Marcos Antonio Pedlowski
PhD Dissertation submitted to the Faculty of the Virginia Tech in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of
Doctor of Philosophy
Environmental Design and Planning
John O. Browder
April 07, 1997
There is a growing body of literature arguing that NGOs are an important tool in the efforts of civil society to influence the actions of the State, especially in the process of economic development. NGOs are primarily seen as effective advocates for the less privileged sectors of civil society. This study examines the influence of local NGOs participation in the implementation of PLANAFLORO, a regional economic development program partially funded by the World Bank in the Brazilian state of Rond˘nia. This study focuses on four issues that are commonly used to justify the inclusion of NGOs in the development process: representativeness, accountability, autonomy and effectiveness. This study relies on three basic methods of data gathering: focused interviews of key informants, questionnaire-based surveys of different stake-holder groups, and information from secondary sources. This study's results challenge the common wisdom regarding the positive impacts of NGO participation in economic development programs, and on their contribution to democratic governance. NGOs participating in PLANAFLORO faced great institutional and political difficulties in the process of participation. Many NGOs did not have either the institutional capabilities or the financial autonomy to influence the process of policy-making in PLANAFLORO effectively. Moreover, most NGOs did not have mechanisms of accountability to inform the program's intended beneficiaries of the state of PLANAFLORO's implementation. Finally, both the local State and the World Bank only reluctantly accepted the participation of NGOs in PLANAFLORO. This fact served to greatly limit the contribution of NGOs in PLANAFLORO.
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