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French NGOs in the Global Era: Professionalization “Without Borders”?

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Abstract

This article asks whether French NGOs have fallen into line with the wider trend towards professionalization that has marked the Northern nonprofit sector, most notably Anglo-American NGOs, over the last two decades or so. It shows how French NGOs, particularly those engaged in longer term development work, were characterized by militancy over the early post-colonial decades. It then demonstrates how, over the global era, the French state has encouraged developmental NGOs (NGDOs) to undertake bureaucratic forms of professionalization. Next, it looks at how these organizations have, in response, adapted their staffing, structures, and procedures, whilst stopping short of overly standardized forms of development. Finally, it shows how French NGDOs have, in eschewing “technical professionalism”, been acting in line with resource dependence theory and responding to the demands of their critical resource, which is not the French state but the donor public and their grassroots supporters.

Résumé

Cet article examine si les ONG (organisations non gouvernementales) françaises se sont alignées sur la tendance générale vers la professionalisation qui a marqué ces deux dernières décennies le secteur à but non-lucratif de l'hémisphère du Nord et, plus particulièrement, les ONG anglo-américaines. Il affirme que les ONG françaises, et plus précisément celles engagées dans le travail de développement de long terme, étaient caractérisées par le militantisme au cours des premières décennies post-coloniales. Il démontre comment, à l'ère de la globalisation, l'état français a encouragé les organisations non gouvernementales de développement (ONGD) à subir des formes bureaucratiques de professionalisation. Il explore ensuite comment ces organisations ont, en réponse, adapté leurs effectifs, structures et procédures, sans aller qu'à sur-standardiser leurs modes de fonctionnement. Enfin, il constate comment les ONGD françaises, en cherchant à éviter le “professionalisme technique” ont agi conformément à la théorie de “Resource Dependence” et comment elles se sont pliées aux exigences de leur resource essentielle, qui n'est pas issue de l'état français mais des donateurs publics et de leurs militants de base.

Zusammenfassung

Der Artikel untersucht, inwieweit sich die französischen NGOs dem breiteren Trend zur Professionalisierung angeschlossen haben, der den gemeinnützigen Sektor des Nordens, insbesondere die anglo-amerikanischen NGOs, seit ca. zwei Jahrzehnten kennzeichnet. Der Artikel zeigt, in welchem Ausmaß die französischen NGOs, insbesondere jene, die sich in längerfristiger Entwicklungsarbeit engagierten, während der frühen post-kolonialen Jahzehnte durch Militanz geprägt waren. Daran anknüpfend wird erörtert, wie der französische Staat im Zeitalter der Globalisierung die bürokratische Professionalisierung der nichtstaaflichen Entwicklungsorganisationen (NGDOs) angeregt hat. Im Anschluß daran geht der Artikel darauf ein, wie diese Organisationen daraufhin ihre Belegschaft, Strukturen und Vorgehenweisen angepasst haben, ohne jedoch dabei ihre Entwicklung übermäßig zu standardisieren. Abschließend wird gezeigt, wie französische NGDOs, indem sie auf “technische Professionalität” vezichteten, im Einklang mit der Ressourcenabhängigkeitstheorie (Resource Dependence Theory) agierten und damit auf die Erwartungen ihrer grundlegenden Ressource reagierten, welche nicht der französische Staat ist, sondern die spendenfreudige Öffentlichkeit und ihre Anhänger an der Basis.

Resumen

En este artículo se cuestiona si las ONG francesas se han adaptado a la tendencia común hacia la profesionalización, tendencia que ha marcado el sector de las organizaciones sin ánimo de lucro del norte―en concreto, las ONG angloamericanas―en las dos últimas décadas aproximadamente. Demuestra que las ONG francesas, en concreto, las que participan en trabajos de desarrollo a largo plazo, se caracterizaron por la militancia en las primeras décadas postcoloniales. A continuación demuestra que, en la era de la globalización, el estado francés ha fomentado el que las ONG de desarrollo (ONGD) asuman formas burocráticas de profesionalización. Posteriormente comenta que, como respuesta, estas organizaciones han adaptado su personal, estructuras y procedimientos, aunque sin llegar a formas excesivamente estandarizadas de desarrollo. Por ultimo, demuestra que las ONGD francesas, en su intento por evitar el «profesionalismo técnico», han estado actuando según la teoría de Dependencia de Recursos (resource dependence) y respondiendo a la demanda de sus recursos más importantes, que no es el estado francés, sino el público donante y sus partidarios de las bases.

