Joint cooperation between separate NNGO and INGO bodies
The necessity of INGOs working in collaboration with, and in support of, local capacity and coordination initiatives in humanitarian contexts is clear.
However, evaluations of humanitarian response consistently indicate that the humanitarian system is far from achieving this collaboration. The State of the Humanitarian System Report highlights, “National NGO engagement in humanitarian response has not been supported fully.” (ALNAP (2012) State of the Humanitarian System, ALNAP) INGOs are not systematically considering how they might better coordinate with their NNGO counterparts. INGOs may focus on operational partnerships, but not on ways to increase the role of local NGOs in strategic decision making for the humanitarian response as a whole. Where the voices of NNGOs have been documented, they express similar criticisms of INGOs. (Currion, P. (2011) Strength in Numbers: A Review of NGO Coordination in the Field, Case Study: Haiti, ICVA ).
Therefore, if the decision is to have separate NNGO/INGO forums, it is important that there is joint information sharing between these bodies. There are many examples of successful separate coordination forums that fulfill different roles, complement each other, and effectively collaborate and link between separate international and national NGO coordination forums. The key here is not that one is better than the other, but how NGOs that coordinate amongst themselves relate to the greater humanitarian effort, again reiterating the principles of equality and transparency.
The questions below provide another way of examining the common dilemma of whether coordination mechanisms should be inclusive or exclusive—limited to a certain number or type of NGO. This will depend on the context and objectives of NGO coordination and derives from the initial needs assessment or problem-and-response analysis described above.
Will the inclusion of certain NGOs compromise neutrality and independence?
Does impact depend on consensus and cohesiveness within the NGO community, or rather expediency?
Does NGO coordination have short- or long-term objectives that depend on inclusivity?
What are other potential positive and negative impacts of exclusive NGO coordination? How can negative impacts be mitigated?
Practical Examples of Collaboration
There are a number of practical examples of LNGO-NNGO-INGO collaboration that include working together and capacity-building. Some examples include (Currion, P. & Hedlund K. (2011) Strength in Numbers: A Review of NGO Coordination in the Field, Lessons Learned , ICVA):
Seconding national staff of INGOs to existing or start up initiatives
Collaborating with other civil society institutions, e.g., universities, institutes
Supporting ‘connectors:’ choosing NGO networks that encourage unity or supporting new NGO networks that are non-political or sectarian
Joint development of Codes of Conduct or facilitating the development of local NGO Codes of Conduct
Joint development of the Good Partnership Guidelines
Joint contingency planning
Joint evaluation of the Principles of Partnership
Common positioning and joint advocacy between the National and International NGO forums