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Ontwikkelingsorganisaties kiezen geen kleur of kant, en daarmee nemen ze een unieke plaats in de samenleving in en kunnen ze arme minderheden helpen. Toch moeten ze uitzoeken of hun manier van werken nog wel effectief is in deze tijd, claimt Alba I. León. Ze moeten nieuwe trends als microfinanciering, duurzame groei en crowdsourcing omarmen.

The world is in times of crisis and the development sector has not escaped. Recent information shows that development organisations must improve their working methods and increase their accountability, both financially and regarding the usefulness of their work. The public and governments have lost faith in the work of development agencies, particularly because of the perception that the resources these organisations get are not always as well spent as they could be. Development has, for many, become synonyms with dependency-creating handouts, and perhaps not altogether erroneously, but development organisations have the capacity to turn this perception around.

Unique position
Organisations which seek to help the sustainable development of communities around the world are still relevant to millions of people. The manner in which they operate allows them to provide aid to those who most need it based on criteria that have little to do with conditions on the ground. They do not act choosing colours or sides, something they are in a unique position to do, and this independence is crucial in areas hard hit by conflict and lack of resources. They also provide information to governments which would be hard to obtain otherwise and press for their action where it may be more effective than the work of non-profits alone. Further, they exert pressure on for-profit actors which may otherwise not change their bad practices voluntarily, as has been the case in anti sweatshop campaigns or campaigns to combat human trafficking. Last, but certainly not least, they create awareness among citizens that we are not only part of the problem, but that we can contribute to long-term solutions to problems both local and international. 

Embrace crowdsourcing
However, there is a need within the development sector to rethink and redefine their contributions. More and more the tide is shifting towards empowering individuals and communities towards sustainability and independence in the creation of their resources. Further, the problems that underdeveloped countries face have changed, and that also means re-evaluating the sustainability and, more importantly, the need for certain types of development aid. New trends such as microfinancing and crowdsourcing need to be embraced by organisations in the field, as they provide creative alternatives to traditional fundraising and also allow for a higher measure of control of resources by the people who are benefited by these programmes. Moreover, there is a need to expand the scope of what is traditionally considered aid beyond the scope of poverty reduction and towards a more holistic view of development which includes sustainability.

New markets
Tackling problems such as poverty, ecosystem destruction, easily preventable diseases or corruption can bring a benefit to developed countries as well. Not only will the living standards of many raise, but trading countries such as the Netherlands can benefit from new markets with more opportunities and less legal conundrums,  even safer travel destinations. Non government organisations are in an exceptional position to achieve this, because they have accumulated experience, the trust of people on the ground, the awareness for certain issues and the passion to keep working, oftentimes against the odds.

Alba I. León studied International Relations at El Colegio de México, MexicoCity and holds an LL.M. from the VU University, Amsterdam. She has decided to stay in the Netherlands, and seeks to further develop a career in development and peacekeeping with a particular focus on migrants and IDPs. She is a member of the VoiceOver-network.


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