An open letter to International NGOs who are looking to ‘localise’ their operations

17 Mar 2020

Languages available:   English Español Français Português

Our plea is that you work with us, not against us. We need to be supported, not competed with.



This letter, which originally appeared on Open Democracy and has since also been translated into French, Portuguese and Spanish (see above for links), is the product of a protracted, heated, angry and passionate discussion that took place on the #ShiftThePower WhatsApp group in early March. Several people on the group had been approached separately by International NGOs who wanted to learn about their experiences in local fundraising and building community philanthropy, but in ways that all felt were ‘extractive.’ These interactions point to the growing trend for INGOs to look further afield for resources to fill the funding gap that many are experiencing.


March 5th 2020

Dear INGOs:

Thank you for taking an interest in our countries. We represent a wide range of national and subnational organisations based in countries – mostly in the global south – where you often work. We have probably even been in meetings together or have been represented in the success stories you give to your supporters.

We appreciate that over the years, many of you have sought to help deliver much-needed services, and have helped to elevate some issues of concern, like debt relief, gender or climate change, to the world stage.

But times are changing. And you have (rightly) been facing a number of critiques in recent years – around your legitimacy, your ‘whiteness’ or the fact that far more aid money ultimately ends up in the pockets of northern organisations’ headquarters than it does in the Global South.

We see that you’re trying to respond to these critiques by ‘localising’, as we’ve been asked to meet with your highly paid consultants on numerous occasions. The strategy is pretty common: usually you start by creating a ‘local organisation’ with a local board. A next step that we’re seeing is that you enter the world of DRM – ‘Domestic Resource Mobilisation’ – to raise money from within our countries. This latter aspect is probably also down to the fact that your traditional incomes from the rich North/West are starting to diminish, so this has the added bonus of replenishing lost incomes.

In theory, this probably sounds great to your northern ears: local middle-income people should indeed ‘own’ their civil society, especially as a response to growing concerns around closing civic space and authoritarian governments. We couldn’t agree with you more on this principle.

But there are things we object to and some suggestions about how you can use your international muscle to help us more effectively than through this misguided localisation agenda.

What happens in practice is that these efforts only serve to reinforce the power dynamic at play, and ultimately to close the space for domestic civil society. This can be illustrated quite simply: a multi-million-dollar INGO, with an entire marketing, communications and fundraising team, whose project budget for this endeavour probably outstrips that of most of our national organisations for a year, then comes into the South to raise money ‘domestically’.

Perhaps the board has set a target of raising 30% of total income directly from the South. That’s not an additional million dollars, that’s a million or more dollars taken away from local civil society. And worse still, most of this money will be siphoned off to pay for their own inner workings, rather than be invested on the ground.

All of this serves to weaken us locally. It keeps us in a master/servant relationship continuously begging for grants from your institutions, while we remain bereft of core funding ourselves. This is not what we need or want.

Instead, here’s how you can be more helpful with your ‘DRM’ investment: if you are serious about ‘shifting power’ then reduce your footprint and brand and use your fundraising machinery to help grassroots organisations create the structures to fundraise for themselves and sustain their work.

We need the infrastructure for people to raise money domestically and from diaspora, not to be competing with big global INGOs. What is ultimately needed is to strengthen and scale up southern civil society, not to be pushed out of our own communities and markets.

Do you need to exist in every country with your brand? No. There are often local organisations, like ourselves, who work effectively on the ground, with better connections to the local community. And many of us also have the skills and capacity to represent our issues on the world stage.

We represent an eclectic mixture of organisations, but we are, increasingly, uniting under the banner or hashtag of #ShiftThePower and its “Manifesto for Change.”

Our plea is that you work with us, not against us. We need to be supported, not competed with, and certainly not replaced.


