the concept of anti-poverty strategies as non-conflictual (i.e simplistic or unfeasible).

In societies where the chasm between elites and the rest of the population is too deep, intermediary structures are few and far between. In these conditions, NGOs sometimes provide one of the few points of contact and avenues of communication between the centre and the periphery. NGOs thus assume a mediation function.

IV.2. Some limitations of NGOs. Nevertheless, NGOs are subject to certain constraints 1. Material resources. A policy to fight poverty must be designed to promote the autonomy and empowerment of the needy. This being the case, the “mediation” role to be played by development NGOs cannot be restricted to distributing resources or providing services in situations where people cannot cope and where the State is powerless or indifferent. In the field of humanitarian action and poverty alleviation NGOs can, for example, be found providing medical care, distributing food and medical supplies, etc. Development NGOs, by definition, rely on the resources they can obtain from funding agencies. As organizations, they are to some extent bureaucracies which need financial backing in order to exist. In other words, they have no alternative but to seek funding. As a result, they tend to think of themselves as managers positioned halfway between the possessors of resources (funding agencies) and needy populations. This is a fatal error. Experience shows that NGOs must be extricated from this “Celestina”-type role in which they attempt to bring together two social sectors which are separated in practice by a social divide and by the concentration of resources. To pursue this line of approach is to perpetuate the bonds of dependence and assistance.


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