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In the crisis and in the conflicts in many of the African continent’s countries the NGOs – Non-Governmental Organizations – have always played a fundamental role.
This kind of organizations operate in the countries where situations of Complex Political Emergencies (CPE) broke out. These emergencies are characterized by a set of circumstances, internal and external, as political instability, state’s crisis, rebellions, ethnic or religious wars, separatist or anti-separatist wars, coups d’état, liberation wars, and wars piloted by outsider forces.
In any of these cases the consequences over the populations are very strong. Violence, genocides, hunger, forced emigration, diseases, poverty, tortures are some of the effects that fall over the people.
The NGOs carry out emergency and development programs to help African people in these difficult situations. These organizations are non-governmental, they operate independently from any countries’ governments. There are various kinds of NGOs, extremely diverse among each other, the projects that are carried out can be different depending on the issues they deal with, and on the methods they use.
The variety of actions they are involved in can be very broad, from basic services as food and water supplying, to assistance in refugees camps, medical assistance, trauma counselling for conflicts’ victims, mediation between different parts involved in wars and so on.
The contradictions concerning their role may refer to the elements less known, not about the positive aspects of their actions, but about their progressive evolution towards a real professionalization that makes them being very similar to private business enterprises. Since the mid 80′s there have been many changes in their structure and in their relations with the economical and political world.
The bonds with the entrepreneurial sectors are constantly increasing. Many private agencies and companies are interested in taking part in the humanitarian projects and missions in the African continent. These are becoming strongly dependent from the economical world.
Therefore the private interests mix with NGOs’ action, which should be totally independent and neutral, animated by sincere commitment and led by sound principles.
One of the question that mainly leads to this kind of collaboration/fusion between private enterprises, governments and NGOs is that of the funding. NGOs’ maintenance and programs require a large and constant flux of money and most of the incoming funds come from governments and private companies, creating in this way strong connections and ties between them and undermining the NGOs’ independence.
During the last twenty years the number of NGOs has been increasing in a significant way so that nowadays they form altogether the major funding channel to the South of the world.
With the transformation of their structure and the new balance of powers and interests, their role changed considerably. Moreover the peculiarity of the conflicts and emergency situations of the African countries has led to a change also in terms of programs and interventions’ types and length.
The emergencies now are the situations in which NGOs manage to operate more quickly and apparently more efficiently, due to the mechanisms that permit to access in advance to the funds in order to activate an immediate intervention.
These mechanisms created a real business of humanitarian aid leading to a competition between different NGOs. In this way their new tendency is to concentrate more on emergency situations than on long-term cooperation projects.
In many cases and in many countries this business push contributed to worsen the conflicts development and the wars dynamics in a complicated tangle of interests.
We should look beyond the positive aspects of these organizations to understand also the hard and complex situation of the African countries.