  1. A Mile Away (AMA), Zambia
  2. Abibiman Foundation, Ghana
  3. ACPDH/FS-DDH, Burundi
  4. Activate Labs, Mexico/US
  5. ADESO, Kenya
  6. Advocacy Core Team, Zimbabwe
  7. Africa Health and Nutrition, Kenya
  8. African Diaspora Relocation Agency
  9. African Network of Youth Policy Experts, Botswana
  10. African Philanthropy Network
  11. AFroIDEA, Kenya, Uganda, Swaziland and Nigeria
  12. Agency for Peace and Development, Kenya
  13. Airavati Organisation (Hlaing Tsp), Myanmar
  14. AJSA, India
  15. Albanian Society for All Ages, Albania
  16. Alliance for Holistic and Sustainable Development Communities (AHSDC), India
  17. Ammbr Communities, South Africa
  18. AMO Programme, Ghana
  19. Approche Participative, Développement et Santé de Proximité (APDSP), Cameroon
  20. Arid Lands Development Focus, Kenya
  21. Arusha Municipal Community Foundation, Tanzania
  22. ASDA, Chad
  23. Ashake Foundation, Nigeria
  24. Assembly of Social Mobilization, Sri Lanka
  25. Association Cri de Cœur pour l’Equité et le Développement (ACCED), Burkina Faso
  26. Balance Promoción para el Desarrollo y Juventud AC, Mexico
  27. Bala Vikasa Social Service Society, India
  28. Banadir Development Foundation, Somalia
  29. Bangladesh Internet Governance Forum, Bangladesh
  30. Bangladesh NGO Network for Radio and Communication, Bangladesh
  31. Burundi Child Rights Coalition, Burundi
  32. Butterflies, India
  33. Care for Nature Zambia, Zambia
  34. Caring Volunteers Network (CAVNET), Ghana
  35. Caucus of Development NGO Networks (CODE-NGO), Philippines
  36. Center for Development Support Initiatives, Nigeria
  37. Center for Economic Development – Cameroon
  38. Centre for Peace and Democracy (CPD), Somalia
  39. Centre for Trade Policy and Development, Zambia
  40. Centre Résolution Conflits (CRC), Democratic Republic of the Congo
  41. Child Care Center, India
  42. Children and Youth Development Society, India
  43. Civil Society Empowerment Network, Afghanistan
  44. COAST, Bangladesh
  45. Comite Regional de Solidarite des Femmes pour la Paix en Casamance, Senegal
  46. Community Care for Emergency Response and Rehabilitation, Myanmar
  47. Community Foundation for the Western Region of Zimbabwe, Zimbabwe
  48. Community Self Reliance Centre, Nepal
  49. Community Transformation Foundation Network (COTFONE) , Uganda
  50. Community World Service Asia, Pakistan
  51. CORAFID Centre for Innovation and Research, Nigeria
  52. Councillors for Development & Trainings, Pakistan
  53. Coxs Bazaar CSO/NGO Forum, Bangladesh
  54. Dakar Community Outreach, Senegal
  55. Dalia Association, Palestine
  56. Dalit Community Foundation, India
  57. Dalit Women Fight, India
  58. Development and Justice Initiative, India
  59. Development Expertise Center, Ethiopia
  60. Development Research and Advocacy, Ghana
  61. Dr Meheret Ayenew, Research Fellow FSS and Adjunct Faculty, Addis Ababa University, Ethiopia
  62. East Africa Philanthropy Network
  63. Ecumenical Commission for Human Development, Pakistan
  64. Emma Crewe, SOAS University of London, UK
  65. Equality for Growth, Tanzania
  66. Equilibrium Centre, South Africa
  67. Family for Every Child
  68. FemPlatz, Serbia
  69. Firelight Foundation
  70. Foundation for Civil Society in Tanzania, Tanzania
  71. Foundation for Social Transformation, India
  72. Free Expression Myanmar (FEM), Myanmar
  73. Friends, Bangladesh
  74. Fundaçâo Micaia, Mozambique
  75. Fund for Congolese Women, Democratic Republic of Congo
  76. Gargaar Relief and Development Organisation, Somalia
  77. Ghana Philanthropy Forum, Ghana
  78. Global Fund for Community Foundations, South Africa
  79. Global Information and Social Resource Foundation – GISRF
  80. Global Peace Association, Ghana
  81. Golden Red Foundation, India
  82. Graca Foundation, South Africa
  83. Gramin Evam Nagar Vikas Parishad (GENVP), India
  84. Greenline Africa, Zimbabwe
  85. Greenfield Africa Foundation, Ghana
  86. Green String Network, Kenya
  87. HAQ: Centre for Child Rights, India
  88. Hard Rock Self-Sufficiency Foundation, Nigeria
  89. HEAPIDER-Concern, Inc., Liberia
  90. Help Foundation for Victims of Insurgency in Nigeria, Nigeria
  91. Helpers Social Development Foundation, Nigeria
  92. Hope for Young Girls and Boys, Zambia
  93. Hope Village Society, Egypt
  94. Horn of Africa Voluntary Youth Committee (HAVOYOCO), Somaliland and Ethiopia
  95. House of Consciousness (HoC), Zambia
  96. Inclusive Climate Change Adaptation for a Sustainable Africa
  97. Indonesia for Humanity (Indonesia untuk Kemanusiaan / IKA), Indonesia
  98. Initiative Pananetugri pour le Bien-etre de la Femme, Burkina Faso
  99. Instituto de Comunicación y Desarrollo (ICD), Uruguay
  100. International Foundation for Students and Youth Development (IFSYD), Ghana
  101. Jijenge Youth Organization, Kenya
  102. Joint – Liga de ONGs em Mocambique, Mozambique
  103. Kaalo, Somalia
