In both North and South, skepticism about the capacity and willingness of both state agencies and international organizations composed of states to address people’s needs has become widespread across the political spectrum. Emphasis on the role of ‘civil society,’ of ‘new social movements,’ ‘participation’ and ‘participatory action research’ among students and practitioners of development reflects this anti-statist perspective.1 However, insufficient critical attention has been paid to the equally problematic character of many ‘non-state actors.’ Many have pointed to international non-governmental organizations (NGOs) as practitioners of another type of development work, in which grassroots participation flourishes, so that the poor are able to define what they receive and how. NGOs are thus presented, and present themselves, as an alternative model to the hegemonic ideology and methodology of the official ‘aid regime.’2 Judith Tendler refers to this belief in their own superior participatory qualities as one of the ‘articles of faith’ of NGOs.

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Institute of Political Economy

Macdonald, L. (1995). NGOs and the Problematic Discourse of Participation: Cases from Costa Rica. In Debating Development Discourse (pp. 201–229). doi:10.1007/978-1-349-24199-6_7