Germany’s Government-Civil Society Development Cooperation Strategy: the dangers of the middle of the road

Susan Engel


The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) has been busy since the late 2000s studying the way aid donors manage their relations with development civil society organisations (CSOs). More than studying these relations, they have made some very detailed, managerialist suggestions about how CSOs should be organised and how donor governments should fund and otherwise relate to them. This came out of the debate about aid effectiveness, which was formally aimed at improving both donor and recipient processes. Donors have quietly dropped many of the aspects related to improving their own performance and yet a number have created new interventionist governance frameworks for CSOs. This is the case in Germany, which has a large, vibrant development CSO sector that has traditionally been quite autonomous, even where its received state funding thanks to Germany’s commitment to ‘subsidiarity.’ Yet Germany is otherwise a middle of the road donor and in many ways, these ‘reforms’ are moving its relations with civil society more towards a somewhat more managerialist approach, one that is in fact the norms amongst OECD donors.


Aid and development; civil society organisations; Germany; OECD

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