  104. Keepers Zambia Foundation, Zambia
  105. Kenya Community Development Foundation, Kenya
  106. Kenya Pastoralist Journalist Alliance Trust, Kenya
  107. K & R Welfare and Placement Services, Papua New Guinea
  108. Lasphumakhona Community Development Projects (LCDP), South Africa
  109. L’Association CEDRE 17 pour Un Développement Inclusif et Durable (AC17), Morocco
  110. Les Jeunes Ambassadeurs de l’Environnement pour le Développement durable, Guinea
  111. Let Them Help Themselves (LTHT), Uganda
  112. LetsStopAIDS, Canada
  113. LifeLine ONG, Benin
  114. LIN Center for Community Development, Vietnam
  115. Majal, Bahrain
  116. Makutano ya Wajasiriamali (MAWA), Tanzania
  117. Mars Football Foundation, India
  118. Masila Ghana Foundation, Ghana
  119. Maurisante, Mauritius
  120. Mauritius Council for Social Services, Mauritius
  121. Mbao Ngula, Zambia
  122. Migrant Support Network, Guyana
  123. MILAP, Nepal
  124. Mizu Eco-Care, Zambia
  125. Mona Younis, Human Rights Advocate
  126. Multikids Africa, Ghana
  127. Nabadion Youth Alliance Southwest State, Somalia
  128. Ngetha Media Association for Peace (NMAP), Uganda
  129. Nigerian Women Agro Allied Farmers Association, Nigeria
  130. Norsaac, Ghana
  131. N’weti, Mozambique
  132. NZP+ Mufumbwe, Zambia
  133. Okereke Ukeje Foundation, Nigeria
  134. Olive Luena Education Trust, Tanzania
  135. Orbeliani, Georgia
  136. PACT Foundation, Romania
  137. Pallisa Civil Society Organisations’ Network, Uganda
  138. Pan African Positive Women’s Coalition, Zimbabwe
  139. Passion to Serve, South Africa
  140. Participatory Action for Community Empowerment Foundation (PEACE), Zambia
  141. Participatory Development Associates, Ghana
  142. People’s Action Forum (PAF), Zambia
  143. People’s Process on Housing and Poverty, Zambia
  144. Personal Initiative for Positive Empowerment (PIPE), Kenya
  145. Positive-Generation, Cameroon
  146. Professor Emma Crewe, Director, on behalf of Global Research Network on Parliaments and People, UK
  147. Rawa Creative Palestinian Communities Fund, Palestine
  148. Reaching the Unreached Tanzania (RUT), Tanzania
  149. Reality of Aid Africa Network, Kenya
  150. Reformed Open Community Schools, Zambia
  151. Reproductive Health and Rights Advocacy Initiative (REHEaRD), Nigeria
  152. Réseau des Organisations de la Société Civile pour le Développement (RESOCIDE), Burkina Faso
  153. Resilliance, Morocco
  154. Rita Thapa, Founder of Tewa – the Nepal Women’s Fund and Nagarik Aawaz, Nepal
  155. Romanian Foundation for Children, Community and Family (FRCCF), Romania
  156. Ruth Foundation, Zambia
  157. Sahakarmi Samaj, Nepal
  158. Sahara Advocates for Change, Ghana
  159. Salamander Trust, UK
  160. Sangama, India
  161. Save Somali Women and Children (SSWC), Somalia
  162. SEED Malaysia, Malaysia
  163. Selma Foundation, Ghana
  164. Sense, India
  165. Sera Thabiti, Kenya
  166. Social Empowerment for Economic Development, South Africa
  167. Social Life and Agricultural Development Foundation, Somalia
  168. Solidarité Féminine pour la Paix et le Developpement Integral “SOFEPADI”, Democratic Republic of the Congo
  169. Solidarity Foundation, India
  170. Somalia Humanity Support, Somalia
  171. Somalia Women and Youth Empowerment Initiative, Somalia
  172. STAR Ghana Foundation, Ghana
  173. Success Capital Organisation, Botswana
  174. Surman Sansthan, India
  175. Sustainability Leadership Kosova, Kosovo
  176. Sustainable Impact for Development in Africa (SIDAF), Cameroon
  177. Taakulo Somali Community, Somalia and Ethiopia
  178. Tanzania Community Foundation Network, Tanzania
  179. The People’s Matrix Association, Lesotho
  180. Thubutu Africa Initiatives, Tanzania
  181. Twerwaneho Listeners’ Club, Uganda
  182. UDYAMA, India
  183. Uganda National NGO Forum, Uganda
  184. UHAI-EASHIRI, Kenya
  185. United Social Welfare Society, Pakistan
  186. Usikimye, Kenya
  187. Vision Changers Kenya, Kenya
  188. Watershed Organisation Trust, India
  189. WASDA, Kenya
  190. Wajir South Development Association, Kenya and Somalia
  191. West Africa Civil Society Institute, Ghana
  192. Whole Planet Initiative, Nigeria
  193. Women Aspire Network, Ghana
  194. Women for India Foundation, India
  195. XOESE – Le Fond pour les Femmes Francophones, Togo
  196. Yayasan Usaha Mulia (Foundation for Noble Work), Indonesia
  197. You-Nik Children’s Initiative, Zambia
  198. Young Women Christian Association (YWCA) Mongu, Zambia
  199. Youth Development and Voice Initiative (YOVI), Ghana
  200. Youth Gate Zimbabwe Trust, Zimbabwe
  201. Youth Harvest Foundation, Ghana
  202. YouthNet Nagaland, India
  203. Zambia Alliance for Agroecology and Biodiversity (ZAAB), Zambia
  204. Zambia Council for Social Development (ZCSD), Zambia
  205. Zambia National Education Coalition (ZANEC), Zambia
  206. Zambian Governance Foundation for Civil Society (ZGF), Zambia
  207. Zamzam Foundation, Somalia

