More NGOs finding fruitful collaborations with the private sector

Thursday, August 9, 2012

The relationship between NGOs and the private sector used to be combative rather than collaborative. However, that is rapidly changing.

Oxfam for one has had a change of heart when it comes to the private sector, and its chief executive, Dame Barbara Stocking, says: “Until about five or 10 years ago, much of our emphasis was on campaigning against the private sector and the things it was doing, particularly the extractive industry and the pharmaceutical industry. But as we got more and more involved in the Dohar trade round I think things began to change quite a lot in Oxfam.”

The Dohar trade negotiations began among the World Trade Organisation’s membership in 2001 with the fundamental objective to improve the trading prospects of developing countries. “We began to realise that we also had to work with the private sector”, says Stocking. “But also over the last few years the private sector has changed quite a lot too, with a better understanding of poverty and their engagement with it.”

Whether humanitarian organisations like it or not, private sector involvement in fighting poverty is on the increase. The recent G8 Action on Food Security for example, put forward by President Obama at Camp David, relies on attracting private sector money to invest $3bn (£1.9bn) in African agriculture.

“Because the Obama initiative is mainly based on private sector money, that’s all adding up to quite a big bunch of people who are now engaged from the private sector”, admits Stocking. “In many ways it is fantastic that many companies are getting very deeply involved, but it’s also pretty terrifying for Oxfam because we’ve learned an enormous amount about what you can do with small holders to get them engaged in markets, organising them together, negotiating a good deal for poor people.

Source: The Guardian (link opens in a new window)