Non(?)-governmental organizations in Norway : a study of power within the Norwegian model of international development
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Non-governmental Organizations (NGOs) have risen to the forefront of the development sector. Yet, for a group of development actors that are explicitly non-governmental, it is conspicuous that their rise to prominence owes itself to State funding. This conundrum has spurred a debate about whether NGOs represent the poor and marginalized, or the States that fund them. In this thesis I contribute to the debate by examining the type of development actors that emerge from the Norwegian State-NGO relationship. Through semi-structured interviews with 10 Norwegian NGOs, I examined the ways in which the State exerts its influence on NGOs, and vice versa. By employing Foucault’s governmentality approach to the study of governance, I found that the State controls the development efforts of Norwegian NGOs by orienting their activities towards quantifiable targets. These organizations are therefore in a compromising position where they must meet these targets, but also pursue more qualitative targets to help the poor. NGOs, however, are not passive actors, but rather continuously try to mold the structures of their relationship with the State in a plethora of ways. Nonetheless, their influence is mostly confined to development policy, and so when foreign policy objectives undermine development goals, NGOs find their power diminished. Through my research I found that Norwegian NGOs does not provide an alternative approach to development, but rather constitute a dynamic and heterogeneous piece in the wider ‘Norwegian development project.’ However, the relationship between the State and NGOs is not an enabling one, but rather a controlling one, and so the whole of the Norwegian NGO sector remains the sum of its independent and fragmented parts.