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NGOs and Political Change

NGOs and Political Change: A History of the Australian Council for International Development OPEN ACCESS

Copyright Date: 2015
Published by: ANU Press
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    NGOs and Political Change
    Book Description:

    The Australian Council for International Development is the peak body of Australian international development NGOs. This book explores ACFID’s history since its founding in 1965, drawing on current and contemporary literature as well as extensive archival material. The trends and challenges in international development are seen through the lens of an NGO peak body: from the heady optimism of the first Development Decade of the 1960s, through the growth in government support of NGOs in the 1980s, to the challenges of the 2010s. The major themes of ACFID are presented: human rights; gender justice; humanitarianism; NGO codes of conduct; and influencing government policy both broadly and as it relates to NGOs. Each of these themes is placed in a global context and in relation to what other NGO networks are doing internationally.

    eISBN: 978-1-925022-47-6
    Subjects: Political Science
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  1. This book looks at NGO development through the lens of the first 50 years of the Australian Council for International Development (ACFID), from its very humble beginnings in 1965 to the respected peak body it has become in 2015. This period coincided with the optimism of the first Development Decade of the 1960s through to the emergence of developing countries as rising political powers in the 2010s, many with their own aid programs, and with quite different views from the West on what development means for them and what role NGOs might play.

    While the story of ACFID is common...

  2. In Canberra, where the Australian Council for International Development is located, whole suburbs are devoted to industry associations and peak bodies there to capture the ear of government. It is often assumed that these industry peak bodies’ own members drove the process of coming together to advocate for their cause. The case of ACFID is quite different: it was a determined individual, Sir John ‘Jack’ Crawford, a former public servant with no NGO connections, who brought a disparate group of Australian development NGOs together into a single council in the mid-1960s. Without him there may not have been a single...

  3. In the twenty-first century, global education is seen as a way of promoting aid programs and to some extent as a propaganda arm for official aid agencies. This current perception, however, is a relatively recent phenomenon. From the late 1960s until the late 1990s the main thrust of global education was quite different from that of the official aid programs, and very much focused on promoting a social justice agenda. Official aid agencies such as AusAID, which once funded this broader development agenda, now use school and adult education curricula to push the benefits of their national overseas aid programs...

  4. Including women into aid and development activities has been difficult ever since official aid programs started in the 1950s and 1960s. While Third World women have been clamouring to be included and were leading drivers in the UN processes since the 1950s, Western development agencies, including NGOs, have been very slow to incorporate women’s needs into their development programs, and even less inclined to look at the gender issues in power relations between men and women in developing countries, let alone gender minorities.¹ The same story applies to ACFID, which has struggled to adequately take on board women and gender...

  5. Being involved in the responses of NGOs to humanitarian crises was more or less expected of ACFID from its early years. Responding to these disasters is an integral part of most NGOs’ work, and ACFID has had a central coordinating and fundraising role in emergency work for 20 years from 1973 to 1993 through its International Disasters Emergency Committee (IDEC). This was then replaced by an Emergencies Forum, which then became a Humanitarian Reference Group (HRG), neither of which had a fundraising role. In the UK the Disaster Emergency Committee (DEC), the model IDEC initially adopted, went in a different...

  6. 06 Human Rights (pp. 113-128)

    The promotion of human rights has underpinned ACFID’s work over its 50 years. From its first standing policy of 1966 (excerpt quoted above) to its work on the self-determination of peoples – whether it be in the context of apartheid in South Africa, the decolonisation and invasion of East Timor, or the isolation of Cambodia and Vietnam by the West in the 1980s – the advocacy work of ACFID has always been couched in the language of people realising not only their civil and political rights but also their economic, social and cultural rights. At the 1971 ACFID Council, Governor-General Sir Paul...

  7. ACFID was relatively slow in its early years in developing a fruitful engagement with government on aid and development policy, with little substantial engagement until the mid-1970s. This was frustrating for them at the time as NGO engagement with government in public policy is an important reason for their existence as public benefit organisations, a role often taken on by peak bodies such as ACFID. This engagement presents both risks and opportunities for NGOs. This chapter looks at the opportunities that emerged when the Australian government saw an advantage in cooperating with NGOs. Chapter 8 will look at the risks...

  8. Almost by definition NGO relations with government are fraught. On the one hand, NGOs believe that through their supporter base, values, and on the ground experiences they can advise governments on how they might run their aid programs. On the other hand, governments feel that they should get something back in return for the funding and tax breaks they provide to NGOs; and in particular by having ‘the hand that feeds’ not being bitten through NGOs’ public criticism of government policy. Chapter 7 has spelt out the positive relationship that ACFID, and the NGO community more broadly, had with government...

  9. The idea of NGOs being bound by a code of ethics or a code of conduct would not have been thought of in the early years of ACFID, but by the 1980s a number of events occurred that saw the development of NGO codes internationally as not only desirable but to some extent inevitable. The original code has broadened since the 1980s from a set of principles for NGO practice to a more normative focus on what constitutes good development practice across many dimensions.

    This has been quite a radical shift in NGO thinking on what they should be accountable...

  10. The idea of NGOs coming together to engage with government on policy is unremarkable now, but it was very new in 1965 when there was little interest in debating aid policy by either the Australian government or any other government. In its 50 years ACFID has evolved through many changes in how aid should be delivered. It was a direct product of the aftermath of colonialism, the height of the Cold War and the optimistic hype of the first Development Decade of the 1960s, which was meant to herald a new era and had set a place for the then...