摘要

本文将探讨法国非政府组织是否正朝着专业化这样一个大趋势在发展。专业化是北半球非盈利领域(特别是英美非政府组织)最近二十来年非常显著的一个特点。它将展示法国非政府组织,特别是那些从事于更加长期发展工作的组织,在后殖民时代早期几十年里的积极贡献。然后,它将论证法国政府如何在全球时代鼓励发展型非政府组织(NGDO)采取行政机构方式来实现专业化。其次,它将着眼于这些组织如何对此作出回应,改编他们的员工、结构和流程,同时由于缺少过度标准化制度发展而停止。最后,它将展示法国NGDO在避免“技术性专业化”的同时,如何按照资源依赖理论开展行动,并回应他们的“关键资源”的需要。这里所谓的关键资源,并不是法国政府,而是捐赠人和他们的基层支持者。

要約

本論文は、フランスのNGOが過去20年間以上にわたり、北部の非営利セクター、特に英国系のNGOの専門化への広域な傾向と一致しているかを研究する。フランスのNGOのうち特に長期間の開発事業従事者が、植民地独立後最初の10年間にどのように攻撃的であったかを検証する。さらに、グローバル化の時代にフランス国家が発展的なNGO(NGDO)を奨励し、専門化された官僚体制がどのように保証されているかを論証する。次に標準化された開発までに至らない場合、これらの組織がどのようにスタッフの配置、構造、手順を適応させているかを研究する。最終的に、フランスのNGDOが資源依存理論に沿って行動する「技術的なプロフェッショナリズム」を避けて、フランス国家ではなく公共の資金提供者や市民の支持者の重要な資源の要求に対応しているかを検証する。

ملخص

هذه المقالة تسأل إذا كانت المنطمات اللاحكومية NGO الفرنسية متمشية مع الإتجاه الشامل نحو الإحتراف الذي إتسم به القطاع الشمالي الذي لا يسعى للربح ، خاصة المنظمات اللاحكومية NGO الأنجلو أمريكان، على مدى العقدين الماضيين أو نحو ذلك. كما تبين المقالة كيف ان المنظمات اللاحكومية NGO الفرنسية ، وخاصة تلك التي تشارك في أعمال التنمية على المدى الطويل ، قد إتسمت بالنزعة القتالية خلال العقود المبكرة بعد الإستعمار. ثم وضحت كيف ، على مدى عصر العولمة ، قد شجعت الدولة الفرنسية المنظمات اللاحكومية النامية DNGOعلى القيام بأشكال الإحتراف البيروقراطي . ثم تنظر في كيف أن هذه المنظمات ، ردًا على ذلك ، أقلمت موظفيها والهياكل والاجراءات ، و توقفت برهة قصيرة في الإفراط في أشكال التنمية الموحدة . و أخيراً ، المقالة تبين كيف أن المنظمات الفرنسية اللاحكومية النامية DNGO ، التي تتجنب “التقنية المهنية” تتصرف تمشياً مع نظرية إعتماد الموارد والإستجابة لطلباتهم من الموارد الحرجة ، وهي الجهة المانحة و المؤيدين الأساسيين و ليست الدولة الفرنسية.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    This article builds on research funded by the Leverhulme Foundation and undertaken by the author for a monograph entitled French NGOs in the global era: A distinctive role in international development (Palgrave, Basingstoke, forthcoming).

  2. 2.

    A list of interviewees quoted here is given at the end of this survey. The interview process as a whole involved officials working for the French Foreign Ministry, the Agence Française de Développement, the French local authorities, and the European Commission; not to mention French civil society actors, such as pressure groups, academics, trade unionists, and NGOs. Every effort was made to ensure that the NGOs interviewed were representative; and discussions were held with developmental NGOs with partners overseas, those without such contacts, volunteer organisations, emergency NGOs, development education centres, and NGO federations. Inevitably, most interviews were carried out with senior representatives of larger NGOs, since these were the ones which had the institutional capacity to respond to requests for data and which had “the most to say” (Wallace et al. 1997, p. 11).

  3. 3.

    Most NGDOs belong to the Centre de Recherche et d’Information sur le Développement (CRID), Comité de Liaison des ONG de Volontariat (CLONG-V) or Groupe Initiatives, and receive funding from the European budgetary line B7-6000. Many urgenciers originally belonged to Coordination d’Agen and now receive aid from the European Commission Humanitarian Office (ECHO).

  4. 4.