If you wish to add your name or organization to this list, please insert the details in a comment below, or email Wendy Richardson at the GFCF ( A version of the letter can also be downloaded in French, Portuguese and Spanish.

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Ahmed IbrahimNorsaac, GhanaFiona ManonnDerick SmithBanadir Development Foundation (BADEF) Somalia Recent comment authors
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Hamusunga George
Hamusunga George

Actually what is amazing is that some cooperating partners feel that local organizations lack capacity and therefore they can only perform if they partner with INGOs who can build their capacity. This is surprising because most of the staff working for INGOs actually come from local NGOs and vice-versa.

Barbara Nost
Barbara Nost

I cannot agree more, George.

Aboubakar Akilimali
Aboubakar Akilimali

Add my organization : Burundi Child Rights Coalition

Roselle Rasay
Roselle Rasay

Please add our organization – Caucus of Development NGO Networks (CODE-NGO), Philippines

Amanda Griffith, CEO of Family for Every Child
Amanda Griffith, CEO of Family for Every Child

Family for Every Child, a global alliance of local civil society organisations, is in complete solidarity with these statements. We were formed in 2014 to address exactly these dynamics in international collaboration and to demonstrate that local practitioners have a crucial role to play, an important contribution to make and a unique expertise to share not just nationally but internationally too.

Samson Lukwanda
Samson Lukwanda

Add our organisation Younik Children’s Initiative

Sophie Kange
Sophie Kange

I stand in solidarity to condemn that act of INGOs and onbehalf of my Organisation Uganda National NGO Forum we join the world to apend our signature on the statement. Please add my Organisations name- Uganda National NGO Forum.

Okereke Ukeje Foundation
Okereke Ukeje Foundation

We as well support those idea’s.