NGOs and Sustainable Development in Zimbabwe: No Magic Bullets

A number of case studies of NGO projects have suggested that NGOs may have an important role to play in addressing environmental problems in developing countries. Drawing on research conducted in Zimbabwe, this analysis seeks to broaden and contextualize the discussion of NGO involvement in sustainable development initiatives. It reviews the theoretical basis for the current emphasis on NGOs, assesses the environmental problems in Zimbabwe within their historical and social contexts, and summarizes the findings of recent research on the characteristics of the NGO sector in the country. The purpose is to assess the mechanisms through which the NGO sector might make a contribution to sustainable development, and the problems in doing so. It is argued that one major obstacle faced by NGOs is the demand made upon them to find simple, neat and comprehensive solutions to complex development problems. The tendency on the part of donors and NGO supporters to expect success stories is called here the ‘magic bullet syndrome’, and it is argued that this emphasis on simplicity and on success is unrealistic and counterproductive. The concluding section contains recommendations for NGOs interested in sustainable development and suggests some ways in which refinements to the theories concerning NGOs and sustainable development will be useful. Bibliogr., notes, ref., sum.

Title: NGOs and Sustainable Development in Zimbabwe: No Magic Bullets
Author: Vivian, Jessica
Year: 1994
Periodical: Development and Change
Volume: 25
Issue: 1
Period: January
Pages: 167-193
Language: English
Geographic term: Zimbabwe
External link: https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-7660.1994.tb00513.x
Abstract: A number of case studies of NGO projects have suggested that NGOs may have an important role to play in addressing environmental problems in developing countries. Drawing on research conducted in Zimbabwe, this analysis seeks to broaden and contextualize the discussion of NGO involvement in sustainable development initiatives. It reviews the theoretical basis for the current emphasis on NGOs, assesses the environmental problems in Zimbabwe within their historical and social contexts, and summarizes the findings of recent research on the characteristics of the NGO sector in the country. The purpose is to assess the mechanisms through which the NGO sector might make a contribution to sustainable development, and the problems in doing so. It is argued that one major obstacle faced by NGOs is the demand made upon them to find simple, neat and comprehensive solutions to complex development problems. The tendency on the part of donors and NGO supporters to expect success stories is called here the ‘magic bullet syndrome’, and it is argued that this emphasis on simplicity and on success is unrealistic and counterproductive. The concluding section contains recommendations for NGOs interested in sustainable development and suggests some ways in which refinements to the theories concerning NGOs and sustainable development will be useful. Bibliogr., notes, ref., sum.