    In 2004–2005, some 85% of NGOs claimed to engage in overseas development work, with 25.2% undertaking development activities exclusively. Only 1.3% focused solely on emergency work (CCD 2008, pp. 3–5). Around 25 NGDOs and federations receive over half of their funding from the French state (ibid, pp. 29–32).

  5. 5.

    New Public Management is a philosophy used by governments since the 1980s. It seeks to orient the public sector more towards the market and greater efficiency, whilst at the same time minimizing any negative social side effects; see Boston et al. (1996).

  6. 6.

    See Hudson, “Making the connections” in Lewis and Wallace (2000, p. 94).

  7. 7.

    The Intercollectif was formed in 1982 and brought together 72 associations. It was succeeded by the CLOSI in 1988.

  8. 8.

    NGOs enjoying “public utility status” (e.g., MSF, the CCFD, and SC-CF) did have to submit their accounts to regulatory bodies, such as the Cour des Comptes.

  9. 9.

    See comments by J.-M. Hatton, former President of the CRID (1986–1990), in the preface to Maradeix (1991).

  10. 10.

    See www.hcci.gouv.fr/lecture/synthese/histoire-osi-ong.htm#a

  11. 11.

    The LOLF, which came into force in 2006, aims to ensure accountability “right up to the last Euro.”

  12. 12.

    See, for example, RITIMO (2002) Partir pour être Solidaire, RITIMO, Paris. Nongovernmental organization practitioners have, for instance, developed, together with a Paris-based business school, a diploma in fund-raising offered by the Union pour la Générosité.

  13. 13.

    Cited in Le Point, 7 May 2002.

  14. 14.

    This foundation was accused of using donations to subsidise conservative Cardinals in the Vatican and to fund productive investment projects in the Ivory Coast; see http://stephanie.dupont3.free.fr/derives.htm

  15. 15.

    The Salvation Army and the Association Française contre les Myopathies have undergone such audits; see Le Point, 22 November 2007.

  16. 16.

    See CRID, “Dire la solidarité,” Les Cahiers de la Solidarité, May 1998.

  17. 17.

    See www.comitecharte.org/ewb_pages/p/presentation_historique.php

  18. 18.

    See www.f3e.asso.fr

  19. 19.

    The clearest example of this approach is arguably the Sphere Project, developed by Anglo-Saxon NGOs in 1997, to lay down a definitive set of measurable criteria for emergency-related work.

  20. 20.

    Here a French NGDO, ostensibly helping orphans of the conflict in the Sudan, was found, in 2007, to be engaged in trafficking 103 children from neighbouring Chad to prospective adoptive parents in France; see Troube (2008).

  21. 21.

    One possible reason for this lack of charitable giving may be the fact that: “Nowadays France is the European country where religious observances are the lowest (13% of the adult population) and stated atheism the highest (14%)” (Archambault 1997, p. 18).

  22. 22.

    For criticism of France’s collusion with autocratic African leaders and its role in events leading up to the 1994 Rwandan genocide, see, for example, Agir Ici/Survie (1996) Dossiers Noirs 1-5, L’Harmattan, Paris.

  23. 23.

    Le Monde, 4–5 February 2001.

  24. 24.

    This natural catastrophe brought with it a 35% increase in private funding in 2005. The same year an additional €88 million were collected, which were not directly related to the tsunami.

  25. 25.

    The former French Foreign Minister, Hubert Védrine, labelled NGOs “self-designated powers,” which were completely lacking in transparency and democratic credentials; see Védrine (2000).

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List of Interviews

  1. Bader, C. (January 2004). Director-Adjunct, Délégation Humanitaire, Ministère des Affaires Étrangères, Paris.

  2. Courtin, C. (December 2003). Africa Programme Director, Comité Catholique Contre la Faim et pour le Développement (CCFD), Paris.

  3. Pinaud, B. (December 2003). President, Centre de Recherche et d’Information sur le Développement (CRID), Paris.

  4. Rouillé d’Orfeuil, H. (November 2003). President, Coordination SUD, Paris.

  5. Wagner, M. (January 2004). President, Comité de Liaison des ONG de Volontariat (CLONG-V), Paris.

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Correspondence to Gordon D. Cumming.

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Cumming, G.D. French NGOs in the Global Era: Professionalization “Without Borders”?. Voluntas 19, 372–394 (2008). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11266-008-9069-5

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Keywords

  • Developmental NGOs
  • Professionalization
  • Evaluation
  • Development education
  • Resource dependence theory
  • France