How do NGOs contribute to development?

How do NGOs contribute to development? NGOs in different types of environments, some of which are dynamic and volatile, and it is not just what is done but also how it is done that matters. It is important, therefore, to define right from the beginning the strategic contribution that an NGO can make as part of a holistic approach; specify in what sector, in what region and with which implementing partner it is to be delivered. Here are ways how NGOs contribute to development:



Strengthening resilience

All projects aim to strengthen a specific target group and/or institution for strengthening with a view to supporting crisis management, mitigating risks and hazards these groups/ institutions are exposed to, improving capacities needed to be strengthened in specific or multi sectors in order to increase resilience. The activities being pursued are scheduled within a given time period. Such a resilience analysis is always the starting point when designing a project. The analysis produces clear goals and impacts for building resilience, which is reflected in the results matrix. When designing and supporting projects, NGOs make more use of the lessons learnt from impact evaluations or behavioural science approaches.


Nexus implementation

NGOs aim to link all three dimensions of the Humanitarian-Development-Peace nexus. All projects relate to the three dimensions.

→Humanitarian assistance

How does the project tie in with humanitarian assistance interventions? This promotes project and programme planning that is compatible with the nexus approach, i.e., combining different approaches so as to ensure that funds are used effectively and efficiently and the quality of implementation is improved.

→Other development cooperation measures

Projects always focus on structure building. Structure building measures are a starting point for other longer-term development projects.


In volatile crises, the sustainability of projects that focus exclusively on, for example, reconstruction/rehabilitation is determined by including and taking into account the social context where these measures take place. In violent conflicts, in particular, peacebuilding measures and measures to promote social cohesion are implemented within the overall framework of the project.

Exit strategy

As measures are carried out over a limited period of time, they define clear and sustainable goals for each project and draft an exit strategy when first designing the project. They ensure that all the stakeholders; people affected, local actors, implementing partners and other development actors and projects are included in this process.

The following exit scenarios are considered:

  • Goal achievement: the most important option is to exit having achieved the goal of making the affected people and local structures permanently more resilient through the interventions.
  • Handing over the routine activities to the local authorities or partner organisations in the region.
  • Transitioning activities into other NGOs with projects that fit the portfolio or into other donors’ programmes.


Peace and Conflict Analysis (PCA)

How do NGOs contribute to development? NGOs continuously monitor and reflect on implementation risks taking the “do no harm” principle into account so as to rule out possible negative impacts and introduce conflict-reducing measures. They avoid a situation where the measures are at variance with political conflict resolution processes, e.g., through the choice of local partners. The aim is to implement activities that will result in outcomes that are conflict-sensitive, risk-aware, and minimise risks and build peace. A Peace and Conflict Analysis (PCA) is carried out for all projects to be implemented in countries with higher or acute potential for conflict escalation. In conflict contexts, use is made of political and economic analyses.

Include the most vulnerable groups and take account of gender aspects

Since people of different genders, ages and sexual orientation and people with and without disabilities are affected differently by crises, their respective prospects, potentials and needs are taken into account from the start. One of the main areas of emphasis is people who are facing multiple discriminations; they may face discrimination due to their gender plus other discrimination such as being members of a minority group, their homes are in remote areas, living with disabilities etc. There are times when exceptions are permissible in duly substantiated cases.



Observance of sanctions regulations

In conflict contexts, too, NGOs and their implementing partners are still required to observe any sanctions regulations that may be in place when transferring funds to beneficiaries such as EU/UN sanctions.


Also, of importance is that NGOs strive to use innovative technologies, approaches and methods when implementing interventions. The intention is to ensure that projects in crisis contexts are made even more effective, efficient and relevant.


For example, the use of innovative technologies such as 3-D printing to provide spare parts and medical equipment quickly and efficiently on a needs basis. Youths can be trained on the same technology so that they can start and/or create job opportunities adapted to the local situation. Other innovative interventions include using new organisational approaches, the further development of internal processes and the transfer of existing approaches to new contexts.

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